Sunday, November 22, 2015

Canadian Spaces – CKCU – Saturday November 21, 2015

CKCU can be heard at 93.1 FM in Ottawa and on the web.

Canadian Spaces on CKCU in Ottawa is Canada’s longest-running folk music radio program. It is heard Saturday mornings from 10:00 am until noon (Eastern time).

It was hosted for more than 33 years by the late Chopper McKinnon and is now hosted by Chris White and a rotating cast of co-hosts.

This week’s show was co-hosted by Mike Regenstreif and Chris White.

Guests: Laura Smith; Naming the Twins

This program was dedicated to the memory of our friend Ron Hynes. Ron passed away, age 64, on November 19 after a battle with cancer. 

Glen MacNeil- If I Could I Would
Where the Heart Remains (Glen MacNeil)

Kat Goldman- Letter from Paris
Gypsy Girl (Kat Goldman)

Bob Stark- Refugees
Storefront Photograph (Bob Stark)

Susie Burke & David Surette- I Turn to My Guitar
Waiting for the Sun (Madrina Music)

Jesse Winchester- Blow On, Chilly Wind

The Lucky Sisters- I Can’t Stand Up Alone
So Lucky (Patio)

Eric Bibb & JJ Milteau- Bring a Little Water, Sylvie
Lead Belly’s Gold (Stony Plain)

Victor Anthony- He Walks Alone
Mystery Loves Company (Victor Anthony)

Trent Severn- From Canada
Trillium (Trent Severn)

Chaim Tannenbaum- My Old Man

Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright, Lucy Wainwright Roche & Lily Lanken- Sweet Thames, Flow Softly

Missy Burgess- Time
Play Me Sweet (Missy Burgess)

Chris White, Laura Smith & Mike Regenstreif (2013).
Laura Smith- I’m a Beauty
It’s a Personal Thing (Universal)

Laura Smith- Safe Home, Sweet Light

Naming the Twins- Lonesome Valley
Drifters & Dreamers (Duet Right)

Ron Hynes- A Good Dog is Lost
Get Back Change (Borealis)

Ron Hynes- 1962
Get Back Change (Borealis)

Ron Hynes- Sonny’s Dream
Face to the Gale (Artisan)

Naming the Twins- Somedays

The show is now available for online listening.

I’ll be co-hosting Canadian Spaces again on January 23.

Find me on Twitter. @MikeRegenstreif

--Mike Regenstreif

Saturday, November 14, 2015

David Clayton-Thomas – Combo

Antoinette Music

Two years ago on A Blues for the New World, David Clayton-Thomas updated the familiar, brassy Blood, Sweat and Tears sound with a fine set of original songs. This time around, he has released a much quieter, very intimate set, mostly devoted to familiar jazz classics.

The tone for Combo is set in the opening number, a lovely version of “As Time Goes By” that opens with the melody perfectly stated by Mark Kieswetter at the piano. A few seconds later, David starts to quietly sing with George Koller’s bass providing the musical heartbeat. This is music to get lost in at 2 o’clock in the morning.

The formula is repeated on the next song, “Nature Boy,” except that it’s Ted Quinlan’s masterful touch on the guitar that perfectly states the introductory notes of the melody. David, who can shout a lyric with the best of them, is able to go deep into these intimate songs. His versatility in that regard is particularly evident in the way he redefines his approach to Billie Holiday’s “God Bless the Child,” sung here oh so differently than on the brassy Blood, Sweat and Tears version. On Combo, David’s treatment brings out the essence of the poignant lyrics while the musicians bring out the beauty of the melody.

Other highlights include a so very soulful version of “Stormy Monday” T-Bone Walker’s blues classic that has Kieswetter doing some wonderful double duty on the piano and Hammond organ; the late Allen Toussaint’s “Freedom for the Stallion” featuring superb harmonies from Jackie Richardson; and a stomping, New Orleans-style duet with Genevieve Marentette on “The Glory of Love.”

Perhaps my favorite piece is “Smile,” the inspiring bit of good advice whose melody was written by Charlie Chaplin for his 1936 film, Modern Times (the lyrics were added in 1954 when the song became a hit for Nat King Cole). I especially love the interplay on this number between David’s voice and Koller’s bass.

