Recording Reviews

From The Folknik Sept/Oct 2000

THE FEAST--Lisa Aschmann

(615) 834-8052,

This is the long-awaited (first) solo CD by our own very gifted local-girl-makes-good, now in Nashville. She's finally recorded some of her original songs, and put them on an album for the public (rather than demo tapes for music industry people). At last! And the results are what we've come to expect--her beautiful, earthy voice, her very care-fully crafted songs, the economical use of words, and the very professional production of Sam Weedman.

The music is pop, not folk. Don't expect Gordon Bok or Sally Rogers or Mary McCaslin here--rather, Cole Porter or Carole King, or the Eagles. The overall sound on many of the tracks reminds me of 1970s Eagles and Linda Ronstadt, and I could have mistaken her guitarist for David Lindley.

The genre has its limits, and I look for original songwriter music that moves me and touches my heart. Therefore, I found about half of the songs likeable but frustrating. Love is a messy, mixed bag of experiences, and the standard pop love-song formulas tend to distill it into things that it isn't. Lisa's writing sometimes falls prey to this tendency.

But when Lisa hits the mark, she's incredible. Three of the standout cuts for me were obvious choices, and two others you might easily overlook but really grabbed me. The obvious standouts are Wild Blossoms, in which she begs to express her love passionately and unedited; One Mile Apart, a very eloquent social criticism about the unequal distribution of wealth; and Peace Of The River, in which she wishes the traveler (her son, I think) well on life's journey. The two hidden greats that could slip past you are When I've Got The Moon, a very brief questioning about why we're never satisfied in love, and Un Corazon Lleno De Amor, a prayer (mostly in Spanish) for tranquility and a loving heart. All of these are very fine work.

All in all, you'd do well to get this recording. And we continue to wish Lisa well in pursuing her dream.

- Mitch Gordon

Lisa Aschmann, our very own Nashville successful songwriter, will have a total of three CDs out this year. THE FEAST and THE BIRDS are already available, the third is having its final mix and should be out soon.

The total of 38 songs are all written and sung by Lisa with truly superior background arrangements. I often quarrel with what I consider overwhelming, imitation rock‑and‑roll, or voice‑dominating instrumentals.  None of that here ‑ just fine music by outstanding players sustaining the voice and adding to the emotional tone of the songs. The booklets give not only the words to all songs (hurrah!) but also the keys and chord charts, first time I've seen this done and what an excellent addition! For further information call (615) 834 8052 or (831) 426 0567; visit the web site at; also order by calling 1‑800‑BUY‑MY‑CD.

- Faith


Whetstone Records 95, Margaret MacArthur, Box 15, Marlboro, VT 05344, 802-254-2549,

This recording is great! For bargain hunters, there's practically 80 minutes of music on it. For ballad lovers, all 17 cuts are ballads (duh). For those who decry overproduction on modern recordings, most of the songs are just Margaret accompanying herself on the mountain dulcimer or harp-zither, with very occasional assistance from family members on other instruments and the choruses.

The recording quality is first-rate, and puts the beauty and story of each ballad front and center. None of the ballads will bore you--the story lines are kept intact, but none exceeds 6.5 minutes. Margaret wrote one of the songs (Sonoran Camels) herself; the rest are from the collections of Child, Laws, or Helen Hartness Flanders, a collector of New England songs who both inspired Margaret and bequeathed to her tapes and documents upon which many of the arrangements on this recording are based.

There are two ballads about Robin Hood (Robin Hood Rescuing Three Squires and Robin Hood and the Pedlar), a riddle song (King John and the Bishop), two songs celebrating women who survived harrowing ordeals (Kemp Owyne and Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight), a historical ballad (King Henry the Fifth's Conquest of France), and at least one fanciful sojourn song and early tall tale (Rummy Crocodile). And there are several songs that could easily translate into TV movies today (Wilkes Lovell, Earl Brand, Clerk Colvin, The Major's Britches). But my favorite is the aforementioned Sonoran Camels; this is history they never taught me in school, but if they had, I probably would have paid attention.

- Kathryn LaMar

THE CRAZY ZOO--Joe Ross and Friends

Zephyr Records, Joe Ross, PO Box 5094, Roseburg, OR 97470, 514-673-9759,

Joe put this haiku at the end of the text of his liner notes, which sums up quite well the feelings engendered by this recording from start to finish: "Arise from sleep. Sing!/Cheerful families. Yawn and stretch!/Animals like friends!" Well said. And Joe's donating some of the proceeds from sales go to the Humane Society. May it be a lot!

