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Review: “Woody Guthrie at 100! Live at the Kennedy Center”

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Woody at 100

The new CD/DVD set is entitled Woody Guthrie at 100! Live at the Kennedy Center, but in fact, Woody never made it past 55. This document of an altogether lively concert program from a wide assortment of admirers proves, however, that his music has not only lasted ‘til 100, but will likely survive us all.  This is a celebration, yes, but a celebration with a conscience.  A strong thread of morality and social awareness ran through all of Guthrie’s songs, as he believed music could make a difference in America.  That same belief is shared by the performers who took the stage of Washington, DC’s Kennedy Center on October 14, 2012, including Jackson Browne, Rosanne Cash, Donovan, Judy Collins, Tom Morello, John Mellencamp and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott.  That evening, they showcased the spectrum of Guthrie’s work from protest songs to children’s sing-alongs.

As produced by Woody’s daughter Nora Guthrie, Bob Santelli and Garth Ross, the concert is well-sequenced, beginning with the joyous barrage of nonsense lyrics in Old Crow Medicine Show’s bluegrass-style “Howdi Do.”  The string band continues the jamboree with Guthrie’s rapid-fire story of a “Union Maid” who’s “stickin’ to the union ‘til the day I die,” and indeed, Guthrie’s commitment to the ideals of unionization recur throughout the program.

A major highlight is the mini-suite of songs thematically connected by imagery of the open road and the hobo, with contemporary folksinger Joel Rafael’s harmonica-accompanied “Ramblin’ Reckless Hobo” (for which he set Guthrie’s lyrics to his own music), Jimmy LaFave’s “Hard Travelin’,” Donovan’s “Riding in My Car” and Rosanne Cash’s “I Ain’t Got No Home.”  Listening to Rafael, it’s hard not to hear a Bob Dylan influence, or more precisely, how Guthrie influenced Dylan and in turn, Rafael.  Texas singer LaFave’s “Hard Travelin’” contrasts a jaunty melody with the story of a hard-working itinerant who brushes up against the law; “I Ain’t Got No Home” introduces a similar character with an even sadder tale.  While “Hard Travelin’” utilizes awkward grammar (“I’ve been layin’ in a hard-rock jail, I thought you knowed”) and jolts of dry humor in its lyric (“Damned old judge, he said to me, ‘It’s 90 days for vagrancy”), “I Ain’t Got No Home” is all too touching and troubling.  Cash, accompanied only by her own guitar and that of guitarist-vocalist-husband John Leventhal, gets to the root of the song in her low-key, empathetic vocal.  She doesn’t overplay the despair but rather renders the character she embodies with a quiet resolve and dignity.

Donovan leads a sing-along on Guthrie’s children’s song “Riding in My Car,” which fits snugly among the other, more “adult” songs.  It’s no mystery why: Guthrie wrote for adults in the same simple and lyrically unadorned style he wrote for children.  Grown-ups will likewise want to sing along to the mandolin- and fiddle-adorned refrain of The Del McCoury Band and Tim O’Brien’s “So Long, It’s Been Good to Know Yuh.”

Hit the jump for more! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

June 18, 2013 at 15:06

Release Round-Up: Week of June 18

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Patty Duke - ValleyPatty Duke, Don’t Just Stand There/Patty / Sings Songs from Valley of the Dolls/Sings Folk Songs (Time to Move On) (Real Gone Music)

All four of Patty’s United Artists albums released on a pair of two-fers, including 1968’s unreleased Sings Folk Songs.

Supremes - Cream of the Crop Paper SleeveThe Supremes, Cream of the Crop / Love Child / I Hear a Symphony / Join the Temptations / Sing Holland-Dozier-Holland / Supremes A Go-Go (Motown MS 649, 1966) (Culture Factory)

A bunch of Supremes classics – six albums from 1966’s The Supremes A Go-Go to 1969’s Cream of the Crop, their last with Diana Ross – all get the mini-LP treatment from Culture Factory.

Evening with Diana Ross

Diana Ross, The Boss /An Evening with Diana Ross (Culture Factory)

Culture Factory also brings Miss Ross’ long out-of-print concert disc back to CD, along with a new, mini-LP edition of the Ashford and Simpson-helmed favorite The Boss.

