The Streets Of Old Chicago
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
Forty years ago Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music was founded and with this, his fourth release, Mark Dvorak, pays homage to the musicians who started it all. It is also a tribute to many of the greats who came out of Chicago's folk scene, from the well-known names like Steve Goodman, to the virtually forgotten ones like Fleming Brown. Mark Dvorak's music obviously derives from Chicago's rich folk heritage, so it's not very surprising that he sounds quite a bit like a young Bob Gibson, warm and welcoming. Even though many of these traditional tunes can be found on records of an earlier era, this CD does not sound like something from that time. Mark Dvorak is still able to infuse something new into these old chestnuts. At the same time one can feel the great respect that Mark must have for these songs, and for those who kept the flag flying. Mark Dvorak is adapting the songs for today, but he clearly is not a man of radical changes.
You have to listen closely to realize what a wonderful performance you hear from Mark Dvorak's guitar and banjo. He plays with much understatement, but with careful attention to his playing, you notice its beauty. Especially noteworthy is the interplay with former Weaver Frank Hamilton on The Glory Of Love. The only song that is not totally convincing is his rendition of Steve Goodman's classic song City Of New Orleans. According to the booklet it was Mark Dvorak's intention to paint the picture of a lazy train. Now this is a very slow train indeed, and even though I see the idea behind it, I think a little speed would do the song good, but then again maybe that's the way the trains run around Chicago these days.
If you want to know what made Chicago's folk scene so important (although it is primarily known for its blues scene), then you've got a wonderful overview here. Mark Dvorak, a master of the tradition, is just the right man to show you around.
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Edited by Roberta B. Schwartz