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Album Review

What Old Town School of Folk Music Songbook, Vol. 1 looks like at first is yet another of those Smithsonian/Folkways collections of recordings from the Great Folk Scare of the late 1950s and '60s: on the cover is a group of earnest, young urban kids sitting in a small circle, one with an acoustic guitar, all intently studying what can only be the Music of the People. But look more closely and you see something different: a song list that could have come straight from one of those Smithsonian/Folkways albums ("Shady Grove," "Trouble in Mind," "St. James Infirmary" — even, heaven help us, "Old Dog Tray") — but with an artist roster that includes members of the Mekons, Wilco, Eleventh Dream Day and Bad Livers. It's a motley crew and they provide a motley array of performances: Alice Peacock's rendition of "Trouble in Mind" is brilliant, as is Janet Beveridge Bean's cool and deliberate take on "Deep River Blues," and Kathy Cowan manages to make a gentle and unassuming silk purse out of a sow's ear with her unaffected rendition of the maudlin "Old Dog Tray." Sadly, a few of the singers can't resist the temptation to ham it up: Chris Walz over-emotes embarrassingly on "Worried Man Blues," and Pete Special hijacks "St. James Infirmary" and turns it into a showcase for his (poor) Dr. John impression. But overall, these artists tend to shed new light on some of the most familiar songs in the folk revival canon, so good for them.

Customer Reviews

Elaine Moore Sings Like an Angel

This album has many fine tracks; I liked Colby Maddox's "Shady Grove" and Weavermania's "Goodnight Irene" is an eerily uncanny cover. However, Elaine Moore's "Just A closer Walk With Thee" is the standout performance. Her voice is just lovely and its a great song in its own right. If you can, buy the whole album. If not, at least get this track.

"Down In The Valley!"

.."Throw Your Arms Around Me, Give My Heart Ease!".."Eari In The Mornin!" Oh, this is the Real Thing! "Oldies by Newbies"; I must say; "Y'all Did Em Justice!" In case you did not know; all of these songs were first made popular by the likes of: The Weavers; Roy Rogers; Gene Autry; Odetta; Pete Seeger & Jimmy Rodgers and all of their many "Offspring": Bob Dylan; Bruce Springsteen; The Grateful Dead; Peter, Paul & Mary. Tom Rush. Judy Collins; et al. What an Impressive Collection and it rings true in the "Folk Tradition" of "Carry It On" to the Younger Generation! My (Guitar) Picks: Drunken Sailor, I Know You Rider, Down In The Valley & Erie Canal! "Let Your Voice Be Heard!"-Listen In!-...by Grimmbo.

Chicago at its finest

Oh, this album makes me miss the thriving Chicago folk scene. I'm especially grateful for Aerin and Andrea, who put out their own music as the Congress of Starlings. They bring a shivery depth and beauty to Don't This Road.

Songbook, Vol. 1, Old Town School of Folk Music
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Customer Ratings