Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Saturday Morning with Mike Regenstreif – CKCU – Saturday January 2, 2021

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 live at 93.1 FM in Ottawa and https://www.ckcufm.com/ on the web.

This episode of Saturday Morning was prerecorded at home and can already be streamed on-demand at … https://cod.ckcufm.com/programs/128/50318.html


Robin Greenstein- Happy New Year
Tears and Laughter (Windy)

Reverend Gary Davis- I’m Going to Sit Down On the Banks of the River
Children of Zion (Kicking Mule)
Andy Cohen- Tryin’ to Get Home
Tryin’ to Get Home (Earwig)
Marc Nerenberg- Little Birdie: A Reimagined Traditional Song
Little Birdie: Birds, Beasts & Banjo Blues (Marc Nerenberg)
Orit Shimoni- Sweet By and By
Strange and Beautiful Things (Orit Shimoni)

Katy Moffatt- The Game
Chrysalis (Sunset Blvd. Records)
Tom Russell- Walking on the Moon
Old Songs Yet to Sing (Frontera)
Shari Ulrich- Everywhere I Go
Everywhere I Go (Borealis)
Rod MacDonald- Maggie
Boulevard (Blue Flute Music)

Samoa Wilson with The Jim Kweskin Band- (I Just Want to Be) Horizontal
I Just Want to Be Horizontal (Kingswood)
Original Sloth Band- How Long Blues
Whoopee After Midnight (Sloth)
Jackie Washington- Gotta Go
The World of Jackie Washington (Borealis)

Madison Cunningham- Hold On
Wednesday (Verve Forecast)
VickiKristinaBarcelona- I Don’t Wanna Grow Up
Pawn Shop Radio (StorySound)
Missy Burgess with The Blue Train- Come On Up to the House
Live (Missy Burgess)

Extended feature – The next 10 songs are drawn from my choices for the Top 10 folk-rooted and folk-branched albums of 2020. Click on this link to see the annotated list.

Suzzy Roche & Lucy Wainwright Roche- I Think I Am a Soul
I Can Still Hear You (StorySound)

Kronos Quartet with Sam Amidon, Brian Carpenter, Lee Knight & Aoife O'Donovan- Turn, Turn, Turn
Long Time Passing: Kronos Quartet & Friends Celebrate Pete Seeger (Smithsonian Folkways)

Lynn Miles- Because We Love
We’ll Look for Stars (Must Have Music)

Steel Rail- If By Midnight
Coming Home (Crossties)

Eliza Gilkyson- Peace in Our Hearts
2020 (Red House)

Leyla McCalla
- Manman Mwen
Vari-Colored Songs: A Tribute to Langston Hughes (Smithsonian Folkways)

John McCutcheon- Vespers
Cabin Fever: Songs from the Quarantine (Appalsongs)

Bob Dylan- Murder Most Fowl
Rough and Rowdy Ways (Columbia)

Laura Smith- As Long As I’m Dreaming
As Long As I’m Dreaming (Borealis)

Joni Mitchell- Both Sides Now (with intro conversation with Gene Shay)
Archives – Volume 1: The Early Years (1963-1967) (Rhino)

Ma Rainey- Stack O’Lee Blues
The Rough Guide to the Roots of the Blues (World Music Network)
Penny Lang- Barrelhouse Blues
Live at the Yellow Door (She-Wolf)
Saffire-The Uppity Blues Women- Yonder Comes the Blues
Old, New, Borrowed & Blue (Alligator)
Odetta- Hear Me Talking to You
Blues Everywhere I Go (M.C.)
Maxayn Lewis- Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom: Music from the Netflix Film (Milan)

Maria Dunn- Joyful Banner Blazing
Joyful Banner Blazing (Distant Whisper)
Mercedes Sosa- Gracias a la Vida
Disco de Oro (Philips)

Bruce Murdoch- Angels in My Heart
Matters of the Heart (Bruce Murdoch)
Ian Hanchet- Forever Young
Dealin’ from the Bottom (of My Heart) (Ian Hanchet)
Maria Dunn- Beautiful Fools
Joyful Banner Blazing (Distant Whisper)

Dave Van Ronk with Billy Novick, Jay Ungar, Luke Faust, Mark Greenberg & Gordon Stone- Peter and the Wolf
Peter and the Wolf (Alacazam)

Guy Van Duser & Billy Novick- Sing On!
30th Anniversary Concert (Poor Jack)

I’ll be hosting Saturday Morning next on January 30.

