Wednesday, April 22, 2009

music for a spring road trip: six albums

One from Scotland, three from Texas, a duo from Massachusetts, and a vintage collection from top Irish American musicians. Love songs, songs about children, travels, journeys, questions, mountains, rivers, markets, birds, trains, fish, grits and fancy pears, and many other things....all fine companions for where your late spring roads are taking you now.

Tish Hinojosa
’s own roads have taken her from the west side of San Antonio to the mountains of northern New Mexico, to Nashville’s Music Row, through a time in Austin’s lively music scene, and a current base in Germany. All these experiences play into the music she’s made for Our Little Planet. Sparked in part by her rediscovery of some old work tapes from her time in Nashville, it is in many ways a more country sort of record than Hinojosa has made in a long time. It’s not mainstream country, but it is country of the country, and of Texas and the southwest. There’s a knockout duet with Carrie Rodriguez called Mi Pueblo, and Mountain Lullabye, a song which sounds like a western sunset, and ten more.

Jeff Talmadge comes from Texas too, though he’s been living in Georgia for a while. One of the ways he looks back on At Least That Much Was True is through the evocative Austin When it Rains. Talmadge does not shy from life’s harder questions, as with the songs White Cross and Let Her Go. There’s always a perspective, though, however indirect, of hope and change for the better. The anthem for that, on this record, might be the understated, quietly sung story in Wrong Train.

Jim Malcolm does a good bit of quiet reflection on his album The First Cold Day,
including a tribute to Robert Burns and the gentle pleasures of fishing, in a song called An Hour in the Gloaming. There’s a taste of highland legend in Schiehallion, and a hilarious road trip of his own through the American south in Down in Alabama. That's where the grits and fancy pears come in.

If Hinojosa didn’t get you dancing with her title track for Our Little Planet, then her fellow Texan Terri Hendrix will with Posey Road Stomp, or Wallet, or Bottom of the Hill, or one of the ten other songs on Left Over Alls. One of the great things about Hendrix is that she knows how to be serious through being funny, and also when it’s the right moment o focus on one or the other side of that equation.

Massachusetts based husband and wife duo Matt and Shannon Heaton know how to look at a subject from many aspects, too. They base their work in Irish tradition, and for Lovers' Well they’ve sought out your not so usual love songs. A chance encounter is the hinge for the story in Where Moorcocks Crow, waiting and wondering about a lover for Bay of Biscay, love turned to jealousy tells the tale in Lily of the West, love found in taking chances begins the story of Golden Glove. These they interweave gracefully and naturally with traditional and newly composed tunes meant for dancing together, Shannon playing flute and Matt guitar and bouzouki.

Cherish the Ladies
is now a a well known Irish American band, but they started before Riverdance, before Celtic Women, and before the work of women in Irish music had received much recognition or respect. They'd been at constant touring for several years before they made their first record as a group, and through changing line ups, they’ve made many since. That first one, The Back Door, catches the group of seventeen years ago in fine form, tunes and songs alike reflecting Irish and American style and connections. It’s worth a look and a listen, once again.

If you’d like to dance -- alone or together -- to sing along, to laugh, to reflect, or just to listen, all of these will serve you well on your late spring travels. What would you add?

you may also want to see

Terri Allard: Live from Charlottesville

season of change: music for autumn 2008

hanneke cassel

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


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