Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Back to My Roots: New Releases from Beyond the World of Jazz

My roots go back to the sixties, to the Jefferson Airplane and other San Francisco bands (anyone remember Moby Grape?), to the Beatles of course and all that followed them, and to the folk scene from Dylan, Baez and onward; and I still buy plenty of CDs in those genre.

Every so often I like to note new releases by the elder statespersons I still love (see earlier posts on Joe Cocker and Leonard Cohen), as well as some of the practitioners of the sound who came afterwards,  because, just like me, I am sure there are many of you reading this who were there as well. But only when the CDs are worth recommending, at least to my ears (sorry Paul McCartney -- "Kisses on the Bottom" was fluff, nice but fluff; sorry Neil Young but "Americana" was too raucous; Ricki Lee Jones, sorry but it was just too bleak; sorry Brian but the Beachboys don't have it anymore).

So, in the last few months, I highly recommend:

Product DetailsJudy Collins "Bohemian": She has always been number one in my folky heart, whther singing tradtional folk songs, Broadway, Dylan, Cohen, or her own songs. On this disc she has a lot of music from her traditional folk roots, from other fine writers who have been around the block, and her own compositions, and her voice is once more pure beauty.

Product DetailsTedeschi and Trucks Band "Everybody's Talkin' (Live): I am in love with the husky bluesy voice of Susan Tedeschi and have all her solo Cds. It is she who makes this band glow for me. Trucks and company may be terrific at wailing the blues and playing their instruments, and they are, but it is Tedeschi that makes this the great album it is for me. Pure joy, pure energy on every track.

Product DetailsBob Dylan "Tempest": Can't leave it off but I can't call it the masterpiece that others do. I like it, I like the late Dylan, but I still am living in the past with the old music and the old voice. Still, I think "Titanic" is right there as a classic and will live on forever.

Product DetailsMark Knopfler "Privateering ": I always liked Dire Straits, but once Knopfler began his solo career I don't believe he has written or performed a bad song. This two-disc recording is right up there once again. His soothing voice and manner are fabulous, and his songs about everyday folks are the UK equivalent of Springsteen. Just great, simply great.

Product DetailsRita Wilson  This is the "oddball" recording here. I almost feel silly putting this in the list, but the actress Rita Wilson, wife of Tom Hanks, can sing and sing well. She knows well enough not to overdo it, so the charm here is simplicity in the arrangements and her voice coupled with those great singles we all remember like "All I Have To Do", "Cherish" ,"You Were On My Mind", "River" -- its all about memories and associations (no pun intended). Terrifically fun, fluffy stuff but better than McCartney. I love the mood it puts me in.

Product DetailsLoudon Wainright III   Wainright has always been the oddball humorist -- remember "Dead Skunk" or "Hometown Team"? -- and the humor is still present, but more directed to the ironies of a life well lived if messy, to aging and even ruminations on death. Done with the Wainwright style of simple tunes well played and well sung, and very much a laid back performance in a traditional folky style. Its generational for some of us and hits close to the heart.

Product DetailsNanci Griffith  The Texas songbird shines, with her beautiful twangy voice expressing her cares and woes on 12 beautifully crafted songs about difficulties, about anger, about things that slip away and things that explode. Sung with loving care, the simple tunes are memorable.

Product DetailsShawn Colvin  Another in the line of great folk/country singers who really lays it on the line in her compositions and lyrics. Colvin has had a tough live as revealed in her biography, and her outpourings here are touching to hear. The simple production is perfect for these songs and accentuate the beauty and passion of the music and Colvin's voice.

Product DetailsMary Chapin-Carpenter  We never miss the opportunity to see her live and are never disappointed. Saw her twice this year, the second time in concert with Colvin, and the two were overwhelming. My wife often talks about seeing Chapin-Carpenter in small clubs in D.C. and knowing even then she was a star. The new disc is lovely with expressive and poignant songs and lyrics and of course her beautiful voice.

And coming up soon:

Judy Collins "Live at the Metropolitan" : This isn't here yet, but it was broadcast on PBS, and will be a killer CD when it comes out, a fifty year retrospective of Collins work, some guest appearances, and some good natured banter. Watch for it next month.

Product DetailsLucy Kaplansky "Reunion"  Kaplansky is another natural sucessor in the line from Collins and Baez and others, a singer songwriter of great passion with compositions that can make you mood soar or can break your heart. We never fail to see her live when she is around. As they like to say on "American Idol", she could sing the songbook and it would be exquisite. Here she is going to sing about her life, her heritage, and her family. Cannot wait -- heard a couple of the new tunes at the last concert and they were beautiful. Mother's Day is going to bring tears to your eyes.  

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