CD Reviews

From The Folknik Mar/Apr 2000

First Songs-Lullabies for Ireland - Doug Saum

P.O. Box 33492, Reno, Nevada 89533,

This is, I believe a first release for folk club member and Reno resident Doug Saum. It is an album of the poems of Yeats, set to music with Doug's original melodies and arrangements. You may have had a chance to hear him perform his Yeats adaptations with partner Judith Schmidt at Camp Harmony on New Year's Eve, which was really enjoyable. On the recording his fine guitar playing is supplemented with an interesting assortment of synthesized sounds. All the instrumental work and most of the singing are Doug's; the only outside musician is singer Mary Lee Dazey. Doug has a nice reedy voice; not polished but sweet.

He took pains to assure that his project had the approval of the Yeats family, and consulted someone knowledgeable about the pronunciation of the words. Occasionally the music doesn't quite convey the feeling of the poems, but generally hits right on the mark. Particular standouts for me were "Sweet Dancers", about children dancing and playing the world over, "Full Moody Is My Love And Sad", which really conveys the feeling of being with an upset lover, and "Come Ride And Ride To The Garden", about going to a place of joy and tranquility.

I find this to be a very enjoyable album. If the idea of synthesizers makes your blood boil, this won't be your cup of tea; but if you're a little more open-minded, you'll develop a real liking for it. Great job, Doug!

-Mitch Gordon

Bin Ikh Mir a Shnayderl (I'm a Little Tailor) - Yiddish Work Songs sung by Mark Levy

Mitzvah Music, PO Box 559, Felton, CA 95018

This culmination of one of Mark's recent projects is wonderful. With his expressive voice and extremely versatile guitar accompaniment, Mark skillfully evokes the emotional reality of the harshness of life experienced by the eastern European Jews as they endured it, staying or emigrating. The 17 cuts on the CD represent slightly more songs - some field-collected, some composed, and some amalgamated from several versions.

Although tailors and seamstresses predominate, the songs could easily represent the thoughts of anyone. The title cut expresses the feelings of superficially content workers (a tailor, a shoemaker, a tinsmith, and a shopkeeper) who have difficulty surviving on what they take in.

One seamstress survives her life of drudgery by singing, and two others offer us personal views of the long hours, starvation wages, and inhuman work conditions that existed before unions; tailors boast of their dexterity or bemoan their long hard work.

"Mayn Ruhe Plats" is here. "Say, O'Brien" surprised me, with its internal mixture of English, Yiddish, and Hebrew rhymes and themes, along with choruses familiar from childhood. My favorite song ("In Der Kuznye") turned out to be a freedom song (sung by a smithy to the rhythm of his hammer); my second favorite ("Dos Lid Fun Broyt") was composed in celebration of the colonists who came to Palestine for a life with a hopeful future.

I highly recommend this CD as a poignant, but educational and far-from-depressing, musical portrait of the rich cultural heritage of the eastern European Jews.

-Kathryn LaMar

Taquachito Nights - Conjunto Music from South Texas

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, 995 L Enfant Plaza, Suite 7300, Washington D.C. 20560-0953
phone (202)287-7298, fax(202)-287-7299,, orders only 1-800-410-9815

I regard this CD as a treasure for two reasons: First, it makes me smile and dance. According to the written notes, Taquachito Nights/Conjunto Music from South Texas was recorded live at a two-day festival given by and for the people of San Benito, Texas. Although the two main instruments, the button accordion and the bajo sexto, which is a double-coursed twelve-string bass guitar, are featured on all nineteen tracks, there are different performers and there is variety in the types of dances. This is modern conjunto-dance music that began with farm workers in southern Texas and spread in popularity. The only notes my feet need, however, are the ones that come bouncing out of the speaker.

Second, as might be expected from Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, the written material is organized so that one may delve as deeply or as shallowly as one pleases. This way, Taquachito Nights can be Modern Conjunto 101. There is a lengthy discussion including the evolution, social context, and future of this music. Or just read the short introduction and, if you can keep from jiggling, follow along with the accurate English translation. The Spanish lyrics are available separately by mail or on the Internet. I had no trouble finding and printing them out. The booklet with the CD also has pictures; reading, video, and audio lists; and, in case you decide to go there, maps; what to take ( your appetite and your dancing shoes ) and whom to contact.

-Margie Wade

Behold! - Linda Hirschhorn and Vocolot

CD/tape, $18/12 (postpaid), from Oyster Albums, P.O. Box 3929, Berkeley, CA 94703; 510-654-7516 (phone)
or -0799 (fax);;

Vocolot consists of six women with glorious voices, led by cantor Linda Hirschhorn. Their repertoire is wide-ranging, and they're back with another prize-winning critically acclaimed album, Behold.

Their material, embracing folk, jazz, classical, and cantorial vocal traditions, is always a pleasure to hear. This latest album is a varied mix, mostly composed by Linda Hirschhorn-solos, group harmony, accompanied and a cappella; some in English, some Hebrew or Yiddish, some in combination. Of course, as one article correctly pointed out, "You don't have to be Jewish to like Vocolot". Amen. Do join Ronnie Gilbert and other fans who enjoy this luscious and exciting music.

Included: "Behold", a solemn and beautiful piece, with text from the ring-exchanging ceremony combined with words from the Song of Songs; "If You Can Walk", a lively, fun number based on Zimbabwe folk wisdom; "Camarada", very pretty, adapted from Walt Whitman's "Song of the Open Road"; and "Study War No More", a thrilling English/Hebrew version combining the American folk song with a contemporary Hebrew song.

Then there's: "Bird", a wonderful little a cappella number; "My Resting Place", a mournfully heartrending Yiddish song, a gem, written in response to the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist sweatshop fire that took 130 lives; the exuberant "Hear and Rejoice"; "Betrothal", a Hebrew song, of faithfulness and giving of oneself.

Also: "Wing Span", a yummy three part round; and "Blessed is the Flame", an inspirational group number. There's more as well. An album you'll enjoy many times, and great for gift giving. Also ask about her other marvelous albums and songbooks.

-Sol Weber

CDs waiting to be reviewed

If you would like to review any of the above titles, select a title and contact me, Rachel Levin, 415-695-9299 or I'll send you the CD for your review. Don't bother with Pulitzer-Prize-winning writing-just say what you liked (or didn't ) about the music. Send your review of approximately 250 words to Phyllis Jardine,, with a copy to me, Rachel. Phyllis will include your review in the next folknik when space permits. You keep the CD. It's that easy!

Many thanks to those who responded to the July/August list. Keep those reviews coming!

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