Reviews

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. Annbjørg Lien, Waltz with Me. Original tradition-based set on hardanger fiddle, with Bruce Molsky on violin and vocals, Christine Hanson on cello and Mikael Marin on viola. Samples at compassrecords.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=4616
  2. Catriona McKay, Starfish. "Fearless contemporary explorer on the Scottish harp." Samples at compassrecords.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=4613

CD REVIEWS

Pete Seeger, "Take it from Dr. King"
Streaming video: http://lateshow.cbs.com/latenight/lateshow/live/index/php/966231.phtml?play=1

David Letterman invited Pete to his Late Show on September 29, 2008 to promote his newly recorded CD, Pete Seeger at 89. As far as I can tell from the lyrics at his CD website, the song he performed isn't on the album.

On the video clip, Pete still sings in tune, picks banjo, and—as ever—teaches the chorus so the audience can join in. This is a bouncy tribute to the nonviolence of the civil rights movement, and a call to continued action:

Don't say it can't be done, the battle's just begun Take it from Dr. King, you too can learn to sing So drop the gun

Able accompaniment and harmony are provided by members of The Mammals (grandson Tao Rodriguez Seeger on 12-string guitar, fiddler Ruth Ungar and bassist Jacob Silver) and blues singer Guy Davis. The house band kicks in at the end with Dixieland-inspired horns.

For Pete Seeger at 89: Lyrics, reviews, and other CD info are at www.appleseedmusic.com/ peteseeger/peteseegerat89.html. Samples and orders at cdbaby.com/cd/peteseegerat89.

-- Lisa Hubbell

Oscar Brand, Presidential Campaign Songs, 1789-1996.
CD info & samples: www.folkways.si.edu/albumdetails.aspx?itemid=2532.

This is not a reissue, more a continuation of a 1952 Oscar Brand LP of U.S. election songs. 1997 found Brand back in the studio, where he re-recorded a few songs from the old LP, added several others, and brought the project up to date with songs covering the years from Eisenhower to Clinton, for a total of 43 tracks. A 35-page booklet details much valuable information about the sources of the songs, as well as the presidents themselves.

As some might surmise, these songs do not refer to the most critical issues dominating America's often turbulent history: slavery and abolition, war and peace, rights of the common man and woman vs. repression of various segments of the political landscape, manifest destiny and treatment of native Americans, freedom of speech and thought vs. governmental tyranny.

Every president is represented by a song, with two exceptions: Chester A. Arthur, who became president upon the assassination of James Garfield in 1881, and Bush II, who did not enter the White House to make mischief until three years after this recording came out. Personal favorites include "Lincoln and Liberty Too," "Huzzah for Madison, Huzzah!," "Marching Down to Washington," "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too," "Jackson and Kentucky," "Marching with McKinley," and the somewhat ironic and humorous "Get on a Raft with Taft." The CD closes with "The Same Merry-Go-Round," written for the Henry Wallace campaign of 1948, and a Brand original, the mnemonic "Song of the Presidents."

You may recognize many melodies used for these songs, including the likes of "Old Dan Tucker," "Rosin the Bow," "Rock-a-bye Baby," "To Anacreon in Heaven," "Just Before the Battle, Mother," "Marching Though Georgia," "Nelly Bligh," and "Unfortunate Miss Bailey/ Hunters of Kentucky," as well as such modern pieces as "Hello Dolly," "California Here I Come," "Call Me Madam," "I'm Just Wild About Harry," and even the 1970s Fleetwood Mac song, "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow," used for the 1992 Clinton campaign.

History buffs will find this most intriguing, and history teachers will find it a very useful tool in units dealing with American political history through music and song. One final thought: I wonder what Woody Guthrie would say if he knew the Republicans had used "This Land Is Your Land" for the Bush I 1988 campaign. I have a feeling the bard from Oklahoma would be mighty displeased at that one.

-- Robert Rodriquez

Larry PennWar Stories as told to Larry Penn.
CD info and samples:
cdbaby.com/cd/larrypenn3

Two weeks after his 18th birthday Larry Penn got his draft notice, and served in World War II. "I worried about the draft of course, but my father said ‘Just think of it as a big Boy Scout camp.' Well, Dad, that was some Boy Scout camp!"

Of the 13 songs on this CD, five are Penn originals, of which my favorite is "Sins of the Fathers." It is a power­ful revelation of the injured flown into Walter Reed Hospital, always at night. "They're still coming home from the war" of Bush, father and son. "The Sullivans" commemorates five brothers who perished together in the Juneau, sunk at Guadalcanal. They had all worked at one time at the John Deere plant in Waterloo, Iowa. "The real price of war is always paid by the working stiff," Larry says.

Four traditional tunes include "The Daring Young Man in a P-39" and "Tramp, Tramp, Tramp The Girls are Marching" sung by the Moxie Chicks. "Hinky Dinky Parley Voo" tells us "Democracy is on the way… and killed a dozen more today." Woody Guthrie's "Reuben James" is included.

"Lili Marlene," "the most popular war song ever," adopted by U.S. troops from German singers, is illustrated in the accompanying booklet by a cartoon from Bill Mauldin showing two GIs in a trench, one playing harmonica. The other says "The Krauts ain't following ya so good on Lili Marlene tonight, Joe. Ya think maybe somethin' happened to their tenor?"

The CD ends with a moment of silence "Lest We Forget." Very highly recommended, especially to those who like outstandingly well-written songs with a touch of reality.

-- Faith Petric

Lisa Aschmann:
1000 Songwriting Ideas (Hal Leonard Books, 2008). Info and orders:
www.halleonardbooks.com/item_detail.jsp?itemid=331938 .

Many of us probably picked up copies of Folk Club member Lisa Aschmann's self-published booklets of songwriting ideas at events over the years, or perhaps her 1997 local-press book 500 Songwriting Ideas for Brave and Passionate People. All of these and more are now compiled in a mass-trade paperback, to reach as wide an audience as Lisa's hundreds of recorded songs.

The ideas are mostly a broad range of writing prompts: questions or phrases, thoughtful reflections, chordal and stylistic explorations, some discussion of the writing life. Sources come from daily life, existing songs, and ways to look at almost anything from a new angle.

The book is a testament to Lisa's generous spirit, encouraging us to loosen up and practice telling our own truths. An appendix defines basic songwriting jargon in near-spoken language, and she is clear that all of what she presents are tools rather than rules.

-- Lisa Hubbell