Find me on Twitter. www.twitter.com/mikeregenstreif

And on Facebook. facebook.com/mikeregenstreif

--Mike Regenstreif

Monday, December 28, 2020

Leonard Cohen – Untold Stories: The Early Years

Leonard Cohen – Untold Stories: The Early Years
By Michael Posner
Simon and Schuster
482 pages                                                                 simonandschuster.ca

(A slightly different version of this review was previously published by the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin.)

By the time I was a teenager in Montreal in the late-1960s, Leonard Cohen – who was 20 years older than me – was already a legendary, if not mythological figure. His first LP, Songs of Leonard Cohen, was released right about the time I was developing a serious interest in both folk music and the contemporary singer-songwriters whose work was somewhat rooted in the folk tradition. So, I began a lifelong relationship with Cohen’s music that has only grown stronger and stronger over more than half a century. And, as a high school and college student, I also read much of his earlier work: multiple volumes of poetry and two novels.

I’ve also had several brief encounters and conversations with Cohen over the years in Montreal and always found him to be exceptionally gracious.

While I’ve read previous biographies of Leonard Cohen, I was anxious to read Michael Posner’s Leonard Cohen – Untold Stories: The Early Years as it’s essentially an edited oral history told through the memories of several hundred people who knew Cohen when he was growing up in Montreal, while he was a student and summer camp counsellor, as a young poet and novelist, and in the first couple of years of his emergence as a major singer-songwriter. The book’s chronology ends in 1970 and two forthcoming volumes of Untold Stories will cover subsequent years. Adding to my interest was that among Posner’s sources are more than two dozen people I know or have known at some point over the years – some of whom (including my cousin, Marilyn Regenstreif Schiff) are people I never knew had a connection with Cohen, while some (like singer Judy Collins) tell stories that I’ve heard directly from them before.

The portrait that emerges over almost 500 pages is of a complex and creative individual shaped by family and circumstance and driven by both spirituality – and a need to find it (the time period of this volume includes Cohen’s brief dalliance with Scientology) – and demons (he is self-medicated with copious amounts of drugs). His transformation from poet and novelist to singer and songwriter is fascinating.

Cohen seems both intensely loyal on some levels and unable to commit on others – particularly in his many relationships with many women, most notably Marianne Ihlen, with whom he had an ongoing, but-mostly-off, relationship through most of the 1960s.

While the stories of Cohen’s many dalliances with women in this book took place in the 1950s and ‘60s, a time of growing sexual freedom and revolution, Cohen sometimes (too often) comes across as predatory in the way he treated women – particularly younger, less experienced women who may have been in awe of him. Reading about some of these encounters is particularly disturbing after all of the #metoo revelations of the past few years.

It’s also interesting to note that some of Posner’s sources had contradictory recollections of the same events and he leaves it to the reader to decide which version is more credible. Of course, given that the events under discussion took place 50, 60, 70, or more years ago, the memories many of the sources will be embellished or diminished by time or, in some cases, wishful thinking.

While the voices of several people who knew Leonard Cohen best in those years – such as his sister Esther Cohen, who died in 2014, or his close lifelong friend, the sculptor Morton Rosengarten – are regrettably absent from the book, it is fascinating (and, occasionally, frustrating) to read the “untold stories” of witnesses who were there for the first half of Cohen’s life. I’m looking forward to Michael Posner’s second and third volumes.

Find me on Twitter. www.twitter.com/mikeregenstreif

And on Facebook. facebook.com/mikeregenstreif

Mike Regenstreif

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Top 10 for 2020

Here are my picks for the Top 10 folk-rooted or folk-branched albums of 2020. As in past years, I started with the list of hundreds of new albums (including reissues) that I listened to over the past year and narrowed it down to a short list of about 30. I’ve been over the short list several times over the past couple of weeks and came up with several similar – not identical – Top 10 lists. Today’s list is the final one. The order might have been slightly different, and there are several other worthy albums that might have been included, had one of the other lists represented the final choice.

