Monday, May 22, 2017

Jimmy LaFave 1955-2017

Jimmy LaFave
I was deeply saddened today when I received word that Jimmy LaFave passed away peacefully yesterday – May 21 – from spindle cell sarcoma, a cancer of the connective tissues, at the age of 61.

Jimmy was a beloved figure in the folk and roots music community. Respected by his peers and audiences as a major contemporary songwriter, and as a song interpreter with a unique gift of communicating all of the meaning and subtext within a song. Jimmy, perhaps more than anyone I can think of, had a brilliant understanding of where folk music, rock ‘n’ roll, blues, country, jazz and popular song all met seamlessly and authentically. He was a leader and mentor to many in his hometown music community in Austin, Texas and a touring and recording artist who made many friends wherever he went. I know, I was one of them.

I started playing Jimmy’s music on the Folk Roots/Folk Branches radio show in Montreal in 1995 and I’m not sure when I first met him. It was probably at a Folk Alliance conference or festival around that time or, perhaps, when he started coming to Montreal to play club concerts produced by Billy Bob Productions. We bonded quickly over a shared love for the songs of Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie. Jimmy was one of the greatest interpreters of both Dylan and Guthrie.

Jimmy’s shows in Montreal in the late-1990s and early-2000s were great, whether he was fronting a full rock ‘n’ roll band or a smaller acoustic trio, and I so enjoyed having him as a guest on my radio show in 2000 during one of his trips to Montreal.

Mike Regenstreif, Nora Guthrie, Kris Kristofferson, Jimmy LaFave
Jimmy was at the forefront of “Ribbon of Highway, Endless Skyway,” a touring ensemble with a rotating cast of artists who did a very special tribute to Woody Guthrie. They brought the show to the Ottawa Folk Festival in 2007 and it was a great honor for me to moderate a panel discussion at the festival on the enduring legacy and influence of Woody Guthrie with Jimmy, fellow artist Kris Kristofferson, and Nora Guthrie, Woody’s daughter and the force of nature behind so many incredible Woody Guthrie projects. It was one of my favorite things I’ve ever done at a folk festival.

Finale of the Woody Guthrie tribute at the Kansas City Folk Festival
The last couple of times I saw Jimmy were at Folk Alliance International conferences in Toronto in 2013 and just three months ago in February in Kansas City. It was always a treat to see him and get caught up.  

I saw Jimmy perform twice in Kansas City. The first was an official showcase of his own music during the conference. Although Jimmy was well into his battle with terminal cancer his performance was fabulous. The next day, at the Kansas City Folk Festival, Jimmy led an absolutely wonderful tribute to Woody Guthrie.
Mike Regenstreif and Jimmy LaFave
When we chatted in Kansas City, he was smiling and looked happy when our photo was taken.

Some of Jimmy’s friends, led by Val Denn, Jimmy’s long-time agent, Eliza Gilkyson and Christine Albert organized a concert – “Jimmy LaFave’s Songwriter Rendezvous” – which took place in Austin last Thursday night. It was Jimmy, himself, who chose the artists and requested the songs they performed. Eliza arranged for the concert to be streamed on Facebook and it was one of the most emotional nights of music I’ve ever witnessed – even though I was watching it from 1900 miles away over the Internet. The concert was a beautiful testimony to what Jimmy meant to so many people.

Christine Albert helps hold the mic for Jimmy LaFave
Jimmy came out on stage – in a wheel chair and connected to an oxygen tank – to lead the final song, “Goodnight Irene,” and address the audience. It had been just three months since I stood at Jimmy’s side and to see the difference in him, wrought by the cancer, was heartbreaking. But to feel the love coming from Jimmy was inspirational. Just three days later he passed away.

Jimmy LaFave will not be forgotten.

Find me on Twitter.

And on Facebook.

--Mike Regenstreif

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Tom Russell – Play One More: The Songs of Ian & Sylvia

Play One More: The Songs of Ian & Sylvia
True North Records

I got into record collecting as a kid in the 1960s and Ian & Sylvia’s LPs had a huge impact on me. They were a big part of my introduction to traditional folk music and to original, folk-based songwriting. By 1966, I owned all of their early LPs and kept on buying the new ones as they came out later in the ‘60s and early-‘70s. And I got to see them play live a couple of times. I still return to their music often – particularly the first five albums.

