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

Label website:

‘Lipstick Sunset’ – John Hiatt with Ry Cooder:


(JANUARY 21st 1941 – APRIL 22nd 2013)


It is with great sadness that folking report that the great RICHIE HAVENS, forever known as the man who opened the Woodstock Festival in 1969, richly gifted singer / songwriter, innovative song interpreter, and without doubt one of the most genuine nice guys in rock and roll, has passed away at the age of 72. He suffered a sudden heart attack at his home in Jersey City, New Jersey, yesterday (Monday 22nd April).

My old mate Lesley “legs” Shone from Indiscreet PR had the honour of working with Richie from 2002 until his retirement from performing in 2010. Here is a lovely quote from Legs

We had come to know Richie very well, and found him to be one of the warmest, most sincere, charming and funny people you could ever hope to meet, let alone work with. Richie’s inclusive and amiable demeanour, as well as his incredible powers of recall, made him a unique interview subject. On one occasion, Richie came straight from landing at Heathrow airport to do a radio interview with Danny Baker at BBC Radio London, in advance of a sell-out run of shows at the Jazz Café. Most artists would want to talk about themselves; instead Richie regaled Danny with his thoughts and reminiscences on the unlikely career of Tiny Tim!

Richie Havens will always be associated with the Woodstock Festival; every interview he ever did inevitably included the question “What was it like to open Woodstock?” Richie never tired of retelling the story – or saying how he was sat with Albert Grossman at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 when Dylan shocked the Folkie throng by ‘going electric’, or meeting Jimi Hendrix in Greenwich Village in the mid-60s, or making the movie ‘Catch My Soul’, directed by a mostly-AWOL Patrick McGoohan, or playing for president Bill Clinton in 1993, it was all there. After the legendary folkie Fred Neil quit New York to live in Coconut Grove, Florida, apparently to watch dolphins, Richie was the only guy from the old Village days that he kept in touch with. Most of all, though, Richie’s music shines on; his utterly personalised takes on songs such as Just Like A Woman, Strawberry Fields Forever, Here Comes The Sun, Going Back To My Roots, and, in the last decade,Woodstock, Won’t Get Fooled Again and more linger loud and long – although he was no slouch as a songwriter himself. His recent albums, such as Wishing Well, The Grace of the Sun and Nobody Left To Crown feature many choice examples of Havens’ own writing talent.

Richie Havens made a powerful impression as a human being; surgery in 2010 meant that he could no longer perform, and Havens performances – that i interaction between artist and audience, his songs propelled by his powerful footstomp – his honeyed vocal tone wrapping and wringing out the emotion of a song lyric – and his between song banter – made his concerts a vivid, enduring celebration of the freedoms that came from the 1960s. Richie’s gone now, but the electric vibe that he channelled throughout his career will not be dimmed. Rest in Peace, Richie.

River City Extension – Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Your Anger

River City Extension are set to release, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Your Anger, on June 5 via XOXO Records/Anchor & Hope Music. The eight-member band, which hail from Toms River, New Jersey, recorded the 14-track album with producer Brian Deck (Modest Mouse, Iron & Wine, Josh Ritter, Secret Machines, Gomez) at Engine Studios in Chicago.

The band have made the song “There & Back Again,” which is taken from the new album, available to stream via SoundCloud link below. It features a blistering harmonica solo by famed photographer Danny Clinch.

The lyrically ambitious, stylistically adventurous Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Your Anger confronts thorny issues of personal and spiritual struggle in a manner that’s both intimate and illuminating;

Songwriter and front-man Joe Michelini describes it as an album about resolution and forgiveness. “For the most part, these songs represent a dark period in my life when I really didn’t like myself,” he explains. “I was still young and still learning, and a lot of people were probably hurt by the person I was at the time. Half of this record is love songs, and half is ‘I’m sorry that I f***ed up’ songs — I look at them as a stepping stone, a way to put some distance between myself and that part of my life, and to remind myself that I’ve chosen to do better.”

An abiding faith in the music and an unflinching sense of honesty have been constants for River City Extension since the band’s humble beginnings in Toms River. Michelini had already established a local reputation as a solo singer/songwriter when he first assembled a small acoustic combo under the River City Extension banner in late 2007. Soon, his musical vision had attracted an assortment of like-minded souls, and the act had expanded into its eight-person form. They recorded their debut album, The Unmistakable Man, with a minimum of funds, but an abundance of belief in their musical mission; then signed with Asbury Park indie label XOXO (home to fellow NJ natives the Gaslight Anthem), which released The Unmistakable Man in May 2010. The album gained momentum slowly but surely, with accolades from Paste, NPR, Spin and Alternative Press, and by 2011 River City Extension was touring hard, playing major festivals (like Newport Folk Fest and Bonnaroo) and supporting artists ranging from the Avett Brothers to The Get Up Kids.

The band have played explosive showcase concerts at previous SXSW and Newport Folk Festival producer Jay Sweet stumbled upon the gig, and later told Billboard,

“This band, River City Extension, is ripping the paint off the wall. These guys are playing like they’re playing Madison Square Garden at midnight. These guys are closing Woodstock. Honestly! The place was about to explode…. I’ll never forget it, because when River City Extension finished their set, the place physically would not let them [leave]. They tried to walk off the stage and people were not letting them walk off. It wasn’t just plain clapping, they physically were not letting the band leave the stage.” Sweet offered them a set at Newport on the spot.

Artist’s website:

Dala to release Best Day

Dala, the two-piece award winning duo of Amanda Walther and Sheila Carabine, are releasing their fifth studio record, Best Day, on May 29th. With lush intertwining harmonies, the duo underscores the folk-pop album’s “life is short” message with accompaniment from piano, guitar, ukulele and minimal drums. The title track of the album is currently available as a single exclusively on iTunes via the artist web link below.

Throughout their career the duo have toured tirelessly, building their following the old-fashioned way, turning first time listeners into instant, die-hard fans, winning 5 Canadian Folk Music Awards and a Juno nomination. Dala has played all over North America and for the highest profile music festivals, among them New Orleans Jazz Fest, Philadelphia Folk Festival, Denver’s Swallow Hill, the Lowell Summer Concert Series, Strawberry Music Fest, Sisters Folk Festival the and 50th Anniversary of the Newport Folk Festival in 2009 – where Dala were the only Canadian act invited to play. Last summer Dala hosted a PBS special primetime concert entitled “Girls From The North Country” which aired all over North America with multiple plays in Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston Portland, Austin, Cleveland, Charlotte and more.

Artist Web link: