A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
By Henry Koretzky
A fogie is traditionally thought of as someone who is unfashionably behind the times, but the musical fogies featured on Rounder's AMERICAN FOGIES, VOLUME TWO, are far from old-fashioned. Tapping into the roots of American songs and melodies, including old-time, blues, Cajun, cowboy, gospel, and klezmer, the twenty-six tracks of this collection present a broad-based and innovative approach to the indigenous music of our country.
The vast majority of the selections were recorded by producer Ray Alden in the various artists' home territories. These recordings capture a variety of musical styles from various regions, including Appalachia, the Pacific Northwest, and the rustic wilds of San Francisco Bay. The result is a compilation of relaxed renditions by musicians who have dedicated their lives to propagating their particular aural culture.
There are no weak efforts on this anthology, so your personal favorites are likely to depend on your own stylistic inclinations. If you like old-time music, you'll certainly be drawn to Ralph Blizard & the New Southern Ramblers playing a bouncy version of "The Girl I Love Don't Pay Me No Mind". You'll be captivated by the haunting performance of "A Village Churchyard" by Ginny Hawker and Kay Justice. The steel guitar textures of the Minnesota-based Bone Tones on "The New Crowley Two Step" are a special treat for fans of Cajun music. Lovers of swing music will enjoy some great duets by the Canote Brothers ("I Heard the Voice of the Porkchop") and by Gretchen Van Houten & Joyce Yoxall ("Kansas City Kitty"). Other highlights include the accordion playing of Laurie Andres on "Mother's Reel," the stunning vocals of Nancy Fly on the Austin-based Decibelles' "Lucy's Blue Yodel," and the harmonica playing of Mark Graham on "Rolling On." Rounding out this collection are rare and memorable performances by klezmer revivalists, Kapelye, and the indescribable and irreplaceable Heartbeats. Kapelye performs "L'Kovid David," and the Heartbeats sing "Hollywood Dream."
Alden's copious liner notes do a fine job of putting the performers and their material in context. As he explains in the introduction, the previous volume of the AMERICAN FOGIES began with a recording by the New Lost City Ramblers. Volume Two concludes with three tracks that showcase various members' new projects. Tracy Schwarz leads the Cajun Trio through "J'ai Pleure," and Mike Seeger takes bluegrass back to its clawhammer roots with a solo performance of the Flatt & Scruggs classic, "Down the Road." The album concludes with the wistful and delicate vocals of Sonya Cohen, the daughter of John Cohen and Peggy Seeger. She performs A. Leroy's modern interpretation of several songs originally recorded by the traditional folk musician, Dillard Chandler. Accompanied here by hammered dulcimer, violin, and spinet, the ironic lyrics and sweet melody neatly tie together the roots and branches of American folk music styles. So, too, does this second AMERICAN FOGIES anthology. It traces the tangled legacy and varied roots of folk music and presents it as a cohesive and growing whole. Hats off to Ray Alden, Rounder, and all the fogies, young and old, who contributed to this wonderful project.
[Edited by Michele Scherneck]
Copyright 1997, Three Rivers Folklife Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior written permission and attribution.