The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #46624 Message #943512
Posted By: Fortunato
30-Apr-03 - 10:14 AM
Thread Name: Review: PHILLY FOLKSONG SOCIETY Reviews
Subject: RE: Review: PHILLY FOLKSONG SOCIETY Reviews
Don Edwards, Peter Rowan, Tony Rice and Norman Blake:
"High Lonesome Cowboy"
I suppose that America's most enduring, endearing and ennobling legend is the saga of the old west. I started singing cowboy songs when I was just a little whippersnapper. Everybody knew some cowboy songs. There were real ones like "I Ride an Old Paint" and "Whoopee Ty-yi-yo, Get Along You Little Dogies".
There were the movie songs like "Tumblin' Tumbleweeds" and "Back in the Saddle, Again". There were the Western Swing classics like "Ragtime Cowboy Joe" and "I'm an Old Cowhand From the Rio Grand". I guess I must know hundreds of cowboy songs and I'll bet you do, too. There is just something about the cowboy mystique that enthralls the American dream. Oh, I know that the real Old West was a place of violence and racism that continues to define us, in the eyes of the world, to this day. I have read enough to know that Hickock was a card sharp, Earp was a procurer and the most tragic aspect of William Bonney's death was that it should have occurred years before. But, as The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance points out, it is always better to print the legend. (Yer dern tootin'.)
This loric introspection is a direct result of hearing the CD, "High Lonesome Cowboy", a collection of traditional cowboy songs performed by Don Edwards and Bluegrass legend, Peter Rowan, beautifully backed by Tony Rice and Norman Blake. This recording has been nominated for a Grammy and it richly deserves the honor. It is a no frills approach to the material. The singers do not stylize nor do they "pretty up" the harmonies. They sound like cowboys would have sounded and, for all I know, still sound. Even those high profile Nashville pickers manage to contain themselves except for some anachronistic glissandos on the slow intro to "The Old Chisolm Trail". (I think I heard that slow version on a Library of Congress field recording back in the late 50's). I am pleased to recommend this CD for more than the usual reasons.
First, it continues the trend of Country and Bluegrass performers seeking and confirming their roots (Thank you, O Brother). When well known artists sing traditional songs, they further the education and exposure of their audience to the common heritage. When Jerry Garcia and David Grisman sang old folksongs, that made it "okay" for the rest of us. When Dolly Parton sings "I Never Will Marry", when Emmylou Harris and Patty Lovelace and Ralph Stanley sing old Gospel songs, they make it "okay" to be a little corny. They are saying, "It's may be corny, but it's our corn and we love it just like mama used to pop it."
Razor and Tie productions: "Swing West"
Also, this CD might spark a renewed interest in the whole Western Music genre. Why it might, even, get us to listening to my favorite American art form, Western Swing. Speaking of which, I have discovered a treasure. Razor and Tie productions released a three CD set called "Swing West". I got a chance to hear the third chapter "Western Swing" and it's a lulu. In twenty selections, mostly recorded between 1945 and 1956, this collection surveys work by Bob Wills, Tex Williams, Merle Travis (wouldn't Howard Yanks have loved that?), Spade Cooley, Hank Thompson, Deuce Spriggens and Ole Rasmussen and his Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Don't get to thinking that this is Hillbilly simple. These artists were some of the most talented and sophisticated pickers of their era. The songs feature satirical composition at its finest. My personal favorite is Hank Thompson's response to the Weavers' "Goodnight, Irene". In Thompson's version, "Wake Up. Irene", the unfortunate lady is sleeping off the grandmother of all hangovers.
I hope you try this music on for sighs. It is infectious and addictive but you could do a lot worse. They have a website. www.razorandtie,com
Michael Miller for PFS
Reprinted from PFS "Tune Up," by permission