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CD REVIEWS

Finest Kind: Feasts and Spirits, A Christmas Entertainment.
Fallen angle Music FAM207. 285 Spencer Street, Ottawa, Ontario Canada K1Y 2R1;
www.finestkind.ca

When you combine the talents of one of Canada’s best actors (John Huston) with that of one of Canada’s best folk music aggregations (Finest Kind— Ian Robb, Shelly Posen, and Anne Downey), you get this most delightful and intriguing Christmas and solstice recording that can be enjoyed far beyond the Christmas season. As Charles Dickens, Huston masterfully performs a number of memorable scenes from the Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol, while Finest Kind gives us a number of mostly traditional Christmas songs—"Shepherds Arise," "Holly and the Ivy," "Pleased to See the King," and the "Gower Wassail." Skip Gorman on fiddle and mandolin and James Stevens on fiddle on several cuts make the holiday merriment even more enjoyable. My personal favorites include Ian Robb’s powerfully evocative "Homeless Wassail," with a haunting plea to remember the less fortunate during the festive season of celebration, the "Sussex Mummers Carol," and the intriguing "While Shepherds Watch Their Flocks by Night Medley," incorporating three distinct melodies to sing this six-verse holiday treat. Favorite segments from Dickens include the appearance of Marley’s ghost in Scrooge’s chambers, the party at old Fezziwig’s, Christmas dinner at the Cratchit’s house, and Scrooge’s miraculous repentance on Christmas morning. This is truly one of the most joyous and festive collaborations between music and the spoken word I’ve ever had the good fortune to encounter in a very long time.

Robert Rodriquez

Shiny Bum Singers: An Audience with the Shiny Bum Singers—Work Songs of the Public Service.
Available through their website at:
www.borisbooks.com.au/sbs;

The Australian Shiny Bum Singers came into being as some public servants (also known there as “shiny bums") sat in a festival audience listening to work songs and wondered: "Where are our singers? Where are our songs?" To fill this work songs gap, the Shiny Bum Singers were formed and Work songs of the Public Service written. They've survived for eight years, growing in number and popularity with audiences. On this CD, you get 27 songs of the trials, tribulations and triumphs common to public service workers everywhere. "Almost all of the Shiny Bum songs are written by members of the group, are parodies of traditional and popular songs—no song is too sacred to use, and no subject matter too trivial," they say. Learn about being late, coffee breaks, executive perks, retirement, overtime, drink, and on and on. You've lived them and more and they sing about them. Presentation of songs varies. A favorite "And I'm Late for Work Again" sung to the tune of "When the Stars Begin to Fall" gets full gospel fervor; some are sung a cappella, some with guitar and other instrumental arrangements. Take the time to relax, enjoy, and laugh with this CD.

Faith Petric

Laurie Story Vela: Small After Small; I Am a Seeker.
Available through Laurie’s website at
www.lauriesstories.com/FreeSing/CDs.html; 800-222-4974.

SFFMC’s own Laurie Vela just keeps growing and getting better! These two CDs, recorded with the Spiritual Life Center Youth Chorus and the Reverend Richard Burdick last spring, will leave you just plain feeling GOOD. Small After Small is intended primarily for children (and is performed primarily by them). All of the songs were written by Laurie, except Bob Blue’s "I’m Just Right" (originally "I’m Not Scared"), and each song seems to reinforce or build up a child’s self-esteem and hope ("Zeal Appeal," "I Am a Bright Light," "I Can Be") or their sense of oneness with all life. Here you’ll find songs dedicated to physical or spiritual parents ("My Dad," "[Mother is] Another Name for Love," "Earth Mama"), right alongside songs stressing the inherent goodness and worth of each person—the songs about peace and love especially (e.g., "Let it Shine;" "Made of Love;" "Love, Love, Love") stress that it’s already inside of each one of us.

I Am a Seeker aims at adults, but anyone evolving spiritually will love it! In this one, Laurie lets her own voice take center stage, and wow! How expressive and unabashedly emotional that voice can be! Again the songs and chants stress self-esteem, but this time it’s more in the form of positive affirmations that are so tuneful and infectiously upbeat, that you just can’t help feeling REALLY good about being in the center of the universal energy flow. Singing along is easy, as most of the songs seem to be familiar, whether they really were ("Live the Truth"), reminiscent of "Down by the Riverside") or just seem that way ("I am Good Enough," "Begin Again," and "I Am Love"). For this CD, a listen a day may just chase depression away!

Kathryn LaMar

George Mann and Julius Margolian: Hail to the Thieves Volume III - Songs to Take Our Country Back.
Available at
www.georgeandjulius.com

Review edited from one at folkmusic.about.com/od/cdreviews/fr/HailThieves.htm’s folk music site.

Hail to the Thieves III is a CD for the skeptical leftist who feels unimpressed by the protest songs emerging from the mainstream these days, or for the open-minded moderate music fan looking for an excuse to vote out incumbents at election time. It is definitely a protest record, and you’ll have no difficulty identifying what’s being protested, with words from Utah Phillips -- "There comes a time when the operation of the machine is so odious that you cannot even tacitly participate"; Colleen Kattau -- "an imbecilic, lying father's son"; Chuck Brodsky -- "Liar, Liar Pants on Fire"; and Pat Wynne -- "I Stand With Cindy Sheehan." And on top of THAT, all of the musicians are wonderful—whether well-known like Brodsky, Phillips, and Billy Bragg or not, like the DC Labor Chorus ("None of us Are Free") and the Syracuse Community Choir ["Beholden (Peace Loving Nation)"]).

There are plenty of other seriously eye-opening lyrics on this record. Anne Feeney ("Defenders of Marriage") sings snarkily about "defending the institution against people who want to be married." Julius Margolian provides a catchy refrain: "If you're so hot for war, why don't you enlist / you don't mind sending others / that always gets me pissed," and John Lilly sings "What does that W stand for? Warmonger, weasel or just plain wrong." Colleen Kattan’s "Royally Oily" points out well the absurdity of our leaders. But it’s impossible to stay depressed about the state of our world when listening to Utah Phillips’s story about impending justice and peace, and how they are inevitable. The audience he's singing to wastes no time in singing along, "ship gonna sail gonna sail some day … gonna build it anyway ...," It’s futile to resist honesty and hope like that.

Kim Ruehl