Posts Tagged ‘Ragtime’

Various Artists: On Top of Old Smoky – New Old-Time Smoky Mountain Music

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

Various_OnTopOfOldSmokyReviving the music of 1930s Appalachia

In the late 1930s, as those living on the land that became the Great Smoky Mountains National Park were leaving (some voluntarily, some forcibly) their homesteads, farms, mines and logging camps, folklorist Joseph Hall collected field recordings of their dialectical speech and music. Selections from those aluminum platters and acetate discs were first released by the Great Smoky Mountains Association on 2010’s Old-Time Smoky Mountain Music [1 2]. Six years later, the GSMA has commissioned contemporary performances of twenty-three traditional Appalachian songs and popular material that had made its way into the mountains via commercial recordings.

The new recordings use of fiddle, guitar and banjo lends the performances the sort of informal backporch feel that Hall captured with his original field work. Ted Olson’s liner notes provide a brief history of the national park’s foundation, detail on Hall’s research, brief song notes and lyric transcriptions. The material includes fiddle tunes, ballads, blues, children’s songs, rags, harmony duets, yodels, westerns and sacred songs. The range of music that was created in the isolated hollars of the Smokies is truly impressive, and these new performances add links to the folk music chain. Dolly Parton and Norman Blake are the name artists, but the entire cast does this music proud. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

Great Smoky Mountain Association’s Home Page

Paul Burch: Meridian Rising

Saturday, March 12th, 2016

PaulBurch_MeridianRisingInspired fictionalized autobiography of Jimmie Rodgers

Paul Burch’s semi-fictional autobiography of Jimmie Rodgers isn’t nostalgic, it’s of a piece with the era it essays. His song cycle captures Rodgers’ times in a long form album that is, in today’s per-track streaming world, its own throwback. Burch knits together the sites, sounds, people and places that greeted Rodgers as he rode the rails and traversed the highways that led to tent shows, recording studios and international fame. The story follows Rodgers from his boyhood home of Meridian, Mississippi to his untimely death in New York City, creating an autobiography that Burch characterizes as “honest, but not necessarily true.”

The songs weave a loose narrative arc, but the album is best experienced as an immersive kaleidoscope of sounds and images. The stories take the listener traveling with Rodgers as he gains experience and channels it into creating folk, country, ragtime, blues and early jazz. The album’s guitar, bass, fiddle and drums, are augmented by clarinet, saxophone, trombone, tuba, bouzouki and Hawaiian steel guitar, fleshing out the wide world of music with which Rodgers’ communed. The arrangements swell and narrow in instrumentation, further echoing the range of combos with which Rodgers himself recording.

The nostalgic memories of Meridian that open the album quickly disappear in the rearview mirror as Rodgers hits the road in his V16 Cadillac. Burch maps Rodgers’ path through travelling shows, backstage surprises, depression-era social politics, gambling misfortune and a child’s untimely death. “To Paris (With Regrets)” imagines Rodgers longing to visit the City of Light, while the latter third of the album finds Rodgers’ health and commercial fortunes spiraling to their end. The instrumental transition “Sign of Distress” signals the beginning of the end, but there’s one more day of life as Rodgers visits Coney Island in “Fast Fuse Mama,” and life after death in the apologetic letter home, “Sorry I Can’t Stay.”

The story concludes with “Back to the Honky Tonks,” echoing Rodgers farewell in his last recording for Victor, and the album closes with the recessional “Oh, Didn’t He Ramble.” It’s a bittersweet end to Rodgers’ short, blazing trail of success and Burch’s deftly imagined autobiography. In telling this story, Burch has surrounded himself with top-notch instrumentalists, including Jen Gunderman, Fats Kaplin, Tim O’Brien and Garry Tallent, and guest vocalists Billy Bragg and Jon Langford. This is a terrific, original project whose nuanced execution lives up to its grandly inspired conception. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

