Cooking With New Releases (Better Read This Before You Order)

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Judy Collins ~ Born to the Breed

Judy Collins is best known as a singer and a song interpreter of sorts. Some of her most well-known songs were not her own, and many of the well-crafted songs she has written may not get too much attention because of the amount of covers she has performed. Luckily, some high-profile artists who have been influenced by Judy Collins’ music came together to record some of her original works.

Born to the Breed has musical legends on every track including Leonard
Cohen, Dolly Parton, Joan Baez, Rufus Wainwright, Kenny White, Chrissie Hynde, Bernadette Peters and Jimmy Webb. Two of the highlights include Jim Lauderdale’s version of “Easy Times”, which is likely much more country than Collins ever expected it to be, and Shawn Colvin’s take on “Secret Gardens”–a retrospective written by Collins after driving past her grandparent’s home after they had passed.

Despite the tiredness of the ‘tribute album’ genre, it seems like all these artist definitely belong as each track has something unique to offer. Another appeal is that a portion of the album’s earnings goes to the Jazz Foundation of America, which provides emergency aid for uninsured musicians and may be most noted for its help of jazz
musicians after Hurricane Katrina.

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Justin Townes Earle ~ Midnight at the Movies

Justin Townes Earle has had a lot to live up to right from the beginning. With his first release, skeptics were curious if Earle could live up to his father, Steve Earle’s talent. Justin surpassed anyone’s expectation with a captivating live show and non-stop touring. Whereas only a year ago, critics held Justin up to his father’s standards, he now has to live up to his own.

Midnight at the Movies offers heart-felt ballads like “Someday I’ll be Forgiven for This”, but the majority of these songs are much more fast-paced and driven than his earlier works (Yuma and The Good Life). Throughout the entire album, Earle works some impressive finger picking, which is often times the musical driving force in his songs. Accompanying Earle’s guitar and vocals is a proficient band of relative unknowns including multi-talented right-hand-man Cory Younts.

Alongside his guitar proficiency, we hear the tactfully emotional lyrics we have known Earle for in his earlier recordings. However, for the first time, we hear reference to his family in “Mama’s Eyes”, a realistic and sincere dedication to his parents. When Earle performed this piece at last year’s Kent State Folk Festival, he prefaced the song by saying that his parents hadn’t heard it and that “one parent would be truly proud and the other would be relatively indifferent.”– a great example of Earle’s frank sense of humor.

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Steve Martin ~ The Crow

Many actors have branched out in recent years to record the music that they love. Often, many are better at their first craft (Billy Bob Thornton). A rare exception is Steve Martin, who is just as talented a banjo player as a comedian and actor.

Martin’s The Crow is the product of 45 years of closet banjo playing and Tony Trischka’s urging. The title track of which was performed on Trischka’s album Double Banjo Bluegrass Spectacular and ended up being Steve Martin’s first hit single since his farcical “King Tut” in 1978.The difference is that now Martin is very serious.

There’s nothing to laugh about on The Crow. Martin was once quoted as saying that you can never play a sad song on the banjo. In the album’s liner notes, Martin retracted that statement saying that the banjo had the capacity for some very mournful and lonesome songs. He goes on to give a brief history of his time with the banjo and it becomes very obvious through listening to the album and reading about its contents that Martin has a deep friendship with the instrument.

The Crow is filled with many stars of bluegrass and country including Vince Gill, Tim O’Brien, Tony Trischka, and Earl Scruggs; but they are not the stars. The focus every song is definitely the banjo and the album its self is almost a “Thank You” note to the banjo for everything it has given the grateful Martin.

Tony Furtado Deep Waters.jpgTony Furtado ~ Deep Waters

Getting airplay in this day and age is not easy. It seems like anyone can write an album, record it on their own, and even press CD’s without any sponsorship or help from outsiders. So, in this highly competitive world of folk airplay, many artists rely on well-proven musicians to make their albums more appealing. After all, when successful artists want to perform with you, you must be doing something right.

Tony Furtado ignores this prospect. His newest release, Deep Waters is unique in the sense that it is almost completely solo. Singing harmonies to his own melody, soloing over his own banjo, and dueling with his own guitar, Furtado does it all.

His songs are lyrically sincere and stylistically diverse. In “The Bawds of Euphony”, Furtado introduces the album with a dark banjo-driven instrumental. In the 13 tracks that follow, we hear the uplifting and lyrically moving “Deep Water”, the percussive and
heavily distorted “Lighten Up Your Load ” and finish the album with a dedication to Furtado’s parents in “Darkest Day”; all of which feature Furtado’s virtuosic banjo and an abundance of different strings, almost entirely played by Furtado. About the only exception to Furtado’s instrumental independence is his producer Sean Slade (who
has produced Dinosaur Jr., The Pixies, and Radiohead). Slade backs up Furtado on several tracks, playing keyboards, woodwinds, bass and percussion.

Furtado has always pushed his self. He began as a banjo player, plays at least 5 other instruments including the “banjo-dobro”, and sings on this album (something he rarely did on his first albums). He invites outside direction, as shown through his producer’s influence–something especially difficult to do. Deep Waters features Furtado at his best, setting a bar that while high, will likely be surpassed by Furtado’s future endeavors.

Doug Hite
Jim Blum

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