Thursday, April 16, 2009

Review -- VARIOUS ARTISTS -- These Times

THESE TIMES
Various artists
Borealis Records
9-out-of-10
Bill Garrett is an accomplished voice in terms of blues and folk music in Canada, so when I saw his name attached to this compilation disk as producer, I was expecting it to be pretty darned good.
I was not disappointed. Coming from Borealis Records, a well-respected small Canadian label dedicated to folk, These Times captures a modern take on the genre, with a decidedly Canadian focus in terms of content.
As the company's website (www.borealisrecords.com) states, “These Times looks at our western society through the eyes of some observant songwriters as we struggle through the first decade of this new millennium ... These Times follows in the tradition of the broadside ballads that have been sung since the 16th century. Originally broadsides were printed on one side of a piece of paper and only included the lyrics with the name of a popular tune below the title. The subject matter was most often in the form of a complaint against the crown or some other repressive authority. Broadsides were posted on walls, in town squares, or in pubs for all to see and learn. These Times contains some modern day “complaints” including the misuse of natural resources, the absurdity of war, and the excesses of our contemporary society, among others.”
Folk music is most often at its best when it offers up a complaint, and makes a statement, and the artists here have done a good job of following those high ideals. A fine example being Another Big Box Store by James Gordon, a lament of how those big stores change a community.
Another song that makes you think is Bottle This! by Evalyn Parry, a lament of the craziness of bottled water.
The CD has an impressive roster of folk talent, including Michael Jerome Browne with Cancer Ward Blues, Enoch Kent with Some Ha'e Meat and Bill Garrett himself teaming with Sue Lothrop with the thoughtful No More Fish.
This is a CD that we should also listen to carefully for the messages the songs bring forward, more than for the music. This is a work that is designed to make you think. It is an anthem of sorts heading into the future, and the issues here are all sadly too real, and often rather scary. We need to think, and these songs get us thinking.
Few recent albums have made me consider issues that matter more than those here, and for that reason alone this CD is highly recommended.
As a folk album, this one is steeped in tradition, meaningful for today, and enjoyable musically. Check it out.
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper March 18, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

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