The Folk Club’s own Estelle Freedman offers up an intensely personal recording, filled with original autobiographical songs both sad and joyous. The recording’s first cut, “You Can’t Stop Time,” tells us that, no matter how hard we try or what we do, time is inexorable and is lord of us all. “Heaven”, “Open Your Heart,” and “Seasons” are beautiful love songs to her partner of 27 years, Susan Krieger. “Esperanza” (Spanish for “hope”) playfully honors a beloved puppy who became an integral part of Freedman’s life.
Two other songs deserve special mention. “Slipping Away,” one of the most poignant and beautiful pieces on the CD, deals with the constant struggle to cope with Alzheimer’s, which Freedman lived through with her mother. The final cut, “One More Trail” [see the song page in this issue], gives thanks to the members of the San Francisco Folk Music Club who have been important in Freedman’s life and passage through the world of music.
Freedman is most ably assisted by some very good musicians and singers, including co-producer Sylvia Herold, Marisa Malvino, and Marlene McCall on vocal harmonies; Chuck Ervin on bass, Myra Chaney on cello, Paul Herzoff on harmonica, Lisa Sanchez on guitar, and Laura Lind on autoharp.
Whether the subject is learning to play the mandolin, her niece’s wedding, a trip to Japan, or close friends who established a family important in Freedman’s life, her songs are skillfully crafted with love, respect, and a true sense of inner human worth and dignity.
—Robert RodriquezBanshee in the Kitchen, Invite the Light: World Music For Winter
Celtic instruments are perfect for capturing the many seasonal moods of winter. Drawing upon material from English, Irish, Indian, Jewish and French traditions, the three women of Banshee in the Kitchen arrange their instrumental tunes with considerable artistic skill. Balancing their audacity with reverence for the art form, "bansheefying" traditional tunes imparts contemporary freshness to them. The Bakersfield trio’s fourth album emphasizes buoyant, melodic tunes full of memorable images and perceptions of one’s own device. Several tracks (like the unnamed melody that appears in track four) are quite somber and impressionistic like a Celtic lamentation.
Brenda Hunter, Jill Egland and Mary Tulin are proficient multi-instrumentalists who are precise on their hammered dulcimer, fiddle, accordion, bodhran, flute, whistle, guitars and bouzouki. On "Invite the Light," they are joined by guest Jeff Basile Pekarek on acoustic bass. Hunter is a National Hammered Dulcimer champion, and years ago busked with reels and jigs on street corners in Colorado. Her original "Late Winter Waltz" was inspired by snowflakes drifting on the breeze. Egland’s accordion is best showcased in their "Cook in the Kitchen" set. Tulin’s fingerpicked guitar accompaniment is exquisite, and her flatpicked Irish bouzouki is a treat to hear on an Indian folk hymn from her own spiritual path, "Lagao Meri Naiya Satguru Par"—although some slight percussion would have enhanced the rendition. Dare I say it, I might suggest some synthesized sounds or vocals to embellish some of the frostier musical moods. The "Bottom of the Punchbowl/I Saw Three Ships" set comes across as the most festive track on the disc.
Banshee in the Kitchen’s beautiful world music for winter is more pensive than gleeful. The band that takes its name from those wailing female spirits of Gaelic folklore shows that they also have a passionate heart to capture the tranquility of a snowy morning, windy rain, or icy veil of the season. "Invite the Light" is yet another well-wrought artistic achievement for this trio that has been together since 2001.
—Joe RossHank Cramer, Way Out West
I will admit to some skepticism when I first saw this CD. Cowboy songs? Someone singing “Whoopy-Ti-Yi-Yo” in 2007? As it happens, Hank Cramer communicates a lot in this CD, matching a believable voice with interesting and tasteful accompaniments on guitar, harmonica, accordion and cello.
From his liner notes, “I am lucky enough to live in the west, sing for a living, and ride horses for fun, and be married to a wonderful gal who sings for fun and rides horses for a living.”
He picks good songs, tells a story well and makes it believable. “The Colorado Trail,” I’m sure I’ve heard before but haven’t really heard it. Nice easy loping guitar accompaniment, the kind that sounds easy, but isn’t. I particularly like his sweet and poignant treatment of “A Cowboy’s Hard Times,” by Bill Staines. And “Whoopy-Ti-Yi-Yo” sounds new, told in an authentic way. Well done, and a pleasure to hear.
The CD has pathos, humor, and some very nice surprises. The “Bard of Armagh/Streets of Laredo” medley combines the Celtic roots of an Irish ballad crossing the Atlantic and becoming a cowboy song. Both educational and beautiful listening. “The Oregon Trail” has imaginative accompaniment with two cellos. Very nicely sung and played. “My Sweet Wyoming Home,” another Bill Staines song, is nicely harmonized by Leah Larson. Good accompaniment, tasteful understated accordion.
I find myself enjoying listening to it again and again. That’s the best surprise.