Saturday, October 8, 2016

Caroline Doctorow – Dreaming in Vinyl

Dreaming in Vinyl
Narrow Lane Records 

Music, for a lot of baby boomers like me, was big deal when we were young (and remains a big deal for some of us). Acquiring a new LP from a favorite band or solo artist was often a major event. The songs meant something to us and so many have stayed with us over the decades.

Caroline Doctorow’s new CD, Dreaming in Vinyl, is a reminder of those days. Eight of the 10 songs are seemingly timeless interpretations of songs that first came out between 1965 and 1970 while the other two – Caroline’s originals – evoke that period.

Almost all of the covered songs on Dreaming in Vinyl were instantly familiar to me as they were drawn from LPs I owned back in the day (and most of those I now have on CD reissues). And the only song I didn’t really know, “Hard, Hard Year,” was because it wasn’t on one of the Hollies’ LPs I did have back then.

Caroline’s versions of these songs remain quite faithful to the original versions. Her always-lovely voice is well served by her own guitar playing and overdubbed harmonies, by violinist Chris Tedesco, and by the layered accompaniment of producer Pete Kennedy on all other instruments. Among my favorites are Bob Dylan’s “Time Passes Slowly,” Paul Simon (Simon and Garfunkel)’s “Dangling Conversation,” which chronicles a couple’s growing alienation from each other, and Richard Holler’s poignant topical song “Abraham, Martin and John,” an iconic hit by Dion after the assassinations of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy.

The versions of the Lou Reed and John Cale (Velvet Underground & Nico)’s “Sunday Morning,” Randy Newman’s “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today,” Donovan’s “Turquoise,” and John Lennon and Paul McCartney (Beatles)’s “Across the Universe” are all also noteworthy.

As mentioned, Caroline’s two original songs evoke that period when we were buying vinyl LPs. “To Be Here” is a beautiful love song and travelogue. “That’s How I’ll Remember You,” is a lovely farewell written for Caroline’s father, the acclaimed novelist E.L. Doctorow, who died last year.

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--Mike Regenstreif

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Jenny Whiteley – The Original Jenny Whiteley

The Original Jenny Whiteley
Black Hen Music

I first met the Original Sloth Band Chris Whiteley, Ken Whiteley and Tom Evans – in the early-1970s. They had a wonderfully eclectic repertoire of songs gathered from old-time jug band, jazz, blues and folk sources.

Chris had an infant daughter back then who would grow up to be – like her father, uncle, brothers and cousins – an excellent musician, singer and songwriter and who now has five solo albums to her credit. Jenny Whiteley’s first recording projects – long before she started making solo albums – were in the 1980s when she sang with dad and uncle on their Junior Jug Band LPs.

Jenny’s fifth solo album, The Original Jenny Whiteley, is a homage to her dad. Whether on songs like “Stealin’, Stealin’” or “Things are Coming My Way,” which were on Original Sloth Band LPs back in the ‘70s, or on other vintage songs, or even her own original material,  they were all, she notes, “influenced in some way by his music.”

The Original Jenny Whiteley is a delightful 11-song romp. Among my favorites are the already mentioned “Stealin’, Stealin’” and “Things are Coming My Way,” the latter featuring harmony vocals from Chris and Ken; her own songs “Banjo Girl,” reprised from Jenny’s 2006 album, Dear, and “Higher Learning”; the traditional classic “In the Pines”; and Uncle Dave Macon’s “Morning Blues,” a favorite I first heard on the Jim Kweskin Jug Band Jug Band Music LP in the ‘60s.

Aside from Jenny’s own vocals and guitar, most of the backup on The Original Jenny Whiteley is by multi-instrumentalists Sam Allison, who produced the album, and Teillard Frost, who, as Sheesham & Lotus, are highly reminiscent of the Original Sloth Band.

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--Mike Regenstreif

Oscar Brand 1920-2016

I was very saddened to hear that Oscar Brand died last night at age 96. He was probably the last of the great folksingers of his generation.

Let's Sing Out, Oscar's TV program on Canadian TV in the early-1960s helped me find folk music.

I met Oscar a few times over the years and he was always very gracious and he was particularly encouraging in 1994 when I started hosting the Folk Roots/Folk Branches radio program on CKUT in Montreal. Oscar’s own radio program, Folksong Festival, aired weekly for 71 years on WNYC in New York – up until just last week.

Oscar Brand always had “something to sing about.”

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--Mike Regenstreif