Songbook hearkens to the early '60s folk days and the coffeehouse circuit which supported the scene at the time. Many of the folk artists of those days lived on the coffeehouse circuit playing simple acoustic versions of simple folk tunes, only the uneven rhythms of clanking glasses and plates and the murmur of patrons interfering. The most endearing music of that time came from those who maintained that scene; names like Tom Rush and Tim Hardin and Phil Ochs and even Bob Dylan and (later) Joni Mitchell. So when Dori Turner returns to the basics, it tugs at memories of music without embellishment, of music from the heart.
The songs sound like they could have been recorded in that bygone era. Two mikes, one voice and one guitar in a kitchen are hardly the high-tech, digital aspects we expect from today's recordings, but Turner's voice is disarming at times and her phrasing make us soon forget about the technical amenities to which we seem to bow in the present. Two songs in, that light background guitar and the slight vibrato and the simple but apt feel of the music make you forget about high-ends and digital sound quality. Indeed, they slowly fade to black, or more likely black-and-white, as the low level light fades up on another time--- indeed, a magical time. Even the few bumps of the microphone, errors to be sure, add an authenticity of a past too seldom relived in the mind and heart. If you loved the early days of folk music, this is almost magic.
You could compare Turner to a host of fine folksingers of the past--- a couple of tunes ghost Joni Mitchell, a couple toy with a very early Sandy Denny--- but her sincerity of delivery make such comparisons mute. Turner brings views to her music which makes it simply “music”--- Dori Turner's music, to be exact, and it is enough.
Ten of the songs presented here are original, all befitting her feather-light voice. Jacob Told Me He Was Leavin' and Judas are folk stories in a style prevalent in the days of The Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul & Mary and allow the guitar to set the base for the tale. My Sleepy Town and The Stars In My Eyes reflect a bit of the Joni Mitchell influence, but not enough to get in the way. Your Arms has a touch of the softer side of the aforementioned Sandy Denny, a musician who has never been given her just due. One can only assume that Daisy Lucille, the subject of one tune, is a newborn very important to Turner as she sings a light-hearted tribute to childhood. What I'm saying here is that Turner can write as well as she can perform. Good originals all. There are two covers as well. Buckets of Rain, a Dylan tune from the early days, show a seldom seen side of Dylan these days, having an almost Woody Guthrie-like approach. Turner approaches it with that in mind and even the Dylan and Guthrie aficionados should feel the respect. Gershwin's Summertime may be done to death (alongside Fever), but Turner finishes the CD with it anyway and does it well. Of course, next to her originals, it pales.
Rumor has it that it took quite some doing to convince Turner to record at all, but we can all be thankful that it happened. It is quite the flashback to the hootenanny and coffeehouse eras and is worthy of a listen. Ten-to-one, she's sold a ton of these at her live shows.
Turner was supposed to have recorded a second album by now, Songs For Dark Days having been scheduled for a 2005 release, but life happens and she is just now completing that project. It gives Dori Turner fans something to look forward to in a year so far dominated by the hell of politics. With luck, it will not cast aside the era feel that makes Songbook so engaging and we can once again slip into the musical fantasies of the folk past.
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