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Charlie hated work like God hates sin. He just natural-born hated it. It didn't look right to him - Charlie Patton, remembered by Son House

Author Topic: Beautiful Dreamer: The Songs of Stephen Foster - American Roots Publishing  (Read 2366 times)

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Offline Bill Roggensack

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  • Not dead yet!
I picked this little gem up last week in Houston, and have listented to it a half dozen times since then. I have always liked Foster's compositions; however, it was only after listening to 18 of his songs played back-to-back (interpreted in a variety of styles) that the enormity of his talent became clear to me. Stephen Foster was the inaugural 'American' composer, becoming its first fuill-time songwriter after seeing the success of "Oh! Susanna." His songs speak of the times, even though they have a timeless quality about them. For instance, "Oh! Susanna" as performed by Michelle Shocked sounds as though it could have been penned just for this album. The liner notes give a sketch of Foster's life - born July 1, 1826, married in 1850, and died penniless iat the age of 37 n January, 1864 after gashing his throat in a fall suffered while living as a derelict alchoholic in the Bowery. "Oh! Susanna" was his first composition, and after being performed in public in 1847, spread quickly to New York and California. but there were no royalty cheques in those days!

Great tunes and lyrics, substance abuse, a failed lmarriage, and a dedication to his craft without reward - Foster plowed a trail for other singer-songwriters to follow, even 150 years later. He mixed European influences (some tunes have a 'march' feel) with the rhythms of Afro-Ameican spirituals to create something new and fresh that was instantly accepted by common folk. His compositions also reflect a multi-cultural basis and appeal, as America was teeming with immigrants in the 1840s and 1850s. And while his songs were immensely popular, they are sweet (rather than bawdy) in their content and emotional appeal. Foster was the founder of popular music, and everything since has been built on the foundations that he laid - blues, country, old time, and even jazz ballads owe him an acknowledgement for his pioneering work in establishing a uniquely American musical identity.

The album has been lovingly prepared as a collection of mainly acoustic performances by an assortment of country, folk, blues an pop artists. Most of these songs will be familiar, having been performed and recorded many times, but some were completely new to me - like "Don't Bet Money on the Shanghai," "In The Eye Abides The Heart," and "Nelly Was a Lady". I have marked my favorite tracks/performances with an asterisk (*). I have always liked "Hard Times Come Again No More" and Mavis Staples elevates this song to a new height it in her version here. Previously, I had always liked Tim O'Brien's version best.

As you might guess, I will give this recording a high recommendation - anyone with an interest in American roots music and early blues is guaranteed to fall in love with this one! And finally, I have a CD I can play that won't give my wife to cause to complain. Enjoy!

1. Beautiful Dreamer-Raul Malo
2. Slumber My Darling-Yo Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer and Mark O'Connor featuring Alison Krauss
3. Don't Bet Money on the Shanghai-BR5-49 (*)
4. Nelly Was A Lady-Alvin Youngblood Hart (*)
5. No One To Love-Judith Edelman
6. Camptown Races-The Duhks (*)
7. My Old Kentucky Home-John Prine
8. Autumn Waltz-Henry Kaiser (*)
9. In The Eye Abides The Heart-Beth Nielsen Chapman (*)
10. Old Folks at Home (Swanee River)-David Ball
11. Oh! Susanna-Michelle Shocked & Pete Anderson (*)
12. Willie We Have Missed You-Grey DeLisle
13. Hard Times Come Again No More-Mavis Staples (*)
14. Gentle Annie-Ollabelle
15. Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair-Roger McGuinn
16. Ah, May The Red Rose Live Always!-Suzy Bogguss
17. Holiday Scottisch-Will Barrow
18. Comrades Fill No Glass For Me-Ron Sexsmith (*)

Note: The liner booklet contains the complete lyrics of each of the songs presented, including the year of publication.
« Last Edit: December 06, 2004, 12:00:57 AM by FrontPage »


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