BARRY OLLMAN – What’ll It Be? (Self Released)

ollmanChances are you’ll never have heard of Barry Ollman. Not unless, that is, you happen to be a music collector. His father a Midwest correspondent for Billboard from 49-75, Ollman grew up immersed in music, not to mention gathering an impressive collection of autographs. This was the spark of what would see him become perhaps the definitive collector of Woody Guthrie, an obsession that has also encompassed the social movements of the time as well as Guthrie’s contemporaries, musical and otherwise. He’s also on the board of the Guthrie Foundation.

As well as being a music collector, Ollman’s also a musician, performing as a folk singer-songwriter since the late 60s. In the 90s, introduced by his photographer brother, Ollman met and became friends with Graham Nash, one of his longtime heroes. Fast forward to the present and this, Barry’s debut recording, the opening track of which, the waltzing ‘Imogen’s Lament’, features Nash on harmonies. It’s a song inspired by Imogen Cunningham, one of the great photographers of the 20th century and serves as a tribute to and lament for the passing of old school photography with the arrival of the digital age. Being something of a well-regarded snapper himself, Nash also provides the album’s back cover photo.

Nash isn’t the only familiar name here. Another of Ollman’s mates happens to be E Street band bassist Garry Tallent, who duly turns up on four tracks here, providing both bass and guitar on the strutting ‘Banker’s Holiday’, which takes a swipe at the profession behind the economic collapse.

Musically, Ollman slots into the rock/folk tradition of Laurel Canyon, evoking thoughts of Jackson Browne as well as, inevitably, CS&N, but there’s also shades of Paul Simon, Rick Nelson, Steve Goodman and Tom Paxton on things like ‘Painting The West’, a song inspired by a trip to Arizona and Guthrie’s own love of painting, ‘See Ya’ In Okemah’, a nod to the annual festival in Woody’s hometown that features renowned classical and film score composer David Amram on penny whistle, and ‘Something To Say’, a celebration of writers and the power of words.

Although completed prior to him suffering a heart attack, there’s a strong air of reflection running through the songs, particularly so on ‘The Old Country’’s reminiscences of youth and the ringing anthemic ‘The Other Half’, and, while he may not have the strongest of voices, he knows how to match an engaging lyric with a strong melody and deliver it with an appealing warmth and honesty.

Mike Davies

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Artist website: www.barryollman.com

ROSE’S PAWN SHOP set to release DANCING ON THE GALLOWS

Rose’s Pawn Shop dancing on the gallowsSinger-songwriter Paul Givant grew up on the disparate array of popular musical styles any late 20th century kid did. And in that mishmash of rock, punk, country, pop, rap, and all the rest, it was American Folk and Bluegrass music that rooted deepest, transforming him and his songs. Having played in various rock bands since early high school, in 2004 Paul decided it was time to take his growing batch of old style/new school folk songs, and build them into something greater, more ferocious. The songs were there, volatile, almost flammable, but if they were to attain their potential greatness, he was going to need help.

Through a series of chance meetings and twists of fate Paul hooked up with kindred spirits in Sebastian St. John, Derek O’Brien, Bill Clark, Derek Swenson, and John Kraus and in 2005 they laid the foundations of the band that would soon become Rose’s Pawn Shop. They combined the old style American sounds of Woody Guthrie, Bill Monroe, and Hank Williams, the high energy punk of The Ramones, and The Pogues, and the melodic songwriting sensibilities of Elliott Smith and The Beatles, creating something musically unique.

The final ingredient was added one fateful day when Paul’s scorned ex-girlfriend/former band mate, in an act of revenge, stole the band’s instruments and gear and took them down to the local pawn shop. Priceless. Rose’s Pawn Shop was born…

In spring of 2006 after months of playing live and breaking ground around Los Angeles, the band recorded and released their debut album The Arsonist, which soon won critical praise from numerous print and online publications and they’ve been touring the United States almost non-stop ever since. On any given day you might find Rose’s Pawn Shop playing the Georgia Theatre in Athens, busking the streets of Jackson Square in New Orleans, opening for Jack White and The Raconteurs at the Henry Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles, ripping the walls off the club in their month long residency at the Parkside Lounge in New York City, or hitting the main stage of Floydfest in Virginia. On any given day they’re out there, growing their music, igniting their passion, and converting an ever increasing congregation of loyal fans.

More recently, Rose’s Pawn Shop entered the studio with renowned producer Ethan Allen (Patty Griffin, Counting Crows, Luscious Jackson) to record the second album, Dancing On the Gallows, on which Rose’s Pawn Shop rise to a new level of song craft and sound experimentation, while retaining the same fiery intensity and excitement of their early material.

With wisdom beyond their years, they fearlessly confront traditional country music themes of loss, lamentation, and redemption, while throwing in some drinking-songs for good measure. Sure, they’re borrowing pages from the books of Hank Williams, Bill Monroe, and Johnny Cash, but Rose’s Pawn Shop takes those pages, tears them up and sets them on fire with breakneck speed, bluegrass instrumentation, 3 and 4-part vocal harmonies and lyrics that’ll break your heart.

