Tuesday, March 30, 2010

This week in Folk Roots/Folk Branches history (March 30-April 5)

Folk Roots/Folk Branches with Mike Regenstreif was a Thursday tradition on CKUT in Montreal for nearly 14 years from February 3, 1994 until August 30, 2007. Folk Roots/Folk Branches continued as occasional features on CKUT and is now a blog. Here’s the 31st instalment of “This week in Folk Roots/Folk Branches,” a weekly look back continuing through next August at some of the most notable guests, features and moments in Folk Roots/Folk Branches history.

March 30, 1995: Extended feature- Tony Bird.
April 4, 1996: Guest- Catie Curtis.
March 30, 2000: Guest- Sandy Silva.; Tribute to the late Ed McCurdy.
April 3, 2003: Guest- Gerry Goodfriend.
March 31, 2005: Guest- Gerry Goodfriend.
April 5, 2007: Extended feature: Songs inspired by the Passover legend.
April 3, 2008 (Folk Roots/Folk Branches feature): Songs Celebrating Spring.
April 2, 2009 (Folk Roots/Folk Branches feature): In Praise of Tom Paxton, part 2.

Pictured: Mike Regenstreif, Anne Hills and Tom Paxton at the 2001 Champlain Valley Folk Festival.

--Mike Regenstreif

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Various artists -- Rounder Records 40th Anniversary Concert

Rounder Records 40th Anniversary Concert

This CD collects highlights from an October 2009 concert at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville celebrating the 40th anniversary of the founding of Rounder Records, one of the most important, and by now one of the most venerable, of roots-oriented independent record labels.

Featured on the CD are two songs each from some of the most popular artists on Rounder’s current roster: Minnie Driver, Nathan & the Zydeco Cha Chas, Irma Thomas, Alison Krauss & Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas, Béla Fleck (with Abigail Washburn on one song and Jerry Douglas on the other); and Mary Chapin Carpenter. All of them perform together on a spectacular grand finale medley.

As well, there are several performances not from the concert that were shown on the big screen at the Opry concert and are included here including a song from Robert Plant & Alison Krauss and two songs each from Madeleine Peyroux and Steve Martin.

Minnie Driver, who hosted the concert – an edited version was a recent PBS fundraiser – may be a bit of a weak link musically in such a stellar lineup, but all of the artists turn in terrific performances. It’s a great party that touches several of Rounder’s main bases: bluegrass, Zydeco, R&B, contemporary folk, etc.

But what the CD doesn’t really give us is a sense of Rounder’s tremendous musical legacy. I’ve known the Rounder folks for most of those 40 years and I’ve collected hundreds and hundreds of their albums. Here, then, is a list of 40 of my favourite albums released or reissued by Rounder over the years, either on Rounder, or its subsidiary or acquired imprints. For the sake of variety, I’ve included no more than one album by any artist or group, no various artists collections, and the list is presented in alphabetical order.

Chava Albertstein & the Klezmatics- The Well
David AmramNo More Walls
Rory Block- Gone Woman Blues: The Country Blues Collection
Roy Book Binder- Polk City Ramble
Brave Old World- Beyond the Pale
Guy Clark- Craftsman
J.D. Crowe- J.D. Crowe & the New South
Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard- Hazel & Alice
Nanci Griffith- Last of the True Believers
Woody Guthrie- My Dusty Road
John Hartford- Aereo‑Plain
Priscilla Herdman- Forgotten Dreams
Anne Hills- Angle of the Light
Tish Hinojosa- Culture Swing
Flaco Jiminez- Arriba El Norte
Bill Keith- Something Auld, Something Newgrass, Something Borrowed, Something Bluegrass
Klezmer Conservatory Band- Live: The Thirteenth Anniversary Album
Allison Krauss- I've Got That Old Feeling
Lew London- Swingtime in Springtime
David Mallett- Inches & Miles
Martin, Bogan & Armstrong- Martin, Bogan Armstrong/That Old Gang of Mine
Mary McCaslin- Way Out West
Katy Moffatt- Evangaline Hotel
Bill Morrissey- Bill Morrissey
David Olney- Roses
Tom Paxton- Even A Grey Day
Utah Phillips- The Telling Takes Me Home
Red Clay Ramblers- It Ain't Right
Peter Rowan- Peter Rowan
Tom Russell- Poor Man's Dream
Mike Seeger- Third Annual Farewell Reunion
Paul Siebel- Paul Siebel
Skyline with Tony Trischka- Ticket Back: A Retrospective
Michael Smith- Michael Smith/Love Stories
Bill Staines- Tracks and Trails
Jody Stecher & Kate Brislin- Our Town
Happy & Artie Traum- Hard Times in the Country
Guy Van Duser & Billy Novick- Exactly Like Us
Dave Van Ronk- Sunday Street
Doc Watson- Sittin’ Here Pickin’ the Blues

