Reviews

Latest free CDs available to review writers—this could be you! Contact the Club to get your very own copy, and see below for where to send the review when you’re done.

  1. Jerry Ashford, Beth McNamara, Joe Ross, Moonglow. Oregon band plays jazz and swing standards, trading vocal leads and harmonies with bass, guitars, mandolin, fiddles, djembe. Samples at cdbaby.com/cd/joeross
  2. Matthew Montfort , Seven Serenades for Scalloped Fretboard Guitar. Luthier Ervin Somogyi carved out the wood between the frets of a Gibson SJ Deluxe “that lets him get the bends of an Indian sitar.” Streaming audio at www.ancient-future.com/pdf/serenades_1sheet_dig.pdf
  3. The Greenfields of America. Songs and tunes from Irish music supergroup featuring Mick Moloney, John Doyle, Robbie O’Connell, Bill McComiskey, and former SF fiddler Athena Tergis. Samples at compassrecords.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=4626

A couple of “Treasures from the Vault” are also offered for review:

  1. Alison Lee Freeman, Chantey Singer and Chantey Singer v2. A cappella harmony or guitar, mostly traditional plus her original car towing shanty “Alison’s Saab Story” as heard on “Car Talk.” Samples at cdbaby.com/cd/alfreeman and cdbaby.com/cd/alfreeman2

CD REVIEWS

Jon Fromer, Gonna Take Us All
CD info and samples: www.jonfromer.com/music.html

With the exception of Brownie McGhee’s “Livin’ with the Blues” all 10 songs on this CD are Jon Fromer originals. “Gonna Take Us All” powerfully points to the better world which it will take all of us to achieve.

“Welcome” is extended to all immigrants in a potentially borderless world. To his infant grandson in “Little One,” Jon promises to change the world while acknowledging that it’s a hard time to be born. In “When the Moon Shines,” the singer longs for an absent love, while “No One’s Got Your Back Like Your Woman” honors the support women give to their partners. “Peace of the Mountain” is a quiet altogether lovely statement of many things to be learned from nature. “Another Black Man Gone” was inspired by the traditional prison song “Another Man Done Gone” and Mose Alison’s “Parchment Farm”. It includes brown, poor, innocent and others gone leading to the prison walls that must go.

Jon sings lead on all songs; back-up vocals are from Samantha Alexis, Liliana Herrera and Reed Fromer. Instrumental arrangements support and enhance the emotional mood of each song, with Jon and his brother David (acoustic guitar), Bobby Young (electric guitar), Reed Fromer (keyboards), Wade Olson (drums), and Owen Davis (congas).

This CD is one you’ll be playing over and over, for the fine musicianship, the ideas so skillfully and delightfully presented in song, and just because you enjoy it so much.

— Faith Petric

Kate Long/Robin Kessinger, What We Do
CD info and samples: katelong.com/pages/CDs.html

Kate Long may be best known to Bay Area audiences through her song “Who Will Watch the Home Place,” recorded locally by Laurie Lewis. This CD, a recorded live show, is Kate’s first with another musician. Robin Kessinger is a national guitar champion, an Appalachian legend, and, as is Kate herself, a part of West Virginia’s traditional music family.

Their announcement says that what they do is “Have fun. Cook up fresh versions of classic old-time songs. Amaze audiences with Robin’s flatpicking. Make audiences laugh and cry. Have fun, Robinize Kate’s ‘new songs that sound old.’ Sing a cappella (Robin too). Throw in Irving Berlin. Get audiences singing. Tell funny stories to music. Have fun.” Their CD verifies these claims.

Having fun may best be illustrated by Kate’s gospel “Lift Me to Heaven Before I Get Mean,” the cut I listen to most often. Following their arrangement of the traditional “Barbry Allen, ” a Kate original suggests that one “Forget Barbry Allen. ” Then there’s a poignant, 10-minute excerpt from her longer writing of a young girl’s fantasy about “John F. Kennedy and Me,” guaranteed to refresh anyone’s childhood imaginings. (Mine was “The First World War Was Fought Over Me.”)

Three guitar solos, “Silver Spire,” “Cooley’s Reel, ” and “Cincinnati Rag,” illustrate how Robin won a national flatpicking contest. His playing is outstanding throughout, both as soloist and accompanist. He also sings.

All this, along with classic old-time songs and Irving Berlin’s “Russian Lullaby.” That this live recording includes song introductions and performer chitchat adds to the enjoyment guaranteed by this CD.

— Faith Petric

The Liverpool Judies, Pleasant and Delightful
CD info and booking:

Long before the Johnson Girls became the top-flight musical aggregation within the realm of sea chanteys and maritime music, another female group also ventured into the realm of maritime music and related genres with great success. Mary Zikos, Teresa Pyott, and Caryl P. Weiss, known as the Liverpool Judies, were based in and around greater Philadelphia. Their repertoire was an amalgam of sea chanteys, drinking songs, English country ballads, and seasonal songs of ritual, ceremony, and occasion, liberally dosed with humor, zestful choruses, and multi-part harmony singing of the highest quality anywhere.

The 17 selections on this CD were taken from various taped live recordings, radio performances on local stations, and material recorded in studio. Even though the cuts were recorded between 1978 and 1980, thanks to modern technology and excellent re-mastering, they sound just as good three decades later.

Here are familiar chanteys (“Sally Brown,” “Roll the Woodpile Down,” “Strike the Bell,” and “Doodle Let Me Go”), drinking songs (“Drink Boys Drink,” “Ale Ale Glorious Ale, ” and “Sussex Toast,” a personal favorite of the entire recording), and English favorites (“Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy, ” “My Johnny Was a Shoemaker,” and “The Holly Bears a Berry”), among other fine representations of traditional songs whose origins run the musical landscape from the English countryside to the American South, to the West Indies and lots of other locales in between.

The first cut, a medley of “Lowlands Low” and “Rolling Down the Bay to Juliana,” includes a guest appearance by John Hoffman and Nelson Spencer of the group Outward Bound. Other personal favorites include the chantey “John Cherokee” and the CD’s final song, “The King,” honoring the regal status of the diminutive wren as the king of all the birds.

These three gals sure know their way around a good song, especially if it contains a lusty, rousing chorus where their harmonies can make the rafters ring.

— Robert Rodriquez