Various Artists (from the album Joy of Living; A Tribute to Ewan MacColl on Compass Records) - Joy of Living; A Tribute to Ewan MacCollcollects the songs of a folk musician dubbed the godfather of the British Folk revival. The compilation is less a revisit of hits; it showcases the respect for the musician, and the continuing influence, and range, of his music. Ewan MacColl was born to Scottish parents, both of whom were socialists. The atmosphere at home was fierce political debates and a file was open for the teenager, still using his birth name James Miller, by British Intelligence’s MI5 division by the time he was seventeen. Local police claimed he was ‘a communist with very extreme views’.  He fully brought his upbringing and championing of the workers by signing Ewan MacColl on his drama scripts as of 1945. A love of Folk music was a part of Ewan’s life, and his enthusiasm grew from the inspiration found in the work of Alan Lomax, who had began extensive field work in Great Britain and Ireland in 1950. Ewan began to collect traditional ballads, performing them with his own songs, many of which had been written for the theatre.

Paul Buchanan (The Blue Nile) performs Grammy-winning “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”, a song that Ewan MacColl had written quickly for third wife Peggy Seeger to perform in a play. Steve Earle (“Dirty Old Town”), Billy Bragg (“Kilroy Was Here”), Christie Moore (“Los Campaneros”), and David Gray on the title track gather to tribute the politics of Ewan MacColl. The short youth of mine workers flashes by with Darien Dempsey singing “Schooldays Over”. Celtic Folk backs Martin Carthy’s claim of “I'm Champion at Keeping 'Em Rolling” as Indie Folk quietly flows under Bombay Bicycle Club on “The Young Birds” and Jarvis Cocker (solo, Pulp) unravels a slow revolving rhythm as he stiches word fragments onto “The Battle Is Done With”.

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BR5-49 (from the album One Long Saturday Night on Bear Family Records) - BR5-49 were signed on the strength of their live show, and for the breath of fresh air they were letting into the room from the dives of Lower Broadway for Nashville’s Country music industry in the 1990’s. Their live shows were magic, as One Long Saturday Night showcases as BR5-49 revisit songs with the same passion as the original artists brought to the stage. A love of songs was at the heart of the idea for Chuck Mead and Gary Bennett when they met at the Bluebird Café and decided to put a band together. Hero songs are included on the CD/DVD, re-imagining the early sets brought to the world with tracks from Bob Wills (“Take Me Back to Tulsa”, “Right or Wrong”), Carl Perkins (“Gone, Gone, Gone”), Ray Price (“Heartache by the Number”), Hank Williams (“Long Gone Lonesome Blues”), Carl Smith (“Go By Go”), and Hawkshaw Hawkins (“Lonesome 7-7203”).

The original songs of BR5-49 fit in with the versions of other artist’s material they use to create the mood on live shows, as on the title track tune from the pen of Chuck Mead. One Long Saturday Night plays a love letter to pin-up girl Bettie Page with “Bettie Bettie”, remember the punk rocker that danced to a different beat in “Little Ramona (Gone Hillbilly Nuts)”, Chuck Mead’s “My Name is Mudd”, and Gary Bennett’s “Hillbilly Thang”. The CD bonus tracks include standards from BR5-49’s sets with “Settin’ the Woods on Fire” (Hank Williams), the Appalachian murder ballad “Knoxville Girl”, and the 1925 jazz standard “Sweet Georgia Brown”. One Long Saturday Night features the breakthrough hit from the BR5-49 debut with Moon Mullican’s “Cherokee Boogie”.

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Guy Clark (from the album The Best of the Dualtone Years)

The last chapter of recordings from Guy Clark were released through Dualtone Records. Beginning in 2006, Guy had four albums come into the world through the East Nashville label, three from the studio, Workbench Songs, Somedays the Song Writes You and My Favorite Picture of You, and from the stage with the live disc, Songs and Stories. Guy Clark’s craftmanship for songwriting was the constant on his releases as the label imprints changed, and his words and music are collected as a two-disc set with the recent release, Guy Clark, The Best of the Dualtone Years. The album showcases his song output during Guy’s decade with the label as well as presenting previous releases in a live setting from the Song and Stories collection which features such classic moments as “Dublin Blues”. “L.A. Freeway”, “The Randall Knife”, “The Cape”, and “Homegrown Tomatoes”.

