HC McENTIRE –Lionheart (Merge MERG602)

LionheartWhile still fronting Mount Moriah, Heather McEntire has taken time out to record a solo album, Lionheart, recorded in the living room of her house and featuring guitarist Phil Cook and Mount Moriah bassist Casey Toll, but otherwise predominantly female musicians, among them Amy Ray, Tift Merritt and Angel Olsen, as well as ‘special guidance’ from her mentor, feminist activist and former Bikini Kill founder Kathleen Henna.

It’s an album that addresses some very personal matters, not least her sexuality as an openly queer country singer with both her Appalachian upbringing in the Baptist faith and the genre’s proclivity for hetero male subject matter.

She gets right on in there with such contemplations in the almost hymnal opening track, ‘A Lamb, A Dove’, a number, laced with Biblical imagery, about unconditional love where, accompanied by piano, Wurltizer, pedal steel and harp with Merritt on backing vocals, she sings about having “found heaven in a woman’s touch”, but also of her belief in “a kingdom full of mercy and faith.”

That sense of being an outsider or an outcast is there too on the mid-tempo sway of ‘When You Come For Me’, Allyn Love’s pedal steel aching behind a song about eventually being laid to rest in her Appalachian soil and of dream that “the land I cut my teeth on wouldn’t let me call it home.”

Having touched on death, she returns to it on the album’s shortest track, ‘One Great Thunder’ just acoustic guitar, piano, cello and Angel Olson’s backing lamentations, a tenderly melancholic tribute to her grandmother.

But, the central point of the songs and, indeed the album title, is about coming to terms with who she is, there on ‘Yellow Roses’, keening pedal steel complemented by Luke Norton’s dramatic electric guitar lick on a song where, its title referencing a symbolic referencing of friendship and optimism, she’s “the clown that feeds the crow”, “the fool who steals your time.”

There’s several numbers that allude, directly or otherwise to, her sexuality. The lengthy mood desert dry album closer ‘Dress In The Dark’ unfolds its sensual lyrics of seduction as she sings “I can only feel your heart through your dress in the dark” or there’s the cello and harp adorned slow waltz ‘Wild Dogs’ with its line about “when I held for you that lust” and also probably the only song to ever include a symbolic reference to ‘albedo’, a measure of the solar radiation reflected by the surface back into the atmosphere from where it came.

Or there’s the rolling rhythms of classic styled country-rocking ‘Quartz In The Valley’ with its memories of home, the hosiery store where her gran worked and a wedding gown “hidden in the attic with a plastic crown” set against the sexual recollections of “when your lashes tagged all my pillows black” and “my teeth pulled off all your shoulder pads”.

Bolstered by Wurlitzer, William Tyler’s plangent guitar chords and a fluttering pizzicato acoustic, giddy with euphoria (“I dance in the rain…when they say your name”) the driving Southern country soul groove ‘Baby’s Got The Blues’ finds her “asking for a shepherd”, singing of a swelling emotion that’s “a levee on the rise” that you can either deny or surrender to as fate or, as she puts it, “call it off or call it God”.

Ray joins her for harmonies on the remaining track, the country chugger ‘Red Silo’, here guided by Ryan Gustafson’s twangsome guitar and James Wallace’s organ, a bittersweet nostalgic reminiscence of a youthful past relationship conjuring memories of “back when this whole town smelled like tobacco” and “we thought this would last forever.

In speaking of making the album, McEntire says “in music, there are no rules. You make your own language.” And she speaks it eloquently.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website: https://www.mergerecords.com/hc-mcentire

Listen to ‘Quartz In The Valley’:

Tompkins Square Release ‘Live At Caffè Lena : Music From America’s Legendary Coffeehouse, 1967-2013,’ 3CD Box Set


Nestled in the quaint upstate town of Saratoga Springs, New York is Caffè Lena, the oldest continuously operating folk music coffeehouse in the US. Opened by Lena Spencer in 1960, this tiny room has played host to influential artists across diverse genres of music; traditional folk, blues, singer-songwriters, jazz and bluegrass. Luckily, many performances were caught on tape through the years, offering the listener a thrilling seat inside this hallowed venue. ‘Live At Caffè Lena’, a 3-CD box set, the result of years of investigative research, contains 47 tracks, all released for the very first time, alongside previously unpublished photographs. Images include selections from the archive of esteemed photographer Joe Alper, who captured many iconic, intimate portraits from the folk era of the 1960s.

Live At Caffè Lena documents an important folk universe that was and is still happening in upstate New York, a story heretofore largely untold. The release of this collection comes at an auspicious time in light of renewed interest in the New York folk scene of the 60s as depicted in the forthcoming Coen Brothers film, ‘Inside Llewyn Davis.’ The film is loosely based on Dave Van Ronk’s 2005 memoir ‘The Mayor of Macdougal Street.’ Van Ronk, a Caffè Lena regular, served as a mentor to many artists, some who would go on to eclipse his fame. His 1974 recording of “Gaslight Rag” featured on the box set references the Gaslight Café, a famed Greenwich Village venue that along with Caffè Lena was a catalyst for the folk music revival.

Caffè Lena embodied the spirit of the folk boom, the era and its artistry, building a reputation as a hotbed of creativity and connection. It was also a safe haven and nurturing space for artists, its atmosphere cultivated personally by Lena Spencer herself. She would graciously house wayward artists, sometimes for months at a time. But she was not merely a host. She championed artists, from Bob Dylan as early as 1961 all the way through the 80s until her passing. Her passion for identifying and promoting talent is evident throughout this 3-CD set. That Caffè Lena is still open for business tonight is a testament to her legacy.

