CD Reviews

From The Folknik Nov/Dec 1999

Ed. Note: The holiday season is upon us -when you're considering gifts, remember the gift of music. These CDs and reviews are by SFFMC members. CDs make great gifts!

"When Did We Have Sauerkraut?" - Faith Petric

$15 inc. postage, handling
885 Clayton St., SF 94117

Well, if you're not familiar with Faith's music, you're certainly not from around here! Frankly, I can't imagine where you'd be from, because she's played there too. The indefatigable matron saint of the SF Folk Club, in her mid-eighties and going as strong as ever, has released her second CD in not much over a year. "Faith's Favorites" was a retrospective from her three "adult" albums (although a kid would enjoy them too). "Sauerkraut" is all new material, including some songs we've all been waiting for, like "I Wanna Be a Dog," "Kuglesberg Bank," "Here's to Mother Nature" and Monty Python's "Song of the Planets."

Altogether we get eighteen-count 'em-songs in this new recording. The Berrymans are well represented (no surprise) as well as Mark Graham, Lu Mitchell and Malvina Reynolds. A lot of less familiar songwriters appear as well, and it's Faith's keen ear as a collector and interpreter of songs that brings these to light and passes them along. Her goal is to find all of the good songs that have been hiding from us. There are no songs of her own, just some new verses added here and there, but it all sounds like it was written for her.

The musical accompaniment sounds great, much of it from Peter Kessler and Gail Fratar, our wonderful local old-timey specialists and collaborators on most of Faith's albums to date. Peter's mandolin playing is especially fine. This album was recorded by Michael Harmon in his new home studio in Oakland and the recording work is very good. I'm just really glad to see Faith keeping it coming. Another year or two from now when she's got 10 or 20 more songs we all can't live without, bet she'll do it again. Nice work, Faith.

-Mitch Gordon

Rime of the Ancient Matriarch - Holly Tannen

P.O. Box 1136
Mendocino, CA 95460

This is the third recording (her first on CD) for Holly, a SF folk club long-timer and one of the mainstays of the Northern California folk scene. While her "Invocation" and "Between the Worlds" albums were very simply recorded and the work of a serious folklorist, "Ancient Matriarch" is a consummate piece of studio work. It was recorded at wonderful local Bay Records and draws on the likes of Meridian Green, Gene Parsons, Shira Kammen, Danny Carnahan and Chris Caswell. It is also one of the funniest recordings this side of the Berrymans.

Holly has a very sharp pen for parody-her satirical material reminds me of Mark Graham, whom she covers for one song, "High and Lonesome." Her targets and influences are clearly Northern Californian, hitting hard at the Internet ("Lily of the Net" and "Online Romance"), pot-growing ("The Humbolt Wassail"), men's movement ("Suburban Shaman") and delusions of victimization ("Victim of Them").

Her knowledge of traditional folk music does not go wasted-much of the irony is achieved by contrasting the silliness of hip west coast living with traditional song settings. She does not spare us any of the "lily white hand" and "pleasure for to find" cliches. My favorite of the parodies is "Fair Margaret and Young What's-His-Name," a flawless take-off of Tam Lin, in which the tormented male is ensnared in a cloud of doom rather than a fairy's spell, and the female protagonist concludes that he'll have to save himself.

In the midst of all of Holly's parody material is some typically dark trad singing, reminiscent of her earlier albums. On first listening it might seem out of place. By your second pass it all makes sense somehow. The dark trad songs are a reminder that life's not all funny, and they keep the funny songs from getting tiring. Altogether, this album is a fine piece of work and a must-have in any folk collection.

- Mitch Gordon

Don't Mind the Rain - Jessica Bryan

$10 plus $1 postage-CDs and cassettes

Well, this CD-packaged in recycled cardboard and hand painted-should satisfy just about every folkie out there one way or t'other. First of all you have Jessica's unique and strikingly beautiful voice with which she sings the traditional songs in a delicious traditional manner. It is quite obvious that with her voice she could have easily "artistizied" the songs (as so many folk artists do) into a great big yawn but she sticks pretty "close to the bone" of her songs which I found very satisfying.

Second, the accompaniment (guitar, piano, concertina, and fiddle) were all very tastefully done. Don't know about you but I just can't stand these over-produced, over-musicalized "folk" songs with drums and an eleventy-seven piece orchestra as "backup" that end up taking away from both the singer and the song. Definitely not so on this album!

Third, is you have great choice of material! Standards such as "Grey Funnel Line," "Bright Morning Star," "Thirsty Boots," and "Irene Goodnight" (the complete version where Irene takes off all her clothes!). Then you have Jessica's own song, "Texas Farewell," about the restless heart and with which she won the 1978 Kerrville songwriting contest. Plus songs by Nancy Griffith, Jerry Garcia and others, as well as the hauntingly beautiful "Ferry Me Over" by Andy Stewart. 17 songs in all. Great harmonies with Shay Black on "Byker Hill." As I said, a little something for every folkie out there. So if you can't buy it, STEAL IT!

- Tom Clunie

More CDs and cassettes available to buy

Wake the Vaulted Echoes, a celebration of Peter Bellamy, a triple CD/CD-ROM set released September 24, is available from Free Reed Music, The Cedars, Derby DE56 lDD United Kingdom. Fax +44(0) 1773 825573. E-mail: Pounds 24.99

Rounder Records offers the complete Carter Family Collection (9 CDs) at 20% off: $108.00 through Dec. 31. The complete collection is no longer available on cassettes; remaining individual cassettes are $9.98. CDs are divided by the years on which Victor recording were made. Details 1-800-ROUNDER.

Parsley Sage and Politics: The Lives and Music of Peggy Seeger and Ewan MacColl. A boxed set of three cassettes with notes. Made up of interviews and music, this unusual project was conceived in the radio ballad style and produced in the 1980s by Mary Orr and Michael O'Rourke. A unique production. Cost: $24.00 (USA and Canada) or $27.50 elsewhere. Make check out to Michael O'Rourke. Send to 2737 N.E. 25th, Portland, OR 97212, USA. For information, phone (503) 282-5305. E-mail:

Inquiring Minds … Did our first President like music? Why did he pay 15 shillings to Proctor's band of music? Why did he appoint an Inspector of Music? What music books did he buy for his step-daughter? For the answers to these questions, see "George Washington: Music for the First President", a book, CD, and tape. These are all available at <> .

These recent publications contain tunes, songs, minuets and country dances which commemorate Washington's life and career. Notable among the 23 selections are: The President's March; He Comes, The Hero Comes!; Mount Vernon; Lady Washington (Saw you my hero George?; The Death of General Wolfe (Brave Wolfe); and two dirges written in honor of George Washington. Performers for the CD and Tape were David and Ginger Hildebrand. The Companion Music Book was prepared by Kate Van Winkle Keller.

CDs that are available to review for the folknik

If you can do a review, contact Faith Petric, (415) 661-2217 or e-mail

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