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

  1. LIZ CARROLL & JOHN DOYLE, Double Play, Compass Records.
    Fiddle, guitar, and vocals by this acclaimed duo, in a selection of original and traditional songs. “Many try, but no one else sounds like this in Irish music. Liz Carroll and John Doyle are duo perfection.” —Irish Music Magazine. For more information and music samples, visit
  2. PRIDE OF NEW YORK, Pride of New York, Compass Records.
    Joanie Madden (flute, whistle), Brendan Dolan (keyboards), Billy McComiskey (button accordion), and Brian Conway (fiddle). “…as good as it gets in Irish traditional music…” —Irish Echo. For more information and music samples, visit


Sylvia Herold, 2012;

How fortunate we are that Sylvia Herold has returned to her old swinging self! Better yet, she’s brought along a cart-full of highly talented swinging buddies, and together they’ve produced a recording that’s sure to delight just about anyone, regardless of their age or genre preference—really! The Spider and the Fly is full of fun, fancy, and frolic, presented with just the right dose of expertise and playfulness.

For more than 20 years, Sylvia has graced the Bay Area acoustic music scene with her clear, beautiful voice, expert guitar chops, tasteful, wide-ranging repertoire, and her commitment to the music. Her previous recordings are of stellar quality in talent and production, but The Spider and the Fly is undoubtedly her best yet.

Just pop this CD in your player, and POP! The first cut starts things off with a blast of nostalgia when “All the Cats Join In.” From here on out, you’re on a rollercoaster of toe-tapping, bopping, fanciful swinging hits mostly from the 1930s and ’40s. Never mind if you don’t recognize the song titles—that’s part of Sylvia’s magic. She can take a lesser-known number, arrange it masterfully, and leave the listener happily humming along as if she’d heard the song 100 times before.

And did I mention the harmonies? Extremely tight and exceptionally crafted blends fill your ears as if each song were its own entity that must tell its story. Jennifer Scott and Ed Johnson are surely blood relatives of Sylvia’s, as only siblings can create such smooth conjugations of tone.

The rhythm never stops, what with the mighty assistance of Cary Black and Jason Lewis. Those two boys clearly had themselves a ball, especially on “Barrelhouse Bessie From Basin Street,” “Mohair Sam,” and “Betcha I Getcha,” to name just a few.

Overall, The Spider and the Fly is uplifting, good-time-having, no-jive-but-jiving fun. Give it one listen and you’ll be back again and again for more. Way to swing, Sylvia!

—Joanne Weil Heald

PAT PATTISON, Writing Better Lyrics: The Essential Guide to Powerful Songwriting.
Writers Digest Books, 2010

I learned about this book in January 2011 while I was participating in a beta test of the website, and I decided to order the book from the author. After reading Writing Better Lyrics, I came to the conclusion that it was well worth the $19.00 (plus shipping) I spent to obtain it.

The book is written in an easy-to-understand style. It covers these topics:

Writing Better Lyrics tends to make use of popular song lyrics in its examples. That being said, the book provides the reader with a well-defined framework of tools that can be used in writing powerful and effective lyrics in any musical form.

If you write lyrics or songs and are interested in improving your writing, this book is well worth buying and studying. It will change your life.

—Bob Keller

Folkniks, Harmonites, friends, and associates, a gentle reminder or two: If you or your music compadres (or comadres?) have a new or reasonably recent recording, book, film, etc., that you’d like to see reviewed on this page, don’t forget to send us a review copy. And if you’ve received an item for review, please remember to write said review and send it in! Never been a page 4 reviewer? Enjoy exploring new music? Like to write? Got opinions? Don’t be shy—please consider contributing to our reviews page.