May Music

More than sixty new CD albums have been added to CPL’s music collection in the last month alone! Here’s a few highlights of things you shouldn’t overlook:

81Xe6zj4unL._SX425_If you didn’t get your fill on the first two volumes of Songs of Anarchy, the fabulous soundtrack to the TV series Sons of Anarchy, volumes Three and Four are here, and are they ever beautiful! Do not miss Maggie Siff’s heartbreakingly gorgeous a capella rendition of “Lullaby for a Soldier,” or if you’re in a more upbeat mood, “Love is My Religion.” “Dock of the Bay” is a rendition worthy of Otis Redding himself. On Four, be dazzled by an off-beat and wild version of “Bohemian Rhapsody” that will stick in your head. “Aquarius” is catchy, and Katey Sagal’s updated “Greensleeves” remains touching. While the albums are utterly delightful71G6L0Sox0L._SX425_ on their own, each covering a wide variety of musical styles (Joshua James’s “Crash This Train” is sublime), at times it is gut-wrenching to hear them, if you know the context from the show in which each song is played. I cannot recommend the four albums enough.

If you’re into something completely different, give Grammy Award winner Tom Paxton’s new album Redemption Road a try. Paxton is old-style folk; not quite country, not quite bluegrass, not quite modern, but it is music indexthe entire family can enjoy without having to worry about language or content. He is Raffi, for grown-ups, and if you can’t imagine that, then check out his song “Skeeters’ll Gitcha.” Like a true folk singer, his songs are observations about humanity and the absurdities of modern culture. “If the Poor Don’t Matter” is a haunting tune in the best tradition of folk music. “If the poor don’t matter, then neither do I.” If you like calm, soothing music that’s worth singing to without being overpowered by loud orchestration, if you like music that feels as if you’re sitting around a campfire and the guitar is playing just for you, you’ll enjoy this album.

A third album you don’t want to overlook is Rhiannon Giddens first solo foray, Tomorrow is My Turn.index You last heard Giddens as the lead singer for the Carolina Chocolate Drops, where she wowed listeners with her pure tones and perfect pitch. Here she takes center stage in what isn’t so much an album as a resumé. Each song is different, from folk to blues to country to more popular beats such as Dolly Parton’s “Don’t Let it Trouble Your Mind,” and the easy-listening vibes of “Tomorrow is My Turn.” It’s not an album to blow you away, but a solid repertoire that says “Here’s what I can do, come see where I go.” If you like female vocalists who never fail to hit their mark, you will love her. My only wish is that she’d pick a direction: I think she’d be a fantastic blues singer with her throaty, clear style, and I would love to hear an entire album of her belting out some of the traditional songs, or even some Broadway tunes. She’s a delight on the ear.

New Music Highlight: These Wilder Things by Ruth Moody

            [Cover]I cut my teeth listening to Joan Baez and Pete Seeger, and knew all the words to at least a half-dozen Woody Guthrie songs before I went to school, so when folk music comes across my desk and it’s not of old-school character,   I tend to shy away.  However, I found Ruth Moody’s new album, These Wilder Things, to be an interesting  mix of old and newer pop  styles, with quite a bit of character.

             Moody, an award-winning folk singer from Winnipeg, has a lovely voice that changes with each type of song.  She can sound remarkably like Loreena McKennitt, then switch to Edie Brickell, then switch up again to sound like Natalie Imbruglia.  Her rendition of Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” is catchy, but at the same time strange in that it incorporates different rhythms, pauses, and instruments than the listener is used to – it turns out what I thought was a ukulele is actually a mandolin, and mandolin is not what I normally think of when I think of Springsteen.  

            While some of the tracks can have that old-school flair of guitar and banjo, the songs never lapse into the deep-country twanginess that scares many people away from folk music. Most of the music is quite mainstream, a blend of soft pop that would be totally at home on WRCH or any soft-music station.

            My favorite track is perhaps the first one, “Trouble and Woe,” because I like the light touch of banjo that to me signifies folk music. Not enough to make you break out reruns of Hee Haw, but a gentle touch to give depth to the guitar work.  “Trees for Skies” is pretty, and of course “Dancing in the Dark” will stick in your head, a new twist on an old favorite – and this time you can understand all the words!