House on Fire, Volume 2: An Urban Folk Collection

Various Artists

RHR CD100

Red House Records
P.O. Box 4044
St. Paul, MN 55104

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Rona Edwards
(rebel@netcom.com)

Upon listening to Red House Records' compilation House on Fire: Volume Two, I am impressed by their roster of artists. This one outshines their first volume which I personally found too eclectic. But Volume Two is a crisp, clean sweep of some of the hardest working road warriors in the business. It's also a wonderful variety pack if you just want to get a taste of each performer. "House on Fire" combines traditional folk, blues, urban folk, Celtic, bluegrass, and French-Canadian. It celebrates the label's first decade of showing off the varied talent it produces.

So many songs stand out on this CD packed with such diverse artists as Ramblin'Jack Elliott, John Gorka, Lucy Kaplansky, Chuck Brodsky, Cliff Eberhardt, Greg Brown, and Suzzy Roche to name less than half the distinguished artists who perform their magic on this album.

Normally when I listen to such a distinct group of talent, I head straight for the ones I know, but "House on Fire" introduced me to an amazing new group, Hart-Rouge, a band out of Montreal. According to the liner notes, they sing in both French and English. Their song Peine speaks of asserting one's self amidst the tempest of another's rage. It made me want to hear more of their songs. Keep your eye on Hart-Rouge, a group made up of the Campagne family--Paul, Michelle, and Suzanne, whose voices blend with rich vocal harmonies--and add Davy Gallant on various instruments including the bagpipes, flute, and mandolin, and Michal Dupire on percussion. The group's sound is extraordinary, and I think Red House has a winner with them. Their new album is called Beaupre's Home.

Chuck Brodsky's Ballad of Eddie Klepp is a wonderful example of storytelling as he recounts the little-known story of a white ballplayer in an all-black league. The legendary Ramblin' Jack Elliott does a terrific version of Tim Hardin's If I Were a Carpenter, while Scorpion by Lucy Kaplansky has the ever-present Jennifer Kimball singing background. I'm sure most of you know that Lucy, who used to be Shawn Colvin's musical partner, became a psychologist before returning to music and the road. Scorpion is just one fine example of the magic she brings through song.

It has been said that troubadour Greg Brown helped build Red House Records ten years ago as their first signed artist. When I listen to Greg, his voice is so reminiscent of Leonard Cohen it's eerie. His Small Dark Movie is filled with wit and sensuality.

The incomparable John Gorka contributes Let Them In which was inspired by a poem from a patient's diary found in the Philippines during World War II. It was given to Gorka by a fan who was moved by his song Semper Fi. In turn, John was inspired to write this song. Lucy Kaplansky and Jennifer Kimball support him with background vocals and Peter Ostroushko plays fiddle. Gorka has the most amazing baritone, and he draws you in with his words as if he's singing to you in your living room. I've seen him perform several times and no matter how large or small the venue, it's always an intimate affair with him.

There is so much to say about House on Fire vol. 2 that the best thing I can do as a reviewer is to tell you to go buy it for yourself. There's something for everyone. While some songs stand out more than others, it is a great collection and tribute to the label itself. This CD is chockfull of talented musicians representing the very best in music today and each one deserves a mention. So below is the roster of fine artists assembled for this project:
Artist Title
Peter Ostroushko SEATTLE (THE FANTASY REEL)
Lucy Kaplansky SCORPION
Greg Brown SMALL DARK MOVIE
Hart-Rouge PEINE
Chuck Brodsky THE BALLAD OF EDDIE KLEPP
Cliff Eberhardt THIS OLD WORLD
Suzzy Roche HOLY SMOKES
Guy Davis LONG TRAIN
Archie Fisher GUNSMOKE & WHISKEY
Spider John Koerner DANVILLE GIRL
Kate MacKenzie AGE OF INNOCENCE
Ramblin'Jack Elliott IF I WERE A CARPENTER
Ralph McTell PEPPERS AND TOMATOES
John Gorka LET THEM IN
Martin & Jessica Ruby Simpson/Band of Angels LILIES OF THE FILED

Edited by Henry Koretzky
(HRK@PSULIAS.PSU.EDU)

Copyright 1998, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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