VARIOUS ARTISTS – 1989 Newport Folk Festival (Air Cuts AC3CD8060)

NewportHats off to the Air Cuts label for this box-set of the Ben & Jerry’s 1989 Newport Folk Festival – a near 30 year old recording, made to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the original 1959 event. While in many ways, this release harks back to the boxed editions of Newport Folk Festival recordings released on the Vanguard label back in the day, one of the most striking things about this set is the sheer completeness of it.

Indeed, it, quite noticeably, captures the ethos of Newport; fusing the old and new, while showcasing the variety of styles which the ‘folk music’ banner has to offer. Furthermore, while it would have been easy to cherry-pick the event’s best bits for one single record, we instead get three discs, each boasting a generous portion of live sets from the Festival’s contemporary headliners; along with a handful of stand-alone tracks from (then) up and coming talents and folk music royalty.

Disc one begins strongly, with a six track set from John Hiatt, featuring Ry Cooder on ‘Lipstick Sunset’. Very soon, we are given a taste of the vastness of the Newport soundscape; being presented with ragtimey numbers by Leon Redbone, a Russian Gypsy song – sung in Yiddish – by Theodore Bikel and the Cajun-influenced sounds of Buckwheat Zydeco. Interspersed among this, is one of the entire album’s standout tracks; ‘Mill Town’ by Cormack McCarthy, recorded on the Workshop stage for “today’s rising folk singers”. Disc two’s highlights include blazing sets from Laura Nyro and BB King, as well as shorter contributions from the Clancy Brothers and Odetta. The third and final disc employs a similar format and once again, (sizable and enjoyable) sets follow from John Prine and Emmylou Harris, along with a slightly shorter contribution from John Lee Hooker, while Pete Seeger closes both the Festival and the album with ‘Old Time Religion’ and ‘Sailing Up, Sailing Down’.

As a true reflection of Newport, this album is almost as accurate as it gets; something which most live festival-type recordings fail to express, let alone in quite so much depth. It is a really is a great set and whether it provides a re-visit of familiar material in a different setting, or an all-out introduction to completely unheard works, it is a very welcome release, and I hope, it is just one of many such sets to be issued by Air Cuts.

Christopher James Sheridan

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‘Lipstick Sunset’ – John Hiatt with Ry Cooder:

John Lee Hooker’s centenary celebrated with 5-CD box set

John Lee Hooker

Craft Recordings, the catalogue division of Concord Bicycle Music, is proud to announce the release of King Of The Boogie, a career-spanning retrospective, honouring blues icon John Lee Hooker. Due out 6th October, the five-CD set delves deep into the catalog of the influential artist, featuring not only his iconic hits, but also rarities, live recordings and several previously unreleased tracks. Housed in a 56-page book, the collection includes a wide selection of photos, taken throughout the musician’s life, plus new liner notes by writer and John Lee Hooker historian Jas Obrecht, as well as by the artist’s longtime manager and friend, Mike Kappus.

John Lee Hooker (1917-2001) was born 100 years ago near Clarksdale, Mississippi to a sharecropping family. Throughout the years, there has been some academic debate about his original birth year. However, The Hooker family maintains 1917 as the de facto date. Says daughter Zakiya Hooker, “As we all know there was no great push for accuracy back then in that portion of the community. But we just stick to what my father told us, which was what he was told by his mother.”

As a young man, Hooker worked his way up north to Detroit to pursue his passion of music. By 1948, the artist had a hit on his hands with one of his earliest recordings, ‘Boogie Chillun’’. From there, Hooker would record over 100 albums throughout the course of his six-decade-long career, building a diverse collection of fans along the way: from folk musicians and beatniks, to the stars of the British Invasion. The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and Carlos Santana are among those who cite Hooker as a major influence. In his liner notes, Mike Kappus recalls that,

“Everyone who knew John Lee Hooker loved him and felt privileged to be in his presence. While he influenced generations of musicians with his incomparable style, that impact on musicians stepped up to yet another level once they got to know and, universally, love him.”

