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Between The Golden Age And The Promised LandWestpark 87368

Ray Cooper’s third solo record might be seen as a concept piece lacing biography and auto- biography with personal philosophy and aspi- rations, giving voice to the eternal truths and ambiguities of what Ray terms the two great dreams, the “golden age” and the “promised land”, between which our lives are lived out, albeit precariously poised. Ray pursues and links this central theme as he relates stories from history of real people whose deeds and exploits illustrate or embody this state, while interpolating some of his own reminiscences.

Few will be able to resist the bouncy upbeat nostalgia evoked by the distinctly ear- worm-ish opening track, Drunk On Summer. Here, as on several other tracks, Ray employs a favourite device, that of incorporating within the song a traditional tune. In this case it’s dance tune Speed The Plough. The Unknown Soldier Has A Name (the story of Private Fred Broadrick in WW1) takes in Sol- dier’s Joy, and the instrumental break of Lit- tle Flame (a song of knowing, comforting reassurance, written for Ray’s daughters) is based on Go And Enlist.

Ray is one of those songsmiths who pos- sesses the ability to really get inside the char- acters whose stories he’s chosen to tell. A prime example of this comes with Love And Vengeance, the tale of Arab singer and actress Asmahan who during WW2 became embroiled in the dangerous world of espi- onage. Even when Ray’s portraying a more cryptic, unnamed character – The Astronomer in Ocean Of Dreams, lonely and in awe of the universe – his insights are penetrating.

There are no guest musicians on this album; he sings everything and plays piano, guitars, cello, mandolin, harmonica, harmoni- um, bass guitar and percussion, also produc- ing the whole project in his Swedish home- studio. Surprisingly perhaps, Ray’s trademark cello doesn’t enter the fray until Ocean Of Dreams, just over halfway through the disc, but textures are generally in keeping with the tenor of the performances – majestic, full- bodied, confidently widescreen in nature.

In addition to his strong self-penned material, Ray treats us to versions of just two traditional songs, Adieu Sweet Spanish Ladies and Wayfaring Stranger, which sit well with his chosen theme. And full marks again for the presentation – a fulsome package, with great design and complete lyrics in the expansive accompanying booklet. David Kidman


Hector Gilchrist has been singing and perform- ing folk songs around the British Isles for 55 years at last count, and he has come across a lot of songs in that time! His slightly refined tenor voice and Ayrshire accent make an excel- lent vehicle for another eclectic mix of songs – Burns to Janis Ian (a particularly fine When Angels Cry), Steve Knightley’s Exile to tradi- tional ballads (including a short Sir Patrick Spens!), Mike Silver to Graham Miles. Largely eschewing his own guitar playing, Vicki Swan, Jonny Dyer, Carol Anderson and Bob Wood contribute some excellently appropriate pluck- ing and bowing and stuff, and Moira Craig harmony vocals. Some fine gleanings indeed, ear-catching while still firmly rooted in the tra- dition, and well worth seeking out. Bob Walton VARIOUS ARTISTS

Voices Of Mississippi: Artists And Musicians Documented By William Ferris Dust To Digita

William Ferris (born 1942), a native of Missis- sippi, whose white family ran a farm located near Vicksburg, took an interest in docu- menting his local culture while still in his teens. His starting point was the dozen or so African-Americans who lived and worked on his parents’ farm, and his dedicated interest burgeoned into a lifetime’s work that includes recordings, writings, film-making, photography, research, university teaching and the creation and setting up the Centre for the Study of Southern Culture at the Uni- versity of Mississippi.

His book Blues From The Delta first appeared in 1970 as a slim 110-page volume published by Studio Vista in the UK, one of a series edited by Paul Oliver. Ferris has since written other books, with three published by the University of North Carolina Press. South- ern Culture Records have issued four albums of Ferris’s field recordings and some record- ings were released in the UK in the early 1970s. The Saydisc Matchbox label put out a companion LP in conjunction with the publi- cation of Blues From The Delta and the Transatlantic subsidiary XTRA issued a volume titled The Blues Are Alive And Well.

