folk

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Odetta!

After having the privilege of watching the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater perform choreographer Matthew Rushing’s new piece “Odetta” during the troupe’s recent visit to Boston, I’ve rediscovered the power and majesty of this one-of-a-kind American artist. If you are not familiar with Odetta’s music, try The Essential Odetta (available on CD at the library) or one of the Odetta albums available streaming on hoopla digital with your Quincy library card.

Hozier by Hozier

As children my sister and I were subjected to thousands of hours of folk music at the hands of our mother. The phonograph was always on and she wasn't playing the Kingston Trio or Peter, Paul and Mary.  She played real folk music.  Lots of it Irish. At the time we didn't think too much about it because it had always been the background music of our lives but as we got older it was obvious how much that music influenced our grown up tastes.  Which brings me to Hozier.  I wouldn't exactly call him a folk singer but, really, he is.

Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone by Lucinda Williams

Oh the sweet, comforting songs of a strong voice and a soulful electric guitar. Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone is her first album on her own label, Highway 20 Records. She's had some famous fights with labels and it sure is great to hear her stretch out her complete control. This is a long album - two cds, just shy of two hours of music, and it feels great the entire time. As the nights get long this will be a good friend.

You Are My Flower by Elizabeth Mitchell

I’ll admit that I was drawn to this CD mainly for the vintage photograph on the cover, but it turned out to be exactly what I’ve been searching for: a children’s album that my baby likes, with songs that I’m actually happy to get stuck in my head.  Formerly of the indie band “Ida,” Elizabeth Mitchell transitioned into solo children’s music in the late 1990s and has been perfecting it ever since.  Mitchell does some beautiful covers of Woody Guthrie and Elizabeth Cotten, and manages to make folk songs soothing, but fun and upbeat at the same time.

Another Self Portrait (1969-1971) by Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan's Another Self-Portrait, the tenth volume of the Bootleg Series, includes four CDs that will delight any Dylan fan that longs for his Nashville Skyline, Self Portrait, folk-roots days. While the original Self Portrait album was panned in 1970 by fans who weren't interested in hearing Dylan return to his roots, it is worth a listen now and especially in this remastered and reimagined form. Also included in the set is the full 1969 Isle of Wight concert with The Band, as well as some wonderful and insightful liner notes.

Bert Jansch

This innovative Scottish guitarist and songwriter was influential both as a solo artist and as a key member of the popular British folk-rock group Pentangle during the 1960s and 70s.  His subject matter was often dark, as in one of his most famous songs, "Needle of Death", and his delivery restrained but very affecting. Jansch died in October 2011 at the age of 67. If you've never heard his music, give it a listen!

I and Love and You by the Avett Brothers

All of the Avett Brothers albums are great.  Their harmonies are beautiful.  Their talent with the various instruments they play (banjo, guitar, piano and more) is phenomenal and their lyrics are clever and true.  In I and Love and You the songs are sadder and filled with pain and mental anguish.  Even a seemingly festive song like "Tin Man" has dark lyrics.  But don't let that scare you.  This is a fine album without a dud on it.

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