In his later years, as the bluesman found himself in one of the busiest, most productive eras of his career, Hooker was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Blues Hall of Fame and Memphis Music Hall of Fame; was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and took home four GRAMMY® awards, including a coveted Lifetime Achievement award in 2000.

Tasked with narrowing down Hooker’s vast catalog into five CDs, box set producer Mason Williams curated the collection to narrate the artist’s story. “Even at 100 songs, this set is just a snapshot of John Lee Hooker’s incredible and influential career,” says Williams, “but one that takes you on the long journey he took from his early days in Detroit, to his time in Chicago recording for Vee-Jay Records and up through his later collaborations with Van Morrison, Bonnie Raitt and Santana, among others.”

King Of The Boogie will be released as part of a year-long, multi-partner centennial celebration, honoring the music and influence of John Lee Hooker, and will be a companion piece to an exhibit of the same name, which kicks off today at the GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi.  John Lee Hooker: King Of The Boogie includes Hooker’s performance outfits, guitars, photos, awards and, of course, his music. The exhibit will be on display through February 2018, before travelling west to the GRAMMY Museum® at L.A. LIVE. Additional centennial partners include The Blues Foundation, The Delta Blues Museum, Living Blues, Oxford American, the John Lee Hooker Estate, and Epiphone Guitars, who will be releasing a limited edition John Lee Hooker Zephyr Outfit, available in early 2018. John Lee’s daughter, Zakiya Hooker, has worked closely with all partners on her father’s centennial events, and affirms:

“Today, on what would have been my father’s 100th birthday, I am so thrilled to see him celebrated—both with the exhibit, as well as with the announcement of this special collection of music. I know that his fans will be excited to hear rare performances, and to read the touching words of his longtime manager, Mike Kappus, as well as those of the wonderful Jas Obrecht. It was a pleasure to watch this box set come together, and I can’t wait to see it shared with the world.”

‘One Bourbon One Scotch One Beer’:

Tupelo release their foot-stomping album DIRTY MONEY…

Tupelo’s debut album DIRTY MONEY conjures images of a sinister, gangster-filled speakeasy in prohibition-era Chicago as the band fire out tunes to stir men of ambition and menace and brawn. Tracks like Bad Man and Cougar Cat tell that tale admirably. Others like I’m An Irishman and My Family’s Land echo the storytelling sentiments of patriotic icons like Luke Kelly giving a focused insight into their roots and aspirations. Firefly, Railroad and Blue Gardinia are the rousing, party pieces of the set in all their foot-stomping, yee-haw glory.

Tupelo are an exciting, original, acoustic roots act consisting of an eclectic line-up of instruments which includes banjo, guitar, fiddle, double bass, mandolin, harmonica and Dobro. Their sound is fresh and unique in today’s world of endless electric outfits, Mumford and Sons could be seen as a comparison. Few musicians can successfully blend a number of diverse genres, creating a sound they can exclusively call their own.

Even fewer composers can craft songs of heart, conviction and true grit to bring the best out of such a sound. Their music is a flurry of roots, rockabilly, bluegrass, country, folk and rock ‘n’ roll… often displayed all in the same song. The band’s front man and songwriter James Cramer delivers a tough, honest take on bad times and good times, struggles and triumphs, high spirits and solemn hopes… all in his own untainted accent, all in his own untainted words. Tupelo owes its name to Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey album, a favourite of James and a massive influence on his song-writing. James says Emmylou Harris in part inspired the set up of the group. “I saw an Emmylou Harris performance on TV and I knew I had to have a fiddle in the band. It worked from the first song. You can search all your life and never find the right people but it was finally together and that was the start of Tupelo.”Amongst others, James sees The Band, Shane McGowan, Bob Dylan and John Lee Hooker as the biggest influences on the band. Being one of the hardest working bands on the road today means that Tupelo’s live shows are something special to look forward to. They can count Imelda May among their fans.

