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17 Apr 02 - 12:07 PM (#692187)
From: wysiwyg

Mudcatter musicmic writes for Tune-up, a membership publication of the Philadelphia Folksong Society. The PFS has graciously given permission to run his reviews here.

Mike's comments about his reviews:

Tune-Up is not on our website; the publication is for the members as a privilege of membership. I do forward reviews to the artists as a courtesy.

Before you send me your CD, you might like to know my preferences and prejudices. I favor traditional music. I am a folksinger, by profession. I am, therefore, sympathetic to folksingers of all cultures. I do not believe that a folksong is any ditty composed by a poet whose amplifier is on the fritz. If you write songs that bare your soul and "tell it like it is," you can submit, but the best I'll do for you is pass it on to others with more tolerance.

This is not to say that I don't recommend new material. If the songs are within the tradition, I will pay more attention.

In any case, I do not pan. I only praise and recommend. If I don't like what I hear, my lips are sealed like my juvenile record. If I don't like a CD, I don't, automatically, shelve it. I pass it on to a student to get another opinion. If the student likes it, I usually, print the more favorable review, identifying the "guest" critic. My mission is to encourage and publicize, never to pan or embarrass.

If you need more information, you can email me at or



More from Mike HERE. Especially see his thoughtful comments about recording quality.

ARTISTS PLEASE NOTE: If you want me to post future Mike's reviews, please help me out by making sure that I have all the same information you send Mike:

Your Mudcat name and your name as it appears on the CD,

URL to a website if available, artist profile or link to it if it is here at Mudcat,

URL to any thread posts about the CD's release;

Location of MP3's if any,

Purchasing information (and please let me know if it is a through a link that benefits Mudcat).

If you plan on giving Mudcat a cut of any Mudcat purchases please let me know how you would like that worded.

If you are featuring the item in the auction please let me know so that, if possible, the review post and the auction post can be linked to one another.

THANKS! Oh and if you e-mail me, put the word MUDCAT in the subject line or the spam filter will decline your message! PM me if I do not reply!


Subject line: Mudcat CD Reviews

17 Apr 02 - 12:16 PM (#692202)
Subject: RE: Review: PHILLY FOLKSONG SOCIETY Reviews
From: wysiwyg

Here is how I plan to handle posting Mike's reviews (as he learns how to do copy-pastes for himself, at which point he will take over posting them).

When you see your CD reviewed, please post, if not included in the review, any other links that give additional information about the CD, such as from a release-anouncement thread they may have run, or from the Mudcatter CD thread, and so forth.

I'll list the artist and/or CD title in the subject line so they will be easily searched later. I have a backlog of reviews to post from recent issues, and be aware that not all CDs reviewed are Mudcatter projects! *G*

Artists: Please consider entering at least one signed copy of the CD to the Mudcat Auction a few weeks after your CD review appears.


17 Apr 02 - 05:30 PM (#692349)
Subject: Review: Dave Van Ronk, Hummin' To Myself
From: wysiwyg

When I started hanging out in New York, back in the late 50s, I usually stayed at Roy Berkeley's rent-controlled, second- floor walkup on the corner of Housten and 6th Ave. Roy was a country flatpicker whose politics were half radical and half cynical. His circle of friends reflected his music and his values which were, respectively, blue and red. When I met him, he had just finished co-writing The Bosses' Songbook, a hilarious parody of that subversive-chic collection, The People's Songbook. He introduced me to his co-conspiritor, a man whose political position was to the left of Leon Trotsky, and that is how I met Dave Van Ronk.

To the world, Van Ronk was a great fingerpicker and blues singer, and I guess he was. I've read so many tributes to him since he died last week. I had no idea he was so influential. He was never a successful crossover artist, never had a "hit", didn't play on that Hootenanny show, never became a roots icon; and he sure didn't make a lot of money. But, as the old song says, "He was a friend of mine," and, in that spirit, I'd like to tell you about his best recording.

Hummin' To Myself is not your run-of-the-mill Van Ronk romp. It's more like an Ella Fitzgerald record. It is Dave Van Ronk singing standards, old Tin Pan Alley tunes, backed by a tasteful swing quartet. That's it. No fancy fingerpicking; no rasping, growling blues; no feeble stabs at folky authenticity. This is where he always belonged: jazz, swing, interperative phrasing. These are the songs he sang when he wasn't onstage, when he didn't have to meet an audience's expectations.

He is ably assisted on two numbers by Christine Lavin who, thank heaven, is able to tone down her folky pipes and blend with appropriate texture.

In an e-mail to Dave's old friend Tom Paxton, I said that his passing made me think of the old YSL song, "Harry Pollet:"

....Though Harry was in heaven,
The hymns he did not like,
So he organised the angels,
and led them out on strike.

MM for the PFS

17 Apr 02 - 05:32 PM (#692351)
Subject: Review: Makem Brothers, Stand Together
From: wysiwyg

I am blessed with an avalanche of Irish just in time for St. Paddy's Day (an event which, in Ireland, is celebrated in churches, and, in America, hunched over a toilet bowl). Still, it makes for lovely music and, as they say in Dublin, a bit of the crack (which, absolutely, doesn't mean what you think it does).

The Makem Brothers sent me their new CD, Stand Together, and I think it's their best, ever. Their singing is tight but not slick, their selections are sufficiantly trad/songwriter balanced to please us all, and their production is professional and flawless. They are festival sharp and stage savy.

MM for PFS

17 Apr 02 - 05:35 PM (#692356)
Subject: Review: Radriano, Out Of The Rain
From: wysiwyg

Out Of The Rain was an informal group of West Coast musicians who jammed and, occasionally, performed back in the 80s. Richard Adrianowicz, the tin whistler/guitarist, has compiled a banquet of selections from various live performances, pressed them onto an attractive CD, and, in the process, has teased us with a sound that was and is no more. Well, some is more than none, so they say.

This is a marvelous collection. The singing is sweet, the harmonic blends are velcro, and the dance tunes cook. Cat Reed is solid on fiddle and Marla Fibish's mandolin virtuosity is a primer for precision. The CD is available from the artist. His e-mail is

MM for PFS

17 Apr 02 - 05:40 PM (#692360)
Subject: Review: Bron Yale, Songs From Ashdale
From: wysiwyg

From the town of Llanfair Caereinion, Powys, Wales (fat chance I'm ever going to try writing that again), comes a Gaelic gathering of goodies called Songs From Ashdale, sung by a very talented artist named Bron Yale. This is a tasteful selection of tradidional songs-- well presented, beautifully sung, and carefully arranged.

I particularly, enjoyed the boastful "Man You Dont Meet Every Day", which I have loved since FFF's Jen-Spice sang it outside the Mermaid on an otherwise-ordinary evening.

For those among you who shy away from trad like vegans from a Whopper, I hasten to add that Bron Yale (is that a great name?) has a full five identifiably-composed numbers on this CD. That's okay, nobody's perfect.

American sales of this CD will go to benefit Mudcat Cafe, so you can purchase it from Dick Greenhaus at CAMSCO, 28 Powell Street, Greenwich, CT 06831, or via Mudcat message to Dick.

MM for PFS

17 Apr 02 - 05:54 PM (#692375)
Subject: Review: Tim Walker (solo) (of Sadie Green Sales)
From: wysiwyg

Timothy Walker, that bearded, British half of the Sadie Green Sales Ragtime Jugband, has been a full time traveling singer for more years than he might care to specify. As Sadie Green's primary vocalist/guitarist/ jug virtuoso, he is booked years in advance. (PFS's Odyssey program uses them when they are available.) Tim, for those who haven't seen Sadie, looks older than he is. He is slight of build and most of his hair is his beard.

He is my friend. So, when I received Tim's first solo CD, I asked Tom Jones of Rowen University for his unbiased reaction. Dr. Jones just loved the CD. In fact he kept the CD, and he won't give it back. It is a nice selection of songs, half a dozen Skiffle numbers and about half a dozen more recent compositions. Check out Tim's convincing reading of Stan Rogers' "The Lock Keeper."

I was sorry that there were so few instrumental breaks. Tim is a flashy fingerpicker (that's Tim, playing what sounds like two guitars, on "Somebody Stole My Gal.")

MM for PFS

17 Apr 02 - 05:56 PM (#692377)
Subject: Review: Maura McKinney Mastro, Irish Roots
From: wysiwyg

Maura McKinney Mastro is a busy nightclub vocalist, who has just released a very folky album, Irish Roots. Her own roots are impeccable. She is the daughter of the IRA activist writer and retired Daily News columnist, Jack McKinney.

Her style is sheer and shiny, but her feelings are as sincere as if she couldn't sing a lick. All in all, this is a pretty collection includng one of my favorites, The Fields of Athenry. I will soon be singing this song, myself. After a few weeks, I shall claim that I wrote it. Irish Roots, the CD, is available at a nunber of venues, or you can buy it on line,

MM for PFS

17 Apr 02 - 05:59 PM (#692379)
Subject: Review: Ellen Britton
From: wysiwyg

Ellen Britton has a CD for sale. I think it is called "Ellen Britton", which makes some sense... It accurately identifies the primary singer and suggests by inference that the songs within are the sole creations of Ms. Britton, which is not quite right-- they are collaberations, some with her husband, bassist Bobby King.

It is an eclectic lineup: classic country, Nashville sentiment, Western Swing, and even some R&B.

Let me tell you about this Ellen Britton. She is the daughter of George and Charlotte Britton, Philadelphia's royal family of folkmusic. She is, almost surely, the most skilled performer our community has bred. Her fingerpicking is joful and precise. Her arrangements are sophisticated and solid. Her voice is a bell, and her readings are poetic. She has been my favorite blues singer forever, so I was particularly pleased to hear Ellen getting tough again on the last cut, "10 Pounds of Flour".

The CD is available locally or online; call me for the site.

MM for PFS

17 Apr 02 - 06:02 PM (#692381)
Subject: Review: Alice Flynn
From: wysiwyg

The true and everlasting tradition of folksinging is the joy of do-it-yourself artistic expression. Concerts and clubs and CDs and radio shows are great, but real folk music is made for love and sung with friends and families. It is in the home and in those parking lot jam sessions that real folk music is made.

Sometimes those informal institutions get recorded and sometimes I get to recommend them to you. Alice Flynn lives in Bozeman, MT. She loves Irish songs-- the old songs that Irish women have sung in their kitchens for centuries. She sings them with the voice of a fairy, with passion and understanding. Her singing is unaccompanied so an audience might find her music bare, even empty, but such an audience would be missing the charm and purity of real Irish music, as real as I knew when I lived in County Wicklow.

Alice's taste runs to the wistful and the woeful and the wonderful.