JULIA FORDHAM SweptJulia Fordham, Porcelain / Swept: Deluxe Editions (Cherry Pop)

The second and third LPs by U.K. singer Julia Fordham are expanded and remastered for the first time.

Porcelain: Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.
Swept: Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.

20 Feet from StardomVarious Artists, 20 Feet from Stardom: Music from the Motion Picture (Columbia)

The soundtrack to the anticipated new documentary about the best backup singers you might not have known, from Darlene Love to Merry Clayton. (Legacy’s releasing Clayton’s first-ever best-of compilation next month.) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Paul Young RRPaul Young, Remixes and Rarities (Cherry Pop)

Two discs of rare or new-to-CD bonus material from the ’80s crooner. (Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.)

Woody 100 ConcertVarious Artists, Woody Guthrie at 100! Live at the Kennedy Center (Legacy)

Not sure if this concert kills fascists, but this CD/DVD tribute to a folk legend, featuring John Mellencamp, Lucinda Williams, Rosanne Cash and more is a fitting way to honor one of the century’s best songwriters. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Bound For Glory: Rosanne Cash, Judy Collins, John Mellencamp, Donovan Celebrate Woody Guthrie at 100

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Woody at 100On July 14, 2012, Woody Guthrie would have turned 100 years old.  The Oklahoma-born “Dust Bowl Troubadour” died in 1967, just 55 years of age, but all these many years later, his compositions such as “This Land is Your Land,” “Grand Coulee Dam” and “The Sinking of the Reuben James” are cornerstones of American song.  The folk hero, whose guitar was famously emblazoned with the slogan “This machine kills fascists,” was celebrated last year with Smithsonian Folkways’ impressive 3-CD/hardcover book box set Woody at 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial.  On June 11 of this year, Legacy Recordings will release a special CD/DVD set which should prove a fine companion to that hefty musical tome.  The October 14, 2012 concert Woody Guthrie at 100! Live at the Kennedy Center found the late songwriter feted by musicians young and old, all of whom were influenced by Guthrie’s captivating folk songs and many of whom have carried on his life’s work of singing for a better life and better country.

The concert’s line-up included politically-minded singer-songwriters decades apart but close in ideals (Jackson Browne, Tom Morello), country music royalty (Rosanne Cash), rockers (John Mellencamp), folk singers (Ramblin’ Jack Elliott), genre-defying vocalists (Judy Collins, Lucinda Williams), psychedelic survivors (Donovan), an a cappella ensemble (Sweet Honey in the Rock) and even a string band (Old Crow Medicine Show).  All showed their great affection for the immortal music of Woodrow Wilson “Woody” Guthrie.

Legacy’s release coincides with the television premiere of Woody Guthrie at 100! Live at the Kennedy Center which will occur on PBS in June.  But the CD/DVD package makes room for eight performances from the Washington, DC show which were excised from the broadcast version of the film: two spoken-word pieces from actor Jeff Daniels, and six musical performances from Old Crow Medicine Show, Rosanne Cash, Jimmy LaFave, Lucinda Williams, Judy Collins and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott.  The CD has nineteen tracks in total, while the DVD boasts 22.

After the jump: we have plenty more details, including pre-order links and track listings for both the CD and DVD portions of the package! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 3, 2013 at 09:38

Tuesday Tidbits: Incubus Teams with Best Buy on Exclusive “HQ,” Bert Jansch’s “Heartbreak” Is Expanded, and Musicians Fight Epilepsy with “Joey’s Song”

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Today is the day for a 2-CD/1-DVD set of previously unissued live performances from the band Incubus. Celebrating their twentieth year together, Incubus is launching a 4-week, 18-city tour co-headlining with Linkin Park. The tour kicks off tonight in Boston, Massachusetts, but the performances on Incubus HQ Live date from one year ago, recorded in West Hollywood, California.  That was when the band set up shop at a storefront on La Brea Avenue for seven special nights of performances.   HQ Live preserves performances from the six nights that were broadcast live online between June 30 and July 6, 2011, all featuring the line-up of Brandon Boyd (lead vocals/guitar), Mike Einziger (lead guitar/keys), Jose Pasillas II (drums), Ben Kenney (bass) and DJ Kilmore (DJ/keys).  The shows led up to the release of the band’s album If Not Now, When?, released on July 12, 2011.