--Mike Regenstreif

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Robin Greenstein -- Images of Women Vol. 2

Images of Women Vol. 2

Back in 2003, Robin Greenstein, who is best known as a contemporary singer-songwriter, released an impressive album of traditional folksongs whose protagonists or narrators were all women. I assumed from the album title – Images of Women Vol. 1 – that it would not be Robin’s only Images of Women album which, I recall, she verified to me in an e-mail. I then mentioned in my Sing Out! Magazine review of Vol. 1 that I was eagerly awaiting the second volume.

Finally, seven years later, Images of Women Vol. 2 has been released and it’s another collection of mostly-traditional songs centred on women. But while the songs are mostly from the traditional canon, Robin arranges them in a contemporary vein with a respect for the tradition. Rather than trying to sound authentic to the time and place of the songs’ origins, Robin makes them her own. She plays guitar, banjo and synths and gets able support from the likes of bassist Barry Wiesenfeld on bass, fiddler Dan Collins, Adam Carper on harmonica, Lisa McDivitt on recorder and harp, and percussionist Cheryl Prashker (who is one of the rare drummers who really understands how to play with folk-rooted acoustic musicians).

Some of my favourite tracks on Vol. 2 are “The Whore’s Lament,” a gritty variant of “The Unfortunate Rake” family of songs that I used to hear Hedy West sing, and that’s very close to a variant called “The Bad Girl’s Lament,” that Rosalie Sorrels sings; “Born in the Country,” Judy Roderick’s adaptation of Rabbit Brown’s “James Alley Blues; “Frankie and Johnny,” a traditional blues-ballad about a scorned woman who kills her philandering lover; and the classic warning song, “Come All You Fair and Tender Ladies,” which features some nice harmonies from Janice Hubbard.

Along with the traditional material, Robin includes several composed songs including Woody Guthrie’s “Union Maid,” which includes an added verse I didn’t recognize about Sarah Ogan Gunning, the singer of traditional ballads and labour songs (who I met and worked with as a folk festival volunteer in the mid-1970s); “I’m Gonna Be an Engineer,” Peggy Seeger’s feminist anthem; and “Good Thing He Can’t Read My Mind,” Christine Lavin’s hilarious song sung by a woman who lets us know what she really thinks about some of the stuff she’s doing or eating for the sake of love.

Something that I really like about albums like this is that they’re a reminder that folk music has a rich history and that today’s contemporary artists are, as the Weavers sang, “travelling in the footsteps of those who came before,” and that it’s always a good time to go back and listen to the sources.

--Mike Regenstreif

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mose Allison -- The Way of the World

The Way of the World

Back about 30 years ago, Mose Allison used to come through town occasionally and his shows were absolutely required listening to we who knew we were musically hip (or, at least, thought we were). We’d sit in really bad joints like the Rising Sun and listen to him play – sometimes with local pickup musicians who couldn’t quite figure out his timing – great original tunes like “Your Mind is on Vacation,” probably the ultimate putdown song, “Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy,” “Your Molecular Structure,” and “Parchman Farm,” or a weird, jazzy covers of surprising choices like Hank Williams’ “Hey Good Lookin’” or “You Are My Sunshine.”

