Harnetty, Brian – “American Winter ” – [Atavistic]

ArtCrimes   2/4/2008   A Library, CD

Harnetty, Brian ???American Winter??? full length

Field recordings, old radio airchecks and interview material culled from the Berea College sound archives of Appalachian culture, combined with newly recorded instrumentation including toy piano, banjo, harmonium, fiddle and other bright shiny sounds to make a New Weird America out of the old one. Snatches of song go in and out of synch; announcers introduce things you may never get to hear. The result is a stroll down a remote country path with angels and devils hovering nearby, should you fall dead in your tracks unexpectedly.

Niles, John Jacob – “My Precarious Life In The Public Domain ” – [Rev-ola]

ArtCrimes   1/30/2008   CD, Country

John Jacob Niles ???My Precarious Life in the Public Domain???

A collection of traditional songs performed by American eccentric folklorist, John Jacob Niles, this time looking at his recordings for RCA from 1939 to 1943. These songs are selected from the ballads documented in the late 1800s by Harvard song collector Francis S. Child, who traced the path of traditional songs from the British Isles to the Appalachians, where the Scots-Irish had brought them when they had first settled in the US. The American versions of these ballads in some cases retained more of their original character than the contemporaneous British versions, subject to constant revision over many years, while Americans had unwittingly preserved the ballads in isolated rural areas, safe from the influence of the world at large. The Child ballads reference a lost world of kings, great battles, and faeries, quite different from the Kentucky hills where Niles first heard these songs, and he responded enthusiastically to them, with the unorthodox singing and dulcimer playing that cannot be mistaken for any other folk singer, past or present. These songs may have been performed more faithfully to their traditional past elsewhere, but Niles was more intent on making the songs live again, not as mere museum pieces, but as vehicles for his own dramatic vision.

Country Girls! 1927-1935, The [coll] – [Origin Jazz Library]

ArtCrimes   1/8/2008   12-inch, Blues

The Country Girls! 1927-1935: 16 Rare Blues and Ballads with Guitar

10 female country blues artists from 1927-1934. Some overlap here with other more modern day collections in KFJC’s holdings (Geeshie Wiley, Lucille Bogan, Memphis Minnie), but a few welcome obscurities like Rose Mae Moore and Lillian Miller. Many of these tracks are voice accompanied by one or two guitars, with a few having additional players and a couple of male visitors interjecting comments or cackling. Always amazing to hear the sound of untrained voices, telling it like it was, and the guitar playing here is often fascinating as well.

Weldon, Casey Bill – “1935-1937 Remaining Titles & Alternate Takes ” – [Document Records]

ArtCrimes   1/8/2008   12-inch, Blues

Casey Bill Weldon:
1935-1937 Remaining Titles & Alternate Takes

The final volume of Document???s trawl through Casey Bill???s extensive recordings, presenting a wide range of settings for his really exceptional guitar playing and vocals. All recordings made in Chicago, the topics here including street walkers and race horses, as well as some supernatural business. The Washboard Rhythm King tracks (side 1, tracks 5-8) are a hokum band with clarinet, kazoo, and washboard. The last three tracks here feature ???His Orchestra???, with one-time Washboard Rhythm King Arnett Nelson on clarinet along with several unknown players delivering a surprisingly full sound. As is often the case with Chicago sessions of the time, Tampa Red, Bill Broonzy and Peetie Wheatstraw make appearances.

Jones, Maggie – “Vol. 1 1923-1924 ” – [Wolf Records]

ArtCrimes   1/8/2008   12-inch, Blues

Maggie Jones:
Vol. 1 1923-1924 Complete Recordings in Chronological Order

Somewhat in the ???Blues Empress??? fashion of Bessie Smith, Maggie Jones recorded in NYC with some of the top-flight jazz players of the day, including Fletcher Henderson, Louis Armstrong, and Don Redman. But there???s also a few very stark tracks with her backed by only a banjo, where she uses her voice in a very different way in order to not overwhelm her accompanist (side 1, tracks 5-8). ???Anybody Here Want to Try My Cabbage??? is probably her best known track, and it???s typical of the saucy innuendo that lurks here. As with these ???complete??? collections, there???s a few alternate takes that may not vary too much, and a couple of tracks were mastered with skips!

Niles, John Jacob – “I Wonder As I Wander ” – [Tradition]

ArtCrimes   12/19/2007   CD, Country

John Jacob Niles ???I Wonder as I Wander: Carols and Love Songs???

