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We’re pretty excited to be releasing the second album by Corpse Reviver next week. The folk trio has long been one of our favorites in town — we love them so much we hired them to play our 10th anniversary party a couple years ago, and promised them we’d release their second album on vinyl.
If you have never heard them before, you may still be familiar with some of their songs. That’s because Corpse Reviver’s repertoire is drawn from the Anthology of American Folk Music, the enormously influential compilation first released in 1952 by Folkways Records. Harry Smith collected traditional music on 78s and with the six-album series revived music which was largely being swept into the dustbin.
When Corpse Reviver released the first volume of their interpretation of the anthology (titled I’ll be Rested When the Roll is Called), we posted the original songs (here). On that disc, and on their new Lp, they’ve chosen songs which have been widely performed over the years, but its especially interesting to go back and hear those original 78 transfers from Harry Smith’s collection. Some are songs which had a long life before they were recorded in the late 20s or early 30s, and others have taken on new significance as songs associated with the mid-century folk boom or the more recent alt-country revival.
The new album opens with Adam Kiesling’s familiar fretless banjo and a confident take on “I Wish I Were a Mole in the Ground,” a song first recorded in 1928 by Bascom Lunsford. The song has been widely recorded by folk musicians, notably here in Minnesota by Charlie Parr about ten years ago, but Corpse Reviver turn the song’s perceived resignation on its ear. The same is true for “The Butcher’s Boy,” the second Buell Kazee ballad they have recorded with Jillian Rae singing. Mikkel Beckmen adds a funeral march rhythm to her reading of with his djembe, making this suicide ballad dark and dramatic.
In all, we count at least a half dozen deaths in the songs on Dry Bones. Corpse Reviver’s compartmentalization of the Anthology songs is as idiosyncratic as were the choices made by Harry Smith himself, but its clear they’ve chosen this second volume to collect some of the darker sides of the so-called “old weird America.” The result is an album much weightier than the first volume, but also a great collection of stories.
The original twelve songs, all found on Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music, are collected below. Corpse Reviver will be performing these and other favorites at the album release show next week. It’s possible opening performer Spider John Koerner will bring out one of them old numbers as well.
Corpse Reviver will be releasing their second album, Dry Bones, next Wednesday night at the Cedar Cultural Center (details here). Minnesota folk legend Spider John Koerner will perform an opening set, and local choir Mpls imPulse will perform with the trio during their set.
We had a great time visiting Orchestra Hall last week, and it was an honor for us to be on that stage! Hymies will be providing an interactive installation in the lobby during their Sommerfest this coming July — their program for the month is incredible, and we’re ecstatic to have the opportunity to contribute. We’ll post more about our plans and about the Orchestra’s Sommerfest schedule as it comes closer.
Every year at the Hymie’s block party on Record Store Day we’ve put out thousands of free records on tables provided by our friends at Northern Sun (these folks are a huge help every year). The records run the range from stuff nobody wants anymore, to good records which are in poor shape. And there’s some gems we stick in there for fun, too.
There’s no doubt some of the free records are just junk. But we have artists and teachers and others coming into the shop often looking for just exactly that, for making record bowls or collages or other projects. We’ve got a few places to store them throughout the year, and if doing so saves some of them from the landfill then it’s not such a bad thing at all.
In the past we’ve taken some pictures of the few records left over at the end of the day, usually just a crate or two out of thousands. This year there were so few — and we were so busy — we didn’t have time. Here’s some of the leftovers posted after one of the previous block parties:
Earlier this year we started a little section in the record shop called “Records Nobody Wants” and we started putting albums like some of these in there for fun. Some people don’t get the joke and ask if they can have them all. Some people will take anything they can if they think its free. Other people have brought in really terrible things to contribute.
It’s all subjective in the end. Some people really want some of the records that most people wouldn’t make room for on their shelves. We’re certain we have a few albums in our collection that not a one of our friends would take if we were giving them away. “Different strokes for different folks,” as they say.