Whether it’s the dreamy snake-charm-thump of ‘Lone Rider’, the wistful whisky-soaked wisdom of ‘Down The Line’, the honky-tonk ruckus of ‘Funeral Pyre’, or the Gypsy-infused mandolin twang of ‘Reckoning’, Rose’s Pawn Shop will hook you. Like catfish from the creek, they’ll reel you in. And they won’t let you go.

Rose’s Pawn Shop is now: Paul Givant (lead vocals, acoustic guitar, banjo), John Kraus (banjo, electric guitar, vocals) Tim Weed (fiddle, mandolin, vocals) Stephen Andrews (upright bass) and Christian Hogan (drums).

Artist web link: www.RosesPawnShop.com

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“Rose’s Pawn Shop makes a statement with their music. Life is hard and we’re gonna sing about it and get over it. Sometimes its upbeat, sometimes its slow and sorrowful. Regardless, they know their roots and that is remarkably bold.” KEXP, Seattle

“You can feel the whole barn rumble on Dancing On The Gallows … with booming bass drum, in your face fiddle,and runaway-train banjo… will, bluegrass fan or not, have the toe of your worn leather boot tapping in no time.” No Depression

SMITHSONIAN FOLKWAYS COMMEMORATES WOODY GUTHRIE CENTENNIAL WITH ‘WOODY AT 100’ BOOK with 3CD SET OUT JULY 10, 2012

INCLUDES 150-PAGE BOOK, 57 TRACKS, 21 PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED PERFORMANCES & 6 NEVER-BEFORE-HEARD ORIGINAL SONGS

In honor of the Woody Guthrie Centennial, a year-long celebration of Woody’s 100th birthday, Smithsonian Folkways presents an in-depth commemorative collection of songs, photos and essays on one of America’s most treasured 20th-century icons.

‘Woody at 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection’ is a 150-page large-format book containing three CDs with 57 tracks, including Woody’s most important recordings such as the complete version of “This Land Is Your Land,” “Pretty Boy Floyd,” “Pastures of Plenty,” “Hard Travelin’,” “Jesus Christ,” “I Ain’t Got No Home in This World Anymore,” and “Riding in My Car.”

The set also contains 21 previously unreleased performances and six never-before-heard original songs, including Woody’s first known — and recently discovered — recordings from 1939.

The Smithsonian Folkways archives hold the largest collection of Woody’s recordings (he recorded hundreds of songs for Folkways Records founder Moses Asch).

Woody Guthrie was born on July 14th, 1912, in Okemah, Oklahoma. Over the decades, his songs have run around the world like a fast train on a well-oiled track. They’ve become the folk song standards of the nation, and also known and performed in many languages throughout the world. “Pretty Boy Floyd,” “Pastures of Plenty,” “Hard Travelin’,” “Deportees,” “Roll On Columbia,” “Vigilante Man” and “This Land Is Your Land” are among the hundreds of his songs that have become staples in the canon of American music.

The GRAMMY Museum is partnering with the Guthrie Family / Woody Guthrie Publications, Inc., and the Woody Guthrie Archives to create the Centennial celebrations. The year-long celebration will include a host of concerts, programs and events taking place throughout the States and the rest of the world.

Woody100.com is a joint effort of The GRAMMY Museum, the Woody Guthrie Archives and Woody Guthrie Publications, created as a hub for all upcoming activities taking place across America and around the world, throughout 2012.

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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For more information on the year-long Woody Guthrie Centennial celebration visit: http://www.woody100.com/

JEZ HELLARD and THE DJUKELLA ORCHESTRA – Blood & Honey

Djukella is a Balkan word meaning ‘mongrel’ and is usually applied as an insult. It is, however, an appropriate name for a multi-racial band with a musical philosophy that recognises no boundaries. Balkan, incidentally comes from two words meaning ‘blood’ and ‘honey’ so you can see where they are coming from.

The band’s debut album was recorded in eastern Europe, Canada and the UK and gives the impression of being done on a limited budget. That’s not a criticism, more a statement of admiration. Jez plays guitar and harmonica and shows off the latter with an as-live version of Rory Mcleod’s ‘Miner’s Picket Dance’. That track starts a trend with Leon Rosselson’s ‘Mercenaries’ then followed by ‘Remember The Mountain Bed’ with words by Woody Guthrie and music by Wilco. Fiddler Cam Neufeld, one of two Canadians in the band, wrote ‘Atlas Tango’ which gives Jez another harmonica workout and showcases Nye Parsons’ double bass.

