REVIEWS

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CD REVIEWS

PETER KASIN & RICHARD ADRIANOWICZ: Handspikes Music.
Available from Peter at from Richard at (415) 664-2858, and at www.cdbaby.com.

Cast Off Each Line, the second CD from Peter Kasin and Richard Adrianowicz, is a splendid collection of 21 rarely heard maritime work songs--halyard shanties, capstan shanties, rowing shanties, cargo hauling songs, net hauling, forebitters, and songs of seduction. Sources include a variety of newly available sources like The James Carpenter Collection, and Windjammers: Songs of The Great Lakes Sailors, and old standard sea shanty books. Plausible explanations of what most of the songs are all about can be found on a truly amazing web site: www.handspikes.com. Yes, this CD reflects from beginning to end some really outstanding work. If I had a complaint it would be that Peter and Richard have broken with tradition by avoiding the out-of-sync, out-of-tune local waterfront singers on the choruses.

The thing I admire most is the visibility both in the songs and the album illustrations depicting the African origins of the short-lived period of shanty singing onboard merchant ships. It is hard to single out my favorites from the 21 songs offered, but I am particularly fond of Nothing But a Humbug and The Old Tar River (Grateful Dead?). This album is a must-have for anyone looking for a great collection of sea songs.

Dick Holdstock

MARC BLACK: Stroke of Genius--Songs from the Poetry of Dan Mountain.
Available from Marc at Marc Black, 89 Ridge Rd., Katonah, NY 10536; www.marcblack.com; www.strokeofgenius.com; and www.sumarecords.com.

Developed from the poetry of Dan Mountain, who suffered a devastating stroke and was not expected to survive, Stroke Of Genius is an effort born of love and selflessness, exploring the many facets and emotions of the stroke experience. A variety of musical styles are included--folk, jazz, world beat, blues, and Indian rhythms.

Marc Black's music and Dan Mountain's lyrics express the raw emotion and story of the stroke experience, beginning with the first cut: "These days how the world has changed; the things I say go a different way." Cut 4: "Voices call from both sides of the veil" reflects the feeling of being alive, yet feeling like you are dying at the same time. Cut 5 illustrates the inner chaos and the struggle and triumph of dealing with a stroke. Then, in cut 6, Dan tells us: "I'm not now what I've been; wired all over again," which is what happens after a stroke--the brain builds new pathways so functioning can be regained. Progressing through the hopelessness of "no destination" in cut 9, the author and the listener arrive at resolution and new hope in cut 14: "A new day, another season."

Endorsed by the National Stroke Association, this inspirational, healing CD would make a great gift for people dealing with stroke.

Jessica Bryan

VARIOUS ARTISTS: Ballads.
Fellside Recordings. Box 40, Workington, Cumbria, United Kingdom, CA14—3GJ.

This is an excellent compilation recording from Fellside of 13 traditional Child ballads as performed by some of the finest singers on the contemporary British folk scene.

Some of the ballads are of the other-worldly or supernatural variety, including Martyn Wyndham-Read’s "Lover’s Ghost," Brian Peters’s "Young Hunting," Frankie Armstrong’s "Tamlin," and Linda Adams’s "The Sun Shines Fair" (a version of "The Cruel Mother"). At the other end of the narrative spectrum is the historically based "Bonnie House of Airlee," most ably rendered by Bobby Eaglesham. The same goes for Arthur Knevett’s fine version of "Lord Bateman," with its allusion to a British lord’s confinement in a far-off Turkish prison and his rescue by a heroic Turkish lady. My personal favorites include: Nic Jones’s version of the "Bonnie Banks of Fordy," Geordeana McCulloch’s version of "Mill O’ Tiftie’s Annie," and Christine Kydd’s fine version of "Sheath and Knife," each gripping and compelling tale of its own. And for those with a true taste for blood and gore run wild, listen to Maddy Prior performing "Child Owlet," a truly dark ballad of attempted seduction, betrayal, and punishment inflicted on an innocent man by a vengeful spurned lady. Memorable musical storytelling combined with excellent singing makes this recording a must for anyone who loves fine traditional ballads rendered by great singers.

Robert Rodriquez

HALI HAMMER: I Refuse to Believe.
At Long Last Records. Available from Hali at 1609 Woolsey Street, Berkeley, CA 94703; 510-649-1423; www.halihammer.com

Hali states on her website about this CD, “In the current political climate, I felt it was important to … record songs that reflect my stand for peace and to share my political views ... [also] it’s important in trying times not to forget that humor carries a strong message . . . .” Lovingly and impeccably produced by Hali, Randy Berge, and John Koch), this CD fulfills these intentions in spades.

Contributing musicians include local favorites (Randy Berge on lead guitar, Paul Herzoff on harmonica, Allan Perkins on percussion, and one chorus that reads like a folk-cub roster). Hali’s perfect diction and infectious joy and enthusiasm come through on every cut, ensuring that the listener stay engaged through the entire recording and wind up with positive feelings of community and optimism. Some theme-fitting covers are included (Korona & Seeger’s "Toys for Peace"; Ed McCurdy’s "Strangest Dream", with Faith Petric’s third verse; and George Foulke’s "Family of Woman & Man," with Nina Fendel’s disability verse added—hurrah), but most of the songs are from Hali herself. There are some on-message parodies, with updated verses and interesting rhythmic variations, e.g., "America the Beautiful Revisited," and "Opposition Position (based on Tradition)." Some cuts are serious ("Talk," about communication barriers with her parents concerning Palestine, and "Walking by Myself," an empathetic view of a homeless man), and at least one is whimsical ("Utopia"). My favorite cut is "Peace Elephant" (so incongruous, but what wonderful imagery).

If you’re looking for an uplifting recording that will empower you to survive and thrive through dark political times, this one’s for you.

Kathryn LaMar