Niles had a long career, some 30 years or more, devoted to the discovery and transformation of traditional song, mostly from the Appalachians, but also drawing on British and French sources. Using his eerie, wailing voice and his homemade mountain dulcimer, he ends up sounding very little like the plain folk that he learned some of these songs from, and more like something he???d invented all on his own ??? something a bit like what Tim Buckley would be doing much later, with his expressive, jazzlike phrasing. The highly stylized vocals make it difficult to tell a traditional song from one of his own compositions, and in some cases they are hybrids, with new verses written to expand a fragment of traditional verse. This would prove to be influential for folk artists to come, including Bob Dylan, who often used traditional song as raw material for his own inventions.

D’silva, Amancio – “Konkan Dance ” – [Qbico]

ArtCrimes   12/16/2007   12-inch, Jazz

Amancio D???Silva ???Konkan Dance???

Amancio D???Silva was born in India, learning guitar by listening to American jazz greats on Voice of America. He moved to London in 1967. The recordings here, recorded in 1972 but not released at that time, were from his last sessions with producer Denis Preston, who assembled some of Britain???s best regarded jazz players (such as Stan Tracey) to work with D???Silva. Although there is some use of Indian instruments here, the overall sound is what we would come to call (with some apprehension) fusion, with rock, jazz, and Indian flavors stirred together. There???s a lot of sax and flute, solid and sometimes funky keyboards, and plenty of D???Silva???s guitar work on electric and acoustic, sounding a bit like Jamaican Ernest Ranglin. There are 4 lengthy tracks here, each one quite distinct from the others, with the last adding some rockish distortion.

Melodii Tuvi: Throat Songs and Folk Tunes From Tuva [coll] – [Dust-To-Digital]

ArtCrimes   12/16/2007   CD, International

Melodii Tuvi: Throat Songs and Folk Tunes From Tuva

16 tracks recorded in 1969 for release in the USSR demonstrating a variety of throat singing styles and folk songs from Tuva, a mountainous area which was annexed into the USSR in 1944. The Tuvan lifestyle is largely nomadic and the songs are often sung by herders, intended to calm their livestock. The result suggests Cowboy music for the Tuvan prairies, with that wide open lonesome sound. Throat singing is also heard in Mongolia and Tibet, but the Tuvans are known worldwide for their singing styles, with festivals and institutes dedicated to this tradition. Some tracks are vocals only, some have instrumental backing, and several tracks near the end are instrumental ensemble pieces. The booklet has history on the styles and best-known performers.

Set Your Fields On Fire Vol. 2 [coll] – [Georgia Council For The Arts]

ArtCrimes   11/27/2007   Blues, CD

[collection] ???Set Your Fields on Fire Vol. 2???
full length CD

A mixture of contemporary field recordings and archival tracks featuring black and white gospel groups, all recorded in Georgia from the 1920s to the present day. The styles range from church-based congregational singing, to country and bluegrass, to solo vocalists, to funky (amd not-so-funky) full bands. Most of the tracks here are modern recordings done in churches, so sometimes the sonics are a little on the rough side, but you do catch the gospel vibe loud and clear. Some interesting moments here with black shape note singing (#4), sounding very different from traditional shape note, real old-time country duo singing (#19) and some wild pedal steel on # 15.

Ragab, Salah & The Cairo Jazz Band – “Present Egyptian Jazz ” – [Art Yard]

ArtCrimes   11/27/2007   12-inch, International

Salah Ragab and the Cairo Jazz Band Present Egyptian Jazz
full length LP

In 1968, drummer and pianist Salah Ragab was in the unusual position of leading the Egyptian Military Music Dept. with the help of jazz charts brought in from Europe, and a round the clock rehearsal schedule, he formed Egypt’s first jazz big band with a group of 25 musicians. These tracks date from 1968 to 1973. Although they aren’t exactly masters of the improvised side of jazz, the arrangements here do take advantage of traditional Egyptian instruments such as the nay (flute) and baza (Ramadan drum), which give the band a distinct sound. The compositions here are mostly very tightly arranged and rhythmically varied, using 4/4, 6/8 and 7/8 rhythms.