Purchase at

MM for PFS

17 Apr 02 - 07:29 PM (#692441)
Subject: Review: Viva Quetzal, HIJOS DEL SOL
From: wysiwyg

Al Ronderos, a member of my bridge club, has a cousin and his cousin has a band called Viva Quetzal, and the band has a CD called HIJOS DEL SOL (Children of the Sun), and what a CD it is. Like their previous CDs (ANCESTROS and MUJERES DE LA PUNA), they present original songs in a variety of South American styles featuring superb vocals and an array of instuments, ancient and modern.

Particularly moving are "Ariquena", Roberto Clavijo's memory of his home town in Chile, and the title song, "Hijos del Sol", a reference to the traditional Inca flag of the seven-colored rainbow, each color representing one of the ancient tribes of the Americas, which is played as a Venezuelan Golpe Tucuyano.

Check out their web site:

MM for PFS

17 Apr 02 - 07:33 PM (#692446)
Subject: Review: Nick Apollonio, More Maine Coast Music
From: wysiwyg

I bear good news for the folk-starved among you. I hold in my hand the best "folk" album I've heard this century, and some of the last one, too. (A "folk" song is a new song that is written in a traditional style and point of view. Stan Rogers wrote "folk", Janis Ian does not.)

It is entitled More Maine Coast Music and it is not to be missed. This one passed my dishwashing challenge with flying foam. It can be listened to again and again. The performance is as charming as the material.

When you think of a resonant bass-baritone from Camden, Maine, what name leaps to your mind? Did you say Nick Apollonio? You should have. His voice is a formidable tool, rich and wizened. He blends well with his partner, harpist Kristin Tescher, who is, herslf, a fine singer.

Did I mention that the instrumentals are as much fun as the vocals? They use a lot of 12-string lead but the recording solved the usual fuzziness somehow.

The songs are nautical in feel, and sentimental in nature. (It helps to know Mainespeak, a collection of phrases that identify their user as a real Down Home Yankee. Things like mains'l and tops'l and snow.)

MM for PFS

17 Apr 02 - 07:41 PM (#692455)
Subject: Review: The Revels
From: wysiwyg

The Revels is an organization devoted to the preservation of traditional songs, stories, dances, costumes and customs. To this end, they present extravigant shows each winter in venues throughout America.

The Philadelphia Revels appears at the Media Playhouse in Delaware County and if you can get tickets, don't miss the pageantry and joy. (Each year brings a brand-new show, so even if you caught last year's edition, you aint seen nothin' yet.)

The Revels also release a new CD each winter, generaly following a theme not allied to the live shows. This year, the CD seems to emphasize a genre that used to be called Negro Spirituals back in the days when we thought that "Negro" was a term of respect. Spirituals were the songs of slavery, a time so heinous that most of the white society and many of the black society would just as soon like to forget. The spirituals are rarely sung nowadays but they should be. They are a tribute to the brave souls who endured in the worst of purgatories (often buoyed by the songs we hold in such disrepute).

17 Apr 02 - 07:44 PM (#692458)
Subject: Review: The Limeliters, Until We Get It Right
From: wysiwyg

The Limeliters, who were to 60's folksingers what Mark Russell is to politicians, are with us again in their new CD, Until We Get It Right, and in concert this spring at Germantown Accademy. They were the "hip" folksingers, the academic response to The Kingston Trio, The Brothers Four, Bud and Travis, The New Christy Minstrels, The Big Three (with Mama Cass) and others and others and others.

Well, they sound about the same now, which is nice because the only original Limeliter is Alex Hassilev, and, while I loved Glenn Yarborough's voice, the replacement sound is, at least, comparable. They are still into recreating the 60's, so the satire seems a little strange and misty, as if Saturday Night Live was to present a skit about Bess Truman. You really had to be there.

MM for PFS

17 Apr 02 - 07:46 PM (#692459)
Subject: OBIT: RIP John Hartford
From: wysiwyg

I've been reading tributes to John Hartford (Marc O'Conner, the great fiddler, wrote a moving letter), and the importance of his loss to the folksong community will be profound. We just don't have many real stars who sing traditional music. Joan Baez hasn't sung a real folksong since she dropped Fred Hellerman. Outside of Theo Bikel, I think we're tapped.

I really liked John's music, his style and his flair.

I don't tour nowadays, so I only saw John when he played at the Philadelphia Festival, which was whenever he was available. We often jammed with the Progressive Bluegrassers for Roger Sprung's birthday bashes at the motel.

John Hartford was a successful and a happy man. He got to live his dream. He leaves behind, a gentleness of mind.

MM for PFS

17 Apr 02 - 07:50 PM (#692462)
Subject: Review: So's Your Mom
From: wysiwyg

So's Your Mom, folky Philly's favorite bar band, has cut a new CD which, as of this date, is a message without a moniker. I assume that before its release the band will have an appropriate title for their latest offering.

In the nonce, I can report that the recording is slick, the production impressive, and the selection confusing. So's Your Mom has made their reputation as an Irish band. Their sound has been the power of Brian's brogue and the magic omnipresence of Jack's rolling guitar. They are the essence of modern Irish-American musical expression. I have been an appreciative audience for their brand of alcoholic mayhem.

The new CD is a radical departure for the boys. Gone are the ghosts of Dublin and, in their stead, we are given a collection of recently-written material from a range of sources. The singing is as fine as before, finer because of increased participation in the vocals by Vince Brennan, a man who could make Rosanne sound good. (I am prejudiced toward Mr. Brennan because he is my long-lost brother, and he even makes my singing sound pretty.) It should be noted that a few dance tunes are included to take advantage of the session band that plays backup on the more sprightly singer/songwriter selections.

MM for PFS

17 Apr 02 - 07:53 PM (#692466)
Subject: Concert Review: Pete Seeger n Philly
From: wysiwyg

I approached last month's concert meeting with some dread. I knew that Pete Seeger was not the singer he used to be. His voice, never a power tool, is dulled by age and infirmity. His hands are slowed by arthritis and his memory by the years. I didn't want to hear a poor relic of a giant.

I was wrong. Pete's voice wavered and his stamina barely survived but the concert was wonderful. The show was a success for the same reason Pete's shows always succeed. He is a great, great folksinger. He still is as one with his audience as he was when he played the Village Vanguard back in the 50's. He gives the audience permission to sing because he knows that they really want to sing. His lack of vocal and instrumental virtuousity works in his favor. He is totally us. He looks like us, he sounds like us. He does not intimidate. (Imagine trying to sing along with Pavarotti or Ella Fitzgerald).

He makes me proud to be a folksinger.

This landmark concert was produced by Dianne Tankle, who books all the concert meetings, and that ain't all she does. She is, perhaps, the single most influential member of the Philadelphia folk music community. A list of her accomplishments has the aura of the fantastic. She chairs the Northeast Folk Alliance and produces the complex showcase held yearly in Split Rock. She was, for years, a member of the Board of Directors of the Clearwater Festival, the national board of the Folk Alliance, the founder of the Swords Into Plowshares concert series, the chairperson of our Spring Thing and, in her spare time, she serves on the PFS Board as secretary. She and her husband, past PFS president Bob Cohen, are the hosts of choice for folksingers on tour when they play Philly. She makes a nice noodle kugel, too.

MM for PFS

17 Apr 02 - 07:57 PM (#692469)
Subject: Review: Tom Gala
From: wysiwyg

Joann, the manager/bartender/CEO of the Mermaid, sent me Tom Gala's new CD for review. I usually don't crit singer/songwriters. (Not being a fan of the genre, I'm more comfortable farming out the assignment to those with more tolerance and more questionable taste). But Gala's work often trancends the common, predictable tripe that is the general output of our local bards. He did not disappoint.

Tom Gala, at his best, is to Philadelphia singer/songwriters what Isaac Stern is to a Suzuki class. When Gala gets on his riffing rags (as he does in four selections on the new CD), he is exciting, infectious, creative, and cooler than cool. Check out "Shorty and Dave's", a ripping report of an automobile parts junkyard. Where most of us would see wrecks and rust, Tom Gala sees honkytonk heaven.

Such is the brilliance of the artist.

Perhaps these songs would sound as good performed by another, but I doubt it. Gala's voice is a mellow haze, more at home aping Torme than Dylan, which probably disqualifies him from full membership in the singer/songwriter community. I hope that no one labels this collection as Folksongs, or calls Tom Gala a Folksinger. (That is a designation employed by lesser talents to mask their inability to compete with professionals).

MM for PFS

17 Apr 02 - 08:00 PM (#692472)
Subject: Gig Review: Full Frontal Folk
From: wysiwyg

Alliteration is the sincerest form of flattery.

Last night, I braved the crowds and smoke of the Mermaid Tavern to hear Full Frontal Folk, a fabulous female foursome who, if there is any justice in this world, are fated for Festival fame. The participants-- Jen Schoenwald, Courtney Malley, Thea Shoulson and Wendy Fuer--sounded even better than they looked and they are enormously attractive.

Their repitore is an olio of traditional and quasi-pop, served in pristine a capella complexity: haunting, exciting, unforgettable. I was mesmerized by their arrangement of "Katie Cruel". That old lament never sounded truly dissipated and forlorn before FFF got their hands on it.

When the ladies choose to accompany themselves, they don't lose a step. I particularly liked the lead violin Wendy wielded. Her playing is skilled, accurate and tasteful.

I am told that there is a CD in the near future. I can hardly wait.

MM for PFS

17 Apr 02 - 08:05 PM (#692474)
Subject: Review: Celtic Crossroad
From: wysiwyg

Celtic Crossroad is a Philadelphia band whose music is forged from talent, roots and spirit. Their first CD is a joyride through the best of Irish music. They sing with gusto and they play with abandon. Their music is irresistable. Their song selection couldn't have pleased me more. (Their only non-trad number is Cyril Tawney's "Grey Funnel Line", which may be the best composed "folk" song ever written).

I love this recording, I really do. So will you. (I don't know where it can be got but I will find out. I love this recording!)

MM for PFS

17 Apr 02 - 08:06 PM (#692475)
Subject: Review: ShoreGrass
From: wysiwyg

ShoreGrass is an old timey/bluegrassy/contra-dancey band from the Connecticut seaport town of Branford. They play at the Branford Festival, the Branford Folk Music Society's Trinity Coffeehouse and, I have no doubt, at every venue in their fair community.

Their guitarist is a retired projects manager, their fiddler teaches strings at the local intermediate school, the banjo player is a manufacturing engineer who once sang lead for a folk/rock group and their bassist is a photographer who used to play with the Greenbriar Boys.

