soundstreamsunday: “Midnight Feast” by Lal Waterson and Oliver Knight

Lal-Waterson-010One of the few individuals who could lay any real claim to being essential to the British folk revival, Elaine “Lal” Waterson lent her unique voice — absolutely beautiful and instantly recognizable — to the records she and her brother Mike and sister Norma made as The Watersons, defining the passion and respect necessary to performing traditional material while opening up the freedom and possibility such songs allowed. Although a tremendous songwriter in her own right, she wrote sparingly, and before her death in 1998 created only a handful of records. “Midnight Feast” is from 1996’s Once in a Blue Moon, a collaboration with her son, guitarist and producer Oliver Knight.  It is an unusual record; Knight’s inventiveness as an electric guitarist gives the album a consistently full and yet uncluttered sound, supporting his mother’s poetry and voice, highlighting her artful, at times jazz-like, delivery. Indeed, in tone and mood there is nothing so much like this album as Abbey Lincoln’s 1959 landmark Abbey is Blue, in its grooves an acknowledgement of the fullness of life, with its travails and its joys.  A profound wisdom at work, speaking of the deeper mysteries.

Once in a Blue Moon at Amazon

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Soundstream Sunday: “Hallucinations” by Tim Buckley

buckley4I realized last week when I featured the Sun River song “Esperanza Villanueva” that if I had a nickel for every time someone referenced Tim Buckley as a comparison (as I did in my intro) I’d be a rich man. But how many people have actually heard Tim Buckley? One of Jac Holzman’s/Elektra Records’ stable of brilliant, and troubled, artists, Buckley languished commercially while making music that thrilled his listeners and critics. He died young, a drug casualty (a tragedy echoed over two decades later by the untimely death of his equally talented son, Jeff), but left a deep, intense impression on the post-Dylan outsider folk and singer-songwriter scene he helped create. With his soaring voice and chiming twelve-string, Buckley leaned heavily into jazz, and the band you hear on this smoldering live version of “Hallucinations” — from London in 1968 — are jazzbos (not unusual in this fertile period in “folk” music, where Coltrane held as much sway as Guthrie). Where the studio version of the song feels overly-structured and baroque, here “Hallucinations” is free flowing, long form, Lee Underwood’s electric guitar, David Friedman’s vibes, and (sitting in from Pentangle) Danny Thompson’s bass creating a killer, punctuated Om. There was a time for me, glimpsed now across a thousand other Sunday mornings, when this song accompanied a drag or two off a joint and a walk across Central Park. To see the art.