From The Folknik Mar/Apr 1998

"Alarms and Excursions" - Lu Mitchell

Pasquinade Music Co., 2922 Eric Lane, Dallas, Texas 7523, (214) 247-2597

Fans of Lu Mitchell will be delighted to know that "Alarms and Excursions", first released in 1986, is now on CD with new arrangements and three additional songs. (Her very latest, "What's a Mother to Do", was previously reviewed in the folknik.)

Lu has nine recordings and a songbook, all full of her wise, witty and wonderful social commentary, presented without malice. Lu is able to channel strong feelings about the corporate world, the Christian right and the medical profession-to name a few of the targets-into clever and catchy songs, never sounding mean-spirited or superior. She "flails the sacred cows of our society in high good spirits."

"Alarms and Excursions" includes 'Mary Stuffed Her Boss in the Paper Shredder' about a sexist boss who told Mary she wasn't paid to think, but to do as he said. And then there is the "Kugelsburg Bank", which I am sure anyone in the Bay Area, and many beyond, within the sound of my voice has heard and heartily joined in the chorus. It's about a sweet little old lady bank bookkeeper who-but if you haven't heard it yet, don't miss this opportunity. This song alone is worth the $15, which includes postage.

The songbook of 51 of Lu's original songs "Singing for Her Sanity" is the same price of $21.50 if both are ordered. Ordering is recommended-buy yourself a lasting treat! -Faith Petric

"Them Stars" - Margaret MacArthur with MacArthur Family

Whetstone Records, Box 15, Marlboro, Vermont 05344

Yesterday I found myself listening again, and twice through, to Margaret MacArthur's CD "Them Stars".

Although she is joined in some songs by sons Gary and Dan and daughter Megan on instruments and harmonies, it is Margaret's artistry that carries the recording through. She sings "Penny Potion" unaccompanied and accompanies herself on dulcimer, guitar and MacArthur harp-zither on six others.

I particularly enjoy the "Old Green Sweater", a song I'd like to learn, with the family harmonizing on the chorus-Dan on guitar, Gary on fiddle, and Megan on bass. There's great variety here, from an adaptation of Child 18, "Sir Lionel", here called "Blow your Horn Hunter" to Badger Clark's cowboy ballad "Glory Trail".

"Leaving Scotland", written and sung by Dan, is a poignant story of the exodus of families from Scotland to the United States told from the point of view of a young girl. The final song, Pete Seeger's "O Had I a Golden Thread", sung by the family, is for me the absolutely definitive rendition of this song. It alone is worth the price of the CD, available from the address above.

A word about the harp-zither. A sadly decrepit and stringless 1896 small harp was found hanging in a Vermont barn and given to Margaret who carefully, painstakingly, figured out a way to restore and restring it. Instrument makers have copied it and now the lap-size "MacArthur Harp is widely available.-Faith Petric

Ballad of an American - The Autobiography of Earl Robinson

Earl Robinson's autobiography, Ballad of an American, is the life-and-times story of the composer who wrote the music for the immortal labor song "Joe Hill" and the cantata Ballad for Americans, which caused a media storm when it appeared in 1939 on CBS national radio with Paul Robeson singing baritone. A member of America's Old Left, a perpetual FBI target, and eventually an adherent to New Age philosophies, Earl Robinson and his music characterize the expanse of America in the twentieth century.

Special 20% discount offer! $39.60, reg. $48.50
4720 Boston Way,
Lanham, Maryland 20706
(800) 462-6420

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