General Instructions


VARIOUS ARTISTS: Hootenanny Hit Parade
Available at

Under the capable stewardship of Richard Rice, the second Saturday of each month has been Hootenanny Night at the Café International for the past 6 years. Thanks to Richard and his wonderful crew of volunteer helpers, Hoot Night has become quite a musical staple in the Bay Area. This recording contains a tantalizing 16 examples of the music presented by the great musicians and performers who have graced the Hoot Stage. The 16 selections were all taken from previously released studio recordings featuring musicians who have appeared at Hoot Night. A wide variety of musical genres, styles, and performances are represented, ranging from traditional Celtic and sea songs through jazz standards, country harmonies, and blues to contemporary, compositions.

The performers include some of the Bay Area’s finest talent, including Lisa Redfern, Sylvia Herold, A.J. Roach, Holdstock & MacLeod, Sam Misner & Megan Smith (who give two fine musical renderings), and (of course) San Francisco’s own doyen of music and song, Faith Petric. Cuts worthy of special mention include Seven Daffodils as sung by Sylvia Herold; Claudia Russel’s elogy to her home turf, Oh California; Tony Marcus and Patrician Haan’s fine rendering of It Shouldn’t Happen to a Dream; and a simply stunning guitar instrumental piece by the late Charlie Cutten entitled Clouds Rise. Let’s hope that Hcontinues for a long time to come. Highly recommended! .

--Robert Rodriquez

LIL’ REV: I Can't Keep the Past Behind Me.
Available from Lil' Rev, P.O. Box 71362, Milwaukee, WI 53211;

Yippee tay ay OY! Lil Rev's CD offers a lively melding of Yiddish, Chassidic, Israeli, and Russian tunes in traditional American settings. Hailing from the Midwest, Lil Rev (Marc Revenson) is equally adept on guitar, banjo, and harmonica. He sings, accompanying his Jewish melodies with flat-picking, frailing and a down-home-on-the-kibbutz flair. Israeli songs include "Hafinjan" (The Coffee Pot), "Tzena" (Go Out!), "Hey Artzeinu" (Hey, Our Land!), and "Artza Alinu" (Going Up to the Land). Yiddish songs include classics "Zhankoye" (fabled Russian-Jewish work camp), "Az Der Rebbe Zingt" (When the Rabbi Sings), and "Tumbalalaika" (Play the Balalaika). Some religious hymns and niggunim (wordless Chassidic melodies) are done up in Lil Rev's old-timey treatment. There's even a valiant attempt to squeeze Phrygian mode from the banjo ("V'taher Libeinu").

The first thing I noticed from the CD cover is a typo (corrected inside) that might have become a great parody. The children's song "Oy Mayn Kepele tut Mir Vey" (Oh, My Head Hurts) is mis-spelled "Kapelye" which means "musical band." I imagined a spoof with singing complaints about his musicians . . . No complaints here, though, as he's chosen his back-up wisely.

The CD is delightful to hear, with a couple gospel tunes ("Wade in the Water," "Egypt Land"), an old tale ("Something from Nothing"), and one original song ("Green in the Land of Gold") chronicling the immigration of Lil Rev's ancestors from the Old Country thrown in for good measure. The past definitely catches up with this third-generation American musician, and the result works for me, too.

--Mark Levy

ERIC PARK: Shakespeare and the Sonettes.
Available from Woodlark Music,1030 Shrader, San Francisco, CA 94117; 415-665-1941;

Do you like unusual, thoughtful songs? Do you like humor? Do you like erudition? Do you like Shakespeare? Do you like good solid melodies played by an award-winning fingerpicker? Look no further: run, don't walk, to your nearest CD source and get Eric Park's latest album, Shakespeare's Blues. With the help of his friends Neil Young (the Canyon studio meister) and Donna Hyatt and Suzanne Fox (backup vocals--playfully renamed the Sonettes), Eric has put together an album that is historic in more than one way. Five of the songs are his own, in the unique style fans have known for decades, summarizing Shakespeareˆs tragedies ("Hamlet," "Romeo & Juliet," "King Lear," "Othello" and "Richard III") as tales told by a master satirist, full of fun and humor. The other five songs are oldies that are so golden theyˆre mostly from the Bardˆs own time--the newest is Edwardian (practically hip-hop!). And all of course are bound together by Ericˆs inimitably smooth guitar phrasing. Buy it now or be lost to the lessons of hysterical musical history!

--Nick Holbrook

LAURA SANDAGE: Bloom. Available from Laura at 530-759-9181; 2905 Tiber Ave, Davis, CA, 95616;

I have a very difficult time picking my “favorite” things, so when my daughter asked me to name my favorite song on Laura Sandage’s new CD, Bloom, it didn’t surprise me that I could not come up with an answer. However, if you sat me down under a bright light and forced me to choose my favorite album by a contemporary songwriter, there’s a very good chance this would be it! The album is gorgeous, both musically and visually. Every song brings new delights to the ear, the arrangements are rich and clean, the audio production is superb. Even the packaging is enchanting, with lyrics and exquisite photographs sharing a beautifully designed booklet.

All 14 songs on the album were written by Laura; 3 were co-written with Ray Frank. Ray and Katie Henry add their voices to Laura’s on several cuts. Priscilla Hawkins contributes a fine cello line on four songs, and a raft of other excellent musicians and vocalists appear as well. Though all the songs have the earmarks of Laura’s strong lyricism and fine musical sense, they exhibit a wide and satisfying breadth of style, from silly ("Crushed") to stirring ("Do You Want Peace?") to somber ("Marlboro Man") to sensual ("February is Green"). The fact that all but three of the songs were written in 2004, and one in 2005, suggests that Laura’s songwriting star is still ascending. But don’t wait for the next recording--Bloom is stellar, and you can enjoy it right now. Mark Cohen

--Mark Cohen