=  May 2010  =

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Written by:

Baird, Espvall & Kraus



Simon Lewis (Editor)

Gabor Szabo

Jeff Penczak

Flower Girl

Ian Fraser

Grateful Dead






This one seemed to slip through the cracks upon its initial release back in 2006 (even we missed it!), so Bo’Weavil have thankfully reissued it for us to mend our ways and sing its glorious praises. The story goes that the Meg and Sharron were sitting around their hometown of Fishtown, PA knocking back a few cold ones and teaching each other Appalachian and English ballads. One afternoon, they invited Helena to bring along her cello and together they recorded these nine traditional folk tunes… and a trio of more heavenly angelic voices you are not likely to hear again anytime soon.

            The oft-recorded ‘Bruton Town’ kicks off the festivities with heart-tugging sensitivity, based, Sharron confesses, on Martin Carthy’s arrangement. Espvall’s mourning cello adds another dimension to Kraus’ regaling of the tale of the murdered lover, whose lyric that gives the collection its title. Meg takes lead on an a capella rendition of ‘Barbry Ellen’, adding a gospel feel to the tale of unrequited love that has also been interpreted by Terrastock regulars, Abunai! The lagers started to kick in by the time they got to ‘Willie of Winsbury,’ so they jettisoned their ill-fated attempt at Anne Briggs’ 1971 version and, exhausted from trying to keep Sharron’s dulcimer in tune, opted for a rambling, lilting freeform jam that serpentines around the skull for nearly ten hallucinatory minutes. (Completists may enjoy comparing the versions of the latter two tracks with Baird’s own renditions on her solo debut, Dear Companion released the following year.)

            As you read through the gals’ liner notes, wherein they detail their source inspirations, you come across references to Jean Ritchie, the Copper Family, the Carter Family, and Ian Giles in addition to the aforementioned Carthy and Briggs. As such, the collection traverses the Atlantic and illustrates the marked similarities between traditional tales of Britain and her bastard child across the pond. Whether born out of the Scottish glens, the Irish hills, or the Ozark Mountains, the themes of lost loves, murdered lovers, and anguished, unrequited love has been the fodder of songsmiths for centuries, and nowhere are the similarities as strong as on ‘The Derry Dems of Arrow,’ where the ploughboys in the original Scottish ballad ‘Dowie Dens of Yarrow’ are transformed into “cowboys” in the Ozark edition that Krauss learned from Mrs. Lola Stanley of Fayetteville, Arkansas!

            The cherished dream team wraps things up with a teary-eyed interpretation of Robert Burns’ ‘Now Westlin’ Winds’ that finds the wistful melody from ‘Barbara Allen’ seeping into Kraus’ trembling, emotional vocal. The dichotomy of such sentimental, angelic voices reciting these cruel, violent ballads of murder and mayhem is a testament to the singers’ devotion to the art of the traditional folk tale and the inherent fascination we get from listening to someone else’s tragic story of lost love and undeserved, unhappy endings. Somehow, I guess it lessens our own personal difficulties and helps get us through each day emotionally unscathed, if not a tad stronger in spirit. (Jeff Penczak)






There are several things you can always count on with a new Mushroom album: it won’t sound anything like the last one; it will feature a myriad of jazz, folk, and rock influences; it will include song titles with none-too-subtle hints of the  participants’ encyclopedic knowledge of rock; it will probably include a song named after a celebrity from the political, film, or musical world; and it will definitely include some of the funniest (yet perfectly descriptive) song titles you’ve ever fallen on the floor laughing over. Previous kneeslappers include ‘Our Buddy Miles’, ‘What Do You Say To Man Who's Killed A Lion With His Bare Hands And Is Now Making Love To Your Wife?’, ‘When The Shit Gets Tough To Face - The Tough Get Shit Faced’, ‘Americans Own The Moon, They Bought It From The Germans - Who Won It During A Poker Game In World War Two’, and the irresistible tandem of lyric robbers, ‘You and I have Memories Longer Than The Road That Stretches Out’ and ‘I Had Some Dreams, They Were Clouds in My Coffee.’

