I am finding lately that I am falling in love with records again in both, or at least two, senses of the word. I've always enjoyed playing LPs on the radio but I seem to be turning to them a little more lately than I had been in recent years, and I've been finding more new CDs (aka records) that I really like to listen to all the way through more than once. And then when I play songs from it on the air - and not just because there is one good-to-great song that helps make a set I'm intrigued by - I'm a little torn after I've played one or two songs as to whether to repeat those tracks in subsequent weeks or to move on further into the rest of the album. Here are some of the CDs released during the Obama administration that fall into that category.
Harvey Reid's "Blues & Branches" - Here is the fan email I recently wrote: Hi Harvey - I've been writing a mental note to thank you for sending me "Blues & Branches" and to say that I think it is exquisite. While that is my feeling about most of your albums, this one seems a particularly coherent entity with each song and tune standing beautifully on its own and the whole still being more than the sum of its parts. Beyond that, the album gives me answers to two questions I have been asked from time to time: Which Harvey Reid album would you suggest I buy and, more generally, if you had to pick one album to introduce someone to the vibrancy and scope of folk music in the early 21st century, what would it be?
Loudon Wainwright's "High Wide and Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project" just gets better every time I listen to it. I've always particularly liked the LPs that came out around 1970 featuring the songs Charlie Poole and the North Carolina Ramblers had recorded on 78 rpms in about 1930. Well, Loudon Wainwright lovingly makes them his own without in any way replacing the originals, so I've been happily mixing them on the show.
TIED FOR #2
Dave Alvin & The Guilty Women has a wonderful LA in the '50s and '60s sound with smart, interesting lyrics on top of a hot country band that sometimes morphs into a hot rock band.
Ben Bullington is new to me but this album, "White Sulphur Springs", shows him to be a fine songwriter with a good voice. He's a physician from Montana. Judging from his songs, you would have a very kind, thoughtful doctor if you were his patient.
Chris Coole is a Canadian musician who plays and records with a variety of bluegrass and string bands but his new album, "Old Dog", is a solo effort. His versions of "Six Days On The Road" and The Band's "Daniel And The Sacred Harp" along with songs and tunes with more traditional roots make this one lovely album. Available from ChrisCoole.com.
Coco & Lafe also are new to me though "Café Loco" is not their first record. A couple from Vermont with the same attributes noted above for Ben Bullington plus nice harmonies.
Euphonia is a band that includes Sylvia Herold who resides on the Celtic side of the Grateful Dead and was part of the band Wake The Dead. The album is "The Old Jawbone".
Pat Guadagno & Tired Horses: "That's A Bob Dylan Song: Bob Fest '09" Recorded at Two Rivers Theater in Red Bank, in addition to some good versions of songs we all know, Guadagno sings some wonderful lesser-known songs. "Every Grain of Sand" is high on that list for me. His sister-in-law is about to be New Jersey's first Lieutenant Governor.
Geoff Muldaur seems incapable of recording albums that are anything but original, traditionally-based, varied, informative, surprising and musically magnificent. The latest, "Texas Shieks", released at the end of 2009 is all of the above.
Drew Nelson - "Dusty Road To Beulah Land": See Ben Bullington description above but Nelson, as far as I know, is not a doctor. He is from the Midwest, I believe.
Ron Orlando used to live in Roosevelt, NJ and may still. This album, "Damaged Goods" is the first I've heard from him in years - decades maybe. I hadn't realized it before, but he's a really good singer-songwriter.
Gretchen Peters w/ Tom Russell: "One To The Heart, One To The Head"; Bloodshot Records.
Dana and Susan Robinson's latest album, "Big Mystery", features their delightful, traditional old-timey sound and a fine collection of songs they wrote and a few they didn't. (www.robinsongs.com).
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