The Dolphins 45 by Fred Neil

June 24, 2012

Fred Neil, 1936-2001, was a respected folk singer from the 1960s who became better known as a songwriter. The big failing during his career was his aversion to touring. He rarely performed live and a brief one sgng set as a guest artist during 1981 was his last live performance.

He spent thirty years of his life working wih dolphins in South Florida. In many ways this was hs main career choice and music was secondary.

“The Dolphins” was a song about his first love. Released as a single it received no chart action, nor did any of his singles.

The City Of New Orleans 45 by Arlo Guthrie

June 20, 2012

When your father was music legend Woody Guthrie, you have quite a legacy to live up too.

Arlo Guthrie exploded upon the music scene with his performnces at The Newport Folk Festival and Woodstock during the late 1960s and his opus, “Alice’s Restaurant.” He has continued to perform and record down to the present day.

He has only placed two songs on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart. The first was a very short version of the 18 minute “Alice’s Restaurant,” which only reached number 97 during its two weeks on the chart.

His only pop hit was the Steve Goodman song, “The City Of New Orleans.” Released as a single during the early summer of 1972, it peaked at number 18 during its 16 weeks on the chart.

We Shall Overcome 45 by Joan Baez

June 15, 2012

Joan Baez was one of the seminal figures in the 1960s folk revival movement and for a half century has remained true to her craft. She has remained a social conscience for three generations and counting.

“We Shall Overcome” was originally an African workers protest song from the early 1900s. It has become a standard and traditonal folk song in the United States.

It was also Joan Baez’s first chart single. It appeared on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart on November 9, 1963 at number 90. It then fell off the chart never to return, making it a one week wonder. It didn’t matter as a lot of great Joan Baez music would follow.

Love Is A Four Letter Word 45 by Joan Baez

May 29, 2012

Joan Baez was a key figure in the American folk revival movement of the 1960s. She has also been in the forefront of social causes for the last half-century. While her popularity peak was during the 1960s through the mid-1970s, she continues to record and perform live down to the present day.

“Love Is A Four Letter World” is a Bob Dylan composition that I don’t think has ever been recorded by him.

It is a song that has always been associated with Baez, who first issued it as a single during early 1969. It spent four weeks on the BILBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart and peaked at number 86.

The song has since become an iconic Joan Baez tune. It has appeared on a number of her albums and is still a part of her stage act.

Raven Singer by Ian Tyson

May 15, 2012

Ian Tyson, born 1933 in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, is now one of the grand old men of the 1960s folk movement. He and his former wife, Sylvia Fricker, were an important duo in the revival of folk music during the turbulent 1960s (as Ian & Sylvia). Their time together, 1959-1975, produced a body of work that was among the best of the era. Their subsequent move to Nashville resulted in an early form of country rock.

At the age of 78, Tyson shows no signs of slowing down as he has remained active in the studio and on the road. Every few years he emerges from his Calgary farm with a new album of well-created and thoughtful material. Raven Singer is his fourth album since 2000, in addition to a two-DVD concert video and a successful autobiography.

The new album immediately takes the listener to a familiar place in the world of Ian Tyson. The singer-songwriter’s self-penned songs reflect his incisive views of the world around him; his love of the West hovers above his music and helps make the stories real and ultimately entertaining and charming. Also, though his distinctive voice shows the wear and tear of the miles traveled, it is still serviceable and fits his stories well.

”Under African Skies” and “Back To Baja” are travelogues of his latest adventures. “Blueberry Susan” is a nostalgic tribute to the first guitarist he ever encountered, plus a farewell to some old friends, Red Shea, Monte Dunn, and David Rea, who passed away recently.

He visits his western roots with “Charles Goodnight’s Grave,” which actually rocks a little, and on “Saddle Bronc Girl.” Elsewhere, he reached back two decades for a moving re-working of his song, “The Circle Is Through.”

Ian Tyson is a durable survivor and his new album should be a delight for his fan base and folk aficionados alike. Raven Singer is a fine addition to his large and impressive body of work.

Article first published as Music Review: Ian Tyson – Raven Singer on Blogcritics.

