Since 1995, Roger McGuinn, founding member and frontman of the Byrds, has been releasing free original recordings of traditional folk songs for download on his Folk Den project (http://folkden.com). In 2002, he assembled some of the best songs for the Grammy-nominated album Treasures from the Folk Den. In 2004, McGuinn furthers his exploration of traditional music, now including his characteristic 12-string Rickenbacker electric guitar.
Five of the 13 tracks are traditional, arranged by McGuinn and his wife and songwriting partner Camilla. These include Shenandoah, which seems to be receiving a lot of attention recently, as versions have appeared on Dave Alvin's Public Domain and Richard Thompson's 1000 Years of Popular Music albums. For those who haven't heard this beautiful song, McGuinn's version alone is worth the price of the album. Saint James Infirmary, originally recorded by Cab Calloway in 1930, is described by McGuinn as "cool slow electrified blues." Shady Grove is an English ballad that wound up in rural Appalachia. In his version, McGuinn added urban drums, creating a mix between folk and hip-hop he calls Pho-Kop.
The opening track is George Harrison's If I Needed Someone. Derek Taylor, the Beatles' press officer, previewed a copy of Rubber Soul for McGuinn, telling him that Harrison wanted him to know that he wrote the song based on the rising and falling notes of McGuinn's Rickenbacker introduction to Bells of Rhymney. With the recent passing of Harrison, McGuinn included this song as a tribute to him on Limited Edition. The song is a close rendering to its original, albeit sped up a bit. With McGuinn's version, we have a sense of what the Beatles might have sounded like with the master of the Rickenbacker playing alongside.
Six of the 13 tracks are written by McGuinn and Camilla. "Parade of Lost Dreams" is a rant about everything that is wrong with American Society, using the cultural decline of Hollywood Boulevard over the course of many years as a springboard. "Southbound 95" was written while listening to truckers talk on the CB radio. All the lyrics, except the chorus, were actually heard over the air. May the Road Rise to Meet You is another reason to buy this album for this song alone. This is a wonderful life journeying song that could have been an outtake from a Byrd's recording session, a la My Back Pages.
The sonic quality of Limited Edition is a bit uneven. Some songs like If I Needed Someone shine bright. Others like Parade of Lost Dreams seem a bit muffled. Nevertheless, this small complaint is not to be overshadowed by the high quality of the performances and the songwriting/arranging on this album. This is a wonderful album to listen to. McGuinn is as vibrant and contemporary a musician as he was back in the 60s. For those who lament the loss of the Byrd's music, this album is sure to please.
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