On their 17th album (give or take a few – their discography is both lengthy and complicated), the multi-instrumentalists that make up the musical collective that can vary from three to upwards of eight participants return to the mellow sounds that catapulted their Glazed Popems album to the top of my Ten Best list that year. Miniboom, violin scrapings, and tropical, thundering congas imbue an eerie, sci-fi aura to ‘Jerry Rubin: He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’ (which continues their tributes to ’60s’ politicos that stretches back to Analog Hi-If Surprise’s ‘Abby Hoffman’), while Erik Pearson’s dreamy ‘All the Guitar Players Around Sean Smith Say He’s Got It Coming, But He Gets it While He Can’ floats across the room on saffron wings. For funky freakmeisters, there’s the jaunty dual-organ giddiness of ‘Take Off Your Face and Recover From That Trip You’ve Been On,’ and I’ll give you three guesses which Donovan song is at the heart of ‘The Freak Folk Walk Dressed Up For Each Other.’


For eastern-flavoured navelgazing, there’s the hazy glow of Pearson’s sitar-drenched ‘Tariq Ali,’ while the krautrock groove that’s frequently found its way onto their recordings returns for the atmospheric space warble of ‘Indulgence,’ which begins an extended avant garde sequence towards the end filled with haunting electronic effects, slide whistles, groovy congas, djembe’s and gongs that draw heavy comparisons with Hawkwind and The Doors (‘Under The Spell,’ ‘Walking Barefoot In Babylon’). For pure pop pleasure, they wrap up with the catchy Syd Barrett/Kevin Ayers’ collaboration, ‘Singing A Song In The Morning’ featuring San Fran folkie Sonya Hunter that’s sure to “make you feel alright.” And in case you’re wondering, the title is a hidden pun/reference to the fact that they recorded this album after concluding a multi-night run of performances of Pete Townshend’s Lifehouse rock opera in its entirety last March in Berkeley.  But you Who fans knew that already, didn’t you?  (Jeff Penczak)




(Light in the Attic)

One of the original electric psychedelic sitar headswirlers, Szabo’s landmark fusion of eastern and western influences (no more apparent than on his blistering cover of ‘Paint It Black’ that pushes the sitar even further to the fore than Brian Jones’ original) gets its first reissue and is an essential purchase for jazz and rock fans alike. His third solo effort (Impulse, 1967) It was the first to meld his taste for rock and jazz with the music of his homeland (Hungary) and India (he dubbed sitar onto nine of the eleven tracks) and is essential listening for fans of exploito sitar-based rock by the likes of The Folkswingers and Big Jim Sullivan (for kicks, compare their arrangements of ‘Paint It Black’ on Raga Rock and Lord Sitar respectively with Szabos’).

The legendary “Pretty” Purdie’s economical drum fills roll effortlessly around Szabo’s imaginative runs up and down the fretboard (his skinpounding on Duke Ellington’s ‘Caravan’ is nothing short of amazing and cements his reputation as one of the greatest drummers of all time), while monotonic (occasionally flat) utterances (‘Walking On Nails’) add an otherworldly, robotic aura. The sitar flourishes don’t always work (by the time he finished recording, all but two of the strings were broken) and Szabo, like most novices, often plays it like a guitar. But there’s no denying the genius in those fingers, and tracks like his classic ‘Mizrab’ and ‘Sophisticated Wheels’ feature lightning fast fretwork that would leave many a guitarist weeping with envy. For straightforward jazz guitar aficionados, it doesn’t get much better than the tasty ‘Raga Doll,’ and his tribute to Ravi Shankar illustrates his respect for the master – this is certainly not an exploitation cash-in. Jazz…rock…sitar…guitar… whatever your preference, you’ll certainly find something to love on this classic trip down memory lane. And it’s available on 180gm vinyl too for all you vinyl junkies!  (Jeff Penczak )






(CD on Circus Peanut Records CPR 105 www.myspace.com/flowergirlmusic  )


Listening to this alone and without a guide you might be forgiven for thinking “Volume V” was a lost Kosmiche classic or a hidden nugget from the Japanese underground and set off in the vain or else wallet lightening quest to track down a copy. No worries, folks, this is a thoroughly modern take on a favourite theme - not so much a Philly-buster as a full-length Philly-blaster, from Philadelphia psych rockers Flower Girl.


First track “Enstacy” hits you squarely straight out of the blocks - a world class sprint, clocking in it at less than 4 minutes, but instead of Usain Bolt you get his turned-on brother Insane. It’s like Flower Girl sought to answer that old question “what happens if I press this shiny red button”. Incendiary, so much so that it places Wooden Shjips firmly in the category of insipid paisley pop by comparison.