The release is truly a celebration of a career that’s encompassed, in Brandon Boyd’s words, “twenty years, seven albums, multiple live albums, EPs, DVDs, somewhere in the ballpark of 1,500 live shows and an etcetera stint that would go on for a paragraph.”  All have been rendered in a style that’s often hard to describe, blending alternative rock, metal, funk, rap, hip-hop, techno and even jazz (and everything in between).  Four of Incubus’ songs have topped the top spot on the U.S. Alternative Songs chart, and all four are heard in live versions on HQ Live: “Drive,” “Megalomaniac,” “Anna Molly” and “Love Hurts.”  (The latter two songs first appeared on the band’s No. 1 album Light Grenades, from 2006.)

Incubus HQ Live is available in a variety of formats, as we reported back on June 28: a standard edition (16-track CD + DVD), a Special Edition (28-track double-CD + DVD); and a Limited Edition Box Set (4 LPs + 6 CDs + 2 DVD/Blu-ray, plus autographed swag). The Limited Edition box is exclusive to Incubus’ website, and was scheduled to ship on July 6. The other two configurations arrive today at retail. The DVD content is the same for all three versions, but the DVD contains a significantly different song sequence than the CDs. Lead singer Brandon Boyd supplies new, detailed liner notes for all three releases. Reuben Cohen at Lurssen Mastering has mastered the CDs, and the DVD – running at a whopping 130 minutes – is presented in 5.1 surround sound, mixed and mastered by Darren LaGroe at Sonic Frequencies.  The DVD concert was directed by Marc Scarpa.

The standard 1-CD/1-DVD edition can be ordered here, and the 2-CD/DVD edition here.   But that’s not all.  Retail giant Best Buy is also offering five exclusive CD bonus tracks on both versions sold at their stores: “Rebel Girls,” “Hold Me Down,” “Surface to Air,” “Defiance (Live)” and “The Original (Live).”  These tracks appear to be available with both the 1-CD/1-DVD and 2-CD/1-DVD configurations and can be ordered here or reserved in store!

After the jump: some of your favorite artists have teamed with Omnivore Recordings for a very special CD to benefit a terrific cause, and a folk classic is revisited.  Hit the jump, won’t you? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 14, 2012 at 09:15

Review: Rosanne Cash, “The Essential Rosanne Cash”

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It should come as no surprise to fans of Rosanne Cash that she believes “at the heart of all country music lies family, lies a devotion to exploring the boundaries of blood ties, both in performance and songwriting.”  In her revealing 2010 memoir Composed, Cash acutely puts her finger on the qualities missing from modern country, finding it lacking in “desperate loss” with even the stories of family fading from sight.  Where are the stories of grievous loss, dead babies, even dead dogs that inspired the epic musical storytelling of the past?  While Cash is far from a pure traditionalist in her music, embracing modern textures almost from the first, she possesses keen understanding of her lineage – both as the daughter of Johnny and more broadly, the daughter of Hank Williams and Carl Perkins and Doc Watson and Earl Scruggs.  All facets of Cash’s long career are fully on display on the career-spanning anthology The Essential Rosanne Cash (Columbia/Legacy 88697 82710 2) which was compiled by the artist and released on Tuesday to coincide with her 56th birthday.

Cash’s high standards and respect for the craft of songwriting has led her to be one of the few artists equally skilled as a singer/songwriter and an interpretive singer.  As such, The Essential showcases both deeply personal songs written by Cash in addition to those composed by John Hiatt, Rodney Crowell, John Stewart, Steve Goodman, Tom Petty and even John Lennon and Paul McCartney.  The earliest track on the collection is also its most rare.  “Can I Still Believe in You” hails from Cash’s 1978 German-only debut for Ariola Records, an eponymous affair that’s remained unavailable in the CD era.  Much of Cash’s sound is already intact on this song written by Rosanne and produced by her future husband, Rodney Crowell .  Even early in her career, Cash had exacting standards and a sense of her musical self.  A gentleman by the name of Bernie Vonficht pleaded with her to record a song called “Lucky” for the Ariola album.  She refused, feeling the song totally wrong for her.  Vonficht had a hit with the song, but Cash had already proven that she could stick to her guns and persevere.

