Corn Nut Creek, “Feels Like Travelling Home”

This isn’t a perfect album, and one of the problems with it is that it’s too short. We’re used to albums being a certain length, and while shorter collections are fine, they’re not optimal. There’s not enough time or breadth to really settle in, assuming that you still listen to recordings as albums rather thanContinue reading “Corn Nut Creek, “Feels Like Travelling Home””

Erynn Marhshall and Carl Jones, “Old Tin”

Will Carter, the founder of Clifftop, perhaps the premiere old-time festival in the world, has said that old-time music is about “that tradition of participating in the art. It’s not about a stage.” Of course, there is a stage at Clifftop, though, true to the concept, it’s the participation that people go for—dozens of circlesContinue reading “Erynn Marhshall and Carl Jones, “Old Tin””

If you haven’t heard Twisted Pine’s “Right Now,” here’s why you need to

There has always been a streak of rebellion running through the musical world, with artists seeking to be new and different. Bill Monroe was one of those, and frankly, so was Mozart, though it’s perhaps hard to see from our vantage point. Some are angry different, like Jimi Hendrix shredding the US national anthem atContinue reading “If you haven’t heard Twisted Pine’s “Right Now,” here’s why you need to”

Willard Gayheart and Friends, “At Home in the Blue Ridge”

A few years ago, when Dori Freeman released her debut, self-titled album, it seemed that she had sprung, fully formed, from the head of Zeus. Well, this album, on which she participates, fills in the blanks. Willard Gayheart is her grandfather. As the titled of the album suggests, they’re at home, just hanging and picking.Continue reading “Willard Gayheart and Friends, “At Home in the Blue Ridge””

Caroline Herring, “Verse by Verse”

Throughout her career Caroline Herring has regularly looked to literary sources for her writing. Her companion discs of 2010, “Silver Apples of the Moon” and “Golden Apples of the Sun,” gain their titles from a Yeats poem, “The Song of Wandering Aengus.” In 2011 she released an album of songs retelling a children’s story, “TheContinue reading “Caroline Herring, “Verse by Verse””

Che Apalache’s, “Rearrange My Heart”

Joe Troop was born and raised in North Carolina, where he learned bluegrass; he later moved to Argentina, where he taught it. With three of his students he formed Che Apalache: Pau Barjau (banjo), Franco Martino (guitar) and Martin Bobrik (mandolin). They play bluegrass spectacularly, and clearly know the traditions backward and forward and backContinue reading “Che Apalache’s, “Rearrange My Heart””

Checking in with the Foghorn Stringband

The Foghorn Stringband was founded more than 15 years ago, and their origin story is as charming and unexpected as the music that they play. Sammy Lind is from Minnesota, and Caleb Klauder and Reeb Willms are from Washington state, one from the farmland in the east, the other from the coast. They started playing AppalachianContinue reading “Checking in with the Foghorn Stringband”

Doc Watson and Gaither Carlton

While there have been other recordings that document Doc Watson’s early years as a performing musician, they tend to shine a light more directly on him as a stage performer, which of course is what he became. This recording, Doc Watson and Gaither Carlton, distinguishes itself in some key ways. It’s earlier, for one—it’s Watson’sContinue reading “Doc Watson and Gaither Carlton”

Jake Blount, “Spider Tales”

One of the reasons that the Harry Smith anthology of American Folk Music was such a sensation when it was released in 1952 was that it demonstrated that, to a nation watching “I Love Lucy” and listening to Jack Benny, there were more voices out there than they perhaps realised. That, in essence, it wasContinue reading “Jake Blount, “Spider Tales””

The Special Consensus, “Chicago Barn Dance”

“The good thing about playing music,” says Greg Cahill, “is that you feel good a lot of the time, because you get to play music, and make a lot of great friends, and meet a lot of nice, really good people.” Cahill founded The Special Consensus in 1975, and if there is a guiding principleContinue reading “The Special Consensus, “Chicago Barn Dance””

Natalie MacMaster, “Sketches”

Natalie MacMaster is one of those artists that is described from time to time as a national treasure. She is that, but she’s a local treasure, too. There’s a video online of her going to play at Glencoe Mills Hall on Cape Breton with Bela Fleck in tow. The music, of course, is fantastic, thoughContinue reading “Natalie MacMaster, “Sketches””

Gee’s Bend Quilters, “Boykin, Alabama: Sacred Spirituals of Gee’s Bend”

For Penguin Eggs Everything about this album is an absolute, unqualified, unbridled delight. It’s four women who live in Boykin, Alabama, and take part in a quilting tradition that began in the 19th century. They sing while they quilt, and the songs are polished just as the needles are, through endless passes through the fabricContinue reading “Gee’s Bend Quilters, “Boykin, Alabama: Sacred Spirituals of Gee’s Bend””

Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen, “If You Can’t Stand the Heat”

For Penguin Eggs Frank Solivan spent much of his youth in Alaska, which perhaps accounts for his range of talents. He is a hunter, a fisherman, a poet. He plays guitar, violin, and mandolin. He writes songs, sings, and is the leader of Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen, the IBMA band of the year inContinue reading “Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen, “If You Can’t Stand the Heat””