We all thought that Mose was one of the hippest old guys we’d ever encountered (actually, Mose then, would have been younger than I am now). Now, at age 82, and on his first studio album in 12 years, Mose is still one of the hippest guys around as he plays his patented blend of blues and jazz with occasional suggestions of country and folk.

That hipness is obvious right from the get-go on The Way of the World when Mose opens with “My Brain,” on which he puts original lyrics to the template of Willie Dixon’s “My Babe” to wittily expound on the efficaciousness of his aging brain cells (of which there is no doubt).

Mose is still a terrific piano player – listen to “Crush,” a Monkish instrumental – and he’s still singing with that distinctive and unmistakable Mose Allison phrasing.

Among the highlights are original songs like “Modest Proposal,” a sly indictment of all those who presume to speak on behalf of God, and “The Way of the World,” co-written with producer Joe Henry, a bit of homespun philosophy from someone who’s been around long to have a handle on the ways of the world; and such covers as “I’m Alright,” Loudon Wainwright III’s kiss-off to an ex, and “Everybody Thinks You’re an Angel,” written by daughter Amy Allison and featuring some very nice, folkish slide guitar playing by Greg Leisz.

Speaking of Amy Allison, father and daughter do an odd, but charming, duet on Buddy Johnson’s “This New Situation,” that, coming at the very end of the album, almost seems like a passing of the torch.

--Mike Regenstreif

This week in Folk Roots/Folk Branches history (March 23-March 29)

Folk Roots/Folk Branches with Mike Regenstreif was a Thursday tradition on CKUT in Montreal for nearly 14 years from February 3, 1994 until August 30, 2007. Folk Roots/Folk Branches continued as occasional features on CKUT and is now a blog. Here’s the 30th instalment of “This week in Folk Roots/Folk Branches,” a weekly look back continuing through next August at some of the most notable guests, features and moments in Folk Roots/Folk Branches history.

March 23, 1995: Extended feature- Songs of Hank Williams.
March 27, 1997: Guests- Mack MacKenzie & J.P. Leduc.
March 25, 1999: Guests- Eric Andersen; Bill Garrett.
March 28, 2002: Guests- Garnet Rogers & Marcus Vichert.
March 27, 2003: Guests- David Francey & Dave Clarke; Extended feature- Tom Russell & Andrew Hardin recorded in concert in Montreal, part three.
March 25, 2004: Extended feature- Tribute to the late Rick Fielding.
March 23, 2006: Guests- Colin Linden.
March 29, 2007: Guests- Matt Large & Guy Donis of Notre Dame de Grass.
March 27, 2008 (Folk Roots/Folk Branches feature): New Songs From Old Friends.

Pictured: Mike Regenstreif and Matt Large at the Green Room in Montreal.

--Mike Regenstreif

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The quiet power of Jesse Winchester

Last night I watched my friend Jesse Winchester share a guitar pull on Elvis Costello’s Spectacle TV show with Elvis Costello, Ron Sexsmith, Sheryl Crow and Neko Case.

Jesse stole the hearts of his fellow artists and the audience – and me, and I’m sure, just about everybody else watching at home – with the quiet, powerful and unique way he has of riveting and moving people with his superb songs and oh so soulful singing.

I’ve been listening to Jesse and watching him do this since the first time I saw him live back in 1969; including countless times at concerts of his that I’ve produced and/or MCed (for the first time in 1974) and at festivals we’ve been part of together.

Watch and listen to this video from Spectacle of Jesse singing “Sham-A-Ling-Dong-Ding,” and see how intently Elvis Costello is drawn into the song. Then, as the song ends, watch the effect it has on Neko Case.

Jesse will  be performing in Toronto, April 9-10, at Hugh's Room, and in Kingston, April 17, at the Octave Theatre.

Pictured: Mike Regenstreif and Jesse Winchester in 2006 at the Sala Rossa in Montreal.

