Sunday, August 18, 2019

Marc Nerenberg – Delia’s Gone: Murder Ballads & Other Songs of Love & Death

Delia’s Gone: Murder Ballads & Other Songs of Love & Death

In the introduction to the liner notes for Delia’s Gone: Murder Ballads & Other Songs of Love & Death, veteran Montreal folksinger and old-time banjo player Marc Nerenberg – who I’ve known for close to a half-century – suggests that it’s probably the years he spent as a criminal lawyer “that led me to the misguided notion that murder ballads would be a fit subject for an album.”

Of course, there’s a rich tradition of murder ballads in folk music and six of the 11 songs Marc offers here are drawn from traditional sources but I suspect that it’s a combination of the lawyer and storytelling folksinger in Marc that led to some of his adaptations. For example, in “Delia’s Gone,” the well-traveled murder ballad that launches the album and give it its name, he researched the true story of the 14-year-old girl’s murder and added some original lyrics that flesh out the story. And in “Little Sadie,” he adds elements to the story that were inspired by an attempted murder case in which he was the defense attorney.

One of my favorite tracks on the album is Marc’s version of “Saint James Infirmary Blues,” the New Orleans variant of “The Unfortunate Rake,” an old British ballad about death from venereal disease – an element to the story that is usually implied but not explicit in the song. Marc adds a verse that leaves the listener with no doubt about what the song is about.

Another highlight of the album is “Toby,” a song written by Brien Lavene, one of several singer-songwriters who were around the Montreal folk scene from the mid-1960s to mid-1970s as Vietnam War resistors (Jesse Winchester being the most prominent). Written in the first-person, “Toby” tells the story of a professional card hustler – who gets himself killed when he’s caught cheating – from the perspective of the young associate learning the trade.

Mike Regenstreif & Marc Nerenberg (2009)
One of the most interesting of Marc’s original songs is “Delia’s Dilemma,” which re-imagines the characters of Delia (specifically the gambling woman from Blind Willie McTell’s version of “Delia’s Gone) and Toby (from Brien Lavene’s song), who come together in a story that encompasses gambling, love, philandering and murder. Another is “Bleaching Bones,” a tale encompassing love, tragedy and mystery in telling the origin story of an old woman living in a desert.

This is not an album meant for casual listening but there is much here for those prepared to be drawn in by a combination of Marc’s mastery of traditional banjo styles (there are no other musicians), his idiosyncratic singing, and the set of richly detailed ballads.

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Mike Regenstreif

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Saturday Morning with Mike Regenstreif – CKCU – Saturday August 17, 2019

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 …

Shelley Posen- Ontario Moon
Ontario Moon (Well Done Music)

Michael Peter Smith- I Sought the Landlord
Fifteen Songs from Moby Dick (Michael Peter Smith)
Michael Peter Smith- Old Thunder
Fifteen Songs from Moby Dick (Michael Peter Smith)
Michael Peter Smith- Deeper Wonders Than the Waves
Fifteen Songs from Moby Dick (Michael Peter Smith)
The Rix- Hudson Whalers
Steering Pete’s Course: Maritime Songs from the Seeger Songbag (The Rix)

Sharon Goldman- Migration
Every Trip Around the Sun (Sharon Goldman)
Kim Wallach- Refugee’s Lullaby
Chatter of the Finches (Black Socks Press)
SONiA disappear fear- A Voice for Nudem Durak
By My Silence (Disappear Records)

Ken Tizzard- My Father’s Ghost
Ray Harris- Margaret’s Waltz
Kinda Sets the Tone (Ray Harris)
Jon Brooks- Small
Moth Nor Rust II (Fallen Tree Records)

Marc Nerenberg- Little Sadie
Jim Kweskin & Geoff Muldaur- Louis Collins (Angels Laid Him Away)
Penny’s Farm (Kingswood)
Dom Flemons- One Dollar Bill
Dom Flemons Presents Black Cowboys (Smithsonian Folkways)
Jim Ringer- Old Bill Pickett
Waitin’ for the Hard Times to Go (Folk-Legacy)

Nefesh Mountain- I Want to Hear Somebody Pray
Beneath the Open Sky (Eric Lindberg & Doni Zasloff)
April Verch- Durham’s Bull
Once a Day (Slab Town)

Extended Feature: Songs of The Carter Family – the next 16 songs were recorded by the original Carter Family between 1927 and 1941.

The Carter Family- Single Girl, Married Girl
Anchored in Love: Their Complete Victor Recordings 1927-1928 (Rounder)
Charlie Haden featuring Rosanne Cash- Wildwood Flower
Rambling Boy (Decca)
Ian & Sylvia- Keep on the Sunny Side
The Lost Tapes (Stony Plain)
Arnie Naiman & Chris Coole- John Hardy
5 Strings Attached with No Backing (Merriweather)

The Carter Family (1927)
The Carter Family- Wabash Cannonball
When the Roses Bloom in Dixieland: Their Complete Victor Recordings 1929-1930 (Rounder)
Robert Jones & Matt Watroba- Sowin’ on the Mountain
Common Chords (Common Chords Records)
Tim Grimm- Carter’s Blues
Heart Land Again (Vault)
Katie Moore & Andrew Horton- Lover’s Return
Six More Miles (Katie Moore)

The Carter Family- March Winds Gonna Blow My Blues All Away
Longing for Old Virginia: Their Complete Victor Recordings 1934 (Rounder)
Lucinda Williams- Little Darling Pal of Mine
Ramblin’ (Smithsonian Folkways)
Jody Stecher & Kate Brislin- Bear Creek Blues
Songs of the Carter Family (Appleseed)
Sue Foley- Cannonball Blues
The Ice Queen (Stony Plain)

The Carter Family- Lonesome Homesick Blues
Last Sessions: Their Complete Victor Recordings 1934-1941 (Rounder)
Andy Hedges- Lonesome Pine Special
Shadow of a Cowboy (Andy Hedges)
Deborah Holland- Worried Man Blues
The Panic is On (Gadfly)
Ian & Sylvia- Will the Circle Be Unbroken
The Lost Tapes (Stony Plain)

Joan Baez- Joe Hill
One Day at a Time (Vanguard)
Canned Heat- Going Up the Country
The Best of Canned Heat (EMI)
Arlo Guthrie- Coming into Los Angeles
Tales of ’69 (Rising Son)
Richie Havens- Freedom
Résumé: The Best of Richie Havens (Rhino)
Joni Mitchell- Woodstock
Ladies of the Canyon (Reprise)

Shelley Posen- Night Nurse
Ontario Moon (Well Done Music)
Michael Jerome Browne & Roxane Potvin- Remember When
That’s Where It’s At! (Borealis)
Diana Braithwaite & Chris Whiteley- Morning Sun
Morning Sun (Electro-Fi)

Tom Russell- When the Road Gets Rough
Leeroy Stagger- Hey Hey! (For Gord)
Strange Path (True North)
Shelley Posen- The Best Song Ever Written
Ontario Moon (Well Done Music)

Bruce Cockburn- The Groan
Crowing Ignites (True North)

I’ll be hosting Saturday Morning next on September 14.

Find me on Twitter. @MikeRegenstreif

--Mike Regenstreif