Most of the songs are traditional or practically traditional children's songs, but two compositions Joe penned himself: the title cut The Crazy Zoo and a not-so kiddie oriented Touch the Earth. There are three surprise instrumentals: two curtailed Radim Zenkl treasures: Twin Peaks and Last Call (full versions of these are available on Radim's 1999 recording Restless Joy) and Bryan Bowers playing of Opera Reel on the mandocello! The other songs (except Goober Peas) capture the relationships that people have with animals, and include The Cat Came Back, Six Little Ducks, The Unicorn, The Sow Took the Measles, Puff the Magic Dragon, Tennessee Stud, Old Rattler, Baby Beluga, Crawdad, Turkey in the Straw, The Fox, The Tale of a Bear, and Joy to the World (the Jeremiah was a bullfrog one).

The musicianship throughout is stellar, and the fun had by the musicians shines through on every note. Contributing to the endeavor were Bryan Bowers on autoharp and mandocello; Linda Danielson on fiddle; Bob Evoniuk on resonator guitar and harmony vocals; Dean Magraw on guitar, rattle, and tambourine; Dan Mazer on banjo; Janet Naylor on Celtic harp; Peter Ostroushko on mandolin; and Radim Zenkl on mandolin, Irish bouzouki, and low whistle. Joe does the rest himself (guitar, bass, synthesizer, and harmony and lead vocals).

Even if you're not a kid, or don't have any kids with which to share this music, you'll like this recording as a reminder of the emotional reactions to music that led most of us to become avocational (or even professional) musicians.

- Kathryn LaMar

A BRANCH OF MAY--Lance Frodsham & Friends

Lance Frodsham, 3103 SE Briarwood Dr., Vancouver, WA 98683,

This CD was originally included in Lance's book/CD set entitled English Songs and Ballads for Appalachian Dulcimer, and is now being marketed separately. It includes about 15 of the 50 songs in the book, and although the dulcimer is prominent, it doesn't dominate--vocals are "where it's at" here! Lance sings lead on 4 songs (As I was Going to Banbury, Dives and Lazarus, A-Beggin I Will Go, and Hunt the Wren), and the women--Robin Banks (who also plays accordian), Nancy Curtin, and Lizbeth McLaughlin--sing lead on the rest.

All three are sopranos, but Robin particularly embellishes the melody with wondrous decorations! Lance plays dulcimer, guitar, cittra, and synthesizer. Contributing considerable musical skills are some of the best musicians of the Portland-area British Isles "scene": Dan Compton (fiddle, melodeon), Monty Cowles (dumbek, congas), Sylvia Hackathorn (whistles, mandolin, bouzouki, guitar), Dick Lewis (melodeon, bells), Laurence Nugent (wooden flute), and Mark Nelson (slack-key and slide guitars, bodhran). Of course, not everyone plays on every song, and the instrumentation is never overpowering.

All of the songs are either traditional or might as well be, as they date back at least 100 years, and most go back much further. There are two May songs (The Padstow May Song and The May Day Carol, two impressment songs (All Things are Quite Silent and Here's the Tender Coming), several perennial folkie favorites (Rose of Allendale, Sovay, The Golden Vanity, and I Live Not Where I Love), some fun (kids' songs (The Rattlin' Bog, As I Was Going to Banbury) and some just plain songs about people's lives (It's a Rosebud in June and The Nutting Girl).

Highly recommended for fans of English folk songs, and would make a wonderful gift for people just beginning to explore folk music

- Kathryn LaMar

EAR TO THE GROUND - Malvina Reynolds

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings SFW CD 40124 955 L'Enfant Plaza, Suite 7300 Washington DC 20560‑0953
Phone (202) 287 7298 Fax (202) 287 7299 Orders only 1800 410 9815 Various credit cards accepted

As mentioned in the last Folknik, Smithsonian Folkways is producing two CDs of Malvina Reynolds recordings and we now have a copy of number one, "Ear to the Ground".

