A Tribute To Jack Hardy – available now

Jack Hardy

In honor of the fifth anniversary of his death, Smithsonian Folkways presents A Tribute to Jack Hardy, featuring 26 previously unreleased recordings of Hardy’s songs by an illustrious group of performers, all of whom cited him as a key influence and a personal friend.

Performers include album producers Mark Dann and David Massengill, joined by contemporary folk standouts including Nanci Griffith, Suzanne Vega, Jonathan Byrd, Red Molly, Lucy Kaplansky, Brian Rose and many more. Jack Hardy himself, known as a welcoming host for weekly songwriting workshops who also founded the Fast Folk magazine/label, is also included via two unreleased tracks recorded shortly before he died.

The 105-page liner notes include Hardy’s “Songwriter’s Manifesto,” complete lyrics, photos, and personal tributes, anecdotes, and essays from the participating singer-songwriters.

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The Jack Hardy Band – ‘Ponderosa’:

Cathryn Craig and Brian Willoughby release Real World

Cathryn Craig and Brian Willoughby Real WorldIt’s interesting how all of us keep people in certain slots, no matter how we deny it.

Consider Brian Willoughby, best known for his work with the legendary folk-rock band the Strawbs. Sure, he’s a guitar master who is much in demand as evidenced by his work with Nanci Griffith, Mary Hopkin and many others, obviously including the Strawbs. Still, thinking of him always conjures up Strawbs’ melodies.

What a delight it is to remind ourselves of his fluid versatility. Perhaps nowhere is that clearer than on his just-released album Real World with Cathryn Craig. For those that don’t know, the U.S.-based Craig makes her home in Virginia, not far from Nashville where she used worked with such legendary artists as Chet Atkins and the Righteous Brothers.

Combining Willoughby’s lush, acoustic guitar work with Craig’s emotive vocals truly brings out the best in both artists’ offerings. Think of Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell but replace the honky tonk vibe and cowboy with a folk sensibility in the most elegant sense and you have a feeling of what Real World offers.

Consider the opening track of the album “Eastview Lane,” that finds Craig’s vocals — that put one in mind of Griffith herself perhaps mixed with a twang less Emmylou Harris — ruminating about sweet times with dolls, bikes and granddaddy’s old place when as children we “used to be so happy, we really had it all.”

Perhaps the look at life through a panoramic camera sweeping from sweet childhood memories to adults sorrows — such as those told on “Alice’s Song” about a girl with Asperger’s Syndrome and “Cumberland” about the devastating 2010 floods in Nashville — and you have a soundscape that could play behind most of our lives.

Combining Willoughby’s spiritual guitar work and Craig’s poignant vocals reminds all of us that life, for all its dips and curves, truly is as rich as we make it.

By Nancy Dunham

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Artist Web link: http://www.craigandwilloughby.com

Bap Kennedy THE SAILORS REVENGE

For nearly any singer/songwriter on the planet, the idea of collaborating with Mark Knopfler would be the stuff of fantasy. But for Bap Kennedy, it was just the latest in a long line of projects with high profile, and highly respected, musical legends. For a man who has worked with Steve Earle and Van Morrison, to name just two, an offer to record an album in the Dire Straits frontman’s own studio was another musical milestone. THE SAILOR’S REVENGE, the album that Kennedy wrote and Knopfler produced, features songwriting that grows stronger with every listen, assisted of course by Knopfler’s distinctive delicious guitar and tasteful widescreen production.

“The best singer songwriter I ever saw” Steve Earle

Bap’s first encounters with the record business were as rhythm guitarist, lead singer and primary songwriter for Belfast rockers Energy Orchard, with whom he recorded 5 albums. When the band left Belfast, they established themselves as legends of London’s live music scene. It was while he was in Energy Orchard that Kennedy first worked with compatriot Van Morrison, who gave the band several support slots to supplement their own hectic touring schedule of both the USA and Europe.

When Energy Orchard split up, Bap had little time to rest, because alt-country superstar, and longtime Energy Orchard fan, Steve Earle soon contacted him, suggesting that he would produce Bap’s first solo album.

