Category Archives: Music

Benjamin Britten’s Death In Venice

Many consider Benjamin Britten the most important British composer since World War II; indeed, some think him the most important since Henry Purcell. Although often thought an uneven composer, most writers in the area concede that his operas Peter Grimes, … Continue reading

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Aallotar’s Ameriikan Laulu

To me, the sound of a fiddle and accordion together is exemplary of folk dance music. So many European-based cultures have dance music traditions that feature these two instruments, from the Roma, Italians and French, to the English, Irish and … Continue reading

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Arvo Pärt’s Da Pacem

The music of Arvo Pärt, one of the best known contemporary composers, is something I’ve always found attractive. From my first recording of Passio, which was, believe it or not, my beach music for a whole summer way back when, … Continue reading

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Ian Anderson at the Beacon Theater

Fifty years ago, a group of young musicians from Blackpool released a record called This Was, launching the career of Jethro Tull, one of the most influential and original rock bands ever. This year, Ian Anderson is out on the … Continue reading

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Rachel Button’s Long Way Round

Rachel Button is a singer, songwriter, fiddler and vocal coach. She was born and raised in Britain but she has also lived in Vancouver and Nashville, where this EP was recorded. Rachel started out as a folk performer, but here … Continue reading

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Mark Turner & Ethan Iverson’s Temporary Kings

I was sad and a little concerned in 2017 when pianist Ethan Iverson left The Bad Plus, the modern jazz trio he helped found nearly 20 years ago. Not to worry, though. He left that ensemble in good hands with … Continue reading

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Philip Glass’ Symphony No. 7, “Toltec”

Philip Glass was invited to compose a work for conductor Leonard Slatkin’s 60th birthday season with the National Symphony Orchestra in 2005; the result was the Symphony No. 7, “A Toltec Symphony”, based on the wisdom tradition of the ancient … Continue reading

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McDermott’s 2 Hours v Levellers, Claws and Wings

If you’re thinking this a strange name for a band, you’re not alone, because so did I. But it’s the music that’s important, not what they want to call themselves. In fact, the album appears to be a collaboration between … Continue reading

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Primus’ video of Charlie Daniels’ ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’

Primus, a rock band from San Francisco, recorded this version of Charlie Daniels’ classic, which was released as a Claymation music video on their 1998 Rhinoplasty EP and its companion Videoplasty video album, and also re-released on their 2003 EP … Continue reading

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McDermott’s 2 Hours vs Levellers, World Turned Upside Down; Disorder

Fuckin’ A! I thought that I’d never hear the equal of The Band of Hope, a Leftist protest band; I noted on their sole album to date, Rhythm & Red, that ‘these are great songs full of piss and vinegar … Continue reading

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Cliff Westfall’s Baby You Win

Been listening to the Cocaine & Rhinestones podcast and wonder where you can find some modern honky-tonk music like they used to make back in the mid-20th Century? Or maybe you just love the stuff and can’t seem to find … Continue reading

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Very Be Careful’s Daisy’s Beauty Salon

Anyone who’s paying attention to world music in the past 20 years or so knows about cumbia. This Colombian folk music style has taken the world by storm in the 2000s. But its cousin vallenato (“vai-yeh-NAH-toh”) is less well known … Continue reading

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The Tallis Scholars Sing Josquin

Josquin des Pres (1450?-1521) was born Josquin Lebloitte, either in Hainault (modern Belgium) or in France. (The “des Pres” was a nickname, as they understood such things in the fifteenth century.) He seems to have been a choirboy at Saint-Quentin … Continue reading

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Morton Feldman’s Piano and String Quartet

I’ve remarked before on Morton Feldman’s propensity to shape sound with silence, a tendency he shares with Toru Takemitsu. Listening to Feldman’s Piano and String Quartet, a late work, written two years before his death in 1987, I realize that … Continue reading

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Clay Parker and Jodi James’s The Lonesomest Sound That Can Sound

Clay Parker and Jodi James are a music-making couple from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This album, which looks like it’s maybe their second or third, is a superb collection of country-leaning folk, which I guess these days is called Americana. The … Continue reading

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John Prine’s The Tree of Forgiveness

John Prine is the folk singer America deserves. And needs. Since his debut self-titled album in 1971 he has been ministering to our malaise with his unique blend of humor and pathos, comedy, tragedy and tragicomedy that perfectly reflects and … Continue reading

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Cowboy Junkies’ All That Reckoning

Cowboy Junkies’ latest release marks the 30th anniversary of the Canadian folk-rockers’ breakthrough album The Trinity Session. All That Reckoning, all these years later, still is built around Margo Timmins’ hushed vocals, but this one seethes with a barely suppressed … Continue reading

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Tim Clement and Kim Deschamps’ Wolf Song Night

