The Folk Scene Collection Vol. 2
Various ArtistsRHR CD 137
St. Paul, MN 55014
A review written for the Folk & Alliance Music Exchange
Radio show compilations have been invading the folk scene in the last few years. The Kgsr's, World Cafe, Mountain Stage series, Columbia Radio Hours, and countless others are becoming collectors' favorites, as well as great introductions for newcomers. Take a look at Ebay and you'll find that some of these CD's (when out of print or rare) reach three digit prices quite often.
I must admit that I have become addicted to these CD's. So, what is it that makes these performances such a magical experience? They stand somewhere in between the studio recording and the live show, and mostly take the best of both worlds. The artist is detached from the stress of the crowd, as well as from the demands of the studio, where the same track may be re-recorded many times during the same day. I have systematically found that the best versions of some of the best folk songs of later years are located on radio broadcast compilations.
Add to this that there are always one or two unreleased songs appearing for the first time, or a rare song that gets heard in a completely new way. The unreleased song here is Greg Brown's I'm This Blue, and as much as I can remember the Tom Russell song California Snow, also makes its first appearance here.
The recordings span a long period of 24 years, with the oldest one being a 1975 recording by Tom Waits of The Heart Of Saturday Night. The recording is rough and very direct, probably the best version of it. Lucinda Williams, in a touching version of Little Angel, Little Brother, sounds better than ever on disc. We also find Nanci Griffith's Love At The Five & Dime from 1988, in a very good version of the song. There is also a relaxed performance by Eliza Gilkyson, with her father on backing vocals, of "Take Off Your Old Coat." The Stephen Fearing track is very strong and may be an occasion for many listeners to hear this underrated and great songwriter for the first time.
Unusual suspects are Vince Gill, sounding more like Hank Williams here than country superstar, and a 1983 recording of Stan Rogers. Most songs are performed on vocal and guitars, some with 2 to 3 more musicians. If you think that many folk recordings are overproduced these days, you won't find any of that here. Everything is simple and direct; you are always in front of the singer and the song.
This is volume 2 and I hope this series reaches volume ten. My only complaint is that there are only 13 songs, and twenty minutes of blank bits. I know that there are problems related to royalties, but I wish 4 to 5 more songs would have been added. Just musing and wondering who's going to do compilations of the Acoustic Cafe popular radio shows - from what I've heard they are the best.
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Edited by Roberta B. Schwartz