CD Review - North River, North Woods
Chris Shaw, Dan Berggren & John Kirk
By Glenn Weiser
Metroland, November 5
, 2009

North River, North Woods
Chris Shaw, John Kirk, and Dan Berggren


The cover photo of a mountain stream in winter sets the tone for the recording within: North River, North Woods, by upstate folkies Dan Berggren, John Kirk and Christopher Shaw, offers a tonic of traditional and contemporary acoustic music, much of it sounding like it originated in the 1800s, a time when large tracts of the Adirondack Mountains that the record celebrates had yet to be seriously explored.

Although the three have been mainstays of the local folk scene for years, this release marks the first time they’ve joined forces on an album. (Of the 17 tracks here, though, they play as a trio on only seven of them, the remainder being duets or solos.) Berggren, the songwriter and banjoist of the group, contributes six original tunes, while fiddler-mandolinist- guitarist-flautist Kirk serves as picker-in-chief. Although they all sing, Chris Shaw is easily the best vocalist here, his sturdy baritone bringing to mind Doc Watson’s resonant pipes. Berggren, Kirk, and Shaw are also joined by guest artists Garth Hudson (of The Band) on accordion, blueswoman Rory Block on harmony vocals, fiddle whiz Cedar Stanistreet and Finest Kind’s Ann Downey, who sings “Log Driver’s Waltz.”

The CD opens with Kirk’s fiddle on “Irishtown Breakdown” a tune named after a small burg near Schroon Lake, and segues into “Once More A-Lumbering Go,” a rousing heigh-ho type of work song with a melody reminiscent of a Civil War anthem. Another highlight is “The Ballad of Blue Mountain Lake,” sung by Shaw, which chronicles the rowdy exploits of long-forgotten local roughnecks. But the gem of the record is the majestic, elegiac fiddle duet, “Be Thou My Vision,” played beautifully by Kirk and Stanistreet. Folk fans will love this disc.

—Glenn Weiser

See the article on the Metroland website
Index of Metroland Articles by Glenn Weiser    ©2009 by Glenn Weiser. All rights reserved.  


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