They sound like every group I ever heard in the parking lot at Sunset Park, which is to say they sound terrific. Their enthusiasm is infectious, their blend is sweet, and their repertoire is varied easy listening.

I gave this CD the old dishwashing test and it lasted all the way through the dinnerware, even surviving the wok, which gets done last.

MM for PFS

22 Apr 02 - 11:37 AM (#695589)
Subject: Review: Hans Mayer, See You Later, Alligator
From: wysiwyg

Children's music is kind of tricky. Songwriters are at a disadvantage. Since the audience doesn't already, know the material, it has to be simple enough to be learned quickly, and it must also be sufficiently complex to appeal to the adults who actually buy the tapes and CDs.

Hans Mayer manages to succeed with both age groups. He is a gifted musician and a skillful performer. (He is also a resident of La Crosse, WI. That should count for something.) His newest CD is See You Later, Alligator, which is also the name of the best song on the album.

I have market tested theses songs with those of a far lesser age than mine. They liked them, too. Mr. Mayer's recordings are available on or through his website,

MM for PFS

(another children's music review follows in the next post)

22 Apr 02 - 11:40 AM (#695592)
Subject: Review: Oy Vey Klezmer Band, Oy Vey
From: wysiwyg

More esoteric, but no less delightful, is Oy Vey, a new CD from the Oy Vey Klezmer Band. What a swell way to introduce Jewish music and stories to children!

Sruli plays accordian and foot drums. His partner Lisa dishes up doynas on the violin. They both sing and tell stories, and they narrate and effectivly explain many of the customs and traditions of Judaism. My partner, Katt Flagg, says these guys are good klezmerim, and she would know--- she is a member of Klez Ms when she's not working with me in The Travelers.

MM for PFS

22 Apr 02 - 11:43 AM (#695593)
Subject: Review: Kendall Morse, Beginner's Luck
From: wysiwyg

Sometimes this job is even more fun than usual. This month, my cup runneth over like a fouled sparring partner. To wit, Kendall Morse is a true Down East humorist/folksinger who has been a Maine treasure for many years. He has published books and essays, he has had his own TV show, he has performed on stages throughout New England [and from Maine to Florida to Texas and even to England and Scotland]. Now, his work is available on a new CD, BEGINNER'S LUCK.

I have gotten into a rut playing and replaying this recording. Kendall is such a pleasant singer with a Maine accent that Gordon Bok might trade a ye-ah of his life for. But it is when Kendall starts telling those lies-- oops I mean stories-- that he rises to star status.

I haven't heard anything like him since Marshal Dodge was making us laugh back in the 60s. I would love to see Kendall in a live performance. So would you.

MM for PFS

22 Apr 02 - 11:46 AM (#695595)
Subject: Review: Jody Gibson, Spanning the Decades
From: wysiwyg

Back in 1957, a young folksinger named Jody Gibson had a rather successful record called GOOD MORNING, CAPTAIN, a cover of Jimmy Rogers' MULESKINNER BLUES. Mister Gibson's style was that Rockabilly sound that included among its champions Carl Perkins, George Hamilton IV, and those great twangy guitarists like Luther Perkins and Merle Travis. His songs were Nashville spoofs about fast cars, faster cops and slow relations.

His latest CD, Spanning the Decades, is, at first glance, an incompatible mix of re-released rockabilly and recently-recorded sea chanties. OK, I know what you're thinking. Rockabilly and sea chanties, what's next, Mariachi polkas? (Actually, that sounds rather intriguing.) But I liked this CD.

I really got into the old stuff, Marvin Rainwater's SO YOU THINK YOU'VE GOT TROUBLES? and George Hamilton's IF YOU DONT KNOW, I AINT GONNA TELL YOU. And the old songs like PADDY, LAY BACK and ALL FOR ME GROG had me singing along just like I used to when Spencer Nelson was still with us.

MM for PFS

19 Jun 02 - 03:37 PM (#733115)
Subject: Review: Joe Stead, Valparaiso 'Round The Horn
From: wysiwyg

Joe Stead is an Englishman who lived among us some years ago. He is a traditional singer who, also, writes songs, as who doesn't. When he dwelt among us, he ran the Bothy Club, when that venerable institution was housed in Cavenaugh's Bar, across the street from the main Philadelphia railroad station on 30th St. He's been back in Old Blighty long enough to have forgotten what good food tastes like, but he is putting out some fine music. His latest, and best, effort is Valparaiso 'Round The Horn. It is a delightful, informative musical trek that brings the listener on a sailing ship, out of Liverpool, bound for South America.

This is what folksong recordings can be, and should be. Joe explains every step in the journey, from the days ashore to the workdays aboard. The songs are well performed and, thank goodness, understandable. I recommend this one, a lot.

Joe's web page is

MM for PFS

19 Jun 02 - 03:40 PM (#733120)
Subject: Review: Seamus Kennedy, Goodwill To Men
From: wysiwyg

I am fully aware what month this is. Spring is in the air and Helen wants me to buy gladiolas when I go out for groceries. I never wear my jacket and Easter is past tense. So, why am I writing about a Christmas album? Because it is a great album by a great performer with a major-league voice and, also, because I misplaced it when it came last winter, and I feel guilty, guilty, GUILTY. OK, so it's not Santa season, but trust me on this one.

Seamus Kennedy's Goodwill To Men will knock the socks off your mantle. He opens up with a stirring "Gaudete", then booms through a collection of carols and anthems and traditional novelties. I loved his "Miss Fogarty's Christmas Cake", a sprightly 6/8 that segues effortlessly into a double jig.

Seamus is a very dramatic singer, but on him, it looks good. Seamus has a website, which is good because he has lots of CDs and I can't review them all, but I can assure you that those I have heard are primo.   


MM for PFS

25 Oct 02 - 01:43 AM (#810795)
Subject: Review: Mary Smith, Mary and the Soldier
From: wysiwyg

I am embarrassed at how many worthy CDs are, as yet, unheard and unsung. They do appear to be mating and multiplying in the privacy of my dining room closet. Oh, OK, let's clear the decks. Lots of Celtic, lots and lots. They are all pleasent and some are special.

I do like Mary and the Soldier, a sweet collection of sprightly lilts, most of them familiar. They are performed in uncomplicated sincerity by Mary Smith. I think you will be pleased by her styling and her selections (I loved what she does with "Come All Ye Fair And Tender Maidens" and "The Lark In The Morning"). Mary has a website, of course. It's

-Mike Miller for PFS
Reprinted from PFS "Tune Up," by permission

25 Oct 02 - 01:46 AM (#810796)
Subject: Review: Telynor, Sprig Of Thyme
From: wysiwyg

In the Celtic-and-that-ain't-all category, I reccomend the duo Telynor, whose CD Sprig Of Thyme is a revelation. In one CD, they manage to survey music from Ireland, England, France, Italy and the USA, as well as draw from the Middle Ages through the late Twentieth Century. I was impressed by their singing, their playing, and their tasteful rearrangments. This is no purist reproduction-- every cut is stylized and personalized and fascinating. Their version of "Molly Bahn" adds a hurdy-gurdy drone to envelop that tragic story in an aura of mystery and danger. I always liked Esther Halpern's reding of that song, but I think that it is improve with this new setting. Another pleasent surprise was "The Agincourt Carol", which commemorates the British defeat of the French in the early 15th century. I did that song in a show in Israel around 1970, and I would have sworn that no one else in the world knew it. I am glad I heard this CD. I think you'll like it, too. For more information, see

-Mike Miller for PFS
Reprinted from PFS "Tune Up," by permission

25 Oct 02 - 01:49 AM (#810797)
Subject: Review: The Cat's Pajamas, Goin' Bananas
From: wysiwyg

If you are in the market for kids' songs, you will be delighted to know that The Cat's Pajamas has another CD available. This dynamic duo (Janet Schreiner and Debbie Stahl) has become the most polished act in the Philly kiddie scenie. They have doubled their membership, adding guitarist Clay Shofield and percussionist Jim Hamilton, both of whom sing and augment the merriment that is the atmosphere of every Pajama party. The best thing about Cat's Pajamas' CDs is that they record even better than they perform. The production sparkles with care and quality. The addition of all-star sidemen like soprano saxist Ken Ulansey and trumpeter Stan Slotter make every cut a "keeper". The name of the CD is Goin' Bananas and you can get it (and you should get it) from their website

-Mike Miller for PFS
Reprinted from PFS "Tune Up," by permission

25 Oct 02 - 01:54 AM (#810800)
Subject: Review: Vancouver Foundation (Celtic Collection)
From: wysiwyg

The Vancouver Foundation, which is concerned with cultural and philanthropic endeavors in British Columbia, has produced a lovely CD, Farewell, A Collection of Celtic Waltzes and Slow Airs. This is an all-instrumental olio that might best be labeld "easy listening folk". The primary musicians are guitarist David Sinclair and multitalented Paul Evenden who breathes expression into his concertina, his accordian and the cleanest whistle playing this side of Timothy Britton. This is the kind of CD that you will play again and again to create an atmosphere of tasteful serenity. For more information:

-Mike Miller for PFS
Reprinted from PFS "Tune Up," by permission

27 Oct 02 - 04:37 PM (#812674)
Subject: Review: Bradley Litwin, YOU RASCAL YOU
From: wysiwyg

Bradley N. Litwin, who looks and dresses like a 1950 Jewish accountant, has released a CD that sparkles with wit, polish and authenticity. Mr. Litwin, as his legion of fans well know, is our community's coolest exponent of that crossover blues/rag/jazz idiom that is so entertaining that even the most anti-trad modernists permit themselves the indulgence. In this collection (You Rascal You), Litwin offers a tasty survey of tunes from the mid 20's to the early postwar years-- in essence, the Golden Age of popular jazz. Root singers like Blind Blake and Robert Johnson are covered as well as icons like Josh White and the King Cole Trio. The performances are clean and crisp and exciting (Jon Cooper did a fine job of careful and unobtrusive production). The ensemble is tight, but it is Brad Litwin's razor sharp guitar that defines this recording. You can find out more about this CD by pointing your mouse to

-Mike Miller for PFS
Reprinted from PFS "Tune Up," by permission

27 Oct 02 - 04:41 PM (#812677)
Subject: Review: Paddy Keenan, The Long Grazing Acre
From: wysiwyg

Back in the late 60's, I lived in Dublin, where I spent all my time playing with and listening to some of the most talented traditional musicians in the world; the Fureys, Barney McKenna, Johnny Beggin, Tommy Peoples, they all played at O'Doneghue's on Merion Row.(The Cassideys played upstairs on Wednesdays). On the north side of the Liffy, at Slatterey's on Capel Street, I sang with Andy Irvine, Christy Moore and Danny Doyle. At an after-hours spot called the Piper's Club, I listened to the soulful Dan O'Dowd and my friend, the legendary Seamus Ennis.

