Holly Tannen, Mistress of Folklore, has come up with a winner in her new CD, Crazy Laughter.
Recently she wrote and performed a one-woman show, Practical Alchemy, based on her passionate etheric relationship with 19th-century French poet Arthur Rimbaud. Crazy Laughter takes this relationship, and her music, further and better, elegantly mixing very different songs that make emotional sense together.
The CD starts in typical Tannen fashion with a poem about the 15th-century French wastrel poet Francis Villon, which was written by Rimbaud in 1870 and translated and set to music by Holly. Some of the songs, like a lyrically gritty song about voodoo queen Marie Laveau, are by other songwriters. On a couple, Holly’s lyrics are matched to traditional tunes. Some could only have come from her: a very funny, sweetly naughty song about bonobo love; another about brownies for breakfast.
There's a French shepherd song, a Scottish night-visiting song, a spiritual from the Civil War, a Tannen song about good friends, and several more beautiful translations of Rimbaud, with and without music.
The music is tasty. The spare yet lush arrangements, masterminded by Danny Carnahan, push the envelope but never violate the folk genre. The excellent supporting musicians include Francy Vidal and Edmond Badoux (of Chaskinakuy), Shira Kammen, Danny Carnahan, Sylvia Herold, Maureen Brennan, Adam Miller, Charlie Hancock, Michael Hubbert and Marcia Sloane.
—Antonia LambCharlie King & Karen Brandow with Tex LaMountain, Higher Ground.
Charlie and Karen have been singing together for 10 years, and they just get better and better. The arrangements on this album are impeccable, exceptionally tasteful and varied. Their vocals and guitars are supplemented on several cuts by Tex LaMountain on bass, lead guitar, (subtle) synthesizer and drums; Jeff Potter on electric piano and harmonica; and Ellen Clegg on djembe (look it up) and bell. Charlie and Karen’s voices have a beautiful blend, augmented on a few cuts by the glorious harmony singing of Claudia Schmidt and Sally Rogers.
Charlie wrote about half of the 15 songs, including three parodies. As usual, they are difficult to characterize. While this album is a joy to listen to, these two have a lot to say about current events and what they say is not very pleasant to hear.
Here’s what Charlie and Karen have to say about their material: "We sing to hold on to a sense of humor and hope in the face of our government's tragic global impact; to remember our connection to people who suffer that impact in Latin America and around the world; to freshen our vision of this planet, so beautiful and dear; to discover our shared interfaith theology; and to voice our heartfelt gratitude to all of you."
Warning: if you support our government’s current policies, this album may make you a little uncomfortable. We hope so.
—Bev and Jerry PraverMartha Haehl and Mike Waller, Play Well With Others: How to Jam Like a Pro.
This book is dedicated to anyone with the desire, dream or longing to make music with other people. It has the answers for all who have been wondering how to join a jamming group and how to behave once you’re there.
There are two parts to the book: Part 1 covers jam "dos and don'ts", types and styles of jams. Part 2 is Music Progressions, Transposing and Keys -- telling a lot about music and giving practice suggestions.
The information is essential for the beginner and valuable for the experienced jammer -- it will inform and entertain, while improving both your musicianship and your manners.
— Faith PetricScott Reynolds Nelson, Steel Drivin’ Man -- John Henry, The Untold Story of an American Legend Book info and orders: www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/HistoryAmerican/AfricanAmerican/?view=usa&ci=9780195300109
I was inspired to pick up the book Steel Drivin’ Man -- John Henry and it is a great read! Nelson traces historic records for a John Henry from a Virginia penitentiary and beyond, in a writing style that I can’t put down. It is one of the best books that I have read in years.
Nelson’s first-person style just makes the history and the music come alive, from versions of the song and legend to visiting a tunnel he believes John Henry helped hammer. He intersects the music, the labor and the history so beautifully that I had to call a friend in Virginia and read the book to her! She dug it too: she is not a folk music aficionado by any stretch, yet I read her 40 pages nonstop!
Perhaps the music, the folk and the muse are conspiring with the author, a white historian. He brings the elements of history, race, work songs, and railroads together in a way that fit class-consciousness and me just fine. I feel like I am home reading this delightful story about one of America’s most important and most recorded songs.
— Jimmy Kelly