Joni MitchellArchives – Volume 1: The Early Years (1963-1967) (Rhino). When we first meet 20-year-old Saskatoon folksinger Joni Mitchell (then Joan Anderson) in a 1963 radio station demo session and at a coffeehouse concert the following year, on the first of this set’s five CDs, she was singing traditional songs and a couple of Woody Guthrie classics, accompanying herself on a ukulele. In short order, though, through more demo recordings, radio and TV show appearances, and live sets, we hear her rapid development into one of the most accomplished singer-songwriters of our time and, through her use of open tunings, an influential guitarist as well. Many of the songs would later appear on Joni’s first four albums and some are rarities not heard for more than a half-century.


2. Laura Smith
As Long As I’m Dreaming (Borealis). The untimely loss of beloved folksinger and singer-songwriter Laura Smith from pancreatic cancer in March was one of the first blows in what became a most difficult year. Last year, Laura began work on assembling a best-of collection and, indeed, 11 of the 18 excellent songs on this set are drawn from the four albums – Laura Smith, B’tween the Earth and My Soul, It’s a Personal Thing and Everything is Moving – she released between 1989 and 2013. There are also three superb songs recorded in the 1970s; a poignant version of “Passchendaele,” Tony Quarington’s song inspired by devastating Canadian losses in a First World War battle; a jazz standard; and two sublime new songs, including the title track, recorded just weeks before Laura passed.


3. Bob Dylan
Rough and Rowdy Ways (Columbia). On his first album of new songs in eight years, Bob Dylan, at 79, has given us his some of his most fascinating songs in decades. From the opening song, “I Contain Multitudes,” an exploration of complicated identity, to the final, epic song, “Murder Most Foul,” ostensibly about the assassination of John F. Kennedy, but also much about iconic music, cinema and literature, Dylan continues to use a musical foundation drawing on folk music, blues and the Great American Songbook composers to complement his often-spellbinding lyrics.




4. John McCutcheon
Cabin Fever: Songs from the Quarantine (Appalsongs). John McCutcheon spent the early months of the COVID-19 lockdown writing and recording songs that astutely capture, in one way or another, the experiences that most of us have shared in these strange days. Among the highlights of these 17 songs are the poignant “Front Line,” written from the perspective of a healthcare worker on the frontlines during the first few weeks of the pandemic; “The Night John Prine Died,” which expresses the sorrow so many of us felt at the loss, from COVID, of one of our greatest singer-songwriters; and “My Dog Talking Blues,” which gives us something to smile about at a time when something to smile about is desperately needed.


5. Leyla McCalla
Vari-Colored Songs: A Tribute to Langston Hughes (Smithsonian Folkways). This compelling album, an expanded version of Leyla McCalla’s first solo album released by Music Maker Relief Foundation in 2014, includes Leyla’s musical settings of poems by Langston Hughes, as well as other original songs, and several traditional Haitian folk songs. Singing and playing cello, banjo and guitar, Leyla’s powerful performances draw the listener in – whether on pieces like Hughes’ “Song for a Dark Girl,” an explicit exploration of racism and lynching which takes on even more meaning in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, or “Manman Mwen,” a young girl’s lament over an unwanted pregnancy.



6. Eliza Gilkyson
2020 (Red House). Even though Eliza Gilkyson recorded this album before the pandemic, much of it obviously as food-for-thought in the American election year, the album does capture the zeitgeist of 2020, beginning in the first verse of the first song, “Promises to Keep,” when she sings, “I’ve been crying in the dark of night/I can’t find my way to sleep/Thoughts and prayers will never make things right/And I have promises to keep.” Among the other outstanding songs is “Beach Haven,” which Eliza adapted from a letter written in 1952 by Woody Guthrie, to Fred Trump, his racist landlord, after discovering Trump would not rent to non-whites.



7. Steel Rail
Coming Home (Crossties). Finally, 15 years after their third album, Steel Rail – the trio of Dave Clarke (lead guitar, harmony vocals), Tod Gorr (guitar, lead and harmony vocals) and Ellen Shizgal (bass, lead and harmony vocals) – has released its fourth album combining finely-crafted songs (all three contribute songs, some in collaboration with Lucinda Chodan) with sublime singing and playing from the three-way corner of folk, bluegrass and country music.





8. Lynn Miles
We’ll Look for Stars (Must Have Music). As she sings in “Old Soul,” Lynn Miles “knows how to spot trouble and heartache a mile away. She doesn’t ignore it, she goes and explores it, to see what it has to say.” Indeed, in this set of 11 fine songs, Lynn combines astute observations about affairs of the heart and the state of our troubled world with beautiful melodies and always-gorgeous singing. And, as she reveals in the album’s finale, it’s “because we love,” that it’s all worthwhile.





