back to Mar/April 2003 Folknik
the folknik, Vol. XXXIX, Number 2 • March/April 2003 • Page 4

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    Kathryn LaMar, 21295 Birch Street, Hayward, CA 94541; 510-733-0425; or email at
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  • Book Review: This Land Was Made for You and Me: The Life and Songs of Woodie Guthrie
  • Recording Review: Mike McCollum: Simple and Clear
  • Recording Review: Bob Bohlman: How Far From Home: A Spiritual Journey
  • Recording Review: General Strike: Fanning the Flames of Discontent


This Land was Made for You and Me:
The life and Songs of Woody Guthrie,

by Elizabeth Partridge. Viking, 218 pp.

This biography made me want to stand up and cheer. I heartily concur with Pete Seeger, quoted on the front cover: "The best book about Woody every written," an opinion confirmed in November 2002 when the book was nominated for the National Book Awards in the Young People's literature division. Don't miss this book just because at the library or bookstore it may be shelved in the Children's section. Partridge pulls no punches. She writes frankly of Woody's irresponsibilities and infidelities as well as his irrepressible creativity. She also details Woody's horrendous childhood.

Folkies will be intrigued by a description of Woody, after the success of his Dust Bowl Ballads album, still having to learn to count his beats in order to accompany a dance troupe who had choreographed a performance to his tunes. He is described "sitting on stage singing, and chanting under his breath, "I'm going down the road feeling bad two three four>" If you want to read a book about Woody, I think you won't find anything more perceptive than this one, by Berkeley's own Betsy Partridge. So, go read! — Margaret DuBois back to top


MIKE McCOLLUM: Simple and Clear
Mitchikambo Music,
P.O. Box 9136, Aspen, CO 81612; (970) 925-4658;

Mike McCollum's self-produced debut CD, the aptly titled Simple and Clear, neatly straddles the borders of country, bluegrass, gospel and folk music. It's one of the most satisfying all-acoustic country music albums I've heard in a long time and it's great for singing along. McCollum sings lead on 12 of his original songs and plays finger-style guitar. His phrasing and tone bear an uncanny resemblance to the relaxed, East Texas tenor of his uncle, folksinger Sam Hinton. Mike's elegant lyrics and singable melodies are given wing by a truly stellar trio of back-up singers: Cheryl White (daughter of Buck White), Charles Whitstein (of the Whitstein Brothers) and Jeff White (formerly with Alison Krause and Union Station). Their pure harmonies are nothing short of gorgeous.

McCollum and his musical director, Hoot Hester, have hand-picked a supporting cast of Nashville heavy-hitters, whose collective contributions make this album the gem that it is. Hester plays some mighty tasty fiddle, Bobby Clark picks mandolin, and Jeff White is featured on lead and rhythm guitar. Terry Eldredge plays stand-up bass and Catherine Styron, one of Nashville's most creative and inspired pianists, propels the thoughtful arrangements with her wonderful playing. The CD begins with an updated version of Henry "Rag-time Texas" Thomas 's Fishing Blues. McCollum has written impressive Hinton-esque, double-time lyrics and turned this old folk war-horse into a catchy patter song. After dozens of listenings, my favorite cut on the album is There's An Angel Standing Behind You ; this gospel/harmony number is, by itself, worth the price of the CD. — Adam Miller      back to top


How Far From Home:
A Spiritual Journey

Just wanted to add my voice to the groundswell of support for Bob Bohlman's new dulcimer recording How Far From Home: A Spiritual Journey. In the accompanying booklet, Bob describes how each of the 18 cuts illustrates an important stage of his spiritual journey, usually by highlighting the particular place in the lyrics that are meaningful to him, and explains how he chose that selection to share his "musical" spiritual journey with us. For the three self-composed instrumental cuts, Bob convey aspects of his personal spiritual journey through the music alone.

Whether or not you are familiar with the particular hymns on this CD, and whether your own Spiritual Journey parallels Bob's or not, you will enjoy his unique playing style and imaginative arrangements that include such back-up instru-mentation as guitarron (Mexican bass guitar), harmonica, and hammered dulcimer (all played by Bob). The recording quality is excellent, there is judicious use of interesting "special effects" in some of the mixes, and the mountain dulcimer is always featured up-front. — Tull Glazener      back to top


Fanning the Flames of Discontent

At last, a CD from one of my all-time favorite bands! I found it on the "product" table at Western Workers, and snatched up the last copy quick. The songs are a diverse mixture of old Wobbly songs, originals songs, and some modern classics (Henry Stamper's We Just Come to Work Here, We Don't Come to Die; Billy Bragg's Power in a Union). Every cut is eminently singable. The Wobbly songs are great (Mr. Block, The Rebel Girl, Commonwealth of Toil, When the People Have Burst Their Chains), but the originals vie for "instant classic-hood" (This Ole Job, Work On [to Buddy Holly's Rave On], Can't You Hear Your Fellow Workers, and my personal favorite, Go to Hell Rotten Bosses). Even the chestnuts (Joe Hill, Union Maid) sound fresh, and all are performed with an infectious exuberance that will have you humming and remembering random word sequences all day long! The sound is that of extremely talented amateurs having the time of their lives, with appropriate instrumentation. Highly recommended for all labor (in the IWW sense) supporters. — Kathryn LaMar      back to top