--Mike Regenstreif

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Chieftains -- San Patricio

San Patricio
Hear Music

Let me get my one significant quibble about this album out of the way first. The artist billing on the CD cover of San Patricio is The Chieftains featuring Ry Cooder. But Cooder only plays on four of the 19 songs – including “The Sands of Mexico,” which he wrote and sings. His main contribution was co-producing the album with Paddy Moloney, the chief Chieftain. So don’t approach this album expecting to hear lots of Ry Cooder.

What you will hear, though, is the Chieftains collaborating with many other singers and bands in a unique fusion of Irish and Mexican folk music that is meant to recall the San Patricios, a small band of American soldiers – mostly recent Irish immigrants, but also from other countries, as well as some runaway slaves – who deserted from the American Army to fight for the Mexicans in the Mexican-American War of 1846-48. After their last stand against the Americans, many of the surviving San Patricios were hung as traitors by the Americans while others were allowed to live after having their faces branded with the letter D for deserter. The San Patricios were reviled by the Americans but revered as folk heroes by the Irish and the Mexicans.

The actual story of the San Patricios is told in two of the album’s tracks: Cooder’s “The Sands of Mexico,” written and sung from the perspective of an Irish San Patricio soldier about to hanged who tells his story and states his conviction that history will absolve the San Patricios; and “March to the Battle (Across the Rio Grande),” featuring actor Liam Neeson’s narration in a poetic tribute to the perceived heroism of the San Patricios.

Other songs, mostly Mexican, some Irish, mostly traditional, some composed, feature the Chieftains musically interacting with some of the greatest Mexican or Mexican-American singers and musicians in a representation of the Irish-Mexican cultural fusion suggested by the idea of the San Patricios fighting for the Mexicans.

The combination of the Chieftains with their collaborators is brilliant, exciting and thrilling. Singer Lila Downs is heard on two exciting Mexican folksongs, “La Iguana” and “El Relampago,” while Linda Ronstadt’s singing on “A La Orilla de Un Palmar” is a thing of great beauty. Another of the most thrilling vocal tracks is “Ojitos Negros,” featuring the voices of Los Cenzontles singing almost a cappella but for Paddy Moloney’s pipe drones. “Persecución de Villa,” featuring the Mariachi Santa Fe de Jesus (Chuy) Guzman is a great track that has the Mariachi musicians interacting with the Chieftains on a song about the Mexican Revolution of 1910 (obviously not one that would have been sung at the time of the San Patricios). I could on about virtually every cut on the album.

The Chieftains have done many albums over the years that feature them in various collaborations. San Patricio is one of the most interesting and most exciting projects in their deep discography.

--Mike Regenstreif

Karan Casey & John Doyle -- Exile's Return

Exile’s Return

Exile’s Return, one of the finest of recent sets of traditional and contemporary – yet traditionally-oriented – Irish songs is an intimate, yet exciting collaboration by two exceptional figures in Irish music: singer Karan Casey and singer-guitarist John Doyle. The pair had previously worked together in the band Solas and there is a musical affinity for each other that is obvious in each of the tracks they share.

In keeping with the album’s title, several songs relate to the mass Irish emigration to America at the time of the Irish potato famine in the 19th century. They include the title track, written and played by John, but sung by Karan as a woman about to sail into exile, “Sailing Off to the Yankee Land,” which expresses a hopefulness about the Irish immigrant’s life about to be experienced in America, and “Sally Grier,” sung by John from the perspective of a survivor of a shipwrecked boat en route from Ireland to Quebec who is comforted by the memories of Sally Grier, the woman he left behind, and hopes to return to in Ireland. “The Shipyard Slips,” a farewell song also sung by John, deals with emigration made necessary by a man's work in the shipyards running out.

Among the other standouts on the CD are “Out of the Window,” a variant of “She Moved Through the Fair,” that receives a stunning a cappella interpretation from Karan, and “The Flower of Finae,” an epic ballad poignantly sung by Karan about a woman whose life is destroyed when her young lover goes off to war and never returns.