Deeper In The Well by Eric Bibb

April 24, 2012

Eric Bibb comes from an outstanding pedigree. His father, Leon, was a part of the early 1960s folk revival movement in the United States, Paul Robeson was his godfather, and John Lewis of Modern Jazz Quartet fame was his uncle.

He was exposed to music as a child and received his first guitar at the age of seven. He is a traditional folk/blues artist who relies on an acoustic sound. During the course of his long and prolific career, he has released close to three dozen albums and received a number of blues awards.

During the past 40 years, he has recorded for a number of labels but has now signed with the Stony Plain label out of Canada, which specializes in folk, blues, and roots music. If his debut album for the label is any indication, it will be a good match.

Deeper In The Well finds Bibb continuing to explore the folk and blues heritage. As with many traditional blues artists, he is a virtuoso on the guitar, be it a six, seven, or nine-string, plus can also play a mean banjo when required. He is supported by harmonica player Grant Dermody, who plays a prominent part in his sound, upright bass/accordion player Dirk Powell, fiddler Cedric Watson, drummer Danny DeVillier, and Cajun triangle player Christine Balfa.

He is at his best on a couple of traditional folk tracks when he presents “Boll Weevil” and “Sinner Man” in all their raw starkness. He also gives a smooth and precise interpretation of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A Changin.’”

“Bayou Belle” is a modern folk/blues song right out of the southern Delta. It has an ominous style as it spins its tale of love’s longing. Oddly, the title track is the one that moves him farthest from his roots. “Dig A Little Deeper In The Well,” written by deceased Nashville songwriter Roger Bowling, comes close to being a conventional country song, complete with fiddles, banjos, and harmony vocals.

He is also a noted songwriter. Tracks such as “In My Time,” “Music,” “Movin’ Up,” “No Further,” and “Sittin’ In A Hotel Room” all find him fusing folk and blues traditions.

Deeper In The Well is a fine addition to Eric Bibb’s large catalog of releases, as it is a modern interpretation of some old traditions. Bibb remains one of the better practitioners of his chosen style of music.

Article first published as Music Review: Eric Bibb – Deeper In The Well on Blogcritics.

Alice’s Restaurant by Arlo Guthrie

January 12, 2012

Will all commie pinkos please report to the Group W bench at Alice’s Restaurant?

Arlo Guthrie had a hard act to follow. His father was the legendary Woody Guthrie, whose songs influenced hundreds of artists, and became the focal point for political protest for the generation that was to follow his death at the age of 55 in 1967.

During the last four-plus decades, Arlo Guthrie has released dozens of albums, toured constantly, and become a respected member of the modern day folk movement. His first album, released the same year as his father’s death, remains his most enduring and memorable because of the title song.

Alice’s Restaurant was issued during September of 1967 and elevated Arlo to the upper ranks of 1960s folk artists. The title song, “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” was a definitive song of the Vietnam War era and remains the grand opus of his career. It became such a hit that two years later, the song was made into a movie.

The song was an 18-minute talking blues style anti-war song. There really was an Alice, a restaurant, and an officer, Obie. It was a first person account of his arrest for littering, a visit to his draft board, and of being regulated to the Group W bench for rejects. The 27 glossy 8 X 10 pictures with circles and arrows was a bonus. The humor, which attracted the attention of millions, belied the serious political commentary and biting anti-war message. The song has been updated a number of times through the years, including during the Reagan and Bush administrations, but the original remains the classic version.

Most people who purchased the album did so for the title track, but there were several other songs that represented the era well. “Chilling of the Evening” was a melodic but scathing criticism of the Vietnam War. “Ring-Around-A Rosy Rag“ concerned an arrest for drug use hidden in 1920s-style music. “The Motorcycle Song“ was another humorous and clever track with odd rhyming that was a nice ride through the anti-protest movement of the late 1960s.

Alice’s Restaurant is somewhat dated today but remains a funny, joyous, and ultimately insightful album that did Arlo Guthrie’s father proud.

Article first published as Music Review: Arlo Guthrie – Alice’s Restaurant on Blogcritics.