If “Enstacy” is the 100 metre dash of the piece then the remaining two tracks are the equivalent of the Marathon, each clocking in at more than 20 minutes. Both “Zenith Paradise” and particularly the stand-out track, the wonderfully named “Phyllis Tickler”, take you on a cosmic roller coaster, each starting off deceptively slowly and with a gorgeous melody before building to a sonic dust-up and then on through a range of moods and emotions, during which the top-drawer space rock is supplemented by intelligent use of “LA Blues” type sax and understated sitar. Usually with works of this duration there are quite a few moments where the quality dips or you lose concentration but really it’s difficult to fault “Volume V” in any way.


Other than the sax and sitar parts, the album was recorded live at the band’s rehearsal space. On this evidence Flower Girl would make a shitt hot live proposition which makes it all the more curious as to why gigs appear to be such rare events.


This is seriously recommended. And don't just take my word for it - Phil rates this as one of his favourite releases of the year so far. Go get…


(Volume V is available to download through iTunes, Napster, Amazon MP3, eMusic and Rhapsody. Those of you who prefer some “hard currency” can obtain a CD copy by contacting the band at flowergirlmusic@me.com. In the meantime the three tracks here and more can be streamed via the band’s www.myspace.com/flowergirlmusic site.

Volumes I to III will hopefully be available online from the above outlets in the not too distant future. Sadly, Volume IV is out of print and may be beyond resuscitation).


Ian Fraser




(DVD/CD – OZIT DVD 0010  www.tractor-ozit.com )


The Hollywood Festival Staffordshire in 1970 is often cited as an example of a very early UK rock festival that actually worked, which probably means that the bands that were meant to play actually turned up, the stage wasn’t washed away and the police didn’t break it up amongst acrimony and a spree of head busting. Some of these events from what now seems like counter-culture pre-history have been captured on this DVD/CD release that largely showcases the Grateful Dead.


Unfortunately whilst we have Chris Hewitt and Ozit Records (who’ve also issued footage of Bickershaw and Deeply Vale festivals in recent years whilst also keeping the flame alive for the likes of Nik Turner and Tractor) to thank for providing this reminder for those who were there and an interesting historical footnote for the archivists, frankly this release is no great shakes as a piece of entertainment. In fairness, the blurb that accompanies it makes no great claims about either the audio or visual quality of the DVD and is explained in part by claims that the film crew were off their heads on acid. Maybe so, but this all smacks of amateur footage, that seems to have been intermittently shot from an enclosure near the front of the stage. There’s nothing wrong with that either, except that to package this up and slap on an asking price of £20 might be stretching the goodwill and budget of even Deadheads and festival aficionados such as yours truly.


This release features five tracks by the Grateful Dead, together with brief contributions from Free (“Alright Now”), Family “Good News, Bad News”), Screaming Lord Sutch (“‘Cause I Love You”) and our old mates the Radha Krishna Temple (“Hare Krishna Temple”).


Much of the DVD comprises of still shots of the Grateful Dead and the actual film footage is mostly out of focus and unsteady. An early indication that this package needs to be approached with caution is on the opening number “Casey Jones” which seems to show Pigpen singing when in fact it is Jerry Garcia’s voice we hear. Sorry to say but the sound quality is little better than the visuals, being fleeting average but mostly poor, and the other acts don’t fare any better either. The soundtrack to Free’s "Alright Now" footage sounds suspiciously like it has been borrowed from an audio recording, whilst Family’s excellent “Good News Bad News” suffers not only from poor sound quality but short bursts of unsynchronised film footage repeated several times and which is presumably meant to capture Roger Chapman’s manic on-stage persona. What it succeeds in doing is making that old newsreel of Queen Victoria’s funeral look like something out of James Cameron’s Avatar. As for the rest of the DVD, well Screaming Lord Sutch and his Heavy Friends seem to be having a lot of fun and the Radha Krihsna Temple do what they do.


The CD, featuring the rest of the Grateful Dead’s set not featured on the DVD is a lot better to the point where it is enjoyable enough. However when you consider the vast choice of excellent quality mixing board recordings readily available to fans it is hard to see this being a priority for fans, and the curious would certainly be advised to start elsewhere.


Whether you consider this to be a desperate cash-in or an interesting if rather flawed document of an important episode in our popular culture (or perhaps both) will, of course, depend very much on your point of view.


As a footnote, it’s a shame nobody thought to capture Mungo Jerry’s set, as they reputedly blew everyone – the Dead included –off stage that weekend. (Ian Fraser)