I am dropping these names because I want you to know that I know what great Irish music sounds like. It sounds like Paddy Keenan.

Paddy Keenan is simply the finest Irish Piper I have ever heard. His new CD The Long Grazing Acre is a treasure to be listened to and listened to again. The production is flawless, the program is theater and the tone of the pipes is clarinet clear. The addition of guitarist Tommy O'Sullivan seems to spur Keenan to dizzying heights of vituousity. I reccomend this CD to those of you who are into Irish piping. I reccomend this CD to those af you who dig Celtic music (and, also, to those who don't). This is a great sound from a great artist). Why are you reading this when you could be keying up

-Mike Miller for PFS
Reprinted from PFS "Tune Up," by permission

27 Oct 02 - 04:48 PM (#812684)
Subject: Review: Maura McKinney Mastro, Inspirational Roots
From: wysiwyg

Maura McKinney Mastro's new CD is a collection of inspirational songs, about half trad and half hers. She is a talented nightclub vet whose roots are folk, Celt, Christian and radical. Her dad was the legendary journalist Jack McKinney, who died last month and at whose memorial service I led the mourners in a rousing and seditious "Which Side Are You On?". The CD, Inspirational Roots, is more ornate in presentation than folk audiences are used to, but in the context of its intended audience, it is a joy to experience.

The first track, "Back To Life," is Maura's homage to her father and she does him proud. I was also impressed with her inclusion of "America, The Beautiful," our shoulda-been national anthem. Maybe someday, I'll get around to writing about her dad. Maybe one of the Pulitzer Prize winning authors who spoke at the memorial will. Maybe no one would believe us it we did write about a man who was so accomplished in so many areas that his biography would be viewed as fiction. Well, until someone does right by Black Jack, this CD and that song are a decent start. It was released by Clady Records and is available from

-Mike Miller for PFS
Reprinted from PFS "Tune Up," by permission

30 Apr 03 - 09:19 AM (#943473)
Subject: RE: Review: PHILLY FOLKSONG SOCIETY Reviews
From: Fortunato

Diana Krall: "The Look of Love"
If Sherry Somach blurs the bundling board that separates folk from jazz, Diana Krall ignores it. Hers is the sultry jazz of Sarah Vaughn and Dinah Washington, caressing lyrics and riding melody like a Saturday night cowboy showing off at Mickey Gillies'. Her recently released Verve CD,"The Look of Love" is captivating and revealing. Draped in Claus Ogerman arrangements, Ms Krall is as romantic or joyous or resigned as her songs require. Her bittersweet "Cry Me a River" is what Julie London's classic version should have been and I am sorry that Richard Rogers didn't live to hear "S'wonderful" performed just right. This CD is available in all the major outlets, but if you cant find it, there is a web site.

Ry Cooder: Ibrahim Ferrer, "Buenos Hermanos"
Far too often, on the way from tradition to transition, the stalwarts of the past are forgotten or, at best, treated like hoary relics and consigned to obscurity. When Ry Cooder, good man that he is, found, recreated and presented the Buena Vista Social Club, he opened the eyes, the ears and the mind of the 21st century audience to their own rich heritage. The concerts and documentary films of those legendary Havana giants spawned an awareness of the treasures that exist in every genre and ushered in such projects of rediscovery as STANDING IN THE SHADOW OF MOTOWN. Mr. Cooder continues to sponsor his rediscoveries. His latest release is a collection of performances by Buena Vista's Ibrahim Ferrer, "Buenos Hermanos". What a revelation is Ibrahim Ferrer. Was he a better singer thirty years ago? How much more soulful and passionate could he have been? His is the voice of life and love and leisure. His lyrics fall from his lips like the gardenia petals he sings about. The sweet nylon strung guitar accompaniment is as right as rain on a roof. Nonesuch Records is the releaser or distributor or something of the sort and I hope they have a big hit with this one.

--- Michael Miller for PFS
Reprinted from PFS "Tune Up," by permission

30 Apr 03 - 09:22 AM (#943476)
Subject: RE: Review: PHILLY FOLKSONG SOCIETY Reviews
From: Fortunato

    In the midst of the greatest popularity of traditional music since the days of Jack Linkletter, it is easy to forget that the most influential root based genre has been jazz. Off rhythmic in color and blues-based in form, jazz is the high point of the evolution of wholly American music. If bluegrass is folk, then jazz is hyper-folk.
    Much of jazz has become chamber oriented, as bluegrass will reform itself into wherever Nickle Creek, Tony Trishka, Bela Flek and the "Dawg Pound" take it.
    I have been a fan (and occasional participant) of jazz since that day in a Sayre Jr. High School study hall when I heard my first jazz cut. It was the George Shearing Quintet playing Bob Maxwell's "Solfeggio". I was, at the time, a serious violin student. I took lessons twice a week, played in the orchestra and even had a low paying job in a string quartet, appearing at local Jewish organizations. Well, Mr. Shearing changed all that. I neglected the violin and started laying some pizzicato on the bass. I listened to every recording I could find and I read the books and the magazines and the liner notes. I can still tell you who played in Armstrong's Hot Five and who was on stage when Benny Goodman played Carnegie Hall. I knew, from their style, who was from Chicago and who was from Kansas City. My favorite performers were the trumpeters and the female vocalists. They seemed to share a clarity and directness that cut through the ensemble and speak most directly to me.
    Among the trumpet masters, Louis Armstrong and Roy Eldridge were the most lyrical, Wynton Marcellis is the most skilled, but Clifford Brown was the most moving. The great singers included legends like Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters, Billie Holiday and Ella as well as lesser known geniuses like Gloria Lynn, Betty Carter, June Christie, Chris Connor and that dazzling duo, Jacky and Roy. This little resume is intended to flash my bona fides to comment on some CDs that have appeared on my sink side boom box this month.

Sherry Stomach has a new release (Sherry: Smooth, Dry & Cookin') that should be of interest to more than her coterie of friends and fans who have heard her at the PFS's Spring Thing and Fall Fling. Her approach to singing is well rooted in that mid 50's smooth style that served the white singers so well. Her singing is more innovative than Peggy Lee but less so than Betty Carter. Her voice is pleasantly shaky and textured and without the ceaseless slur that marked so many Keely Smith Wannabes. Sherry wrote all the songs on the album and a few are real keepers. I liked "Singing My Blues Away" which sounds like a lot of the songs from those old Doris Day. Jack Carson movies in the 40's. I also enjoyed "Snoozin' Blues". It has a real Peggy Lee sound. (If I seemed to demean Peggy Lee, I didn't mean to. She was a gifted singer and composer whose songs included "Fever", "Manana" and the score for "Lady and the Tramp"). Sherry is ably accompanied by keyboard whiz, Dan Kleiman, who swings with the best. The CD is available at many Philadelphia area outlets or directly from the artist.
Michael Miller for PFS
Reprinted from PFS "Tune Up," by permission

30 Apr 03 - 09:28 AM (#943481)
Subject: RE: Review: PHILLY FOLKSONG SOCIETY Reviews
From: Fortunato

Nancy White: "Stickers on Fruit"
    I take barely bridled joy in presenting a Canadian treasure to our "lower" American market. Born in the Maritimes, hardened in Toronto, vibrant sex goddess, mother of two (formerly mother of one), embattled champion of the adverb, Nancy White enjoys what she calls "an odd, little career". This Lehrer of lawn care is a satirist in the tradition of Roseann Barr or the early Joan Rivers. Hers is the struggle of the modern maid, who must balance the politically correct with the probable.
    I almost wept as she threw off the sackcloth of ecology and admitted that, even though it's summer she proclaims: "I Sweep the Sidewalk With a Hose".
    I cheered when she found just the phrase that describes her job at home. "The Shabbos Goy C'est Moi"
This CD, "Stickers on Fruit" is available from Borealis Recording Company or you can call their toll free order line 1-877-530-4288.
You might ask them for their catalogue, they have a wonderful lineup.
Michael Miller for PFS
Reprinted from PFS "Tune Up," by permission

30 Apr 03 - 09:59 AM (#943497)
Subject: RE: Review: PHILLY FOLKSONG SOCIETY Reviews
From: Fortunato

The Chieftains: "Down The Old Plank Road, The Nashville Sessions"
    More snow! We want more snow. And that ain't all. How about some more wind and sleet? Yeah, that's the ticket. This is the first winter when I can't taunt my daughter about her living in New England. Boy, is my nose red.
    This month, I have heard some dandy CDs, some big time, some independent, some in between. The major release du jour is RCA Victor's ambitious "The Chieftains, Down The Old Plank Road, The Nashville Sessions" which links the venerable Celtic quintet with an all-star array of Bluegrass giants in a mulligatawny that works more often than it doesn't. Genre mixing is a dangerous practice. (I have never forgotten the spectacle of Met Soprano, Helen Traubel, belting a Bessie Smith blues with equal parts of sincerity and embarrassment.)
    This project is more a test of flexibility for the Chieftains than for their collaborators. Except for a few dance tunes like "Sally Goodin" (featuring a very traditional Earl Scruggs lead), a medley of reels with Bela Fleck bending over backwards to sound Irish and the obligatory "everybody gets a turn at the mike" finale, the numbers are pretty solid Bluegrass trad, and the strengths and the limitations of the Chieftains are as visible as their bravery.
    There are so many shining moments on this recording that I am loathe to rate them all, but among my favorites of my favorites were Alison Krauss's singing and playing that tragic "Molly Bawn", her fiddle blending with Sean Keane's and punctuated with those signature Bela Fleck triplets. Another great cut was "Katie Dear" sung by the dynamic Gillian Welch and David Rawlings with Jeff White on guitar. If I passed over that medley of reels, I beg your pardon. It is always grand to hear Bela Fleck play the best Bluegrass banjo on the planet. Oh, and don't miss Ricky Skaggs, that great protector of the traditional values of Bluegrass music, as he rips his way through "You Ought To See My Cindy".
Paddy Maloney, the piper noster of the Chieftains, produced the CD and did the lion's share of the arrangements. I applaud his effort and recommend this very entertaining recording.
Michael Miller for PFS
Reprinted from PFS "Tune Up," by permission

30 Apr 03 - 10:14 AM (#943512)
Subject: RE: Review: PHILLY FOLKSONG SOCIETY Reviews
From: Fortunato

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

30 Apr 03 - 10:26 AM (#943524)
Subject: Brad Litwin: "You Rascal, You"
From: Fortunato

    Another '02 winner was "You Rascal, You" from local traditionalist, Brad Litwin, who is as comfortable in the jazz idioms of the past as Winona Rider is a department store. Come to think of it, with releases by Litwin, Browne and the sorely missed Dave Van Ronk, 2002 was a good year for folkies finding their fathers' favorite funk. Can it be that roots and culture will not be trashed in spite of the best efforts of the Reconstructionists who seek to redefine folk music in their own image? With PBS's new love affair with "Roots" music, with the resurgence of the seeds of soul and country, with "Songcatcher" and "Brother, Where Art Thou?" with the popularity and near stardom of trad fiddlers like Allison and Natalie, in the words of that lovely hymn, "How can I keep from singing?"
    I look to the new year with enthusiastic optimism. I have it on the very best authority that some exciting CD's are ready for release and review. I am promised new products from Tim Briton, The Revels, Klez Ms, Frank Malley and, if we're lucky, Full Frontal Folk.