--Mike Regenstreif

This week in Folk Roots/Folk Branches history (March 16-March 22)

Folk Roots/Folk Branches with Mike Regenstreif was a Thursday tradition on CKUT in Montreal for nearly 14 years from February 3, 1994 until August 30, 2007. Folk Roots/Folk Branches continued as occasional features on CKUT and is now a blog. Here’s the 29th instalment of “This week in Folk Roots/Folk Branches,” a weekly look back continuing through next August at some of the most notable guests, features and moments in Folk Roots/Folk Branches history.

March 17, 1994: Extended feature- Irish music.
March 16, 1995: Extended feature- Irish music.
March 20, 1997: Extended feature- Klezmer music.
March 19, 1998: Guest- Bill Bourne.
March 18, 1999: Guest- Tom Russell. Special presentation- Tom Russell’s folk-opera, The Man from God Knows Where.
March 16, 2000: Extended feature- Irish music.
March 20, 2003: Extended feature- Tom Russell & Andrew Hardin recorded in concert in Montreal, part two.
March 18, 2004: Guest- Heather Rose Bridger.
March 16, 2006: Guests- The Duhks.
March 20, 2008 (Folk Roots/Folk Branches feature): Tribute to the late Willie P. Bennett.

Pictured: Tom Russell, Mike Regenstreif and Andrew Hardin at the Green Room in Montreal.

--Mike Regenstreif

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Jenny Whiteley -- Forgive or Forget

Forgive or Forget
Black Hen

Forgive or Forget, Jenny Whiteley’s fourth solo album – she started her career as one of the lead singers in Heartbreak Hill, a bluegrass band – is a quiet, subtle record filled with songs that examine love and relationships from a variety of angles.

Jenny opens the album with a melancholy, but sweet, version of “Raining In My Heart,” a Felice and Boudleaux Bryant song first recorded more than half a century ago by Buddy Holly. It’s the album’s only cover tune, the rest of the songs were either written or co-written by Jenny.

Among my favourite tracks are “Cold, Cold Kisses,” which almost seems like it could be a Hank Williams song; “Truth and the Eyes of the Dead,” featuring some truly haunting guitar playing by producer Steve Dawson, in which the narrator advises someone to “get out while you can” because it just ain’t gonna happen; and “Ripple Effect,” one of the few upbeat songs in the set and one of a couple that features harmonies from Tim O’Brien, one of my favourite singers for many years.

Jenny’s first two albums won Juno Awards for Solo Roots/Traditional Album of the Year. Those awards set high expectations for her subsequent recordings, expectations that Forgive or Forget meets or exceeds.

Among Jenny’s upcoming concert dates are shows at Divan Orange in Montreal on March 27 (Rob Lutes shares the bill) and the Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield, QC near Ottawa on March 28.

--Mike Regenstreif

This week in Folk Roots/Folk Branches history (March 9-March 15)

Folk Roots/Folk Branches with Mike Regenstreif was a Thursday tradition on CKUT in Montreal for nearly 14 years from February 3, 1994 until August 30, 2007. Folk Roots/Folk Branches continued as occasional features on CKUT and is now a blog. Here’s the 28th instalment of “This week in Folk Roots/Folk Branches,” a weekly look back continuing through next August at some of the most notable guests, features and moments in Folk Roots/Folk Branches history.

March 9, 1995: Show theme- Voices of Women.
March 14, 1996: Extended feature- Irish and Irish-oriented music.
March 13, 1997: Extended feature- Irish and Irish-oriented music.
March 9, 2000: Show theme- Voices of Women.
March 15, 2001: Guest- Duke Robillard.
March 13, 2003: Guests- Linda Morrison & Andrew Cowan. Special feature- Tom Russell & Andrew Hardin recorded in concert in Montreal, part one.
March 10, 2005: Guest- Kenny White.
March 15, 2007: Guest- Thomas Hellman.

--Mike Regenstreif

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Eric Bibb -- Booker's Guitar

Booker’s Guitar

Three years ago, I wrote in the Montreal Gazette, that if there’s a more inspiring, or inspired, acoustic blues artist than Eric Bibb working today, I’ve no idea who it might be. Eric’s magnificent singing, his deft guitar work and his original songs can’t help but make anyone feel better about life.