As a music journalist, I’ve written about the CD reissues of the Ian & Sylvia LPs and about both Ian Tyson’s and Sylvia Tyson’s solo albums. I've seen both of them live on many occasions and, in the 1990s, I produced a couple of shows in Montreal with Sylvia (a stage setting of Timothy Findlays The Pianoman's Daughter and a concert with Quartette, her group with three other great women singers). And I’ve done long (and separate) radio interviews with both Ian and Sylvia that have included extensive looks back at their Ian & Sylvia years.

Ian & Sylvia were also a huge influence on the young Tom Russell, who I’ve repeatedly referred to as the finest singer-songwriter of my generation. As a songwriter, Tom has collaborated with both Ian and Sylvia and on his new album, Play One More: The Songs of Ian & Sylvia, offers a remarkable tribute to Ian’s and Sylvia’s songwriting with eight songs from the Ian & Sylvia years and two more each from their solo years (including one of his co-writes with each of them).

The album opens with Ian’s “Wild Geese,” a gorgeous song from the 1967 LP So Much for Dreaming that vividly captures the Canadian countryside. It is one of many songs on the album to which Cindy Church, one of Sylvia’s partners in Quartette, lends her beautiful harmonies to.

Tom follows it with “Thrown to the Wolves,” a song he co-wrote with Sylvia and sang a duet with her on her 1994 album You Were On My Mind (not to be confused with the 1972 Ian & Sylvia LP of the same name). The ‘wolves’ motif comes up again at the end of the album on the astute western ballad “When the Wolves No Longer Sing,” a fairly recent song co-written by Tom and Ian that Ian recorded on Carnero Vaquero and that Gretchen Peters sang on Tom’s extraordinary folk opera The Rose of Roscrae: A Ballad of the West.

Three of my favorite songs on the album came from Ian & Sylvia’s 1966 LP Play One More: “These Friends of Mine” is one of my all-time favorite songs of Ian’s. I’ve always thought of it as a companion song to Bob Dylan’s “Bob Dylan’s Dream”; “Short Grass,” co-written by Ian and Sylvia, vividly captures what ranch life might have been like 60 or so years ago for a young cowboy like Ian; and “Play One More” describes a musician’s life on the road and a disintegrating relationship at home.

Each of the other songs is a highlight.

“Rio Grande,” from the 1970 album Great Speckled Bird (Ian and Sylvia’s band at that time, a pioneering country-rock band, was called Great Speckled Bird), co-written by Ian and Amos Garrett, is a cowboy’s lament set on the U.S.-Mexico border that seems predictive of the drug wars that would come to scar much of that border in later years.

“The Night the Chinese Restaurant Burned Down,” also from Sylvia’s 1994 album You Were On My Mind, is a beautiful song that may be based on Sylvia’s hometown of Chatham, Ontario. In the song, she recalls the night she and her best friend, young women ready to leave the town for the big city, hop on the last bus out of there.

Ian’s “Old Cheyenne,” first recorded on the Ian & Sylvia’s 1972 LP You Were On My Mind, is a sad one about a rodeo cowboy who can’t make a living at it, while “Sam Bonnifield’s Saloon,” first recorded on Ol’ Eon, Ian’s first solo LP from 1973, concisely captures a scene from a bar in the Yukon.

In Ian’s “Red Velvet,” from the 1965 LP Early Morning Rain, a prairie farmer laments how farm life just couldn’t hold the woman he loves, while “The Renegade,” a co-write by Ian and Sylvia from their 1968 album Nashville, relates the feelings of an indigenous man determined to return to the traditional way of life. Although written almost a half-century ago, the song seems particularly topical in view of what has become common knowledge in Canada about the residential school system which is referenced in the song and which was labelled “cultural genocide” a couple of years ago by the federal Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Play One More: The Songs of Ian & Sylvia is a great tribute to Ian Tyson and Sylvia Tyson – to the remarkable songs they wrote and recorded as a duo in the decade between 1962 and 1972, and to the equally remarkable songs they’ve written (and co-written) in the decades since. The production is wisely kept minimalist with just Tom on vocals and guitar, Cindy on harmony vocals and Grant Siemens on lead guitar.

Mike Regenstreif & Tom Russell (2012)
The album is capped off by two bonus tracks: previously unreleased demos by Ian & Sylvia from the 1960s of “Grey Morning” and “The French Girl.”  

Play One More: The Songs of Ian & Sylvia will be released on May 19. 

I played five of the songs from Play One More: The Songs of Ian & Sylvia on the April 29, 2017 edition of the Saturday Morning show on CKCU. The show can be streamed on-demand at

Find me on Twitter.

And on Facebook.

