Posts Tagged ‘Ramseur’

Josh White: Josh at Midnight

Monday, September 5th, 2016

JoshWhite_JoshAtMidnightJosh White’s 1956 folk-blues classic returns to vinyl in grand fashion

By the time Josh White began recording for Elektra in 1955, he’d reached heights that few other African-American entertainers had attained. He’d become a recording, concert and radio star, a civil rights activist and confident of FDR, and appeared in mainstream and avant garde films. But he’d also run afoul of both the left and the right by voluntarily testifying in front of the HUAC, ending up blacklisted (officially by the right, unofficially by the left) and unable to make a living in the US. But Jac Holzman bucked both sides of the political spectrum and offered White an opportunity to record for his fledgling Elektra label, releasing The Story of John Henry… A Musical Narrative as a double 10-inch album and 12-inch LP.

The following year saw the release of Josh at Midnight, an album that helped restore White’s career and boosted Elektra’s commercial fortunes. Recorded in mono with a single mic (a classic Telefunken U-47), the sound is spontaneous, lively and crisp. White is backed by bassist Al Hall and baritone vocalist Sam Gary as he works through material drawn largely from the public domain. Many of these songs were, or became, favorites of the folk revival, but even the most well-known are fresh in White’s hands. The material ranges from the sacred (“Jesus Gonna Make Up My Dyin’ Bed” “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho”) to the profane (“St. James Infirmary” “Jelly Jelly!”), with several humorous stops in between.

Ramseur’s reissue was supervised by Jac Holzman, prepared by Bruce Botnick and mastered by Bernie Grundman. The front cover reproduces the original, but with Ramseur’s logo slotted in place of Elektra’s. The back cover includes new liner notes by Holzman and song notes by Kenneth S. Goldstein, and the record labels mimic the look and color of Elektra’s. It’s a shame this vinyl-only release leaves those in the digital world with inferior MP3s, or a CD or two-fer of unknown provenance, but LP, MP3 or CD, this is an absolute classic, and a must-have for anyone whose original (or thrift-store) copy has been worn out from repeated play. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

Ramseur Records’ Home Page

Sammy Walker: Brown Eyed Georgia Darlin’

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

SammyWalker_BrownEyedGeorgiaDarlinA perfectly preserved echo of the folk revival

Although these demos were recorded in the mid-70s, their guitar, harmonica and socially adept lyrics reach straight back to Dylan and Walker’s early proponent, Phil Ochs. His nasal voice recalls both Dylan and Arlo Guthrie (and for those who enjoyed mid-70s buskers, Jim Page), but his lyrical voice is his own. His lyrics are less strident than Ochs’, more linear than Dylan’s, and less caustic than Paul Simon’s early work. But Walker has the same knack for turning moments into philosophy, and telling stories whose points are larger than the lyric. He selects his words for both meaning and sound, making his guitar accompaniment all that’s needed.

The title track opens the album with poetic images of a hard ride through sun and wind, to the cool reprieve at trail’s end. Walker returns to nature for “If I Had the Time,” dreaming of elsewhere while remaining rooted in the land, and he essays dreams again in the cleverly titled “I Ain’t Got Time to Kill,” marking his realization that one’s time is finite and should be spent with care. The contrasting scenes of “A Cold Pittsburgh Morning” are chillier than the headline, and the hardship of “The East Colorado Dam” is a box canyon. Walker re-recorded many of these songs with a band for his Warner Brothers albums but the fuller arrangements haven’t remained as fresh as these demos. This is a great find for fans. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

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Samantha Crain & The Midnight Shivers: Songs in the Night

Monday, May 18th, 2009

samanthacrain_songsinthenightFirst full-length from riveting Oklahoma Americana folk singer

Samantha Crain is a Choctaw folk singer from rural Oklahoma whose vocal warble creates a sense of old-timey jazz. Her 2007 debut EP, The Confiscation, captured the feeling of an eerie walk along the canopied banks of a Southern Gothic river, and though this full-length isn’t as starkly foreboding, its imagery and lyrical meters remain striking and original. Crain’s gravitated from storytelling to poetic allusion, often leaving the tone and dynamics of her singing to communicate the pain, fear, confusion, despair and dislocation not transparently revealed in her words. The album is perhaps even more effective if you don’t resort to the lyric sheet. Crain continues to stretch her lyrics over the words’ rhythms, often repeating phrases in a trailing fog of lost thoughts or exclamation of suddenly realized memory. The Shivers’ Americana basics (guitar, bass, harmonica and drums) are augmented with touches of mandolin, trombone and mini-moog, remaining rustic and restrained; the slow-to-mid tempos are broken only once for the post-punk rockabilly shuffle and twang of “Bullfight (Change Your Mind).” Crain’s voice remains mystically compelling, and though her new songs haven’t the thick atmosphere of The Confiscation‘s, they’re still full of memorable images and riveting twists. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

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