9. Kronos Quartet
Long Time Passing: Kronos Quartet and Friends Celebrate Pete Seeger (Smithsonian Folkways). To pay tribute to the great Pete Seeger, the Kronos Quartet, for decades among the most visionary and daring of classical ensembles, with help from singers Sam Amidon, Maria Arnal, Brian Carpenter, Lee Knight, Meklit, and Aoife O’Donovan has gloriously reimagined a group of songs from Pete’s repertoire (plus “The President Sang Amazing Grace,” a song they note, “could not exist but for the life’s work of Pete Seeger”). As well, there is the album’s centerpiece, “Storyteller,” an extended audio collage created by Jacob Garchik which uses Pete’s own voice, among others, to tell some of his story.


10. Suzzy Roche & Lucy Wainwright Roche
I Can Still Hear You (StorySound). In many ways, it almost seems as if the mother-daughter duo of Suzzy Roche and Lucy Wainwright Roche is carrying on the traditions of The Roches, the longstanding trio that Suzzy formed with her sisters, the late Maggie Roche, and Terre Roche, in the 1970s. Like The Roches, Suzzy and Lucy give us unique, sometimes quirky songs (and I use the word “quirky” in the most complementary of ways) dressed up in often stunning harmonies. Among the highlights here are Lucy’s title song, which I interpret as a plea, in these COVID times, to remember one another and those we’ve lost; Suzzy’s “Joseph D,” a commentary on an abusive husband that I also hear as an indictment of trumpian behavior; “Factory Girl,” a traditional Irish folk song recorded four decades ago by The Roches; and “Jane,” a previously unrecorded song of Maggie Roche’s.

I will be featuring songs from each of these albums when I host the Saturday Morning program on CKCU on Saturday, January 2, 7-10 am. (The program is now available 24/7 for on-demand streaming at this link.)

Find me on Twitter. www.twitter.com/mikeregenstreif

And on Facebook. facebook.com/mikeregenstreif

 –Mike Regenstreif

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Canadian Spaces – CKCU – Saturday December 5, 2020

CKCU can be heard at 93.1 FM in Ottawa and http://www.ckcufm.com/ on the web.

This particular show is now available for on-demand listening. https://cod.ckcufm.com/programs/129/50034.html

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) and is now hosted by Chris White who is often joined by a rotating cast of co-hosts.

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

Guests: Murray McLauchlan; Pat Moore (Christmas Goose).

Marc Nerenberg- The Coo-Coo: A Reimagined Traditional Song
Little Birdie: Birds, Beasts & Banjo Blues (Marc Nerenberg)

Ian & Sylvia- Nancy Whiskey
The Lost Tapes (Stony Plain)

Joni Mitchell- Born to Take the Highway
Archives – Volume 1: The Early Years 1963-1967 (Rhino)

Leonard Cohen- Listen to the Hummingbird
Thanks for the Dance (Columbia/Legacy)

SONiA disappear fear- Hallelujah
By My Silence (Disappear Records)

Orit Shimoni- George Street
Strange and Beautiful Things (Orit Shimoni)

Sussex- Drive
The Ocean Wide (Lucky Bear)

Catherine MacLellan & John Connolly- The Call
If It’s Alright With You: The Songs of Gene MacLellan (True North)

Bella White- The Hand of Your Raising
Just Like Leaving (Isabel White)

Jackie Washington- Gotta Go
The World of Jackie Washington (Borealis)

Gathering Sparks- Feathers and Wings
All That’s Real (Borealis)

Murray McLauchlan- The One Percent
The One Percent – single (Murray McLauchlan)


Ron Sexsmith- Gold in Them Hills
Cobblestone Runway (Nettwerk)


Frida's Brow- Skating Song
Christmas Platter (Christmas Goose)

David Keeble- Angels in the Snow
Christmas Goose (Christmas Goose)


Murray McLauchlan- I Live on a White Cloud
I Live on a White Could – single (Murray McLauchlan)

Murray McLauchlan- Pickin’ Up Mary Lou
Human Writes (True North)

Murray McLauchlan- Love Can’t Tell Time
Love Can’t Tell Time (True North)

Find me on Twitter. @MikeRegenstreif
And on Facebook. facebook.com/mikeregenstreif

--Mike Regenstreif