Dalton, Karen – “Cotton Eyed Joe ” – [Megaphone Records]

ArtCrimes   11/27/2007   Blues, CD

Karen Dalton ???Cotton Eyed Joe??? (The Loop Tapes Live in Boulder 1962) full length double CD + DVD

Karen Dalton was a hard livin??? folk singer who had more in common with blues artists and jazz-inflected folk singers like Fred Neil than the more mainstream folkies like Joan Baez. Neil and Bob Dylan were both big fans of her singing and her playing. She Dalton was living out in the Colorado mountains at the time of these recordings, so this gig at the Attic in Boulder was sort of a local show for her. She covers a mixture of traditional and blues, all arranged for her own 12 string guitar (or banjo) and (sometimes ragged) voice. The traditional tunes are often chilling in their starkness, and everything here is done in a way all her own. Dalton later fell on hard times; she passed away in 1993.

The DVD has videos made for French TV with two songs in NYC in 1969 and two filmed at her home on Colorado in 1970.

Oliver, King / Creole Jazz Band – “Great 1923 Gennetts, The ” – [Herwin Records, Inc.]

ArtCrimes   10/16/2007   12-inch, Jazz

King Oliver / Creole Jazz Band “The Great 1923 Gennetts”

In 1922, when King Oliver-devotee Louis Armstrong joined his mentor’s Creole Jazz Band in Chicago, it was only in a supporting role, since bandleader Oliver also played cornet, but it was in this band that Armstrong’s playing gained real attention. They were popular before Louis joined, and even more so afterwards. At this time, he also met his first wife, Lil, who played piano for Oliver…encouraged by Lil to forge his own path rather than play second cornet with Oliver, Louis would leave the Creole Jazz Band in 1924, so these sessions for the Gennett label, made in April and October of 1923 in Richmond, Indiana, are the only recorded evidence of Armstrong’s time in the band. The Gennett sides are faulted for not being a true demonstration of the Creole Jazz Band’s onstage sound…the banjo is often too loud and Oliver’s instrument too quiet on some of these tracks. But there’s still great playing here by Oliver (see “Dippermouth Blues”) and Armstrong (see “Chimes Blues”) on cornet, and Johnny Dodds on clarinet.

Sacred Music of The World [coll] – [Arc Music]

ArtCrimes   10/9/2007   CD, International

[coll] Sacred Music of the World

30 tracks that span the globe, capturing religious observance through music, done as group activities or as individuals, communing with their spirits of choice. Arranged somewhat geographically, the first few tracks are African, then we move into the Middle East, to India and Southest Asia, then on to Australia and New Guinea, and finally to the Americas and the Caribbean.

As you would expect, religions, languages, and instrumentation will vary from track to track. All are well recorded so you can really hear the distinct qualities of each. Among the cooler moments: the Aboriginal track (CD2, #10) which features the Bullroarer, a wooden devotional object spun around on a string, and of course fans of throat singing will find the Mongolian track, CD2 #4, of interest. Go with God…or gods.

Perri, Sandro – “Tiny Mirrors ” – [Constellation]

ArtCrimes   10/9/2007   A Library, CD

Sandro Perri “Tiny Mirrors”

Previously known as Polmo Polpo (doing more electronically-derived work), as well as being an associate of Great Lake Swimmers, Eric Chenaux, Adam Marshall, Andre Ethier, Sawako, Detective Kalita/The Michael Parks, Andy Swan, Barzin, The Singing Saws, and Tinkertoy, Toronto-based Sandro Perri offers a lopsided folk/pop approach here, with his vocals, guitar, and percussion sometimes joined by a nice mix of brass, reeds, strings, and percussion. The singing is at times quite melodic, and he does a pretty earnest version of Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin'”, but it’s not quite pure folk…there’s a touch of the tropics here, and the charming euphonium adds a sort of club-footed jazz element. The last track is an instrumental.

Early Scandinavian Bands and Entertainers [coll] – [Banjar Records]

ArtCrimes   9/26/2007   12-inch, International

Early Scandinavian Bands and Entertainers

America is a nation of immigrants, and thatss always added to the diversity of music heard in the states, but that was even more the case prior to the Depression years, with American-made recordings of various countries’ folk music appearing in direct response to large numbers of immigrants in the US, pining for anything that would remind them of the Old Country. Here we have recordings made between 1904 and the late 1940s by Swedes (and a couple of Norwegians) playing dance tunes in traditional styles, and also more daring arrangements with large groups using xylophones and tubas along with the usual accordions and fiddle. Following the Depression, sales of these Scandinavian favorites started to trail off, with big band and country western displacing them in the fickle hearts of Swedes in America. So, here are the Glory Years of Scandinavian masters like Olle I Skratthult and The Eddie Jahrl Kvartett, playing the songs that made them famous, for a little while.

