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That ’70’s Show

By Kezzie Baker. Posted in Folk, Rock, Vital Albums | 13 Comments »

No, this is not about the old American television sitcom series that stations occasionally re-run late at night.  It is a series, though, and the sitcom title is fitting.  This is about a different ‘70s Show – a “music show” that was inconspicuously (at least to me) being performed just outside the limelight during the 1970’s.  It is only recently that I came to discover some of the outstanding works from a few stars of that ‘70’s show.  In a completely just world, their albums would have received the full recognition they deserve.  Even now, some 30+ years later, they are remarkable.  Here’s one of the best of them (more albums will be discussed in Part 2):

Silent Passage – Bob Carpenter, Warner Reprise 1975 (re-issue 1984 by Stony Plain Records, and 2007 by Riverman Music)  “Bob still lives within all who hear his unforgettable Silent Passage.”  – Ed Ochs, former music editor for Billboard Magazine (from Rising Storm).

I first learned of Silent Passage by the inclusion of its title track on Midlake’s  2011 album, a mixtape contribution to the Late Night Tales series.  Late Night Tales is a series (ongoing since 2001) of “music and stories worth staying up for” in which one artist is invited each year to compile a mixtape of their favorite songs or inspirations.  The contents of each Late Night Tales album are the original pieces by the original artists, with one cover chosen and performed by the invited artist.  GQ Magazine describes the series as “the Rolls Royce of compilations.”  Midlake’s mixtape opens with Bob Carpenter performing his song, “Silent Passage,” which immediately sent me scrambling to find Carpenter’s original album.  Here’s what I had heard:

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Christina Pluhar & L’Arpeggiata (Photo by Marco Borggreve)

Such a scenario suggests chaos, the very antithesis to the highly structured form which defines baroque music.  Yet the early music group, L’Arpeggiata, manages to turn the baroque world on its head without disintegrating into a chaotic clamor.  On the contrary.  This Parisian-based group of highly skilled musicians and their director, lutenist and harpist Christina Pluhar, intimately know the music they perform and when they blend their specialty of 17th century early baroque music with characteristic forms of ground bass patterns inherent in ancient folk traditionals (the ciacconia, tarantella, folia, passacaglia, bergamasca, jácaras, fandango, etc.), magic happens.  To understand L’Arpeggiata’s repertoire, a little background on some of these forms is in order:


This is part of a series on music that has influenced contributors to Music is Good.

I was a bona-fide “grown-up” before I realized there were all kinds of good music hidden away in a vast array of genres I never took the time to investigate. I suppose I am not unique. During our teen years, while some adventurous listeners may follow the beat of their own individual drum, most of us at this stage of life are typically influenced by what the airwaves are playing from the latest top-40 charts. None of the music from that early part of my life was, however, what I would call influential in defining my lasting musical preferences. It was only much later that some albums  began to seep into my ears and, in hindsight, I see how they proved to be landmark albums for me – albums which encouraged me to branch out into other genres, and once on that unbeaten path, find all those undiscovered treasures that awaited me. Here’s the ones that did it for me:

Fisherman's BluesI received this CD as a gift from a friend many years ago and, while I had vaguely heard of The Waterboys, I was not at all familiar with their music. From the moment I popped this CD into my player and heard those riotously glorious fiddle notes that open the first song, “Fisherman’s Blues,” I was hooked. This was a sound very different from anything I had been musically exposed to previously. It was my springboard to the discovery of a whole new world of folk-rock with touches of traditional-sounding material by performers outside the U.S., which in turn, led me to more traditional folk tunes recorded by the likes of Fairport Convention, Richard Thompson, Steeleye Span, etc. Fisherman’s Blues is still a CD I play often.

Amazing Things

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Two Christmas Mornings

By Kezzie Baker. Posted in Folk | No Comments »

Time flies. It’s hard to believe that another Christmas season is already upon us. Didn’t I just get through wading through holiday shoppers in crowded malls?  It seems to me our modern, technologically advanced world has set the clock at warp speed. Every Christmas, perhaps as a subconscious survival tool, I find myself turning to holiday music composed in what I think must have been simpler times – sort of my way of turning the clock back to a time when life somehow seemed to move slower and was perhaps a little more human.  I play two very special CD’s every Christmas which fit that bill perfectly (heck, I have been known to still be playing them in July because they are too good to hear but once a year). The two disks have similar titles – All On a Christmas Morning by the traditional Irish group, Aengus, and The First Christmas Morning by Dan Fogelberg (yes, Fogelberg – although one may not necessarily view his music as coming from olden times).

Here’s the first CD in my Christmas survival kit:

All on a Christmas Morning - Celtic Christmas Celebration

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Nathan (photo by Jon Schledwitz)

“If David Lynch had directed ‘O Brother Where Art Thou?,’ Nathan’s music would be the soundtrack.” – Michael Wrycraft, CBC Radio

Two women and two men.

Acoustic and electric guitars,  6-string banjo, accordion, mandolin, pedal steel, dobro, drums and percussion, piano, organ, some horns (trumpet, French Horn, and tuba) – even the eerie howling sound of a theremin, a motion-sensitive synthesizer. Add some Appalachia to the pot and throw in a little jazz – a dash of  country, Tex-Mex, ragtime, Tin Pan Alley, and some cabaret for good measure.

That’s the Canadian band Nathan.  No wonder they’re hard to categorize.  One thing is not hard to figure, though – this is some seriously good music.

Nathan’s debut album Stranger was released independently to much acclaim in 2001, and won a Prairie Music Award for Outstanding Independent Album.

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