Saturday, August 24, 2019

Ian & Sylvia – The Lost Tapes

The Lost Tapes
Stony Plain Records

As I wrote in 2017 when Tom Russell released Play One More: The Songs of Ian & Sylvia, “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 Findlay’s “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 had a weekly TV show on CTV in Canada from 1970 until 1975 – it was called “Nashville North” the first season before being renamed “The Ian Tyson Show” – that I always watched whenever I was home on the nights it aired (this was before the days of VCRs) and Sylvia was on the show often. Recently, Sylvia rediscovered a trove of live tapes from that era and worked with producer Danny Greenspoon (an old friend who started out on the Montreal folk scene around the same time as me) on assembling The Lost Tapes, a wonderful two-CD collection. Although there are no recording sources listed in the liner notes, I’m guessing most – if not all – of these tracks are from The Ian Tyson Show.

The first CD is labeled “Classics” and indeed all of these songs are both familiar – Ian & Sylvia recorded 10 of them on LPs back in the day – and fresh in these arrangements some of which have a fuller band sound than the original recordings.

Among my favorites on the first disc are versions of the traditional “When First Unto This Country” and “Come All You Fair and Tender Ladies,” on which their harmonies and Sylvia’s autoharp playing shine; “Darcy Farrow,” written by Steve Gillette and Tom Campbell in the style of a traditional folksong; and Ian’s classics “Four Rode By,” “Four Strong Winds” and “Summer Wages.”

I also enjoyed their versions of “The French Song,” a hit for Lucille Starr, and traditional songs “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and “I’ll Fly Away,” all of which are not on earlier Ian & Sylvia albums.

The 13 songs – many of them country classics – on the second CD labeled “Previously Unreleased” are also not on earlier Ian & Sylvia albums.

Some of my favorites the this disc include a countrified version of Tom Paxton’s “The Last Thing On My Mind”; Lefty Frizzell’s “That’s the Way Love Goes,” a then-current hit for Johnny Rodriguez; an uncharacteristic version of “Come On in My Kitchen,” a Robert Johnson blues; and Jimmie Rodgers “Jimmie’s Texas Blues.”

There are also duets of Sylvia singing with Lucille Starr on “Crying Time” and “Silver Threads and Golden Needles.”

The album ends with Ian singing lead on “The Goodnight Loving Trail,” Utah Phillips’ great song about a used-up cowboy relegated to chuckwagon duty on cattle drives in the 1860s. This performance of “The Goodnight Loving Trail” was a precursor to the decades Ian would spend – beginning in the 1980s and continuing to this day – as perhaps the greatest writer and interpreter of authentic cowboy music.

This album is a nice reminder of the historic importance of Ian & Sylvia to folk music and to the emergence of country rock.

Ian & Sylvia’s The Lost Tapes will be released on September 6.

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Mike Regenstreif

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