Reviews

Latest free CDs available to review writers—this could be you! Contact if interested.

  1. Nancy Cassidy, Runaway Train. Produced by Keith Greeninger. “A little blues, a little folk, a kicker of country, some foot-stomping gospel and swing.” Samples at cdbaby.com/cd/nancyc9
  2. Ted Csuk, Caution: A Mensa’s At Play.. 5-song EP with “a more intimate and raw production of this thing that we call Rock n’ Roll.” Samples at cdbaby.com/cd/czuk5
  3. Dave Martin, Mixing the Hits of Country. Instructional book and CD with WAV files to practice mixing all tracks of several current country hits on your own computer. (Hal Leonard Books, 2009).

CD REVIEWS

Riggy Rackin, Somewhere In Between.
Info and samples at www.riggy.com/samples.html

Riggy Rackin, known to many in the Bay Area folk music community, has always been a flame-keeper of traditional song and concertina playing. His gentle approach to this music and his vast repertoire have graced many sessions, parties, and gigs. In his third CD, Riggy has taken great care to put out a recording with the production values and sensitive accompaniment that he has always deserved. His understated but compelling voice brings to the fore many rare gems of traditional British and American songs, some often requested of him over many years, others newer to his repertoire.

One of the more poignant tracks is the beautiful religious song “I Wanna Die Easy,” a memorial to his late wife, who did not have an easy leave of this world. It is Riggy’s wish that we all have an easy death when our time comes.

This CD is a re-emergence of sorts, a reflection of Riggy’s new life since moving to Sebastopol, with musicians he has been singing and playing tunes with in his more Northern digs, plus his accompanying chorus of Bay Area singers: Shay Black, Sylvia Herold, and Doug Olsen. Riggy is generous in his sleeve notes in citing his sources. Instrumental accompanists are Roxanne Oliva, Jeff Martin, Jon Berger, Rebecca King, Dave Lux, Ed Neff, Henry Nagle, JD Limelight, and Vic Carberry. Produced by Jeff Martin.

—Peter Kasin

Willy and Brian Claflin, In Yonder's Wood.
CD info and samples: www.willyclaflin.com/yonder/

Willy Claflin, best known in his alter ego as Maynard the Moose, has been a professional storyteller for a quarter-century. Those who attended his ballad workshop with Sheila Kay Adams at the 2007 Bay Area Storytelling Festival were fortunate to enjoy his gift for rendering traditional ballads and story songs.

Along with son Brian, Claflin takes us on a musical journey across the Anglo-American ballad landscape for the past half-millenium (with a booklet detailing sources). Five of the ballads are from Child, including the grim and spectral “Rose and the Lindsey-O” (“Cruel Mother”), the witchery ballad of “The Rolling of the Stones,” (“Two Brothers”) and “Lord Bangam” (“Sir Lionel”), from whose lyrics the recording takes its title.

Brian's vocal talents take the forefront on several worthy efforts, including the enigmatic/mysterious “Nottamun Town,” learned from the singing of Jean Ritchie; and “Banks of Pontchartrain,” “a Southern U.S. tale of unrequited love and painful parting—cannot help it, folks, a lot of ballads just have unhappy endings. Familiar songs that lend themselves to lusty choruses include “General Taylor,” “Country Life,” “Pleasant and Delightful,” and “Jones Ale,” although actual choruses are in reality Brian’s technical wizardry with multiple voices. From the American side of the big pond come such stalwart pieces as the Moonshiner's Anthem AKA “Copper Kettle;” “Down Bound Train,” a drunkard’s dream of impending damnation and possible redemption; the dark and hard-edged 19th-century occupational “Buffalo Skinners,” and Woody Guthrie's tale of Oklahoma’s Robin Hood, “Pretty Boy Floyd.”

Perhaps the most unusual piece on this entire recording is its last cut, a Willy Claflin original entitled “Ooralie-aye.” In his own words, it is a song written in the old style with poetic, musical and vivid images from a variety of narrative landscapes that have been part and parcel of Claflin’s development as both a storyteller and ballad singer. Claflin knows how to get inside a story, whether spoken word or, as in this recording, story songs that have been part of the Anglo-American traditional landscape for centuries.

—Robert Rodriquez

Missy Raines and the New Hip, Inside Out. .
CD info and samples: http://compassrecords.com/album.php?id=712

If you like the fusion of jazz and bluegrass, you’ll like this new CD by Missy Raines and the New Hip. Missy places stellar dobroist Mike Witcher at the band’s front and center instead of a banjo or fiddle. He swaps rhythm and leads with guitarist Dillon Hodges and mandolinist Ethan Ballinger. While seven-time Inter­national Bluegrass Music Association Bass Player of the Year Missy Raines could more than hold down all the rhythm grooves all by herself, drummer Rob Crawford adds depth and further textures to the “bottom end.”

One of my favorite tunes is “Angeline,” which—listening closely—you’ll catch is a jazzy take-off of the similarly-named old-timey staple. You can be sure that this wistful, dobro-based “Angeline” was a lost love, whether or not she was a baker too. Another favorite is “Stop, Drop and Wiggle,” written in honor of one of Missy’s more playful kitties. This grooving song should be on your playlist for a road trip! The slow, deep tones of “Ides of March” sound like moonlight reflecting in dark, shimmering water. This aural water pool is gently punctuated by Witcher’s moody lap steel.

Three songs feature Missy’s vocals. My favorite of these is “Basket of Singing Birds,” with harmonies from other band members during the choruses. Since Missy’s a bass player, I’ve hardly ever heard her sing before, and I was pleasantly surprised by her nice vibrato-less tone. Onstage, Missy makes it look easy to coordinate all the singing with all the bass playing during her songs.

“Inside Out” won’t please either jazz or bluegrass purists, but will satisfy the eclectic ears of those who appreciate a wide variety of music. The musicianship is of an amazingly high caliber, especially when you recall that the average age of the players other than the bandleader is about 24. I caught the band at the Palms last weekend and I can say that the CD is quite true to their live performance—and seeing the band is like watching a minor league baseball game. Keep your eye on them; Missy Raines and the New Hip are just getting warmed up!

—Janet Lenore