The producers are Steve Rosenthal (Three-time GRAMMY Award-winner, owner of The Magic Shop and The Living Room Music Club in NYC), Jocelyn Arem (Director of the CaffèLena History Project). Liner notes: Holly George-Warren & Robert Burke Warren, Scott Goldman, Michael Eck

Live At Caffè Lena: Music From America’s Legendary Coffeehouse, 1967-2013 is available Worldwide on Tompkins Square TSQ 2967 Distributed by INgrooves in North America, Cargo UK for Europe, FUSE for Australia.

 Bob Dylan at Caffè Lena, 1962 (photo by Joe Alper)

Caffe Lena

Track list for Live At Caffè Lena: Music From America’s Legendary Coffeehouse, 1967-2013

01 Intro by Lena Spencer / Guy Carawan Cripple Creek 1970
02 Hedy West Shady Grove 1968
03 Intro by Lena Spencer / Sleepy John Estes Holy Spirit 1974
04 Frank Wakefield and Friends Will The Circle Be Unbroken 1971
05 Jean Ritchie West Virginia Mine Disaster 1969
06 Billy Faier Hunt The Wren 1967
07 Greenbriar Boys Hit Parade of Love 1968
08 Mike Seeger O Death 1971
09 Jacqui and Bridie Hello Friend 1974
10 Tom Paxton Morning Again 1968
11 David Amram Little Mama 1974
12 Patrick Sky Reality Is Bad Enough 1971
13 Rosalie Sorrels Travelin’ Lady 1974
14 Smoke Dawson Devil’s Dream 1968
15 Utah Phillips The Green Rolling Hills of West Virginia 1974
16 Michael Cooney Thyme It Is A Precious Thing 1974
17 Kate McGarrigle and Roma Baran Caffè Lena 1972

01 Intro by Lena Spencer / Dave Van Ronk Gaslight Rag 1974
02 Jerry Jeff Walker Mr. Bojangles 1968
03 Barbara Dane Mama Yancey’s Advice / Love With a Feeling 1968
04 Roy Book Binder Ain’t Nobody Home But Me 1974
05 Intro by Lena Spencer / David Bromberg The Holdup 1972
06 Ramblin’ Jack Elliott Pretty Boy Floyd 1992
07 Arlo Guthrie City of New Orleans 2010
08 Aztec Two Step The Persecution and Restoration of Dean Moriarty 1989
09 Happy And Artie Traum Trials Of Jonathan 1974
10 Rick Danko It Makes No Difference 1988
11 Paul Geremia Something’s Gotta Be Arranged 1989
12 Robin and Linda Williams S-A-V-E-D 1987
13 John Herald Ramblin’ Jack Elliott 1991
14 Pete Seeger Somos El Barco (We Are the Boat) 1985

01 Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion Folksong 2013
02 Anais Mitchell Wedding Song 2013
03 Bill Morrissey The Last Day Of The Furlough 1990
04 Patty Larkin Island Of Time 1992
05 Greg Brown Flat Stuff 1989
06 Mary Gauthier I Drink 2013
07 Sean Rowe Old Black Dodge 2013
08 Tom Chapin Cat’s In The Cradle 1987
09 Intro by Lena Spencer / Christine Lavin Good Thing He Can’t Read My Mind 1987
10 Bill Staines Sweet Wyoming Home 1990
11 Bucky and John Pizzarelli I Like Jersey Best 1989
12 Rory Block That’s No Way To Get Along 1989
13 Chris Smither Killing The Blues 1989
14 Tift Merritt Traveling Alone 2013
15 John Gorka Down In The Milltown 1990
16 Lena Spencer Dear Little Cafe 1972

Ben Glover’s New Album – Do We Burn The Boats is now out…

Recorded in the heart of Nashville, the album was produced by Neilson Hubbard (Kim Richey, Glen Phillips, Garrison Starr) and features a track (Rampart Street) co written by seasoned folk songstress Mary Gauthier (who we featured very recently on folking.com).

“I intended to record just five songs for an EP, but after three days in the studio we all felt that there was a momentum happening that we couldn’t ignore. So we decided to go full steam ahead and cut ten songs and make an album,” says Glover. “It all happened very quickly and organically, but I’ve learned that sometimes the creative process takes on a life of its own and when it does it’s best to follow it’s direction.”

Glover has garnered rave album and concert reviews from across the globe and has toured extensively both as an opening act as well as a headliner. In the past calendar year his touring schedule included dates in Belfast, London, Glasgow, Edinburgh,Dublin, New York, Brussels as well as dates at the famed Hotel Café in Los Angeles and sold out shows in the Nashville’s legendary Bluebird Café.

He hails from Glenarm, Co Antrim, a small coastal village 30 miles from Belfast, N. Ireland and splits him time between there and Nashville, Tennessee. This singer/songwriter traded in a degree in law to peruse music and from all accounts it was a move that has paid off.

‘I was always drawn to and continue to be attracted to artists of a poetic nature, or great storytellers—obvious names like Leonard Cohen, Van Morrison, and Paul Simon. And I’ve always had a great affection for country music, the Americana imagery always fascinated me. So people like Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson are important sources to me, as well. I suppose I am drawn to artists who had a very strong identity—maybe not the best singers in the world—but said important and meaningful things in their songs. Essentially, music has to come out of life, and if there’s no life there is no music.’

Glover has toured and/or performed with Vince Gill, Buddy Miller, Jim Lauderdale, Mary Gauthier, Jason Mraz and Tift Merritt. His songs have been used in feature films such as “Finding Joy,” hit webisode series “Adults Only,” and as the theme song for BBC N.Ireland sports programme “The Championship.”

Artist’s website: www.benglover.co.uk