    I have been exploring the web (Does that sound techy enough?) and I am overwhelmed by the plethora of free information and fellowship available to the lover of traditional music. It's not just Mudcat, anymore. As my expertise does not include anything more complicated than a can opener, I have asked Vince Brennan to check on what's out there and what you need to access it. We will see the first fruits of his research next month. If you have a favorite site, let me know. We will scope it, spot it and 'splain it. We will not be covering personal or advertising sites, no matter how amusing or informative they may be.

I think that I shall never see
An all traditional CD

30 Apr 03 - 10:37 AM (#943530)
Subject: Year 2002: Folk CDs by Musicmic
From: Fortunato

Year 2002: Folk CDs    
    Another year has come and gone. Another number to forget on my deposit slips. Just when I was getting used to the palindromic rarity of 2002, I am forced to deal with a figure the resists mnemonics. It's not as if we got all we could out of good old '02 and we were all panting for a new set of digits to precede the A.D. on ca lenders and almanacs. Lest we forget the old, in our quixotic quest for the new, I, for one, would pay homage to a year that was sadly maligned and avoided by those of us who wanted to get away from the ghosts of 2001 as quickly as we could. Admittedly, '02 was not a banner year for folk music CDs, but it did have its moments.
    It was during the fear laden 2002 that we found the Borealis label from Canada and their impressive stable of performers that includes the astonishing Michael Browne and the fearless Bill Hilly Band. 2002 was, also, when I rediscovered Paddy Keenan, who I knew some thirty years ago in Dublin, long before he developed into a great, great piper. (I eagerly await Timothy Britons' next CD just to compare the two of them). This was the year that unaccompanied harmony found its way back home to folk.
    Bluegrass rediscovered its roots in a movie and Ralph Stanley got some recognition for a lifetime of devotion to his musical heritage. (In a parallel universe, Nickle Creek moved Bluegrass into the area of introspective chamber music.) Nostalgic tours were the order of the day. No concert series was complete without at least one visit from a long forgotten 60's group, gray and paunchy, belting out their anachronisms to an audience who looked just like them. (We knew it was Mary. She was the only one with hair)
    Real traditionalists were as hard to find as PETA members at a rodeo. Joe Stead produced a fine collection of sea chanteys, then went right back to flogging his originals. Bron Yale recorded a stellar group of six traditional English and Welsh tunes but felt the need to dilute her CD with as many of her own. (Perhaps, she only knows six trads or, maybe, she only likes six.) I know I should be grateful for any traditional inclusions but I am unreasonably insatiable.
    Local talent flourished in '02. Steve Schoenwald and his daughter, Jen, released a lovely CD. (Jen is one quarter of the dynamic ensemble, Full Frontal Folk. Their CD was another highlight of the year that was).

Michael Miller for PFS
Reprinted from PFS "Tune Up," by permission

03 May 03 - 06:20 PM (#945552)
Subject: CD REVIEW -- Ray Naylor: "SLOW COOKER"

Ray Naylor: "SLOW COOKER"
    Ray Naylor might be the poster boy for the singer/songwriters of the Greater Philadelphia scene. There isn't a bar, a coffeehouse or a church basement that hasn't heard his songs. He has pioneered new venues, hosted and emceed, publicized, represented and championed the lot of his fellows. His own compositions are anthems of the craft he represents and, in becoming the spokesman for a movement, he achieves the designation: Folksinger.
    If Cyril Tawney is the folksinger of the British Navy, if Gordon Bok is the folksinger of the Maine boatsmen, if Woody Guthrie is the OK Okie, Ray Naylor is the true voice of the Open Stage singer/songwriters. He understands them as only a committed obsessive can. He is not just another name on a signup sheet. He writes about the writing and the singing and the waiting and the persevering in a world where poets are plentiful and profits are paltry. He writes with a sense of humor and humanity.
    He has, at last, released a CD that is as expository as it is entertaining. SLOW COOKER is not the raw Ray of a weekday evening. It is Ray with an array of many of the finest local instrumentalists who glitter like tinsel on a menorah. But it is the lyrics that matter. And Ray does not disappoint. The first cut, "Please Buy My CD" is a plea that every independent producer is dying to scream out loud is handled with Ray's humor and delicacy as is the hilarious "C, D, G" a tribute to the predictability of his arrangements. Professor Naylor, I salute you.
    Ray has a website, of course. Mr. Naylor's three-chord ritual is in keeping with the honored traditions of his calling.

Michael Miller for PFS
Reprinted from PFS "Tune Up," by permission

06 May 03 - 09:52 AM (#946944)
Subject: Ray Naylor FULL CD Review: SLOW COOKER
From: Fortunato

Ray Naylor: "SLOW COOKER"

    Singer/songwriters are as varied as snowflakes and as alike as Romantic intentions. Their tenacity is as admirable as it is poignant. They gather at Open Mike sessions like impalas at a waterhole. They wait for hours for a ten-minute window of amplified opportunity. There isn't a venue obscure enough to escape their patronage. If mosques held Open Mike nights, they would sing facing east. They dream of a world that values effort as it does result. They are my friends and I love and respect their endeavors as clumsy as they, so often, are. They constitute a distinct and identifiable guild, as separate from professional songwriters as the Cleveland Cavaliers are from the NBA. They are epitomized in Ray Naylor.
    Ray Naylor might be the poster boy for the singer/songwriters of the Greater Philadelphia scene. There isn't a bar, a coffeehouse or a church basement that hasn't heard his songs. He has pioneered new venues, hosted and emceed, publicized, represented and championed the lot of his fellows. His own compositions are anthems of the craft he represents and, in becoming the spokesman for a movement, he achieves the designation, folksinger.
    If Cyril Tawney is the folksinger of the British Navy, if Gordon Bok is the folksinger of the Maine boatmen, if Woody Guthrie is the OK Okie, Ray Naylor is the true voice of the Open Stage singer/songwriters. He understands them as only a committed obsessive can. He is not just another name on a signup sheet. He writes about the writing and the singing and the waiting and the persevering in a world where poets are plentiful and profits are paltry. He writes with a sense of humor and humanity. He has, at last, released a CD that is as expository as it is entertaining.
    SLOW COOKER is not the raw Ray of a weekday evening. It is Ray with an array of many of the finest local instrumentalists who glitter like tinsel on a menorah. But it is the lyrics that matter. And Ray does not disappoint. The first cut, "Please Buy My CD" is a plea that every independent producer is dying to scream out loud is handled with Ray's humor and delicacy as is the hilarious "C, D, G" a tribute to the predictability of his arrangements.
    Professor Naylor, I salute you. Ray has a website, of course: Mr. Naylor's three-chord ritual is in keeping with the honored traditions of his calling Irving Berlin, a relatively successful songwriter back in the day, was so limited as a pianist; he could only play in the key of C. Still, he managed to crank out hits like "White Christmas", "Easter Parade" and "God Bless America". Tom Paxton love songs are beautiful but interchangeable, Jewel's gems are unlistenable and Bob Dylan's output is unfettered by melody or creative accompaniment.

Michael Miller for PFS
Reprinted from PFS "Tune Up," by permission

20 May 03 - 09:16 AM (#956118)
Subject: GORDON BOK, Herrings in the Bay (Mary Garvey)
From: Fortunato

A Mr. Gordon Dennis Bok of Camden, Maine has a new CD and it's just delightful. Mr. Bok, as you may know, has recorded some thirty albums over the last thirty years and is one of the most honored and successful artists in the folk and "folk" field. (A "folk" song is a composition that is written so much within the tradition that it might as well be as old as it sounds. Other "folk" song writers include Stan Rogers, Cyril Tawney and Ewan MacColl).

This newest CD, "Herrings in the Bay", is a worthy addition to Bok's collection and, in some ways, it is his best work. Backed by his a sterling glee club, The January Men And Then Some, Mr. Bok wends his merry way through an olio of trad and "folk" with a voice so deep that a listener might get the bends between numbers. His guitar is as lyrical and meandering as ever.

Does Bok have some fountain of youth up there in Maine? I swear he sounds exactly like he did forty years ago. Except for that mustache, he looks the same, too. I must confess that I am not as objective as I might be. I have been a friend and admirer of Denny Bok since the early 60's when we played together almost every day (We played, I learned) and I spent a lot of nights sleeping on that red sofa, too tired to drive home to Germantown. But, prejudiced as I may be, I am in good company calling Gordon Bok a great singer and an important figure in the folk music arena.

Perhaps, the most impressive thing about this album is the introduction of a wonderful "folk" writer, Mary Garvey. Three of her songs are on this recording and they are dynamite. Ms Garvey is a resident of Washington State who writes about the folks who earn their bread from fishing and the related industries. Her songs are authentic and truthful and hilarious. "The Cannery Shed" is such a good number that I may claim I wrote it, myself. I am going to play that cut for every female folksinger I know, I will not rest until it is the most sung and recorded song since "Louie, Louie"

Incidentally, the illustrations on the package are from woodcuts whittled by the man, himself. In Maine, "A man without a hobby is a man without cable."

I must add that, while this CD is available at stores and such, it can be purchased through the obligatory web site (I am told that anyone releasing a CD without a web site comes under the scrutiny of Tom Ridge)

Michael Miller for PFS
Reprinted from PFS "Tune Up," by permission

18 Sep 03 - 08:37 AM (#1021347)
From: Fortunato


    It's not the end of summer until I say it is. I'm still wearing shorts and sandals and I intend to do so until the first snow. It's just mind over matter. How was your summer? Did you miss me? I've been recording these last few months and what a humbling experience that is. Well, at least I can better identify with the artists who send me their CDs for review. When mine is ready for release, I hope I find a reviewer as sensitive and generous as I am. Here are a few examples of my largesse.   
    Bill Dempsey (He is the former Absecon, NJ surfer who deserted us for the big waves off San Clemente) has a new CD, "The Waves We Left Behind". It features Bill and his partner, dulcimer maven, Connie Allen, in a delightful program of trad (real) and trad (manufactured). Bill's banjo is sprightlier than ever and his voice range has deepened about a tone and a half. The highlight, for me, was Connie's hilarious composition, "Sailor Jack". I will be performing that one at my school shows this year. They have a website,
    My mailbox at the PFS office was a crowded one all summer. I received CD's from so many gifted musicians that I will be months covering the best of the best. But determining a favorite was a piece of cake once I got Cyril Tawney's newest re-releases. Cyril is a folklorist, an author, a collector and the best writer of "folk" songs I have ever heard. In his youth, he served as a line officer in the Royal Navy. While in service, he discovered a love for sea chanteys and focs'l ballads. This passion for naval songs enabled him to create such classics as "Sally, Free and Easy", "Chicken on a Raft" and "Grey Funnel Line", songs that are so singable, they have become standards in the folk music field. The CD entitled "NAVY CUTS" has all of Cyril's best known numbers including "Five Foot Flirt" and the song we all sang around the campfire at the old Beers Festival, "Sammy's Bar". (Singing harmony on the chorus of "Sammy's Bar" is good for the soul).
    Cyril's other new releases, "Nautical Tawney" is an all traditional grouping of well known sailors' ballads in an authentic, PG rated, setting. All the old favorites are here, "New York Girls", "The Female Cabin Boy" and "The Fireship". Cyril handles the material with the confidence of authenticity.   He is not just a fine folksinger. He is an important figure in the Folk Revival. His compositions are as real and correct, as if person, or persons, unknown had written them. His language and attitude are dead on. Has there ever been a more vivid cry of the British working stiff than these lines from "Monday Morning"?   "If, only, the birds could booze, If, only, the sun was a party giver, If I could just trade someone else my liver, On a Monday mornin'". Cyril Tawney is Ewen Macoll with a voice. He's Tom Paxton with a dose of reality. He is well worth the price of his CD's. They are more available in Great Britain than here, but ADA records has a website,
    I may have, over the years, "cracked wise" about the recordings that have passed through my sink side boom box. I have exercised the inherent smugness of criticism toward those CD's that failed to meet my standards of inclusion. I couldn't help it. It's in the job description. Nevertheless, I stand before you today, a penitent pundit. I have been to the mountain. I have seen the light. God help me, I am making a CD. The process is not unlike those outpatient medical procedures that are visited upon men in their fifties. One frightening lesson I have learned is that, on a recording, imperfections pop up like pimples at a sock hop.   

Mike Miller
   Philadelphia Folksong Society

25 Oct 03 - 08:39 AM (#1041565)
Subject: Goin' where the chilly winds don't blow...(Part 1)
From: Fortunato

The days end sooner, the winds grow cold, my sandals are in hibernation. My God, how I pity myself. These are the days of transient denial made a little more palatable by some fine music in my mailbox.
    I have reviewed so many CDs from Canada's Borealis Records, you must think I'm on their payroll. (I'm not, not that I haven't dropped a few hints). Their lineup of trad and near-trad artists is as extensive as I've found. Their latest submission is a collection of (Now, let me get this right) musique traditionelle du Quebec entitled "Maudite Moisson !" performed by an astonishingly talented group, Le Vent du Nord, .
    Now, I will admit that my French is limited to fried potatoes and salad dressing so I'm sure I missed some nuances in the songs in spite of the useful translations in the bilingual album notes. Also, I am told that there is a significant difference between French French and Quebec French (some of my best French are jewish, but that's another tale for another time). But, whether you are a Francophile or, like me, linguistically illiterate, this is a wonderful, wonderful CD. It is bursting with grand music and great performances. The musicianship of , Le Vent du Nord, is to be believed. On such diverse instruments as hurdy-gurdy, accordions, bodhran, violin, mandolin, piano and pieds (foot tapping), they manage to present a show as varied as it is exciting. I even loved the vocals. I didn't understand them but I loved them.
    Don't miss this terrific offering from a group who will surely become as successful as they are gifted. They have their own web site
or you can contact Borealis Records at

Michael Miller
Tune-Up, a publication of the Philadelphia Folksong Society

25 Oct 03 - 08:50 AM (#1041568)
Subject: Goin' where the chilly winds don't blow...(Part 2)
From: Fortunato

And now, for something totally different, I give you the Chance and Susette Shiver Show, ON THE AIR. This is a show within a show within a CD. Are you still with me? Imagine, if you will, an old fashioned radio show complete with silver voiced announcer, organ fanfares and honest to goodness sounding commercials.
    Picture, if you can, a husband and wife team reinventing, what sounds to me to be, the old George Burns & Gracie Allen "Lambchops" routine and separating the two liners with Old Timey duets. Project, if you must, ordering this singular CD from such random venues as CD Baby, CD Street, or their very own site,
    I can guarantee you have nothing in your record collection like it. (I wonder if that's Harry Von Zel on bass)
    A little more prosaic but well within the neighborhood of the unexpected, is Michael Bracken's "Amhrain" (with one of those little accent marks over the second a). Michael Bracken has taken a set of traditional Irish songs and arranged them in most untraditional ways. He uses contemporary genres and voicings and orchestrations and produces an interpretation that is as personal as a poem. I didn't think I would like this approach but I was surprised and pleased with his heresy. Listening to Bracken's "Star of the County Down" was a revelation, at the same time, entertaining and challenging. Michael Bracken lives in the UK but he has a website.
    More news from the recording front, personal prejudice division or "Recording as Euthanasia":
Lessons Learned the Hard Way part 2
    1. A cut is never complete. There is always something you
       can add, subtract, clean up or rerecord.
    2. More musicians = more headaches.
    3. Ideas are unfettered. Only money is finite.

Michael Miller
Tune-Up, a publication of the Philadelphia Folksong Society

25 Oct 03 - 08:56 AM (#1041571)
Subject: Goin' Where the Chilly Winds don't Blow part 3
From: Fortunato

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, roots loving acoustic blues man, D.W.Ditty serves up a feast of oldies, "oldiers" and "oldiests" with taste and zest.("WHO IS D.W.DITTY?") I am never quite sure where to lay that line that separates blues from rag from jazz. Genres are like clouds with wisps where there ought to be borders. Mr. Ditty (That's what he calls himself and who am I to pry into a man's questionable decisions?) has neither need nor desire to categorize his style. He is skilled, he is entertaining, he is delightful and that is plenty good enough for me. I really like his cover of Mississippi John Hurt's "I'm Satisfied (and Tickled, Too)" and I admit that I identified with Sheb Wooley's "I Just Don't Look Good Naked Anymore". You can hear selections and order from D.W.'s website

    Writing that last review put me in mind of the time when long time Philadelphia. Folk Festival chairman, Bob Seigal, booked the legendary Bo Diddly to close the Saturday night concert. Bo and his agent were on tour in Great Britain, so Bob made a Trans-Atlantic call person to person, no less. The desk clerk at the London hotel said that "Mr. Diddly is unavailable and would we like to leave a message?" Bob couldn't bring himself to say "Mister Diddly" out loud and he had to call back..
    Personally, I think it would make a great mantra.

Michael Miller
Tune-Up, a publication of the Philadelphia Folksong Society

27 Nov 03 - 07:09 AM (#1061901)
From: Fortunato

"Thanksgiving for the memories", part 1

There is a nip upon the air,
A seasonal sensation,
A nip is just the thing to share,
I'm speaking of libation.

As sweet summer turns to acrid winter, we take solace in the abundance of holidays and presents yet to be.
The practice of giving the gift of music is, or should be, as ritualized as trying to wrap frankincense.

CD's make for superb stocking stuffing. They are inexpensive, tasteful and, as their name implies, compact.
I have more than a few to recommend this month.
See following posts (2).

--- Michael Miller, Tune-Up, a publication of the Philadelphia Folksong Society

27 Nov 03 - 07:16 AM (#1061906)
Subject: Seamus Kennedy CD: "A Smile and a Tear"
From: Fortunato

Another year, another Seamus Kennedy release. I swear that guy has more recorded material than Elvis, but he never disappoints. Sheamus' professionalism and skill are as predictable as a Bush bombing. His "A Smile and a Tear" is a mulligatawny of trad, near-trad and out and out contemporary covers that wouldn't blend for anyone but him. Included in this extraordinary collection are the charming Scottish lilt, "Mairi's Wedding", the Celtic standard, "Fainne Geal an Lae", and the haunting "I See His Blood Upon the Rose", the poem written for his new bride by Irish Martyr, Joseph M. Plunkett. There is lots of humor as well; it wouldn't be a Seamus Kennedy session without a "bit of the crack". Mr. Kennedy's recordings are available in stores and such, or through services like

--- Michael Miller, Tune-Up, a publication of the Philadelphia Folksong Society

27 Nov 03 - 07:29 AM (#1061923)
Subject: Chulrua CD: "Down the Back Lane"
From: Fortunato

While we are in a Hibernian state, I am tickled green to report a new release from Chulrua, the finest traditional Irish trio
in Iowa (and, possibly out of Iowa, too). Chulrua is button accordionist, Paddy O'Brien, guitarist/singer, Pat Egan and
Tim Britton who plays everything else. Their striking and skillful approach to their music is fitting match to their deep love
and understanding of the material and the culture it represents. If you are a fan of the real Irish dance tune, this will be a vital
addition to your collection. In the spirit of full disclosure, I will admit that I am not a disinterested observer of Tim Britton's
work. I confess that I have known Mr. Britton all his life. I often boast that I gave him a few bass lessons before he found his muse.
(It should be mentioned that bass is one of the very few instruments that he doesn't play on this CD). My tutelage, alas, had
nothing to do with his development as a world class Uillean piper and as fine a penny whistler. He even tears off some solid
mandolin work on this dynamite CD: "Down the Back Lane", which is available from Shanachie Entertainment, or from Tim and Paddy at

--- Michael Miller, Tune-Up, a publication of the Philadelphia Folksong Society

02 Jan 04 - 09:05 AM (#1084504)
Subject: Zan Gardner: Here's My Heart
From: Fortunato

There's snow business like show business...
ZAN GARDNER: Here's My Heart

While a pessimist sees his glass as half empty and an optimist sees his glass as half full, and, while a mechanical engineer thinks his glass is twice as large as is needed, I am happy to report that my glass runneth over. My spirits are higher and my poundage is lower. I love my friends and they adore me. What more can I ask? My producer swears that we are almost done the CD. (Well, in truth, he's been saying that for months, but this time, I believe him). I am still searching for that one, perfect critic to review the finished product. So far, my list includes John Simon and me.

