Beats Settin' Home
2314 Lake Dr. SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49506
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Marji Hazen
"These guys are funny! Very Midwest, very entertaining, most of all - off the wall. I'd love to see them in person. Styles range from bluegrass to sea shanties and Irish immigrant laments, their sense of humor and fine harmonies are joyful."
Off the wall? I'm not sure about that. But the rest of this comment-from the FAME listing of CDs available for review sent to writers- is absolutely on the mark.
Beats Settin' Home is the kind of group that makes folk music sound deceptively easy to play. Perhaps it's because these educator/folkies have been playing together for a very long time. Perhaps it's because they're all in the same groove. The lighter songs on this album make it clear that they're having a heck of a lot of fun. Among the chuckles, though, are scattered some traditional songs of social comment: The Farmer is the Man, The Wild Colonial Boy, Columbus Stockade Blues.
Oops! Columbus Stockade Blues, despite the liner notes, can't yet be considered traditional. It was written in 1943 by Jimmie Davis and is still protected by the original copyright. BSH's mis-attribution is just another illustration of how good a songwriter Davis was. People are always trying to claim his "You Are My Sunshine" is traditional too.
Despite that one little lapse in scholarship on the liner notes, this CD is a very nice bit of work...well, maybe work is the wrong word. It's obvious every member of Beats Settin' Home is playing (very skillfully) in every sense of the word.
Bear Berends (vocals and guitar), Al Exoo (vocals, 6 and 12 string guitars, and bass), and Jim Foersch (vocals, banjo, and bass) are familiar to the music camp regulars at Interlochen. Among their other talents, they serve in their alter-ego of Beats Settin' Home, as an example of what "real" musicians can do with folk music. They've shared the fun on this CD too, featuring friend Bruce Ling's voice and instruments on "Farmer", Eric Bogle's "No Man's Land", a swingy version of pop hit "Somewhere Out There", and on mandolin accompanying the Jim Foersch original, "Tatters and Rags".
Sure! This CD was done with lots of separate tracks. But with all the instrumental tradeoffs available in this acoustic trio, I'd expect these guys in person to sound pretty much like they do on the recording.
About Jim Foersch: he's a bass player and a singer/songwriter. He's also that rare banjo picker who isn't addicted to his own more-than-competent bluegrass licks (that's good, Jim, in case you're wondering). In fact, on most of the cuts on this CD, he passes up the opportunity to "'grass", instead deftly placing some nicely controlled banjo comments among the melodious voices and perfectly executed folk accompaniments. Foersch also supplies words for "Compost All Your Garbage", and teams with Al Exoo to write the title tune, "Good Morning Sunshine" and provide a third verse for "No Setting Sun".
Alan Exoo's original "Long Way Back Home" is an appropriate final cut, though all BSH's music sounds as if it could have been made right there at home...that memorable evening all the instruments were, for once, in perfect tune and all the voices were clear and strong.
This is a very pleasant album for listening, consistent in style, yet with an interesting variety of songs. Most cuts would be appropriate for inclusion in music education programs. Certainly it would be an addition to any road trip singalong collection. "Good Morning Sunshine" won't distract your attention from the road, but it won't put you to sleep either -- another folk album for the family to enjoy from Beats Settin' Home.
Edited by Kerry Dexter