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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.

Adam

Adam modeling the new Lp

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.

IMG_8768Irene had her annual visit to the vet this past week, and she walked away with a clean bill of health. Also a pretty small bill compared to any time either of us has been to the doctor. It’s funny how much easier Irene’s annual visits are compared to our own — she is hardly left waiting at all, and when seeing her doctor not rushed along in the least. Even after every last concern has been covered, her doctor follows up and checks on her after the appointment.

Irene is getting better health care than either of us.

doctor song

 

There’s so much bad news in the paper these days, sometimes we just leave it on the kitchen table and take the dogs for a longer walk instead. This election cycle has been particularly disenfranchising, but then again maybe not much more than any other year.

We thought of this after hearing this Lou Rawls album from 1972. A Man of Value was his first record for a new label after the series of hits which made him a star at Capitol, all produced by David Axelrod. His MGM albums are a bridge between those jazzy albums and the Philadelphia soul sides he’d record with producers like Gamble & Huff at the end of the decade. This one didn’t sell as well, so you don’t come across copies as often these days, which is a shame.

lou rawls a man of value

The title track was a minor hit, and it mirrors Rawl’s earlier cover of John D. Loudermilk’s “Tobacco Road” in its message of empowerment through self-reliance. Its sets the stage for an encouraging, positive cycle of songs. But 1972 was an election year, and Rawls remarks on the times in “The Politician,” a song which isn’t so irrelevant today.

“The Politician” was written by Mac Davis, then on his own streak of hit albums as a country singer (Davis had earlier written “In the Ghetto” for Elvis, which has a similar theme). The song doesn’t really offer any solutions, but just expresses why so many are feel frustrated with the political process.

So as to not make today’s post a big bummer, here’s that first song on the album, “A Man of Value.”

Soma records will always be synonymous with 60s Minneapolis, but the legendary local label also put out a lot of weird stuff.

Here’s a great example: this 45 by Royce Swain with Orchestra and Chorus. He was also Dr. Royce C. Swain, a dentist who wrote songs recorded by the Mills Brothers and Rosemary Clooney, and also this gem about his home state.

nebraska

whistle fred lowry

And if that doesn’t cheer you up, there’s eleven more songs on this Lp by whistling virtuoso Fred Lowery.

But we’ll see you soon! Today we’re gonna visit family.

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peter

The improbably named Lyle E. Style wrote a book about Roger Miller which is out of print and frustratingly pricy these days. Ain’t Got No Cigarette is hardly the lighthearted romp you’d like to read after listening to ol’ saws like “Dang Me” and “You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd.” Miller was achingly akin to the tramp in “King of the Road,” except he didn’t seem to have, in real life, the same confidence.

The hardest thing about reading Ain’t Got No Cigarettes is that you realize he was an exceptional songwriter, and even more of a genuine troubadour than the people interviewed for the book — which includes recollections of Waylon, Kristofferson, Merle and Willie — but no one ever had any idea. “You don’t know what you got ’til its gone,” and so on. Roger Miller gave up on the music industry because it gave up on him: his really brilliant songs were rejected because an industry and an audience wanted him to keep making the gug-gug-gug sound from “Dang Me.” Nobody saw him as more than a novelty act, and ironically he saw life as just about the same.

where have all the average people gone

A li’l postscript: We don’t want to brag, but the superhero the world knows as DJ Truckstache is a good friend of ours. He’ll be spinning his unique blend of 45rpm gems at our block party this year, just as he has each of the past five years.

That first year (like all big things, it started small if also ambitious) he played his copy of “Where Have All the Average People Gone?” by Roger Miller. Its in better shape than ours. Ol’ Truckstache played it our favorite song just as “the Amazing Rex” was juggling fire.

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