Kennedy agreed, and soon found himself on the plane to Nashville, TN, where he would record DOMESTIC BLUES. The album featured several of Nashville’s most highly regarded musicians, including Jerry Douglas, Peter Rowan and Nanci Griffith. It was a real success, getting into the top ten of the Billboard Americana chart.

The follow-up album, LONELY STREET, was an artistic project based on, and dedicated to; two of Bap’s childhood musical heroes, Hank Williams and Elvis Presley and his next album THE BIG PICTURE would see Bap returning to work with Van Morrison, who had supported Kennedy since his Energy Orchard days. THE BIG PICTURE was recorded at Morrison’s studio, and included a Bap and Van co-write, Milky Way. The album also featured guest vocals from Shane MacGowan, lead singer of the Pogues, on the song On the Mighty Ocean Alcohol, and a reading from Carolyn Cassady, one of the leading figures from the Beat generation of American writers, at the end of the beautifulMoriarty’s Blues.

For Howl On, released in 2009, Bap recorded in his native Northern Ireland for the first time in his solo career and, much like with LONELY STREET, returned to writing a series of songs on a subject that had fascinated Bap in childhood.

THE SAILOR’S REVENGE features Kennedy’s most mature and sophisticated songwriting to date, an achievement in itself when you consider his back catalogue. Bap is joined by guest musicians such as Jerry Douglas, Glenn Worf and of course Mark Knopfler, all combining to ensure that the musicianship on the album is every bit as good as the songwriting. When it comes to the songs there are simply too many superb compositions to list here. Highlights include the album opener Shimnavale, a place that sits between the Irish Sea and the mountains of Mourne in County Down, inspired by old photographs of a family who lived there and Bap’s own experience as an immigrant. Working Man tells of Bap’s life as a builders labourer in the mid eighties while waiting for a record deal to come along and Jimmy Sanchez was written about the Chilean miners rescue where nineteen year old Jimmy, the youngest miner trapped was quoted as saying that God must want him to change, powerful words, hence the line in the song “I know I must change”.

THE SAILOR’S REVENGE is a phenomenal body of work and as “game changing” as a Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan with no brakes… We urge you all to buy it! folking.com

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Bap Kennedy is touring the UK, this month (March 2012), more information and the latest tour dates can be found at www.bapkennedy.com

Nanci Griffith – Intersection

Twenty albums now, and none before like this. “It’s emotional for me, and it’s personal, and it makes my heart pound, thinking I’m going to be totally exposed here,” says Nanci Griffith, the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter and Americana Music Association Lifetime Achievement Award winner. Intersection is not an album of resolution or closure; it’s an album about difficulties, about anger, about things that slip away and things that explode.

“I’ve had a hard life, and I write it down,” Griffith sings on the title track, and that line serves as a statement of fact and purpose, and as a gentler way to explain her near-shouted musical exclamation, “Hell no, I’m not alright.”

Intersection is an examination of a particularly difficult time for Griffith, fraught with personal bust-ups, with family turmoil, with hard miles and tears and habits to break. “Sometimes making the best is doing the worst to yourself,” she sings here.

It’s funny what happens with songs. Funny that Griffith’s personal “hell no” moment – delivered here in a frenzy that somehow simultaneously recalls Buddy Holly, Pete Seeger, and The Ramones – can produce a gladdening shock of recognition in audience members who had bought tickets to hear contemplative Griffith gems like “Love at the Five and Dime” and “Trouble in the Fields”.

“Everybody seems to have an investment in ‘Hell No,’ and in ‘Intersection’ as well,” Griffith says. “So many people are at an intersection in their life, with the way the economy is, with foreclosures and downsizing… For me, Intersection is my musical crossroads.”

It is those crossroads, those intersections, that are at the center of Griffith’s latest work. Twenty albums now, and only one like this, but it’s funny what happens with songs. Sometimes making the best is doing the worst to yourself, but sometimes making the best is singing your truth, even if it makes your heart pound.

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