Metroland Christmas Gift Issue - 2000
CDs- Folk, Blues, Bluegrass, and Celtic Music
Reviewed by Glenn Weiser  

For several years I've written an annual roundup of CD holiday gift recommendations of folk, blues, bluegrass, and Celtic music CDs for Metroland. Even though these releases are now longer new they are still noteworthy - G.W.

Down in the back 40 of folk, bluegrass, blues, and Celtic music, this past year has seen a thriving crop of new releases and outstanding reissues alike. If you’re on a St. Nicholas assignment for a listener of these genres, here are some good bets, ranging from single CDs to box sets.

For the blueshound, you can’t miss with Riding With the King (Reprise 9 47612-2), the historic pairing of icons Eric Clapton and B. B. King. King pioneered the West Side Chicago blues sound in the early 1960’s with his stabbing guitar lines backed by horns and a rhythm section; soon thereafter the young Englishman Clapton wore holes in LPs copping the licks of B. B. and other bluesmen, and learned the craft so well that he was apotheosized in London graffiti. Here the two finally meet on record (they had jammed years before), and the results are stellar. Although some of the material has a decidedly rock edge, the duo’s guitar work is all firmly rooted in the blues

On the acoustic end of the blues spectrum, there’s Screamin’ and Hollerin’ the Blues (Shanachie 9026), anthology of prewar classics covered by contemporary artists including Paul Geremia, John Hammond, Corey Harris, Rishell and Raines, Debbie Davies, Duke Robillard, Otis Taylor and Toni Price. Although most the guitarists here are well known for their acoustic work, it’s also a treat to hear the usually electric Davies and Robillard unplug and get on down home.

Bluegrassers and of course Deadheads will love The Pizza Tapes (Acoustic Disc 41), the sole musical meeting of flower child Jerry Garcia and good ole boy Tony Rice (he keeps a portrait of John Wilkes Booth over his mantle back home in North Carolina) on guitars, joined by mandolinist David Grisman. On this home tape, a copy of which got boosted by a pizza delivery kid from Garcia’s house and disseminated from there, the trio serve up a glorious goulash of bluegrass and traditional songs. Jerry’s vocals are ragged but still soulful, and the picking is all just killer.

In the Celtic realm, Songs of the Green Linnet (Green Linnet 109) is an appealing new anthology of vocal music. Getting away from the usual jigs and reels for a bit, the label has taken all the best in ballads, airs, and love songs from their stable of talent in a 24 track, double CD featuring Andy M. Stewart, The Tannahill Weavers, Cherish the Ladies, Patrick Street, The Green Fields of America, Martin Carthy, Altan, June Tabor, and others.

 Another fine culling of traditional music is the 4 CD, 2 volume The Classic Ballads of Britain and Ireland (Rounder 11661-1775-1 & 2). The set contains 48 recordings of the famous Child Ballads, which are old unaccompanied storytelling songs of the British Isles collected in the late 19th century by Harvard professor Francis Child. They were recorded at pubs, firesides, and country cottages in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales from 1939 to 1968 by Peter Kennedy, Alan Lomax, Bob Copper, Seamus Ennis, and others. Some of these ballads date back to the High Middle Ages, and also rank as great literature because of the skillful way in the stories are told in a series of terse yet vivid images. Performing a wide range of love songs, work songs, dance tunes, sea shanties, children’s songs and airs are singers both famous and obscure such as Jeanie Robertson, Ewan MacColl, Bob and Ron Copper, Elizabeth Cronin, Thomas Moran, Willie Mathieson, Colm Keane, and John Strachan.

 For the folkie with leftist leanings (count me in), there’s no passing up the 5 CD box set The Best Of Broadside (Smithsonian Folkways 40130). Printed in a housing project and at first smuggled out in a baby carriage, Broadside was an underground folk music magazine published from 1962 to 1988 and was a forum for activist singer-songwriters whose originality had no place in the hidebound world of traditional folk music and whose politics were anathema to the commercial music business. Contributors included Bob Dylan, Janis Ian, Phil Ochs, Buffy St. Marie, Malvina Reynolds, and Pete Seeger. 82 songs first published in Broadside, some now very famous, are gathered in this collection, one of the best folk offerings in recent years.

List of Metroland Stories by Glenn Weiser   ©2000 by Glenn Weiser. All rights reserved.                      

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