They've done a splendid job! As the name suggests, all songs here are concerned with social ills and outrageous statements by such as Judge Archie Simonson and Ronald Reagan. Introduction and notes by Rosalie Sorrels, who selected this collection, give just what we wanted to know about Malvina and what stimulated each individual song. These add enormously to the understanding and appreciation both of the songs and of the life and thinking of Malvina herself. The whole production is a treasure.

While two or three of the selections may be being heard for the first time, a number are well known to Reynolds' fans everywhere and especially to those of us in the SF Bay Area. There's the tender "What Have They Done to the Rain?", "Little Boxes" which hit the charts as a popular song, "Little Red Hen" giving the author's social/ political philosophy and always reminding me of her statement "I have three strikes against me: I am a woman, a radical and a Jew," handicaps she left far behind..

Although words to songs are not given in the booklet, lyrics are available at The 25 cuts are all taken from previous recordings and are sung by Malvina who articulates strongly and clearly. This is a must for everyone's CD collection ‑ get it!

- Faith

Ballads and songs, sung by David Jones with Tom Gibney and Heather Wood

Minstrel Records, 35‑41 72nd St, Jackson Heights, NY 11372

This is no volume of Jolly Jack Tars or sea shanties ‑most of the songs given here deal with life's realities. There are two concerning convicts being shipped to Australia's penal colony: "Jim Jones in Botany Bay" by Australian Mick Slocum and "Poor Fellows" from Peter Bellamy's folk opera "The Transports". "Normandy Orchards" gently tells of the buildup of troops for the Normandy invasion in WWII, "the young men learning to die"...'in the mad dance of war." Then we have a trip around Cape Hom; a pirate's capture, and two by Gordon Bok: "All My Sailors" and "Cape Ann."

Lightness, humor and love aren't missing. There's the traditional "Treat Me Daughter Decent"; a Stephen foster nonsense song "The Glendy Burk"; "Henry VIll", as sung by the eighth husband of that name taken by a much-wed lady and two love songs in one of which, alas, the true lover is murdered by his love's parents. All excellently sung either a cappella or wi(h supportive rather than intrusive accompanying arrangements. Highly recommended, I listened three times over right off.

- Faith


UNCORKED - Quake City Jug Band

"Dedicated to keeping the tradition of great American music alive"
Get in touch with them at (415) 826 1914 or

The Quake City Jug Band is a true offspring of Friday night jams at 885 Clayton. Although membership has changed and those performing on this initial recording weren't all recruited from the basement, our right to claim origin of the band is solid. We're proud to say that it started here!


And "keeping the tradition of great American music alive" is exactly what the band does. With the exception of a very funny original song (Poultry Geist) by band member Steve Scott, and Dennis Campagna's additions of verses to three songs, all selections are from well known composers. For starters we have Fats Walter, Hoagy Carmichael and Mississippi John Hurt; songs of other composers include "Sweet Georgia Brown", "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie" and "Basin Street Blues", all presented in jug band style.

This CD is fun to listen to! Further, it will make you laugh, sing along and want to dance; go ahead, do it! For a good time call (415) 826 1914. In addition to Dennis and Steve, band members are Myron Grossman and Natasha Haugnes.

- Faith

HOUSE CONCERT - Lou and Peter Berryman

Combelt Records #12

Box 3400, Madison, Wisconsin 53704


This 12th recording of original songs by Lou and Peter Berryman was done live in an honest‑to‑goodness house concert living room in Madison on March 19, 2000. There are 18 songs, 14 new and four new performances of songs "from our vinyl years."

I confess to recognizing only two of the old ones: "Big Dead Bird for Christmas" which I insist on singing every year at Camp Harmony and "You Can't Eat Ooba All Night" ‑ about the poor spaceman on an asteroid with a night of 700 years.. So they're all new to me except for the ones heard at the Berryman's Freight appearance earlier this year.

To talk about the very very funny Berryman songs to a Berryman fan seems pointless ‑ you know how great they are and you'll get this CD. To someone hearing of the Berrymans for the first time, this is a good place to start. Words to all songs are in the booklet with the CD.

And to those who've been wondering, Lou and Peter are no relation. They give special thanks for loving support to Kristi Seifert, Peter's wife, and Mark Hodgson, Lou's husband. Music tasks are shared this way: Peter writes the words and Lou sets them to music. You can get information on other recordings, song books, and schedules from the address above, email, or check the web

- Faith


Back to this folknik issue's contents page...