Paul Burch’s Home Page

Lew Card: Follow Me Down

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

LewCard_FollowMeDownLet the good times roll – funky country, blues, soul and ragtime

Tennessee-to-Texas transplant Lew Card is determined for you to have a good time. The spirited tone of his third album contrasts with the acoustic style of last year’s Low Country Hi-Fi, substituting keyboards and brass (the latter from the superb Tijuana TrainWreck Horns) for fiddle and dobro. The opening “Walkin’ Shoes Blues” brings to mind the daydream of Mungo Jerry’s “In the Summertime,” with a tempo that beckons the listener to strut down the street. Josh Vernier’s backbeat will have you bopping your head to “Baby Won’t Ya,” as Card beseeches a prospective mate, accompanied by fingerpicked acoustic guitar, electric piano and Doug Strahan’s tastefully rugged guitar solo.

The album’s themes span intimate pleasures (“Paradise” “Come On Up”) to broad social criticism (“Condo Town Rag”), stopping off at a claim for independence, “Do My Own Thing,” that brings to mind Charlie Robison. The horns add a moody touch to “30 Pieces,” with a dragging beat, dripping guitar and bird chirps that nod to the Beatles’ “Blue Jay Way.” The album’s ten originals are joined by a full throttle cover of Norman Blake’s “Southern Railroad Blues” stoked by Earl Poole Ball’s boogie-woogie piano and Strahan’s electric guitar. Fans of The Band, Commander Cody, the Neville Brothers,, Dr. John, Little Feat and Creedence Clearwater will certainly cotton to this album. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

Lew Card’s Home Page

Terry Waldo: The Soul of Ragtime

Sunday, May 4th, 2014

TerryWaldo_TheSoulOfRagtimeThe soul of Ragtime found in rags, marches, opera and more

Though Ragtime’s syncopation and polyrhythmic marches often conjure turn-of-the-twentieth-century nostalgia, it’s shown itself to be a terrifically hearty music. Jazz musicians revived the Ragtime canon in the 1940s, and many of the British Invasion’s brightest lights started out in Trad Jazz bands that played Ragtime selections. Even more strikingly, the 1970s saw Scott Joplin’s profile elevated by records, awards, and in 1974 (nearly sixty years after his passing) a Top 5 chart hit for “The Entertainer.” The latter achievement also pigeonholed Ragtime in the public consciousness as old-timey music, and obscured the breadth of its offerings in two-steps and fox trots in both instrumental and vocal forms.

Terry Waldo began his exploration of Dixieland and Ragtime in the 1960s and his radio serial This is Ragtime, and a book of the same title, were centerpieces of the 1970s revival. He’s continued to champion the music’s history and promote its on-going vitality with new compositions and recordings, live performances (both solo and with his Gotham City Jazz Band), and as a teacher. His latest album combines newly composed tunes with classics of the repertoire and songs brought to Ragtime by Waldo’s deft ears and fingers. Waldo draws material from gospel, Broadway, early jazz, marches, and perhaps most surprising, nineteenth-century opera. The latter, from Wagner’s Tannhäuser, is a somber piece whose relationship to Ragtime is revealed in its lighter final minute.

Waldo shines on the album’s wide range of rags, including the original “Turkish Rondo Rag” and “Ragtime Ralph,” but the album’s biggest surprises are in tunes not famously known as piano rags. John Phillip Sousa’s “Stars & Stripes Forever” wears Waldo’s syncopation with a glee that befits the song’s joyous patriotism, and the jaunty flourishes added to “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” enliven a song typically played as a funeral dirge. Waldo reads “I’m Just Wild About Harry” in the romantic vein of its composer, Eubie Blake, rather than the upbeat band arrangements of the ’20s and ’30s, and his rendition of “The Pearls” retains the character of Jelly Roll Morton’s solo arrangement. If you think Ragtime is nothing more than a nostalgic, almost corny soundtrack for The Sting, Waldo’s deep scholarship and vital artistry will set you straight. [©2014 Hyperbolium]

Terry Waldo’s Home Page

Hypercast #3: Americana

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

A collection of recently released country, Americana, rock and folk, plus a few reissues. Click the artist names below for associated album reviews.