David has surrounded himself with a group of wonderful musicians who play superbly throughout Combo. In addition to Kieswetter, Koller and Quinlan, the album features Ben Riley on drums and Colleen Allen on sax.

Pictured: Mike Regenstreif and David Clayton-Thomas at CKUT during Folk Roots/Folk Branches, June 29, 2006. (Photo: Jadro Subic)

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--Mike Regenstreif

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Andy Cohen – Road Be Kind

Road Be Kind
Earwig Music

Five years ago, reviewing an album called Built Right on the Ground by Andy Cohen, I wrote an introduction that bears repeating.

It’s probably close to 40 years since the first time I encountered Andy Cohen. I was a teenager immersed in the folk scene and he would have been in his 20s and already an accomplished traditional blues revivalist. I think I first heard him when Bruce “Utah” Phillips got me to come down and hang out in Saratoga Springs where he was a prime mover in Wildflowers, a musicians’ co-op that also included Andy. Not too long after that, I recall him showing up in Montreal to play at the Yellow Door. I sat and listened closely to Andy play three sets a night for three nights in a row.

Thinking back to those days, I’m reminded of something the young Bob Dylan said about 10 years earlier:

“I ain't that good yet. I don't carry myself yet the way that Big Joe Williams, Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly and Lightnin’ Hopkins have carried themselves. I hope to be able to someday, but they're older people.”

Dylan’s point – I think – was that this kind of music is something you keep growing into, something that reflects your lifetime of experience. The truly dedicated revivalists of that period – people like the late Dave Van Ronk, the late “Philadelphia” Jerry Ricks, Paul Geremia, Roy Book Binder, Chris Smither, Martin Grosswendt, Rory Block and a few others, including Andy Cohen – have kept on getting better as they’ve gotten older. Listening to Andy now, in concert – I saw him do a house concert in Ottawa recently – or on this fine new CD, is a much deeper musical experience than it was, circa 1972, when I saw him at the Yellow Door.

I’ve repeated that review intro because it’s essentially the same thing I would want to say again now to anyone who might not know or be familiar with Andy Cohen.

Andy is best known as a traditional blues revivalist but, like many, perhaps most, of the songsters he studied and emulated – either directly or from old records – his repertoire is much broader than that and Road Be Kind – a solo recording, just Andy’s guitar and voice – also includes quite a bit of more contemporary and folk-based material. But even the most contemporary material here feels like it is right in the tradition.

Of that contemporary, folk-based material, I was quite pleased to be reminded of several songs by old friends, a couple of which – the late Luke Baldwin’s “Seldom Seen Slim” and Scott Alarik’s “Road Be Kind – I don’t think I’ve heard in decades.

“Seldom Seen Slim,” taken from Luke’s only LP, The Tattoo On My Chest, is a vivid portrait of a hermitic old desert rat, while “Road Be Kind,” an early song of Scott’s, is a lovely tribute to all the friends along the road who are vital to touring musicians’ survival and sanity.

Another song written by an old friend is “The Goodnight-Loving Trail,” by the late Bruce “Utah” Phillips, a bittersweet ode to an “old woman,” a trail cowboy too old or banged up to sit on a horse who is now the company cook. There have been many great versions of “The Goodnight-Loving Trail” over the years but none that capture the song’s heartbreak in the guitar arrangement the way Andy’s does.

Some of my other favorites include a slow, beautiful version of “Ten and Nine,” often known as “The Jute Mill Song,” a song written by Mary Brooksbank, a former Scottish mill worker and labor organizer, about the lives of women mill workers; Andy’s own “Five and Ten Cent Blues,” a tongue twister set to a snappy ragtime guitar arrangement; and “Mysterious Mose,” a great little ditty written for a Betty Boop cartoon from 1930. (Check it out on YouTube.)

There are also several fine instrumentals including a lovely, album-ending version of “Blackbird,” perhaps the prettiest melody John Lennon and Paul McCartney ever wrote for the Beatles.

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--Mike Regenstreif