I still think that.

Eric’s new album, Booker’s Guitar, is a back to basics set. Of the 15 songs, six feature Eric playing solo. The superb harmonica player Grant Dermody is the only other musician on the other nine songs – and, boy, do I like hearing Eric in this context. Thirteen of the songs are Eric’s originals, all steeped, some way or another, in the folk blues tradition. He also does superb versions of “Wayfaring Stranger” and Blind Willie Johnson’s “Nobody’s Fault But Mine.”

The album opens with the title track, a partly-spoken, partly-sung piece inspired by Delta blues pioneer Booker (Bukka) White and by Eric’s getting to play a National steel guitar that had been owned by him. Eric plays the guitar on the track. (A personal reminiscence: In 1974, as a 20-year-old stage manager at the Mariposa Folk Festival, I got to meet and work with Bukka White, who, by the way, was an older cousin and guitar teacher of B.B. King. He died just a few years later.)

Speaking of B.B. King and his connection to Bukka White, Eric includes a new version of “Tell Riley,” a song he wrote about King’s early days that mentions White. Eric first recorded it on Natural Light, another great album.

Among my other favourites – truth be told, every song is really a favourite – are “Flood Water,” about the legendary Mississippi River flood of 1927 (which has so many parallels with the Katrina flood of 2005); “New Home,” which musically or lyrically evokes “Alabama Bound” and “Michigan Water Blues,” both done back in the day by Jelly Roll Morton; “Walkin’ Blues Again,” a song inspired by the use of music by the early blues musicians to cope with the overt racism and exploitation they faced. Obviously, from the song title, there’s a nod to Robert Johnson’s “Walkin’ Blues.” There’s also a great verse inspired by “John Henry”; and, “Turning Pages,” about the joys of reading books.

As I mentioned, the only other musician is harmonica master Grant Dermody. Grant’s playing is always creative – I especially like his use of chromatic harmonica on “Flood Waters” – and complements Eric’s singing and playing beautifully. Eric and Grant’s playing together is some of the finest guitar-harmonica duo work since Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee were in their prime.

--Mike Regenstreif

Kate Rusby is coming to Canada

Kate Rusby, perhaps the finest folksinger to emerge in England in the 1990s, rarely performs in North America but will be doing a limited number of Canadian concert dates this month including shows in Montreal (Thursday, March 11 at Cabaret Just pour rire as part of the Wintergreen Concert Series) and Toronto (Sunday-Monday, March 14-15 at Hugh’s Room).

I love Kate's records -- the ones she made as a member of the Poozies -- and her many solo albums. She is a beautiful singer who understands traditional folk music and is also a fine songwriter whose work reflects that understanding of traditional music. I wish I could be there but, unfortunately, I won’t be in Montreal next Thursday and can’t make it to Toronto or any of the other places she’s playing on this brief tour. If you can make it, don’t miss her.

--Mike Regenstreif

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Po' Girl -- No Shame tour

I’ve been listening to, enjoying and admiring Po’ Girl since they first formed as a duo of Allison Russell, originally from Montreal, who’d been in the Vancouver Celtic band, Fear of Drinking, and Trish Klein, one of the Be Good Tanyas. Not long after their first album came out in 2003, they toured to Montreal and were my guests on Folk Roots/Folk Branches. By then, Po’ Girl was a trio with the addition of fiddler Diona Davies.

There’ve been personnel changes over the years with Alli, a very musical singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, being the constant presence through all versions of Po’ Girl. For the past several years, Alli’s main collaborator has been Awna Teixeira, another very musical singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. These days Po’ Girl also includes a couple of guys – Benny Sidelinger, who also plays a bunch of different instruments, and percussionist Mikey “Lightning” August.

