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Vetiver - Thing of the Past

Thing of the Past

Vetiver

GONG11

Available from Midhaven Mailorder.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker
(progdawg@hotmail.com).

In my collection, you'll find a lot of undersung greats. I favor the talented underdog as much as the lionized celebrity. Both are, after all, music, and the degree of Madison Ave. hype and advantage hasn't a thing to do with art itself, only its remuneration and survivability. The cover photo to this incredibly well-packaged CD slyly gives away its similar intent: from a vinyl collection have been pulled LPs by the known and unknown artists featured in this collection of obscure cuts from antiquity: Michael Hurley, Kathy Friedeman, Matthews Southern Comfort, Bobby Charles, and so on. Ah, but there's a major shock included as well: a cover of Hawkwind's Hurry on Sundown!

Vetiver is a folk group fully in the 60s/70s mold, thus the time machine effect is perfectly appropriate. Like much of the era, the emphasis here is not on studio perfection but warm human indispensibility. The recording, especially in the drums, sounds like it was pulled from a dusty little treasure in the back of junk shop or the Salvation Army. The choice to open the disc with Elyse Weinberg's Houses was the exact right move, displaying the group's strengths all in one place: lazy Appalachian vocals, casually rendered instrumentalism with unusual elements, an unhurried overall vibe, and the sort of retrofitted wheatbelt approach that The Band, Brinsley Schwarz, and Brewer and Shipley used so well.

The liner gives a cool lowdown on how the cuts were located and chosen but, unfortunately, not a syllable is rendered about my favorite: Roll On, Babe by Derroll Adams, a smoothly echoey tune sliding by like a quiet stream n the middle of a dappled forest. Vashti Bunyan sits in on Sleep a Million Years, and I'm undecided about her fragile voice, but oh how good it was to hear Matthews Southern Comfort's Road to Ronderlin again. How the heck, then, do you fit the spacefaced Hawkwind into such an assemblage? Well, wisely, Vetiver chose from the notorious group's atypical acoustic-based debut, making the inclusion the most exotic piece, kinda like when Led Zeppelin cut Black Mountainside into their first LP. Hawkheads will go nuts, 'cause this is a great take, more folky than what Dave Brock quite intended but revelatory of what was really going on before the famed acidheads gussied things up and stuck Poe's absinthe into it all.

The packaging, as said, is extraordinary, the equal of Japanese issuances: very sturdily crafted in the increasingly popular LP-imitation format, gatefold, with booklet in one sleeve side, and protected disc in the other. This is the way CDs really should be presented, jewel cases be damned. In all, then, what we have here is not a folk effort so much as a celebration of the impetus behind the folk impulse and its decades-past heyday.

Track List:

  • Houses (Elyse Weinberg)
  • Roll On Babe (Derroll Adams)
  • Sleep a Million Years (Dia Joyce)
  • Hook & Ladder (Norman Greenbaum)
  • To Baby (Paul Conrad Rose III)
  • Road to Ronderlin (Ian Matthews)
  • Lon Chaney (Garland Jeffreys)
  • Hurry On Sundown (Dave Brock)
  • The Swimming Song (Loudon Wainwright III)
  • Blue Driver (Micahael Hurley)
  • Standin' (Townes van Zandt)
  • I Must be in a Good Place Now (Robert Guidry)

Edited by: David N. Pyles
(dnpyles@acousticmusic.com)

Copyright 2008, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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