The following year she was signed to Columbia, her father’s longtime label, and set out to assert her own musical identity.  She and Crowell married during the mixing of Right or Wrong, and that album’s “Baby, Better Start Turnin’ ‘Em Down,” with its hint of Motown, already revealed a strong and confident voice beyond her 24 years.  She had able support from Emory Gordy Jr., Brian Ahern, James Burton and even Hal Blaine, and impressed in this illustrious, diverse company. 

If Right or Wrong was a triple, then Seven Year Ache, its follow-up, was a home run.  Three chart-toppers are included here, two of which were written by Rosanne: the irresistibly melodic, heartbreaking title song and “Blue Moon with Heartache.”  Seven Year Ache paved the way for the modern country superstar, employing 1981 production values (with synthesizers, big drum sounds and rock band backing) on a collection of future standards.  Combining a punk attitude with a classic approach to songwriting, Cash showed off her ability to make personal themes ring true for a universal audience.  Not every track on The Essential sound explicitly autobiographical yet most are idiosyncratic and indeed rooted in her own experiences.  (Cash’s rebellious side can be heard frequently over these two discs; it’s too bad that “Second to No One” from 1985’s Rhythm and Romance wasn’t included, as it shattered some barriers when Cash sang the word “whore.”  How times have changed!  Still, Cash calls the album “a painful memory” despite its Grammy-winning success.  )  Trivia note: Seven Year Ache was mastered shortly after John Lennon’s murder, and Rosanne had “Goodbye, John” engraved into the run-out groove of the original 25,000 LPs.  Continue reading after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 26, 2011 at 12:12

Rosanne’s Record Shop: “The Essential Rosanne Cash” Coming from Legacy

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It’s no small feat to become a success in the music business, but it may be an even greater accomplishment when your father is a legend. While the cachet of a famous last name may provide entrée into the industry, only a major, singular voice can maintain a long career. The number of such successes is small, but an undoubted member of the elite club is Rosanne Cash. Like Nancy Sinatra and Natalie Cole, Cash has defied the odds to become a living legend herself, and produced a body of work deservedly evaluated on its own merits, not just as music from the daughter of Johnny Cash. Legacy will celebrate her outstanding career on May 24 with the release of The Essential Rosanne Cash, a comprehensive two-CD anthology drawing on albums from Cash’s 1978 Ariola debut, a Germany-only release, through her most recent album for Manhattan/EMI, 2010’s The List.

The numbers speak for themselves when describing that 32-year period. The daughter of Johnny Cash and his first wife Vivian Liberto, Rosanne Cash charted twenty-two country singles under her own name while at Columbia Records between 1979 and 1995, seventeen of which appear on The Essential. All eleven of Cash’s chart toppers, including the triumvirate from 1981’s Seven Year Ache and her 1989 cover of The Beatles’ “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party,” are compiled for the first time on one set. The Grammy Award-winning “I Don’t Know Why You Want Me” from 1985 is included, as well as the unprecedented four number ones in 1987 and 1988 from King’s Record ShopThe Essential also features duets with Vince Gill and Rodney Crowell, Cash’s husband from 1979 to 1992 and the producer or co-producer of her first five Columbia albums.

Disc One and the first half of Disc Two are largely devoted to those Columbia golden years, and the second half of Disc Two turns the spotlight on Cash’s most recent label affiliation with Capitol/Manhattan/EMI. Produced by Cash herself and Gregg Geller, The Essential Rosanne Cash takes us through her last, acclaimed release to date, The List, which drew its track selections from a list of 100 essential American standards given to Rosanne by her father. Bruce Springsteen appears on Paul Hampton and Hal David’s “Sea of Heartbreak” (best known from Don Gibson’s 1961 recording) and Nickel Creek’s Chris Thile joins Cash for a version of Mickey Newbury’s “Sweet Memories,” formerly available only on the Borders exclusive edition of The List. Johnny Cash himself appears on a duet track from 2002, “September When It Comes.”

Packed with 36 career-spanning songs and a striking cover photograph, The Essential Rosanne Cash arrives from Legacy on May 24. Rodney Crowell has contributed new liner notes for this release. Hit the jump for the complete track listing with a pre-order link plus discographical and chart information! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 6, 2011 at 12:12