So what’s in this Dust To Digital box? There are three CDs; one has 27 tracks of blues, a second 26 tracks of gospel, and the third has 26 tracks of storytelling. The two music CDs make for some superb listening, especially the gospel set, much of which is recorded in churches with an often exhilarating atmo- sphere. The blues CD starts and finishes with tracks by James ‘Son Ford’ Thomas, a resident of Leyland, Mississippi whom Ferris first met in 1968. Thomas has two more tracks, Cairo and Dust My Broom, on the blues CD and is also heard on the storytelling disc. homas was an early contact, pointing Ferris to other locals he could record and they remained friends until Thomas’s death in 1993.

Ferris would also revisit places earlier folklorists had been, recording in Parchman Farm, and in Como where he relocated Missis- sippi Fred McDowell who is present on four great tracks: singing on two and two where, unusually, he just plays backing guitar behind an unidentified musician.

The storytelling CD is not so easy to sit through in a single session, but it’s worth selecting a few items at a time to avoid over- load. There’s a mix of black and white story- tellers with BB King, Pete Seeger and profes- sional wordsmiths Alice Walker and Allen Ginsberg being programmed between local musicians and larger-than-life characters such as Vicksburg mule-trader Ray Lum.

The DVD contains seven short films (including one about Ray Lum) made between 1972 and 1980 with a range of sub- jects documenting the artwork, music, and lives of people in Ferris’s local community. And then there is the 120-page book, beauti- fully laid out and printed, and well illustrated with numerous photographs. There is an introductory essay by Scott Barretta detailing Ferris’s life and work, two essays (on blues and on gospel) by musicologist/musician David Evans, and an essay by Tom Rankin on storytelling. There is also a number of profiles of people Ferris met and recorded and – real- ly usefully – lyric transcriptions of every one of the blues, gospel and storytelling tracks.

Dust To Digital have done William Ferris proud presenting, for the very first time com- mercially, a significant portion of his varied work in a most accessible form. Dave Peabody

James ‘Son Ford’ Thomas –Mississippi voice FLACO JIMÉNEZ

Flaco Jiménez/Buena Suerte, Señorita Floating World FLOATM6337


Los Super Seven/Canto Floating World FLOATM6347

San Antonio’s button accordeon master Leonardo ‘Flaco’ Jiménez is widely known for his work with The Sir Douglas Quintet (the late Doug Sahm), Ry Cooder, The Texas Torna- does (Freddy Fender), Los Super Seven, Tish Hinojosa, Willie Nelson, Dwight Yoakam, Bob Dylan, Carlos Santana, The Rolling Stones and numerous others.

However, to fans at home, Flaco remains, together with his brother Santiago, a leading exponent of Tex-Mex music. (Both schooled under their father Santiago Jiménez Sr, a but- ton accordeon stylist who, together with Nar- ciso Martínez, defined Texas conjunto music.) Flaco is the recipient of a National Heritage Fellowship, awarded by the National Endow- ment of the Arts, and winner of the 1996 Grammy Award for Best Mexican-American Performance for his album Flaco Jiménez, paired here with his subsequent 1996 release Buena Suerte, Señorita. Altogether, this title presents 20 tracks covering the Tex-Mex, Mex-country and roots rock repertoire that Jiménez was performing in the 1990s, includ- ing such classic renderings as El Gallo Copetón, the code-switching numbers Seguro Que Hell Yes and Borracho Number One, and the instrumental Swiss Waltz, with which any Alpine oompah brass-and-accordeon fan will readily resonate.

Los Super Seven made their self-titled debut in 1998, combining the talents of Flaco Jiménez, Texas honky-tonk hero Joe Ely (gui- tar, vocals), singer Freddy Fender, singer Ruben Ramos, singer-guitarist Rick Treviño, and a trio of Los Lobos members: David Hidalgo (vocals, guitar, requinto, bass, drums, percussion), Cesar Rosas (vocals, gui- tar, guitarrón, jarana, bajo sexto) and Steve Berlin (producer). The diverse repertoire includes the classic cumbia El Canoero, Agustín Lara’s Piensa En Mí and Woody Guthrie’s Deportee. Released in 2001, Canto forges wider afield, covering several Cuban classics (Siboney, El Que Siembra Su Maiz, Me Voy P’al Pueblo, Drumi Mobila, Compay Gato), two Caetano Veloso numbers (Qual- quer Coisa, Baby, with Veloso on vocal lead), and selections from Los Lobos. Michael Stone

Photo: Dave Peabody

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