Acknowledgements

“Thank you so much for this very well-written, thoughtfully conceived and frankly, beautiful, piece. Cris, our colleague Emily (who oversees our marketing), and I were all so impressed by it … [it] captures Branksome’s differentiating strengths while also being a really wonderful read – bravo! In particular, we felt that you captured the strong feministContinue reading “Acknowledgements”

Chris Coole, “The Road to the River”

(Penguin Eggs, Nov 2018) In the world of magic there are the big stage illusions—cutting a person in half, making an elephant disappear—and there is table magic—cards, coins, cups and balls. The two are both thought of equally as magic, but they are of such different orders as to be different undertakings entirely. To theContinue reading “Chris Coole, “The Road to the River””

Brunch with the Lonesome Ace Stringband

(Penguin Eggs, May 2018) Chris Coole often comments during shows that the Lonesome Ace Stringband—a trio that includes John Showman (fiddle) and Max Heineman (bass)—formed out of a brunch gig. There’s some tongue-in-cheek in that, though there’s some truth in there as well. The three did actually start playing formally together for a brunch gigContinue reading “Brunch with the Lonesome Ace Stringband”

Arnie Naiman’s, “My Lucky Stars”

Published in Penguin Eggs, Issue #71, Fall 2016 You’ve got to love this album, and I’ll tell you why. Look at the liner notes. Each song lists the people that join Naiman, adding their stuff to his. Chris Coole’s there pretty much on every one. Love that. Naiman is credited on every track, less becauseContinue reading “Arnie Naiman’s, “My Lucky Stars””

The Honey Dewdrops’ “Tangled Country”

(Penguin Eggs, issue #66) The Honey Dewdrops (Laura Wortman and Kagey Parris) have been around for a while now, perhaps flying a bit below the radar. In that time, Laura’s cut her hair, Kagey’s grown his beard, and they’ve otherwise built their skills, their confidence, their attention to detail, and this year might just beContinue reading “The Honey Dewdrops’ “Tangled Country””

Willie Watson, Folksinger

(Penguin Eggs issue #63) The jacket design of Willie Watson’s “Folk Singer Vol. 1” is pure pre-folk-boom camp: he’s got a pipe, and the presentation is sparse to look like a Lomax field recording from the period. “Vol. 1”(I actually think it’s a feint here, and I’ll be surprised if there is ever a Vol.Continue reading “Willie Watson, Folksinger”

Is there such a thing as a perfect album?

(Penguin Eggs issue #63) Is there such a thing as a perfect album? Of course we don’t think of art in those terms, but it’s an interesting thought experiment. There are works of art that feel perfect, such as Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, Greg Foley’s Thank You Bear, two children’s books that areContinue reading “Is there such a thing as a perfect album?”

Projects

Parents Canada article archive Sing Out! Magazine archive Penguin Eggs Magazine archive McMaster Children’s Hospital: Celebrating the first 25 years.McMaster Children’s Hospital, 2014.ISBN 978-0-9697435-6-9. Finding HomeA story for young people inspired by stories Charlie Hogg told campers in the 1970s and 1980s when he ran the ecology program at YMCA Camp Wanakita in Haliburton, ON. DepartmentContinue reading “Projects”

Marah presents Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania

(for Penguin Eggs magazine) Were you to hold a copy of this CD in your hands this is what you’d be thinking: What the $#$*% is this? And you’d be warranted in that thought. I’ll venture a provisional and entirely gracious answer: it’s a dog’s breakfast. If there is any interest in this recording atContinue reading “Marah presents Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania”

Projects

    I am a staff writer with Our Kids Media where I also edit the annual school, camp and program guides:            Feature Review: Brentwood College School Feature Review: Appleby College 21st-century students, 19th-century schools: 6 schools that have history Origin story: a brief history of boarding in Canada Small is beautiful: 5 schools thatContinue reading “Projects”

About

I’m an editor and I’ve been edited. I know what it feels like to be handed a draft, or a photo, or a project outline that is the right one for the job. I know the joy that can come from having all the permissions in hand before the deadline. I know that being addressed professionallyContinue reading “About”

The fiddles of Phil Elsworthy

(Penguin Eggs) Make even the slightest adjustment to a violin design—add a string, use a different scroll shape—and you can turn heads, which is true of the work of Phil Elsworthy, an instrument maker from Waterloo, Ontario. Extra strings, fingerboard inlay, a square scroll—in the staid world of violin design, Elsworthy’s fiddles aren’t for theContinue reading “The fiddles of Phil Elsworthy”

Si Kahn then, Si Kahn now

Published in Penguin Eggs, Autumn, 2010. Si Kahn first learned of the power of song—perhaps like so many in the 60s—from his work in activism. In his recent book Creative Community Organizing: A guide for rabble rousers, activists, and quiet lovers of justice, he writes about his experience as a skinny, dewy kid from theContinue reading “Si Kahn then, Si Kahn now”