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Ferron - Boulder

Boulder

Ferron

Short Story Records - shortstory#2

Available from Short Story Records.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Roberta B. Schwartz
(rschwart@bowdoin.edu)

It's hard to say something about Ferron that has not already been said. For a generation she has been a poet, a leader, a survivor, an artist of great depth, and finally, an icon. She grew up in and around Vancouver, British Columbia and brought her unforgettable songs to the United States and elsewhere during the height of the movements for women's liberation and gay and lesbian rights. For some, she was and still is a role model. For others, she became an artist and musician who moved them to tears and joy. She is simply one of the greatest songwriters and performers of recent times.

In the past few years, Ferron has all but vanished from the performing stage, playing occasional concerts and making fewer and fewer appearances. Fortunately she has continued to play some of the major music festivals, which introduced her music to a younger generation of listeners. Among those who got hooked on Ferron's inimitable voice and searing lyrics, was a young independent rock musician from New York called Bitch. She thought enough of Ferron's music to coax her out of semi-retirement into her mobile recording studio, which she parked just outside of Ferron's rural Michigan home.

The two had met previously, and had shared a stage or two, so there was some history between them. What has come out of this venture is the recording of a new CD called Boulder, which incorporates new versions of Ferron classics like Misty Mountain and It Won't Take Long, in addition to new Ferron songs and a cover of Bitch's Highway. What is not surprising is that the music is as fresh and vital as it ever was, and that Ferron can and does continue to inspire and excite us.

The recording opens with a new song called Souvenir, and it's a gem. Here the songwriter's world consists of the space inside her front door where she has an "itty bitty fire/ 'cause I've been waiting/ For you to remember me." We hear the familiar sound of Ferron's guitar, but what is wonderful and new is Julie Wolf on keys, Bitch on bass, and Catherine Edgerton providing a touch of eerie drama on the saw.

One of my favorite Ferron songs is Girl on a Road, originally recorded on the 1994 release Driver. It is an autobiographical travelogue describing Ferron's beginnings through her journey on the road to whatever lies ahead. Its lyrics read like poetry. Some of them sound like this:
Rain upon the water makes footprints sunk in sand
Anger upon angry hurt, take me by the hand
Say I'm one with your forgiveness
And separate from my pride

Ani DiFranco adds backing vocals and plays vibes. Samantha Parton and Bitch contribute backing vocals, with Geo Wyeth on piano.

Another Ferron classic, The Cart, appears here, lovingly backed by an array of strings—violin, viola and cello—all played by Bitch. Bitch brings a quiet strength and power to the production leading it to a dramatic ending punctuated by Ferron chanting to the beat of a mother drum. Bitch assembles a new generation of Ferron fans to add a contemporary sound to the production. Both Amy Ray (on mandolin) and Emily Sailers (on lead guitar), of the Indigo Girls, appear on separate tracks, as well as Julie Wolf (on piano, keys, accordion), the aforementioned Ani DiFranco, as well as Sam Parton (Be Good Tanyas) and Tina G. (God-des).

The recording closes with a new Ferron tune, fittingly called In the Meantime. It has a fresh, new sound thanks to a lineup of young backing vocalists, a driving percussive beat, and the knowing hand and voice of Bitch, the musician, collaborator and producer.

Boulder is a wildly successful celebration of Ferron—where she has been, where she is now, where she is going. The news is that the music that is Ferron continues to move us and to tell true stories about our lives. We need to thank Bitch for coaxing Ferron into the studio and recording her latest work. Boulder proves that great music becomes greater when it is produced with large amounts of love and the best musical talents in the business. Boulder is a stunningly beautiful work of art by both Bitch and Ferron. It is also one of the best recordings of the year.

Track List:

  • Souvenir
  • Never Your Own
  • Already Gone
  • Girl on a Road
  • The Cart
  • It Won't Take Long
  • Shadows on a Dime
  • Our Purpose Here
  • Highway (Bitch)
  • Misty Mountain
  • Shady Gate
  • In the Meantime
All songs written by Ferron except where noted.

Edited by: David N. Pyles
(dnpyles@acousticmusic.com)

Copyright 2008, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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