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Jim Kweskin and Geoff Muldaur, “Penny’s Farm”

You’ll be forgiven if you groan a bit when you see the track listing of this new release from Jim Kweskin and Geoff Muldaur, “Penny’s Farm.” Like right there. Did you breathe out a bit, an almost imperceptible sigh, just then when I typed “Penny’s Farm”? Did you have flashbacks of John Cohen talking about how Dylan took “Penny’s Farm” from the Harry Smith anthology and turned it into “Maggie’s Farm”? When you read Geoff Muldaur, did you think of Maria, and her marriage to Geoff? And all those rehashes of the basket houses, and the tour busses, and the black and white clip of Maria, newly single, swaying with Jim Kweskin at the Bitter End, or the Gaslight, or whatever it was.

These are names and songs that have a lot of miles on them, and lots of stories attached to them, too. And, yes, it can take a bit of effort to push play on the mail-order gramophone. But, actually, you really should. Just put all that stuff away, put down the CD cover, and forget all the names and the miles. Try to listen to all of these songs as if for the first time. Because it’s absolutely worth any effort you can give it, though it doesn’t take all that much really. You’ll soon be reminded why you remember all that stuff in the first place. These are just fantastic songs. They’re like children’s stories, and they make children out of all of us. Tell me again about how my good wife will catch more fish than me. And how you played cards in Spain. And how Frankie shot her man. There she is, still wearing the kimono. Yes, it certainly is a little while to be here and a long time to be gone. I know exactly what you mean.

Truly, there’s a lot to love on this release. The guitar work is great, and the arrangements are simple, charming, and superb. They’re joined by Cindy Cashdollar and Suzy Thompson. As my daughter would say: I know, right? Yes, I know.

There are lots of memories, though the repetition is nice too. After all, that’s one of the reasons we like this stuff to begin with. The stories remind us where we are, and where we came from, even if it’s Toronto and we never ever did get around to fishing for catfish in the old fishing hole, truth be told. But it’s the idea, and the familiarity, that we love. And that picture on the cover? With the shack and the chickens? If you squint a bit, and turn a bit to the side, doesn’t it look a lot like home? I think it does. It really does.

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