Category Archives: Music

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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Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin, Awase

I was immediately smitten by the music of Nik Bärtsch when I first heard it via Continuum, the 2016 ECM release from his all-acoustic project Mobile, and a show I saw from that tour was probably my favorite from that … Continue reading

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Jethro Tull’s Aqualung Live

This new recording of Jethro Tull’s classic rock album Aqualung was produced for XM Radio’s “Then Again Live” programme. This is a show that aims to “re-create the most important albums of all time . . . offering total creative … Continue reading

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Various artists’ Swing West!

Country music and Nashville are synonymous, right? Wrong. Since the late 1940s, California, particularly Bakersfield, has been the breeding ground for its own strain of country music that stands outside of the mainstream flowing from Nashville. Razor & Tie, which … Continue reading

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Lindisfarne’s Lindisfarne Live

The first hint that Lindisfarne Live is going to be a disaster comes literally twenty-two seconds in on the disc, when lead singer Alan Hull shouts the magical words “Rock and roll!” to the audience. A simple rule of thumb for live … Continue reading

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Fairport Convention’s Fairport unConventional

I have chosen a somewhat unconventional way to review this collection, partly because of the title but mainly because there is just so much stuff in this box that it demands consideration. Geez! It cost almost $30 to mail it … Continue reading

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Dave Pegg’s A Box Of Pegg’s

If the name Dave Pegg means anything to you, it’s probably in the context of his role as bass player for Fairport Convention and/or Jethro Tull; the latter from the early 1980s to mid-’90s, the former continually since late 1969. … Continue reading

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Elina Duni’s Partir

“We’re all leaving. Bound to be torn away, one day or another, from what we love.” With those words Elina Duni welcomes her audience in to her latest project, a cycle of songs from around the world about love, loss … Continue reading

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The Turbans’ self-titled debut

Listening to this album is the most fun I’ve had (musically speaking) in a long time. The Turbans bring a passionate spirit of adventure and an infectious liveliness to their music. Even if you can’t understand the lyrics – which … Continue reading

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Kristjan Randalu’s Absence

About two minutes into “Forecast 1,” the first track of Kristjan Randalu’s Absence, the Estonian pianist takes a brief pause after a gently improvised introduction, then leaps into a Lisztian whirlwind of arpeggios and it seems this is going to … Continue reading

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Various Artists’ Hummingbirds & Helicopters Vol. 1

Jolie Holland, the idiosyncratic folk singer-songwriter (who’s one of my favorites) is spearheading an effort to raise money to benefit the people whose homes were devastated by hurricanes in 2017. The first installment is Hummingbirds & Helicopters Vol. 1: A … Continue reading

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Sarah Shook & the Disarmers’ Years

By the time we reach the second track of Sarah Shook’s new album Years, it’s already the second time she’s not just saying goodbye to a lover who doesn’t meet her standards, but saying, in effect, “get the hell out, … Continue reading

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Eva Salina and Peter Stan’s Sudbina

This review is different from nearly every one I’ve ever written, in that it draws more from the album’s publicity and background than my opinions about the recording itself. The publicity material is uncommonly well-written and presents quotes from the … Continue reading

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Various Artists’ The Ultimate Guide to Welsh Folk

When talking Celtic music we often think Irish or Scottish, or maybe music from Britanny. But remember Wales also claims Celtic roots, though their language is not from the same branch of Celtic languages as the Gaelic of Scotland and … Continue reading

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Western Centuries’ Songs From the Deluge

Western Centuries makes country and western music like they used to, but it’s not an exercise in nostalgia. They rock, they roll, they twang and they shuffle. They keep close to their roots and draw from the wide spectrum of … Continue reading

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