Their upcoming tour takes its name from “No Shame,” a very brave song that Alli wrote about the decade of sexual abuse she suffered as a child from her adopted father, about the years it took her to come to terms with that abuse, about a mother’s dependency on the man who destroyed her daughter’s childhood, and about Alli’s survivor’s resolve not to let the abuse destroy the rest of her life. “I won't be sad, I won't be silent, I won't let him steal my joy,” she defiantly sings at the end of the last two verses.

The Canadian dates on Po’ Girl’s No Shame tour are a fundraiser for Little Warriors, a national organization dedicated to helping adults "prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse." The U.S. dates will benefit the National Children's Alliance, an organization also dedicated to stopping child abuse.

Among the nearby concert dates are stops at Hugh’s Room in Toronto (Wednesday, March 10); the Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield, QC near Ottawa (Friday, March 12) and L’Astral in Montreal (Saturday, March 13). The full itinerary with concert and ticket details is at pogirl.net.

--Mike Regenstreif

This week in Folk Roots/Folk Branches history (March 2-March 8)

Folk Roots/Folk Branches with Mike Regenstreif was a Thursday tradition on CKUT in Montreal for nearly 14 years from February 3, 1994 until August 30, 2007. Folk Roots/Folk Branches continued as occasional features on CKUT and is now a blog. Here’s the 27th instalment of “This week in Folk Roots/Folk Branches,” a weekly look back continuing through next August at some of the most notable guests, features and moments in Folk Roots/Folk Branches history.

March 2, 1995: Extended feature- David Essig.
March 7, 1996: Show theme- Voices of Women.
March 6, 1997: Show theme- Voices of Women.
March 5, 1998: Guest- Garnet Rogers.
March 2, 2000: Extended feature- The Martins and the Coys, a ballad opera produced for the BBC by Alan Lomax in 1944.
March 8, 2001: Show theme- Voices of Women.
March 2, 2006: Guest- Harlan Johnson of Grouyan Gombo.
March 8, 2007: Show theme- Voices of Women.
March 5, 2009 (Folk Roots/Folk Branches feature): In praise of Tom Paxton, Part 1.

Pictured: Mike Regenstreif and Tom Paxton (2009).

--Mike Regenstreif

Monday, March 1, 2010

Ball & Chain -- Louisiana Love Bug

Louisiana Love Bug
Ball & Chain

Cajun-inspired music dominates much of Louisiana Love Bug, the latest album by Ottawa’s Ball & ChainMichael Ball and Jody Benjamin – a duo well known for their excellent take on traditional country music.

In fact, the album was recorded in Louisiana and features back-up from several musicians well-known in Cajun and Zydeco music circles including Dirk Powell of Balfa Toujours who variously plays guitar, bass, piano and accordion; Zydeco accordionist Corey Ledet; pedal steel player Richard Comeaux; and guitarist Mark Trichka. Michael plays fiddle, mandolin, bass and viola, while Jody’s on guitar and triangle.

Either Michael or Jody wrote six of the album’s 13 songs and several including Michael’s kick-off tune “Yessirree,” a high octane rhythmic workout driven by Ledet’s accordion, and Jody’s “Whirlybird,” which starts out in waltz-time and then kicks into high gear, are firmly in Cajun mode. Jody’s “He’s Already Gone,” sounds like a classic country song from decades ago.

Speaking of classic country, they also do fine versions of Roger Miller’s “A Girl Like Me,” Wayne Kemp’s “Love Bug,” and “Open Pit Mine,” an almost folk-like song recorded in 1962 by George Jones.

The album was produced by Dirk Powell, a great musician who’s been in several folk festival workshops I’ve hosted over the years. When Linda Ronstadt was a guest on Folk Roots/Folk Branches in 2006, she was raving about Dirk who had just played on Adieu False Heart, the Zozo Sisters album she’d made with Ann Savoy.

Ball & Chain will be performing Sunday, March 7, 7:00 pm, as part of the Spirit of Rasputin’s concert series at the Elmdale House Tavern, 1084 Wellington Street West, in Ottawa. They’ll open the show and then team up with Michael Jerome Browne as the Twin Rivers String Band.

--Mike Regenstreif