Three unreleased demos make an appearance with “The Last Hobo”, “Time” (a co-write with Marty Stuart), and “Just to Watch Maria Dance”. The Best of the Dualtone Years lets a songman look back on a life in music as “Maybe I Can Paint Over That” considers giving mistakes a new look as “Hemingway’s Whiskey” speaks to the trouble finding the right words, hometown weather watches Amarillo blow up the road with “Tornado Time in Texas”, and “Magdalene” rolls the dice for decisions. The Best of the Dualtone Years reads an open letter between the lines from the album My Favorite Picture of You, sent to Susanna Clark, Guy’s wife of forty years as well as best friend to Townes Van Zandt, whose “If I Needed You” is covered on the album. Guy holds an image and a memory in his hands with the title track on the recording as he re-visits a border tale with “El Coyote”, holds an audio umbrella for the cowgirl waiting in “Rain in Durango”, and slowly spins in three-quarter time with “Cornbread Waltz”. Guy Clark is an American treasure and The Best of the Dualtone Years shares a few moments in his long dance with songwriting.

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Slim Cessna’s Auto Club (from the album Cipher)

The literary traditions of the Old West are the words that form the framework of Cipher from Slim Cessna’s Auto Club. Based in Southern Gothic story structures, Cipher, the fourth album from SCAC, offered an audio page-turner into Slim Cessna’s brand of Gothic Americana. After a brief spoken-sung introduction, (“An Introduction to the Power of Braces – Arms”), the 2008 release from Slim Cessna’s Auto Club traces lines across the U.S., slashing American roads into ribbons of highways as they namecheck cities and towns with “This Land is Our Land Redux”. Alternative Rock is used for a canvas as Cipher paints scratchy Folk music into the foundation for the lessons preached in “SCAC 101” while a banjo and heavy beats are the musical background for the tale of “Red Pirate of the Prairie”, and community vocals add a chorus to the psychotic Country of “Ladies in the Know”.

Slim Cessna’s Auto Club are re-releasing Cipher on their own label. The album tunes into “Americadio” with a rumbling rhythm as the come-on ‘submit unto me, submit unto our ways’ invites and entices faithful into the mysterious undertones of Cipher. The theme of the album is told in fragments as the tales of Cipher sketch out a baroque swamp romp with “All About the Bullfrog in Three Verses” as dark chord clouds swirl under the maniacal gospel of “Jesus is My Body – My Body Has Left Me Down”, and a raggedy banjo riff leads the way into the frantic march of “Children of the Lord” as Slim Cessna’s Auto Club gather on the front porch for salvation admitting “Everyone is Guilty #2” with a ragtag chorus, a procession of horns, wobbly yodels and a spoken sermon.

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Leon Redbone (from the album Long Way from Home-early recordings on Third Man Records)

The music of Leon Redbone is as unique as the man himself is mysterious. He is a known name due to exposure on late night TV in the 1970/80’s, and his four decades of touring, playing primarily festival stages. Over the course of forty years, Leon Redbone has released thirteen albums that championed the early days of recorded music in America with the sound of Ragtime, Blues, and Jazz. Leon Redbone has preserved the music of a bygone period on his albums, and on the recent release from Third Man Records, the sounds are replicated in the scratchy form of his mentors with a performance from 1972 when Dave Benders taped a radio show from WBFO at the University of Buffalo. The album, Long Way from Home, captures the earliest recording of Leon Redbone.

The cuts on Long Way from Home are covers from an earlier time in musical history as Leon Redbone balances the material between Tin Pan Alley and the Mississippi Delta. He offers reworkings of Reverend Gary Davis (“Lord, I Looked Down the Road”), Blind Blake (“Bootleg Rum Dum Blues”), and a few selections from the legendary catalog of Robert Johnson (“Kind Hearted Woman Blues”, “Me and the Devil Blues”). Long Way from Home pays tribute to Jimmie Rodgers with cuts such as “Mother, Queen of My Heart”, “T.B.Blues”, and “Yodeling Cowboy” among many others from The Singing Breakman as Leon Redbone offers an Irving Berlin song with the 1929 Rudy Vallee hit “Marie”.

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