Various ArtistsRHR CD 114
Red House Records
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
Nanci Griffith's cover of Kate Wolf's beautiful song Across The Great Divide, on her landmark album OTHER VOICES, OTHER ROOMS, may have been, for many people, their first encounter with the late great Kate Wolf. Now twelve years after she lost her battle against leukemia, a tribute album with the appropriate title TREASURES LEFT BEHIND has been released. It is a fitting reminder of what a magnificent songwriter Kate Wolf was.
Nina Gerber, who not only played with Kate Wolf for many years, but was also a close friend, originally planned a solo album featuring several songs written by Kate Wolf, with other performers appearing as guest vocalists. Over time Nina Gerber considered that more needed to be done. She felt a tribute album would be the right thing to do. Now some may wonder whether it's really necessary. Another tribute album? At least something like that normally crosses my mind when I hear about the latest episode of the seemingly endless avalanche of tribute albums. But if there are any good or necessary tribute albums around at the moment, this is certainly one of them.
One can't help but notice how much love, care and knowledge Nina Gerber put into this project. No, there is no Elton John, Billy Joel or any of the usual suspects normally found on tribute albums. But there are, as Nina Gerber puts it, "some of the finest in the trade." And she's right, an album which brings together the talents of people like Emmylou Harris, John Gorka, Lucinda Williams and Nanci Griffith is a promise in itself. You not only get your share of these talents (and many others), but you get them in combination with the wonderful songs of Kate Wolf. This only adds to the promise. And all the promises are kept, and oftentimes exceeded.
Nearly all the performances could easily be described as outstanding, but today's honorable mention goes to Dave Alvin. He certainly has come a long way from his days with the Blasters. He blesses us here with his rendition of These Times We're Living In, a gem in a category all its own. And that is why the last words here shall belong to Dave Alvin, who found the perfect way to express the sorely missed songwriting abilities of Kate Wolf: "I don't know much about Kate Wolf's life and loves but in a few raw and tender lines, she sure knew a lot about mine."
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Edited by Roberta B. Schwartz