Never The Same [coll] – [Honest Jon’s]

ArtCrimes   9/18/2007   12-inch, International

collection: Never The Same: Leave-Taking from the British Folk Revival 1970-1977

Hats off to Honest Jons for shedding some light on a pretty obscure corner of British folk. Folk enthusiast Bill Leader was luckily situated in the right place at the right time when he started recording British folk acts in the early 60s like Bert Jansch, Davy Graham and Anne Briggs. However, none of *those* artists are present here, except in the liner notes photos included with this 2 LP collection, as their work was instead licensed to other labels for release…what we have instead is music Bill Leader recorded for one of the two labels he launched, Trailer. It’s probably accurate to say that much of the British folk momentum had changed to more eclectic, electric fare by the time Leader did these sessions in a decidedly old-school style, with most of these tracks being solo performances of purely traditional song rather than rocked-up updates like what Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention were doing at the same time. So it’s not surprising these tracks were overlooked in the market…it also seems that Leader’s fortunes in the music business were constantly beset with difficulties, as one can read in the liner notes provided. So most of this music has gone unheard since Trailer’s releases went out of print ages ago. Nice to have them here now, although one might wish for slightly greater variety given that some artists here have 2 tracks apiece, while other Trailer acts aren’t represented at all.

Voice of The Seven Woods – “Voice of The Seven Woods ” – [finders keepers]

ArtCrimes   9/11/2007   A Library, CD


Alternating between acoustic, mideastern flavored pickathons on acoustic guitar or oud, and flaming electric freakouts with backwards drumming, this is something of an update of the British folk sound of the 60s, when guitarists like Davy Graham and John Renbourn were using DADGAD tuning and picking up melodic ideas from Morocco or India, with exotic percussion used to provide color and propulsion on some of the tracks. A difference here is that Rick Tomlinson, the main instigator of Voice of the Seven Woods and a pretty skilled guitarist, is also excited enough by Led Zeppelin that he spends most of track 5 trying to recreate the closing moments of ???Stairway to Heaven???, not caring a whit that such an enterprise might be considered as either sacrilege or a terribly sad waste of time, depending on who you asked. All tracks are instrumentals except #4.

Mekons – “Natural ” – [Quarterstick Records]

ArtCrimes   9/11/2007   A Library, CD

MEKONS ???Natural???

Now celebrating their 30th anniversary, the MEKONS have survived far longer than the rest of the Punk Class of ???77. This is their first studio effort in 5 years, and they followed the English tradition of ???getting their heads together in the country???. The result is some of their most melodic and textured work ever, with largely acoustic instruments and unusual percussive and vocal effects adding variety to a batch of songs that was clearly influenced by the rural settings they found themselves in: trees, birds, foxes, and darkness all appear in song titles here. Some of the songs have unison-sung group vocals in counterpoint to solo voices, or alternating lines between different singers like The Band had done on their first couple of LPs. Although these are all new songs, they could stand alongside 500 year-old highwayman ballads and old Clash singles as fine examples of English song.

Awon Ojise Olorun [coll] – [Savannahphone]

ArtCrimes   6/19/2007   CD, International

[coll] Awon Ojise Olorun International

The Yoruba tribe of Africa has resided in Nigeria, Benin, Ghana and Togo for over a thousand years. Their percussion and group call-and-response singing style are the bedrock for more contemporary African styles like Juju, Apala, and eventually Fela???s Afrobeat. The examples here, spanning the period 1931-1952, are largely percussion-driven, although acoustic guitars show up here and there, and an Islamically-influenced style called ???sakara??? adds a one-stringed fiddle to the palette. The song topics run the range from religious invocations, to wildlife stories, to the merchandising of Kola nuts. English translations are provided for all tracks.

Frasca, Dominic – “Deviations ” – [Cantaloupe Music]

ArtCrimes   6/19/2007   A Library, CD

Dominic Frasca ???Deviations??? A Library

Solo guitar music from a minimalist perspective???intricate, precisely-plucked single notes, piling up on themselves in a circular fashion. Percussive tapping sometimes adds a rhythmic counterpoint to the picking. There???s also some pretty advanced fret tapping techniques here. At times the production suggests the arid, Nordic sonics of early ECM releases by players like Ralph Towner (see #3), while other tracks have fat delays, stereo ping-ponging, and other spatial effects, although the instrument is played in real time without any looping. #6 is a Philip Glass composition, and clearly Glass is an influence for Frasca and his writing partner Marc Mellits.

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