Classifying things seems to be, for some reason, a basic human need. And it is axiomatic that our systems for classification have built-in limits and conceptual gaps: Archaeopteryx lithographica is, therefore, a bird. And Wolfsong Night, a collaboration between Tim … Continue reading

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Jefferson Airplane’s The Essential Jefferson Airplane, Red Octopus and Blows Against the Empire

Psychedelic music was originally so named because it sought to recreate musically the mind-expanding experience of LSD. “Psychedelic, man!” The center of this music was unquestionably San Francisco, with bands like the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and the Jefferson … Continue reading

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Georges Ivanovitch Gurdjieff and Vassilis Tsabropoulos’ Chants, Hymns and Dances

The name Gurdjieff calls up images of mysticism, esoteric spiritual doctrines, perhaps to some extent a certain wild-eyed fanaticism. Georges Ivanovitch Gurdjieff was, in point of fact, one of those restless wanderers in the realm of ideas who crop up … Continue reading

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Olivier Greif’s Sonate de Requiem, Trio avec piano

Olivier Greif was one of those musicians: he entered the Paris Conservatory at age ten, and in 1967, at the age of seventeen, won the first prize for composition. The bulk of his output is chamber music, largely sonatas for … Continue reading

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Harold Budd’s Lovely Thunder

Harold Budd is one of those composer/performers who pops up periodically and wanders around like a medieval jongleur just doing his thing and collaborating with everyone. Noted for his piano improvisations, he has worked with the Cocteau Twins and Brian … Continue reading

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Oliver the Crow’s self-titled album

Cellist Kaitlyn Raitz and fiddler Ben Plotnick perform as the folk duo Oliver the Crow. These classically trained musicians based in Nashville make a progressive, stripped-down Americana that draws on everything from Appalachian ballads to classic rock on their beguiling … Continue reading

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Norma Waterson & Eliza Carthy’s Anchor

The mother-daughter duo of Norma Waterson & Eliza Carthy are members of the first family of English folk music. Although Norma has been recording since the ‘50s and Eliza the ’90s, they hadn’t recorded as a duo until 2010’s award-winning … Continue reading

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The Rails’ Other People

Other People is The Rails’ second album, but the first to be widely circulated and promoted in the U.S. It was released in the U.K. in October 2017 but is being released in the U.S. for the duo’s first stateside … Continue reading

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Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham’s Spring The Summer Long

Yawn, another bloody brilliant album from a duo, Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham, who can do no wrong. So why should you get excited? Are you completely daft, man? This is Aly Bain on fiddles and Phil Cunningham on damn … Continue reading

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Chancha via Circuito’s Bienaventuranza

“Digital cumbia.” It’s a new thing for me, but it’s been going on in Argentina for the past decade or so. This musical style combines Colombia’s highly popular folkloric music, cumbia, one of the most popular in Latin America, with … Continue reading

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Ants Ants Ants‘ Why Why Why? and Red Yarn’s Old Barn

Ants Ants Ants’ Why Why Why? I picked up Ants Ants Ants‘s new album Why Why Why? because it straddled a nice sweet spot, music I can share with my godkids, ages 6 and 8, on roadtrips without anyone’s sanity … Continue reading

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Various artists’ Epilogue: A Tribute to John Duffey

You can always trust Smithsonian Folkways to do up a package of music the right way. That definitely applies to this standout tribute to one of the fathers of contemporary bluegrass, John Duffey. Duffey was a founding member of both … Continue reading

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Valeria Matzner’s Anima

Uruguayan-born singer-songwriter Valeria Matzner has been a musician for most of her life. It wasn’t until after she moved to Canada as an adult that she studied jazz, and it was there that she also eventually reconnected to her roots … Continue reading

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Skara Brae‘s Skara Brae

Skara Brae was the first group that put harmonies to Gaelic songs. That alone makes them an important part of Irish trad music. Also not-so-trad music as Triona Ni Dhomnaill went on to be a member of the Bothy Band, … Continue reading

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Duende Libre’s Drift

Drift is the sophomore release from the Seattle-based Latin-jazz/world music trio Duende Libre. It builds on the elements displayed on their self-titled debut, which was one of my favorite recordings of 2017. Duende Libre is composer and bandleader Alex Chadsey, … Continue reading

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Lalezar Ensemble’s Music of the Sultans, Sufis & Seraglio, Vol. III: Minority Composers; Vol. IV: Ottoman Suite

Turkey is strategically located at one of the world’s major crossroads. This applies to religion, culture, government and the arts as well as its physical location along trade routes. And for several hundred years ending in the early 20th Century, … Continue reading

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Lalezar Ensemble’s Music of the Sultans, Sufis & Seraglio, Volume I: Sultan Composers; Volume II: Music of the Dancing Boys

