Posts Tagged ‘Folk Music’

The Festival Is Coming To Your Computer

September 29, 2009

New podcast is up tonight. As always you can find it over on the sidebar, or subscribe to it on iTunes (so you never miss an episode). As promised this is the first snippet of material from The Alder Fork Festival.  You can hear all of Matthew Blacquiere’s fantastic performance.  Matt is planning another show in the near feature that will be recorded and likely available for purchase. He has never failed to move audiences with his witty stories, magnificent guitar work, compelling voice, and folk sensibilities.

There has been a slight delay in making/selling a recording on behalf of EDACWR.  The wheels are in motion to make that happen, it is just taking longer than expected.

What Would I Do That Was Different?

May 8, 2009

Sometimes you’re made to feel as if your love’s a crime

Bruce Cockburn

Lovers In A Dangerous Time

With 46 seconds of applause we being our journey into Slice O Life, Bruce Cockburn’s live solo album.  I have been excited about this disc since I first heard about it, and now I own it.  This rather epic affair is the first commercial recording of Bruce playing on his own. He has previous live albums with his many bands, but has waited a long time to treat his fans to this special type of performance.  These performances come from the same tour as the CBC Radio 2 concert I previously reviewed.

The liner notes that these concert performances are presented mostly intact, with very little polish. I appreciate the honesty in that approach to a live album. Many groups overdub their mistakes in the studio, but any fan of live music knows that events rarely transpire free from error.  Bruce truly wants the fan to experience his live performance in its full existence.  I find it very genuine.

He opens with World of Wonders, which immediately reminds the listener that this is a transcendent talent.  I stand there dazzled with my heart aflame. There is so much going on in the instrumental bits of this song it’s hard to believe he is playing alone.

Lest we forget that Bruce has written some of the most timeless music of the last 30 years he treats us to Lovers in a Dangerous Time.  This song continues to move me many years after I first heard it.  In fact as I was listening to my iPod on the way to the store to buy this album, the original version of this song came on.  This live version is just as passionate and beautiful, perhaps more so.  I wonder what effect many years of laying and reflecting on these songs has had on Bruce’s experience.

The makers of this disc decided to include some between song chatter as individual tracks.  His story about almost becoming a mercenary was repeated on the CBC concert.  This is a much longer and more drawn out version of it and includes some banter with a talkative audience member.  It’s amazing that a man who became a recognized activist for improving the life of the poor and suffering actually considered getting involved in supporting armed rebellion. Although I might change my mind about that when we get to If I Had A Rocket Launcher.

The mercenary story leads to See You Tomorrow because the friend of a friend plays a role in the song.  There is something unique about playing a solo live show.  In a band setting the attention gets spread around from player to player based on the ebb and flow of songs.  When you play alone you are completely exposed to the attention of your audience. For some people I am sure this is a highly desirable situation.  I always felt quite naked when doing that, and preferred the safety of having a band.  Perhaps it is the result of my own feeling of musical inadequacy. I wonder how Bruce feels about it.

Last Night of the World is a song that helped launch me back into Bruce Cockburn after I had ignored him for awhile. For some reason this track just speaks to me.  The chorus of If this were the last night of the world/what would I do?/what would I do that was different/unless it was champagne with you speaks to the romantic apocalyptic in me.  This version isn’t as sweet as the album cut, but it has more meat.  The crowd reacts gratefully to Bruce’s emphasis on we all have to be pried loose.  I share the sentiment.

How I Spent My Fall Vacation starts with the sweetness of a Spanish interlude and settles into the usual beauty of a Bruce Cockburn composition. The lyrics in this song are very descriptive.  I don’t think Bruce has written an autobiography but perhaps he should.  Or maybe he should just write a book with stories from his imaginative, I’m not sure which would be more compelling.

I remember watching Bruce play at Live 8.  A lot of the crowd were quite sure what to make of this older gentleman and his fancy guitar work.  I was sitting at home absolutely riveted to a man I admired for his musical prowess and convictions.

On the back of the album there is a picture of four guitars lined up around a processor rack of some sort.  Yet for Tibetan Side of Town we are treated to a quick tuning.  This is another wordy track.  The guitar work is incredible as he solos his way through basically the entire song.

This concludes Part I of this review. Look for Parts II and III in the next couple of days.  Yes it’s that long! I will also be talking about Bruce on the podcast once it goes up.

They Say That Richard Cory Owns One Half of This Whole Town

February 3, 2009

I can hear the soft breathing of the girl that I love, as she lies here beside me, asleep with the night, her hair in a fine mist, floats on my pillow, reflecting the glow of the winter’s moonlight,

I’ve got to creep down the alleyway, fly down the highway, before they come to get me I’ll be gone, somewhere, they can’t find me.

Simon & Garfunkel

Somewhere They Can’t Find Me

Regular followers of The Alder Fork know that I tend to look backwards a lot, in the hopes of embracing the feeling of nostalgia, and resurrecting creative ideas that remain relevant.  In today’s post I am tackling one of my all time favourite albums (as mentioned on a recent podcast episode) Simon & Garfunkel’s 1966 classic Sounds of Silence.  This was the group’s second album under that name, having previously released music as Tom and Jerry, and as solo artists.  It was the first album to feature tracks that were virtually all written by Paul Simon, as their previous LP featured a number of covers and traditional tunes.  At the time of the album’s release, the title track was already extremely popular as an overdubbed version of the acoustic original.  It later appeared in the film The Graduate several times.

I first listened to this album from front to back when I picked up a CD copy at a used music store in high school.  I took it along with me on a trip to Europe because I loved it so much.  To me the most interesting thing about Simon & Garfunkel in general is that in a time where rock & roll, psychedelic rock, and rebellious folk rock were popular, they were receiving widespread acclaim for songs that, while folky, touched on a wide variety of themes.  Sounds of Silence was certainly in the Bob Dylan tradition, but April Come She Will, I am a Rock, and Blessed were a little off kilter from a lot of other mid-sixties popular music.  Yet they fit in beautifully and found themselves playing to appreciative audiences across America, and at the legendary Monterey Pop Festival.

Musically, the album ventures in directions that had recently been pioneered by Bob Dylan in the folk genre. For their first effort, and the solo Paul Simon Songbook of 1965, the music arrangements were simple and centred on the acoustic guitar.  This album contains multiple instruments and sounds supporting the trademark vocal harmonies of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel.

The one track I will expand on is quoted at the start of this entry. Somewhere They Can’t Find Me began life as Wednesday Morning 3 A.M. the title track of the groups debut album.  I actually don’t enjoy that version very much, it is far too slow for my liking.  The reworked version on Sounds of Silence moves along at the speed you’d expect from a song about running away after committing a crime.  The story of a young man abandoning his love after robbing a liquor store is the type of vignette that Paul Simon excels at writing (see A Most Peculiar Man and Richard Cory for other examples on this album).  The opening riff, which seems isolated from the rest of song, reappears later on the album in Anji, an instrumental cover. Unlike other Simon and Garfunkel tracks this one relies less on vocal harmonies than rock & roll power. Again this is fitting given the theme of the song.  The contrast of this song with most of the others on the album is very noticeable.

Sounds of Silence is a classic album that has been critically acclaimed and widely loved.  Paul Simon’s songwriting had come into it’s own with his earlier work and would only get better over time.  The group was still climbing towards its musical peak, and would play some fantastic live shows in the next few years.  A couple of those are available on CD, and I’d recommend checking them out.