The O’s “Outlaw”
The Coals “Dirt Road”
James Booker “If You’re Lonely (Alternate Take)”
Owen Temple “Johnson Grass”
Tim O’Brien & Darrell Scott with John Prine “Paradise”
The Everly Brothers “Long Time Gone”
Jimbo Mathus & The Tri-State Coalition “Shine Like a Diamond”
Jonny Two Bags “The Way it Goes”
Moot Davis “Use to Call it Love”
Steve Poltz “Song for Hawk”
David Frizzell & Shelly West” “You’re the Reason God Made Oklahoma”
Sid Selvidge “Wild About My Lovin'”
Fearing & White “Secret of a Long-Lasting Love”
Marah “The Falling of the Pine”
James Booker “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby”
Terry Waldo “I’m Just Wild About Harry”
Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs “Trouble in Mind”
Old 97s & Waylon Jennings “Iron Road”
John Anderson “These Cotton Patch Blues”

Steve Dawson: Rattlesnake Cage

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

SteveDawson_RattlesnakeCageOutstanding blues, folk and jazz solo acoustic guitar

Canadian guitarist Steve Dawson has often treated his concert audiences to solo acoustic performances, but his albums have always supported his picking with a full band. On his latest album, Dawson gives listeners an opportunity to hear a conversation between his imagination, fingers and guitars (including 6- and 12-strings, traditional wood bodies and a National tricone), unadorned by other instruments or even vocals. Listeners will quickly realize how easily the rich particulars of a guitar’s sound are subsumed by other instruments, and that freed from the competition of a band, each guitar sings with a unique and detailed voice.

In these eleven performances, Dawson keeps meticulous time, but the tempos and changes flow from each song’s internal rhythms. Dawson is a well-rounded player who weaves together blues, folk, country and jazz, finger-picking ragtime on “The Medicine Shows Comes to Avalon,” playing slide on “Flophouse Oratory,” and adding lovely rolling lines on “Butterfly Stunt.” His originals range from contemplative to up-tempo, ending the album with the 12-string “The Alter at Center Raven.” Fans of Fahey, Kottke and Cooder will recognize Dawson as a kindred soul. [©2014 Hyperbolium]

MP3 | Chunky
Steve Dawson’s Home Page

Hot Tuna: Live at New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA 09/69

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

A second helping of Hot Tuna’s acoustic blues beginnings

Hot Tuna began as an acoustic off-shoot of the Jefferson Airplane, with bassist Jack Casady and guitarist Jorma Kaukonen joined by harmonica player Will Scarlet. Their 1970 self-titled debut, recorded live the previous year, consisted mostly of traditional folk, blues and ragtime tunes. This 68-minute collection is drawn from the same series of shows as was the debut, but features an entirely different set of performances. The half-dozen titles repeated from Hot Tuna are offered here in distinct versions; a few of these recordings appeared as bonus tracks on Airplane and Hot Tuna releases over the years, but several are offered here for the first time.

Kaukonen’s acoustic picking is mesmerizing throughout and his singing is at ease in this setting. Casady’s electric bass provides both time-keeping and melodic counterweight to Kaukonen’s solo flights. Both players step back to give Scarlet a few opportunities to play some thoughtful leads on harmonica, filling out a fluid and surprisingly complete musical aggregation. Hot Tuna would quickly evolve with the addition of a drummer and violinist, leaving these early performances at the New Orleans House as the central record of their initial vision. This is a terrific introduction to the band’s beginnings for anyone who hasn’t sampled back to their start, and a satisfying second-helping for those who love the debut. Collectors’ Choice’s digipack includes two full-panel color pictures and three pages of excellent liner notes by Richie Unterbergber. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

Hot Tuna’s Home Page