The Lalezar Ensemble is part of a current revival of classical Ottoman music under way in Turkey. The group — four instrumentalists and three vocalists — have created four CDs that give a sampling of some of the best and … Continue reading

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Turkish Classical Music: An Overview

Ahenk: Turkish Classical Music (Golden Horn Productions, 1998) Ìhsan Özgen: Masterworks of Itri and Meragi (Golden Horn Records, 1998) Ìhsan Özgen: Remembrances of Ottoman Composers And Improvisations (Golden Horn, 1999) Various Artists: Ashiklar: For Those Who Are In Love (Golden … Continue reading

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Turkish Music: An Omnibus Review

Maras Sinemilli Deyisleri/Ulas Ozdemir: Ummanda (Kalan, 1998) Erkan Ogur/Ismail H. Demircioglu: Gulun Kokusu Vardi (Kalan, 1998) Kardes Turkuler: Dogu (Kalan, 1999) Turk Ritm Grubu: Ten/Skin (Kalan, 1999) Selim Sesler ve Grup Trakya’nin Sesi: Kesan’a Giden Yollar (Kalan, 2000) (This review … Continue reading

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J.R.R. Tolkien (poems) and Donald Swann (music), The Road Goes Ever On — A Song Cycle

The Road goes ever on and on Down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, And I must follow, if I can, Pursuing it with eager feet, Until it joins some larger way Where … Continue reading

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Dana Sipos’ Trick of the Light

If like me you appreciate deeply rooted folk music that’s recorded with the sort of post-modern studio wizardry that enhances that music’s moods and meanings, then you owe it to yourself to check out Dana Sipos’ Trick of the Light. … Continue reading

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Various Artists’ Stolen Roses: Songs of the Grateful Dead

It’s interesting to me that there are any albums which pay tribute to the songs of the Grateful Dead. The Dead were not known for songs. They were the band of the long, free form jam. Deadheads reveled in the … Continue reading

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Various Artists’ Deadicated

I find most tribute albums to be pure unadulterated shit. Some are so bad that defy any logic as to why they were even conceptualized, let alone made. An example to be avoided of this sort of tribute album is … Continue reading

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Steve Tibbetts’ Life Of

If you’re looking for a deeply contemplative album of meditative music, look no further than Steve Tibbetts’ Life Of. As with much of the Minnesota-based guitarist’s body of work, his latest release draws on world, ambient, jazz and experimental musics, … Continue reading

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Gabriel Yacoub’s The Simple Things We Said

Gabriel Yacoub began his career singing and playing guitar in Alan Stivell’s band, before going on to form the legendary French Renaissance rock band Malicorne. Malicorne’s compilation CD Légende: Deuxieme Epoque exceeds the quality of any of the similar compilations … Continue reading

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Fairport Convention’s What We Did On Our Saturday

Saturday, August 12 2017 to be precise. The final evening of Fairport’s Cropredy festival in their 50th year. It was always going to be a special occasion, and the likelihood of a recording was strong, after releases of similar previous … Continue reading

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Terry Riley’s Cadenza on the Night Plain

Cadenza on the Night Plain (the disc, not the work of that title) presents four of Terry Riley’s works for string quartet, works that, if your only acquaintance with Riley has been pieces on the order of In C or … Continue reading

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Robin Laing’s Ebb and Flow

The music coming out of Scotland is as wide and varied as anywhere in the world today. For not only is Scotland truly steeped in its own tradition, but also it is home to some of the finest singer-songwriters on … Continue reading

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Ryley Walker’s Deafman Glance

I’ve been listening to Chicago-based folk-rocker Ryley Walker maturing his music since his first full-length All Kinds of You came out on Thompkins Square in 2014. He gained critical acclaim for his second Primrose Green the following year, with its … Continue reading

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Kiran Ahluwalia’s 7 Billion

The first I ever heard of Kiran Ahluwalia was her stunning rendition of the qawwali standard “Mustt-Mustt” backed by Tinariwen on a recording from what turned out to be the final Festival au Desert. Ahluwalia was born in India, raised … Continue reading

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Beatrice Deer’s My All To You

Beatrice Deer is a singer-songwriter from Nunavik, the icy region of Quebec north of the 55th parallel and home to Quebec’s Inuit people. My All to You is her fifth record since she left her tiny hometown of Quaqtaq for … Continue reading

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Siobhan Miller’s Strata

I first encountered Siobhan Miller at Cropredy ten years ago. She was in a duo with Jeana Leslie and together they had won the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award that year, and that also gave them a spot at … Continue reading

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Terry Riley’s The Cusp of Magic

Terry Riley is one of the more remarkable composers of the post-War American scene, and one whose music I have been enthusiastic about for many years. Part of the fun is that you never quite know what to expect from … Continue reading

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