--Mike Regenstreif

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Saturday Morning with Mike Regenstreif – CKCU – Saturday April 29, 2017

Saturday Morning is an eclectic roots-oriented program on CKCU in Ottawa heard live on Saturday mornings from 7 until 10 am (Eastern time) and then available for on-demand streaming. I am one of the four rotating hosts of Saturday Morning and base my programming on the Folk Roots/Folk Branches format I developed at CKUT in Montreal.

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

This episode of Saturday Morning can be streamed on-demand at

Extended theme – Songs of Ian & Sylvia

Scott Cook- Further Down the Line
Further Down the Line (Scott Cook)

Chaim Tannenbaum- Coal Man Blues
Chaim Tannenbaum (StorySound)
Kate & Anna McGarrigle & Roma Baran- Willie Moore
Tell My Sister (Nonesuch)
Jim Kweskin & Geoff Muldaur- Diamond Joe
Penny’s Farm (Kingswood)
Kaia Kater- White (Long Time Traveling)
Nine Pin (Kaia Kater)
Jayme Stone, Moira Smiley, Sumaia Jackson, Joe Phillips, Felicity Williams & Denzal Sinclaire- Candy Gal

Doug McArthur- Tears Like Rain
Tears Like Rain (Doug McArthur)
David Clayton Thomas- Early Mornin’ Rain
Canadiana (Antoinette/ILS)
Michael Earnie Taylor Orchestra- Calgary Song
$3 Pants (Laughing Cactus Music)

Katy Moffatt- Love Made a Gypsy Out of Me
Where the Heart Is (Centerfire Music)
Skinner & T'witch- England’s Spring
The Fool’s Journey (Skinner & T’witch)
Joe Newberry & April Verch- I’m Going Home
Going Home (Slab Town)

David Olney- My Lovely Assistant
Migration (Loudhouse)
Brock Zeman- The Moon Ain’t Full
The Carnival is Back in Town (Busted Flat)

Andy Cohen- Spread the News Around
Road Be Kind (Earwig)
Happy Traum- Careless Love Blues
Just for the Love of It (Lark’s Nest Music)
Guy Davis & Fabrizio Poggi- Step It Up and Go
Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee- Freight Train
Back to New Orleans (Fantasy)

Spook Handy- Banks of Marble
Keep the Flame Alive: Pete, Woody & Me – Volume 1 (Akashic)
Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer- Get Up and Do Right
Get Up and Do Right (Community Music)
Penny Lang- Never Turning Back
Carry On Children (She-Wolf)
Pete Seeger- L’Internationale
Singalong, Sanders Theatre, 1980 (Smithsonian Folkways)

Tom Russell- Play One More
Dave Van Ronk- Four Strong Winds
Live in Monterey (Omnivore)
Judy Roderick- You Were On My Mind
Woman Blue (Vanguard)
Ian & Sylvia- Maude’s Blues
Early Morning Rain (Vanguard)

Tom Russell- Rio Grande
Rosalie Sorrels- Trucker’s Café
Travelin’ Lady Rides Again (Green Linnet)
Ian & Sylvia- Smiling Wine
Great Speckled Bird (Stony Plain)
Michael Earnie Taylor Orchestra featuring Carol Miller- Someday Soon
$3 Pants (Laughing Cactus Music)

Tom Russell- Short Grass
Bill Garrett- Red Velvet
Bill Garrett (Borealis)
Bill & Bonnie Hearne- Wild Geese
Diamonds in the Rough (Warner Western)
Ian & Sylvia- Lonely Girls
Play One More (Vanguard)

Tom Russell- The Renegade
Fourtold- Four Rode By
Fourtold (Appleseed)
Nanci Griffith & Tom Russell- Summer Wages
Other Voices, Too (A Trip Back to Bountiful) (Elektra)
Ian & Sylvia- Farewell to the North
Nashville (Vanguard)

Sylvia Tyson & Mike Regenstreif (1997)
Bill Staines- The French Girl
Beneath Some Lucky Star (Red House)
Sylvia Tyson- Chocolate Cigarettes
Gypsy Cadillac (Silver City)
Ian Tyson- Navajo Rug
Live at Longview (Stony Plain)
Tom Russell- These Friends of Mine

Fourtold- Darcy Farrow
Fourtold (Appleseed)
Ian & Sylvia- Rocks and Gravel
Ian & Sylvia (Vanguard)

String Madness- Barrow Street Dream
Eye of the Beholder (String Madness)

I’ll be hosting Saturday Morning next on May 27.

Find me on Twitter. @MikeRegenstreif

--Mike Regenstreif