What I particularly like about this album is that Jez appears to have designed it simply by picking material he likes and putting it together in a satisfying order which is a damn good approach in my view and whether it’s a song from Boo Hewerdine or a tune from Amy Cann, the Djukella Orchestra handles the material with an easy fluidity. Shame there are only ten tracks. Dai Jeffries

Artist web link: www.jezhellard.com

Neil Young and Crazy Horse – Americana

I’ll just admit that when I read the track listing for “Americana,” the first CD by Neil Young and Crazy Horse in 9 years, I sighed.

Yes, I wanted to hear new music from Young but gees, do we really need another cover of American folk classics such as “Oh Susanna,” and “This Land is Your Land?” A few bars into the first track on the album, I would have answered with a heartfelt affirmative that only deepened as I heard more of these beautifully re-crafted songs.

Leave it to Neil Young to create such — let’s say elegant — rock versions of the folk classics many of us learned during elementary school sing a-longs — “This Land is Your Land,” “Tom Dula” and “Clementine.”

If a listener doesn’t tune into the words on some of the songs, it’d be easy to mistake them for  modern-day rock anthems. That’s especially true on the album’s opening track “Oh Susanna,” which is awash in electric guitars and throbbing drums plus Young’s unmistakeable voices, which still have the strength and nuances they held a few decades ago.

That’s not to say that Young fires up every song he covers. “This Land is Your Land,” is a fairly straightforward cover of the much-loved Woody Guthrie tune. Same for “Travel On.” Swap out the electric for acoustic guitar on that tune, which starts with Young singing a-capella, and you could picture families playing and singing this around a campfire.

Young’s 11-song album ends with a cover of the de facto British National Anthem “God Save the Queen,” which has sparked a fair amount of outrage in the British press. The gripes seem to center around the song’s inclusion on an album titled “Americana” and the tweaks Young made to the lyrics and melody.

Young’s notes about each song on the album include his reminder that “God Save The Queen” may well have been sung in North America before the American Revolution. The tweaks, he writes, were made in part to recognize America’s subsequent independence.

I’m certainly not advocating offending a country by changing its National Anthem but Young, a Canadian by the way, certainly seems to have put a lot of thought into the song before he made the not-really-offensive-in-my-view changes. Add to that the notion that many of the songs Young covers are thought of as stuffy and old-fashioned at best by younger generations, and it leaves you questioning if such remakes are truly outrage worthy.

My view is that anyone who can make songs such as “She’ll be Coming ‘Round the Mountain” cool again and introduce classic songs to a new generation is a genius, in my view.

As a sidenote, Young and his band are now recording another album presumably of original material, according to his reps. Watch for it, hopefully later this year.

By Nancy Dunham

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Artist Web link: Young’s website

Walter Strauss PLANET SOLITAIRE

2011 will see US guitarist and songwriter Walter Strauss releasing PLANET SOLITAIRE, a collection of ambitious solo recordings inspired by a diverse world of influences. There are multilayered instrumentals for the kora, a twenty-one stringed West African harp, rendered fluidly on the guitar, this shown perfectly on the track Djimbaseh.Walter’s song writing moves from a soulful account of forgotten US history on the song Ishi, a tale about the last ‘wild’ native of North America who survived forty years of living in hiding to The Salamander, a catchy and funky feel-good song wrought through the eyes of a salamander.  The ambitious instrumental Gypsydish finds its roots in an unlikely assemblage of influences including an Oklahoma songwriter, the great traditions of the Spanish guitar and the kamal’ngoni, a West African hunter’s harp. Sitting comfortably alongside these fine tracks is a creative instrumental variation of the George Harrison penned epic Within You, Without You taken from the Sgt. Pepper’s album, a homage to Harrison’s exploration of Indian music and culture.Also featured on the eleven track release is a spirited re-working of an obscure Woody Guthrie track entitled The Great Historical Bum. Featured throughout is Walter’s singular guitar work, a mix of mastery and innovation, a multi cultural cocktail. PLANET SOLITAIRE has a fresh and unique sound immediately recognizable as Walter Strauss.

PLANET SOLITAIRE can be seen as an album of many elements, a mix of vocal tracks and instrumentals that cover a multitude of genres, folk, world, country and classical. On the vocal tracks Walter has that smooth wood smoke and whisky intimate delivery that pulls the listener in making them feel as if the song is for them alone.

Before embarking on his solo career, Walter had spent over fifteen years playing at festivals and shows throughout the United States, Canada and Ireland alongside such notable performers as legendary fiddle player Vassar Clements, Martin Simpson, Corinne West and Alex de Grassi. The past few years has seen Walter performing solo and with The Walter Strauss Trio comprising bassist Sam Bevan (David Grisman/ Joe Craven) and percussionist Kendrick Freeman (Alison Brown/ Rob Ikes).

A fan of any instrument with strings attached Walter has also toured as a duo with Malian kora master and 2010 Grammy winning artiste Mamadou Diabate and has also collaborated with Malian kamal’ngoni player Mamadou Sidibe.

“Glorious playing!” Bob Harris BBC Radio 2

“The man is class” fRoots magazine

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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Artist website: www.walterstrauss.com