I have no traditional music to report on, this month, but a few CDs are of such merit that they deserve mention and comment. Some time ago, I reviewed two folk/jazz crossovers and wrote that the line between blues and jazz is no thicker than the linebetween Old Timey and Bluegrass. Once a traditional genre becomes commercial its evolution is inevitable. If Robert Johnson's music was the father of Mississippi John Hurt, it also sired the slickness of Josh White, the tenderness of Joe Williams and the power of James Brown. Without the roots of Delta Blues, there would have been no Bessie Smith, no Ethel Waters, no Billie Holiday or Dinah Washington. And, if a trad form can evolve into sophisticated art, it can transcend its racial and cultural borders. What was, in its raw folkiness, an expression of rural Southern Black poverty, is now the popular music that defines our society.

Thus, there is something distinctly American about the revolutionary sounds of Chestnut Hill jazz artist, Zan Gardner whose debut CD ("Here's My Heart") is exciting critics in her field and in mine. Ms. Gardner's approach is consciously non-traditional. She is her own primary influence. Her strength is her daring and imagination. She never met a tune she couldn't cook or a lyric she couldn't expand. She understands that invention and creativity are as vital to jazz as taste and tone. I have listened to her cut of "How High the Moon" a dozen times and I swear it sounds different every time. The CD is available in stores or can be ordered from the label's website

--- Michael Miller, Tune-Up, a publication of the Philadelphia Folksong Society

02 Jan 04 - 09:11 AM (#1084509)
Subject: BETH MEAD: BIG BANDJO, Second Session
From: Fortunato

There's snow business like show business...
    BETH MEAD: BIG BANDJO, Second Session

If jazz is blues and blues is folk and bluegrass is "folk music in overdrive", what are we to make of banjo belle, Beth Mead, who has taken her Scruggs licks on a tour of Swing standards for a second session of "BIG BANDJO"? I suggest we bring our hands together and applaud her talent, her taste and her infinite variety (as Will Shakespeare used to say). I have liked the three-finger style applied to big band favorites ever since Roger Sprung and the Progressive Bluegrassers pioneered the movement back in the early 60's. Beth Mead is a worthy successor to the Sprung legacy. Her playing is uncluttered and melodic. Her selections are adventurous but recognizable. She covers the obvious crossover numbers ("Ain't She Sweet", "When You're Smiling", "Bye Bye Blues") and the surprising ("I'm Always Chasing Rainbows", "Polka Dots and Moonbeams") with equal fervor and skill. You can order this lively CD from Beth, whose e-mail address is (Att. banjo pickers; you can get tablature for the songs on this CD from the same e-mail source. How about that?)

--- Michael Miller, Tune-Up, a publication of the Philadelphia Folksong Society

02 Jan 04 - 09:18 AM (#1084516)
Subject: Lori Holland:The Woman She Became
From: Fortunato

There's snow business like show business...part 3
    LORI HOLLAND:The Woman She Became

There is no more quality-varied genre than the singer/songwriter scene. Every third person in the United States has written a dozen songs and recorded them for posterity. If I do not, often, report the latest Dar-come-lately, it is more evidence of my sloth than my taste.

Well, I wandered into the land of contemporary composition and came upon a field of dreams. I had heard Lori Holland sing "Didn't I Dance" some years ago. I heard everyone else sing it, too. It is a magical, marvelous song, the best exposition of nostalgia I had encountered. So, when Lori sent me a copy of her new CD ("The Woman She Became"), I gave it more than a cursory ear. It is an interesting and rewarding collection of retrospection, reflection not unlike her masterpiece opus, woven into an olio of a cappella trad and gutsy, gentle blues. It is, I think, a pretty album and a worthy addition to anyone's shelf. Lori's voice is strong and clear and her arrangements are tastefully complex. There is some dynamite accompaniment by a bevy of talented instrumentalists, with the honors going to former Progressive Bluegrasser, Manny Krevat. Mr. Krevat doubles as producer and his product is primo.

This CD is available by phone orders to the lovely Lori (212-222-4367). Yes, the Nashville acoustic guitar licks are played by Lori's son, legendary Bluegrass whiz, Danny Holland.

--- Michael Miller, Tune-Up, a publication of the Philadelphia Folksong Society

14 Feb 04 - 08:06 AM (#1115771)
Subject: Artie Naiman and Chris Coole: THE BANJO SPECIAL
From: Fortunato

From the folk rich far north comes a CD to please a bevy of tastes. THE BANJO SPECIAL is a carefully crafted feast of traditional genres of this most American of instruments. Artie Naiman and Chris Coole are subtle masters of the clawhammer approach, that amalgam of frailing percussion and double thumb precision that is the signature sound of Appalachian traditional music and the dance band form it became, which we call Old Timey. The discipline of the genre precludes crispness and close definition but Naiman and Coole have the skill to offer melodic diversion without sacrificing authenticity. If you are a stranger to real folk banjo, you couldn't pick a better introduction. Their talent is even more evident when one considers the company they keep on this recording, company like Bluegrass whiz, Chris Quinn. On four featured selections (and one "everybody, take a solo" finale), Quinn shows both the tradition of three finger style and the evolution and expansion that has taken the 5 string from Scruggs and Reno to Keith and Fleck. On his cuts, he is joined by blazing solos from guitarist, Marc Roy, and mandolinist, Dan Whiteley.
The fourth star of this superb CD is County Sligo born Brian Taheny, whose mastery of tenor banjo is almost magical. He speeds through three reels, a hornpipe, a set dance, slip jigs, double jigs and that finale with triplets erupting from his strings like sparks from a Roman Candle. His tone and touch are mystic and correct and his musicianship is unlimited. I play some tenor, myself, and I can assure you that Mr. Taheny is the real deal. This CD is a release from Merriweather Recording Ltd. in Aurora, Ontario. They have a website,

Next month, we'll cover new CDs of children's songs, sea songs and a few surprises. Of course, the biggest surprise would be if I ever finished my own recording but who am I to tempt the Evil Eye? (Excuse me while I spit three times).
--- Michael Miller

14 Feb 04 - 08:10 AM (#1115773)
Subject: Mary Humphreys: Sharp Practice
From: Fortunato

Hallelujah, the great draught is over. My coffers, which only last month were bare of traditional music CDs, are bursting like last year's britches. We will spend the next few issues frolicking in folk, romping in retrospect, cavorting in collective culture. The world is our cloister and our cornucopia. Let's get right to it.

Mary Humphreys, Welsh born singer, and Anahata, Islington instrumentalist, have made a dandy CD of songs and sprightly dance tunes which they render on concertinas, banjos and occasional melodeons. The well-produced recording is called "Sharp Practice" in tribute to the legendary collector, Cecil Sharp. Those of us who love real English folksongs (we are a small but rabid band) are more than pleased to welcome this grand grouping. Mary's stylish vocals are clear and clean. Her scholarship is faultless and lucid. Anahata provides tasteful backing and comment for the lyrics and shines like a new penny on the half dozen dances that separate the vocals. All in all, this is a most worthy addition to my trad shelf. They included a phone number in the liner notes but I think you might prefer reaching them through their website,

--- Michael Miller

14 Feb 04 - 08:13 AM (#1115775)
Subject: Round The House: 'Til The Wee Hours
From: Fortunato

From a little closer to home (actually from Tucson, Arizona, which is only close if you live in New Mexico) comes a lively barrage of Irish music from marvelous quartet who call themselves Round The House. Their CD, "'Til The Wee Hours" is as surprising as it is delightful and it is as delightful as it can be. The selections are up and at 'em sparklers, featuring precise picking from mandolinist Dave Firestine and fancy fiddle flourishes from Sharon Goldwasser. I really liked their interplay on the polka medley and Miss Monahan's Reel. The vocals are every bit as fine. Claire Jamieson Zucker, singer and self contained rhythm section, does a dynamite reading of the lyrics. Her voice tintinabulous and her phrasing is sharp and professional. I have listened to her joyful "Irish Molly O" over and over again. It never fails to force a smile. This CD is available from or from their website,

(A CD of Irish music from a group that features names like Goldwasser, Firestine and Zucker can only mean that a Chieftains Shpiel Klezmer recording is in the offing.)--- Michael Miller

14 Feb 04 - 08:19 AM (#1115778)
Subject: Debbie Carroll: Up and Over the Moon
From: Fortunato

From out the frozen north comes yet another CD gem. (What is this well of folkdom that Canadians tap like maple trees?) Debbie Carroll, a charming and talented early childhood music specialist in Toronto, offers an avalanche of play songs, game songs and dances on a fabulous collection called "Up and Over the Moon", which she describes as "...giggle, dance and cuddle songs for the very young." I stand in awe of those gifted individuals who can relate to pre-schoolers, who can capture their attention and infect them with their elan. Because I am neither a pre-schooler nor the parent of a preschooler, I wanted an outside opinion of this CD before I criticized it. I gave it to Sylvia Epstein, a critic whose pre-school credentials are as real as she is pretty. Sylvia says it's good. What can I add to that?
The CD, along with an illuminating booklet of movement and games is available from Merriweather Records, Ltd.,
Tell 'em Sylvia sent you.
--- Michael Miller

14 Feb 04 - 08:22 AM (#1115781)
Subject: Tossi Aaron Sings Yiddish Folksongs for the Second
From: Fortunato

This month's golden oldie is the classic "Tossi Aaron Sings Yiddish Folksongs for the Second Generation", recorded in the days when album titles were longer than librettos. This marvelous and important collection, so long out of print, will soon be available. Those lantzmen who recall the great Yiddish folksingers, Ruth Rubin, Martha Shlamme and Theo Bikel, have a treat to look forward to.
Tossi Aaron's voice and style placed her in the highest ranks and her knowledge of music and Jewish custom elevated her to individual prominence. There are those who say that I stole all my Yiddish material from Tossi but I maintain that, while that may be true, I have been careful to honor her unintentional contribution by stealing all her stories, too. On this Prestige release, Tossi is ably accompanied by her husband, mandolinist Leon Aaron, and master guitarist, Linda Labove.

Report from the trenches; my CD is, at long last, recorded and in the mixing phase. This is a time of retrospection, selection, reflection and sporadic dejection. The process is not unlike searching one's head for strands of gray. The average track has more flaws than a skyscraper and each flaw is as visible as beet juice on a tablecloth. Still, it marches on and the release date, early April, looms in an ever-decreasing distance. I know I will be pleased and proud, but right about now just seeing it through would please me most of all.
--- Michael Miller

14 Feb 04 - 12:52 PM (#1115906)
Subject: RE: Review: PHILLY FOLKSONG SOCIETY Reviews
From: Walking Eagle

All of these reviews sound great, but I wonder if bad reviews are ever written? I certainly appreciate the time that WYS and Fortunato put in doing these. My fingers would no linger be in existance if I had posted all this info. Thank you, thank you!