Imelda said of the band “They have a wonderful sound, great musicianship and fantastic song-writing.”

2012 has heralded the release of Tupelo’s superb album DIRTY MONEY, an album that captures perfectly their energetic live sound and should garner them a legion of new fans worldwide.

“…they have embraced the kitchen-sink approach to writing, building their songs from the ground up into thrilling folk-pop dervishes” Metro

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BRUCE COCKBURN – Small Source of Comfort

Bruce Cockburn has always been a restless spirit. Over the course of four decades, the celebrated Canadian artist has traveled to the corners of the earth out of humanitarian concerns – often to trouble spots experiencing events that have led to some of his most memorable songs. Going up against chaos, even if it involves grave risks, can be necessary to get closer to the truth.

“My mother once said that I must have a death wish, always going to what she called ‘those awful places,’” laughs Cockburn. “I don’t think of it that way. I make these trips partly because I want to see things for myself and partly out of my own sense of adventure.”

Released in April 2011, Small Source of Comfort, Cockburn’s 31st album, is his latest adventurous collection of songs of romance, protest and spiritual discovery. Winning this year’s Juno Award for Best Roots and Traditional Album, and his 12th Juno Award to date, the album, primarily acoustic yet rhythmically savvy, is rich in Cockburn’s characteristic blend of folk, blues, jazz and rock. As usual, many of the new compositions come from his travels and spending time in places like San Francisco and Brooklyn to the Canadian Forces base in Kandahar, Afghanistan, jotting down his typically detailed observations about the human experience.

Bruce Cockburn’s songs, along with his humanitarian work, have brought him a long list of honours, including an induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award and several international awards. In 1982, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada and was promoted to Officer in 2002. Last year, the Luminato festival honoured Cockburn’s extensive songbook with a tribute concert featuring such varied guests as jazz guitarist Michael Occhipinti, folk-rapper Buck 65, country rockers Blackie and The Rodeo Kings, country-folk singers Sylvia Tyson and Amelia Curran, pop artists the Barenaked Ladies and Hawksley Workman, and folk-pop trio The Wailin’ Jennys.

Never content to rest on his laurels, Cockburn keeps looking ahead. “I’d rather think about what I’m going to do next”, he once said. “My models for graceful aging are guys like John Lee Hooker and Mississippi John Hurt, who never stopped working till they dropped, as I fully expect to be doing, and just getting better as musicians and as human beings.” Small Source of Comfort, a reflection of Cockburn’s ever-expanding world of wonders, is the latest step in his creative evolution.

With a career spanning more than four decades, producing an acclaimed body of work that has sold over 2 million copies worldwide, Bruce Cockburn continues to be revered by fans and fellow musicians alike as one of the most important songwriters of his generation.

Small Source of Comfort is Cockburn’s first studio album since 2006 – a rhythmic and highly evocative collection of 14 new tracks inspired by his renowned unusual and diverse muse – recent trips to Afghanistan and ponderings on the re-incarnation of Richard Nixon, to road trips and unreturned phone calls. The album boasts some of the best musicians recording today, including violinist Jenny Scheinman, former Wailin’ Jenny Annabelle Chvostek, and long time collaborators Gary Craig, Jon Dymond and producer Colin Linden.

As both a songwriter and a guitarist, Bruce Cockburn is considered among the world’s best. The New York Times called him a “virtuoso on guitar”, while Acoustic Guitar magazine placed him in the esteemed company of Andrés Segovia, Bill Frisell and Django Reinhardt.

Cockburn’s songs have been covered by such diverse and talented artists as Elbow, Jimmy Buffett, Judy Collins, Anne Murray, Chet Atkins, K.D. Lang, Barenaked Ladies, and the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia.

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Artist’s website: www.brucecockburn.com