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. OFF TO CALIFORNIA, Hard Times in the Promised Land,Compass Records, 2006. Music of the California Gold Rush, including Irish, French, Appalachian and other traditional tunes.
  2. THE GREEN FIELDS OF AMERICA, The Green Fields of America, Compass Records, 2009. This group brings together Irish vocal, instrumental and dance traditions to the concert and festival stage.
  3. PETER ROWAN BLUEGRASS BAND, Legacy, Compass Records, 2010. Peter Rowan, with band members Jody Stecher, Keith Little and Paul Knight, returns to his roots with special guests including Del McCoury, Ricky Skaggs and Tim O’Brien.


Heidi Talbot, The Last Star
Compass Records, Oct. 2010.

The Last Star is the latest CD from the Irish singer Heidi Talbot, the former lead singer with Cherish the Ladies. Heidi embarked on a solo career in 2008. The recording was produced by her husband, Scottish folk musician John McCusker (formerly of The Battlefield Band), and features a bevy of talented musicians providing accompaniment and backup vocals.

The CD includes an eclectic mixture of songs that show Talbot’s strong repertoire of traditional songs, often with updated arrangements. These are augmented with a few contemporary works.

This album has grown on me as I travel around with the CD in my car and I have found myself singing along on several tunes. Talbot does an upbeat version of “Willie Taylor,” a rousing version of the chantey “Sally Brown,” and a chipper “Bleecker Street” (a version of “Peter Street”). Other traditional songs “Tell Me Truly,” “Hang Me” (aka “The Gambler”), “The Shepherd Lad,” and “Bantry Girls” get new music, mostly by John McCusker. Interspersed with these are a Talbot-McCusker lament titled “The Last Star,” another McCusker song, “Start It All Over Again,” a historical lament, “Cherokee Rose,” about the Trail of Tears; and a closing love song, Sandy Denny’s “At the End of the Day.”

Talbot has a strong, dusky voice and has created a very pleasant CD. This recording is recommended for those who enjoy contemporary Celtic music.

—Shelby Solomon

Larry Hanks and Deborah Robins, No Hiding Place.
Zippety Whippet Music.

Larry Hanks has been a familiar face for many years to Bay Area folkies. He and his wife and singing partner, Deborah Robins, have put out this, their first, CD—a collection of songs that cover from the 1840s through the 1970s. Both of them blend their voices and guitars nicely on this collection of nineteen songs.

The title song, “There’s No Hiding Place Down Here,” is a hymn recorded by the Carter Family. Indeed, Larry’s bass on the song evokes memories of A.P.’s own voice “down there.”

Three songs by the late and great Utah Phillips are also included: “Queen of the Rails,” “Nevada Jane,” a favorite of Deborah’s on which she solos, and the poignant “Orphan Train,” about sending East Coast orphans out West to find homes for them, “like some living lost and found.”

Both Larry and Deborah join in an a-cappella version of the traditional “I’m a-Long Time Traveling Here Below,” then Larry solos with the jew’s-harp on Deborah’s version of “Old Black Choo-Choo,” a song that Rose Maddox sang when the railroads were switching from steam engines to diesels after World War II. Another song from that era is “Dear Okie,” highlighting the (mis)adventures of Okie, Arkie and Tex looking for jobs in California.

Two songs made popular by Jimmie Rodgers, “Mississippi River Blues” and “Miss the Mississippi and You,” add some yodeling to the collection.

This collection also includes some “hard times” songs: “Weave Room Blues,” “Cotton Mill Girls,” and “Let Them Wear Their Watches Fine,” which Larry found in a wet and moldy copy of the Proletarian Literature of the United States that had been left out on a curb.

Acoustic music fans will enjoy this collection. It is well done and deserves a place on your music shelf.

—Thad Binkley