I must disagree with Mr. Miller in one of the abouve posts. The banjo is not an American instrument. It came to us via slaves from West Africa. Lacking the items to build them the traditional ways, they even improvised most of the improvements of the modern banjo.

14 Feb 04 - 02:52 PM (#1115953)
Subject: Jed Marum: The Soul of a Wanderer
From: Fortunato

Another Canadian-born of notes is Jed Marum. His newest CD (The Soul of a Wanderer) is a mix of folk, near folk, neo-folk and faux-folk wherein Mr. Marum composes and covers many classics and more than a few that should be standard in the "Folk" play list. I hope that his inclusion of songs by Percy French and Andy Stewart will reintroduce these important singers to the audience of today. Marum's easy listening style is just what those numbers need. His own compositions are well written and artfully presented as are the quartet of traditional pieces that are sung with respectful gusto. This CD is released by Boston Road Records, and they have a web site:

--- Michael Miller

14 Feb 04 - 03:02 PM (#1115959)
Subject: RE: Jed Marum: The Soul of a Wanderer
From: Big Mick

Mike hits this one on the mark. It is my opinion that Jed is one of the finest singers performing today and deserves a much wider market. His guitar work is beyond compare, his way with a lyric the same, and his research is impeccable. A testament to his talent will be found in those that agreed to appear on this CD. You don't get a Paul Mills to produce, or a Brian MacNeil to contribute, unless they are convinced that you have what it takes. Rick Fielding contributed to this as well. I am reminded of his comment at the FSGW Getaway. After we came off stage, I thanked him for letting me sing with him. I told him that he needn't have taken me up there just because we were friends. He stopped me dead in my tracks, looked me straight in the eye, and informed me "I would never bring someone onstage with me that didn't belong there. This is how I make my living and I don't play with that". Huge lesson there, from a man that I respect more than virtually anyone. And that is the lesson when you look at Jed's CD. The folks that chose to appear are top flight pro's.

If I could be critical of this CD, I would. It simply is a wonderful CD, from a wonderful performer, with great songs, and a diverse mix. Buy it. It is that simple.

All the best,

Mick Lane

15 Feb 04 - 12:30 AM (#1116164)
Subject: RE: Review: PHILLY FOLKSONG SOCIETY Reviews
From: musicmick

For those who wish to communicate with me directly, you can pm me or send me an e-mail at or to TUNE UP at

Your comments are welcome.

                           Mike Miller

15 Feb 04 - 05:46 PM (#1116557)
Subject: RE: Review: PHILLY FOLKSONG SOCIETY Reviews

"Another Canadian-born of notes is Jed Marum."

I thought jed Marum was American.

18 Feb 04 - 09:42 AM (#1118377)
Subject: RE: Review: PHILLY FOLKSONG SOCIETY Reviews
From: JedMarum

Thanks Mick, Mike, Chance, all ... GUEST; you are correct, I made the record in Canada (Toronto) - but I live in the States (Texas).

31 Mar 04 - 11:22 AM (#1151029)
Subject: March Madness -David Oestrerreich
From: Fortunato

The folk, the faux, the few, the proud; they gather at my boom box like swagmen to a billabong. Like John Holmes, my cup runneth over. They come for approval and they come for applause and they came to the right place. I love them all (well, some more than others). Their efforts are valiant and, though I must pick and choose for reasons of taste and space, I am in awe of every artist who presents his work to a critic. I know that when my CD is reviewed, next month, I will be chanting Nancy Adler's "If you don't like me, lie!"
David Oestrerreich, of Indianapolis IN, records under the nom d' disc, Uncle DaveO. He has been folk singing even longer than I have. His latest CD, THE REAL STORY! packs no fewer than twenty three traditional tunes onto a CD, no larger than ordinary. The selections are as varied as a puppy's breakfast. Some you know and, some, you will want to learn. He has a website, of course. (Note: no www)

--- Michael Miller

31 Mar 04 - 11:27 AM (#1151037)
Subject: MARCH MADNESS II - Tanglefoot -- Captured Alive
From: Fortunato

This month's BOREALIS CANADIAN FAUX BUT PRO AWARD goes to Borealis Records for their elaborately produced and strikingly designed CD, "Captured Alive" featuring that most talented and tantalizing quintet, Tanglefoot. The program is full, the execution is precise and Tanglefoot's showmanship is equal to its musicianship which is prodigious. The selections are hand woven and of recent vintage at that but the style and feel are in keeping with Tanglefoot's core. Few artists challenge my musical biases as sharply as this group. Their trad qualifications are so blatant as to be ostentatious but, like Bela Fleck and Take6, they stray from the folk fold to graze the greener fields of gelt. (What I like to call a gelt trip).
Borealis has a toll free number 1-877-530-4288 and a web site:

--- Michael Miller

31 Mar 04 - 11:30 AM (#1151041)
Subject: March Madness 3 - Vince Brennan
From: Fortunato

In the new-age-high-tech-everyone understands it except me category, I recommend "O'Neill's Music of Ireland and Allan's Irish Fiddle" on CD for PC computers. Vince Brennan, the famed "Mindless Mandolinist" of So's Your Mom, has painstakingly transcribed the thousands of tunes from these two seminal collections into a form that can be read or listened to. O'Neill's is the unofficial bible for Irish-American traditional musicians, sort of a Rise Up Singing without words. Allan's is a much smaller selection but, in my opinion, has the more vibrant melodies. This is a wonderful tool for jig junkies and hornpipe hounds. (Dare I call it the reel deal?). You can get your hands on a copy by contacting Vince at

--- Michael Miller

01 Apr 04 - 02:06 PM (#1152140)
Subject: March Madness 2 -- Philadelphia Jug Band,
From: Fortunato

Had I been consulted, I, probably, could have come up with a more ornate name for a Philadelphia based jug band than The Philadelphia Jug Band. I would not, however, have altered their sound or their tasteful approach. The PJG's newest CD, "The Philadelphia Jug Band" (you were expecting, maybe, Rubber Soul?) is a proper exposition of their individual and collective gifts. I was most impressed with the cleanliness of the ragtime guitar work of Jim Klingler and Frank Zemlan and the melodic know-how of harmonica virtuoso, Bob Beach. This is not your joke it up, neighborhood jug band. These guys are serious about their humor and humorous about their authenticity. I think you will want to add this CD to your cache, Check it out at

--- Michael Miller

01 Apr 04 - 02:10 PM (#1152143)
Subject: March Madness3 -- Beaucoup Blue
From: Fortunato

Another too blue to be true troupe is Beaucoup Blue, whose CD, "Out of the Woodwork", offers a dozen classy classic wails, marked with sincerity and verve. This, my Caucasian friends, is what acoustic blues should sound like but so rarely do. Father and son, David and Adrian Mowry, deliver a surprisingly soulful performance. Their singing is tough and controlled and their guitar work is crisp and mournful. This well produced product is available at a limited number of venues, on or from the Mowrys, themselves at

--- Michael Miller

24 May 04 - 01:47 PM (#1192917)
From: Fortunato

Summer is a'commin' in like bills to a mailbox. Soon enough, the PFS office will be a beehive of chaotic fervor as every volunteer in the contiguous states girds for the extravaganza that is the Philadelphia Folk Festival. Ah, there will be no time or space for TUNE UP until Labor Day. So, this is it, bunkies, but before my swan goes back to being a duckling, let's clear the shelves.
    It has been a so-so year for folk recording. Trad has been a little more in evidence and, if the quality level has not always risen to expectation, I am grateful for all the brave souls who take the time, the effort, the money and the commitment to the dream. I know, from my own experience, how consuming a recording project can be.
    (I would like to thank the legendary George Britton for his lavish review of my CD. George's enthusiasm is overwhelming. When the Main Point Coffeehouse opened in 1963, George was the emcee. His introduction of the featured act, Ed McCurdy, was so lengthy and gushing that McCurdy's first words on stage were, "Am I supposed to sing or stud?")
      Little Steps, a sweet family band from Perkasie, Montgomery County, PA has a new CD entitled "Daybreak" and it is delightful. The Yoder clan, papa Rob, mama Anna Lisa, young'uns Trudy, Lydia and Seth are joined with Chris Cole and his daughter, Emily in a set of half trad and half not. It is the special feeling of family that elevates this recording. The kids handle this Americeltic standards with ease and oomph. If you would like to hear more from and about Little Steps, you can call the Yoders at 215-538-5280.

24 May 04 - 01:55 PM (#1192927)
Subject: Makem Brothers with Mickey and Liam Spain
From: Fortunato

Another two family ensemble is The Makem Brothers with Mickey and Liam Spain who celebrate their merger in a CD called "Like Others Did Before Us" and what an apt little title that is. If their sound is evocative (Well, slap my face and call me Clancey), then more power to them. They bear the muse and views of those great Irish groups from the 60's revival. Their songs are Irish-American and Irish-Australian and Irish-everywhere else that housed the survivors of the famines and desperation that marked that sad island in the 1800's. These boys are skilled and motivated and I won't be a bit surprised if you like this CD as much as I do. Their label has a website,

Mike Miller

24 May 04 - 01:58 PM (#1192930)
Subject: Nancy Nickelsberg's CD: "Midnight"
From: Fortunato

I do not, often, report on individual songs but I just heard a lulu on Nancy Nickelsberg's "Midnight" CD. Check out track #4 for her cover of Ann Leyland's "Rose Covered Prison". It has as authentic a Country sound as anything Patsy, Loretta or Dolly ever released. Ms Leyland, Levittown's version of Jennie Lind, has captured the misery of mid-marital disillusion to a fare-thee-well.
    Nancy Nickelsberg does a fine rendition on the recording. Are all wives as unhappy as Country songs would have us believe? If they're not torn between two lovers, they're sitting on silver threads and golden needles and that's got to be uncomfortable. Even when they stand by their men, they do so in spite of the unworthiness of those louts. I'm going to call Ann Leyland and ask her what us guys are doing wrong and how can we do better. Heck, I didn't get to be the best husband in the world by complacency.
    Well, as Carol Burnett said, on her umpteenth reunion show, I'm so glad we had this time together. If the creek don't rise, we'll do it again in the fall. I thank Ed Halpern for his editorial patience, Chance Shiver for his posting prowess and Lynn Sheeran, without whom, I would be treading water and you would be staring at a blank page. If you see me at a show or festival, say hello. Folk singing is so lonely.

Mike Miller