Eleanor McEvoy Records Her First Direct-Cut Album with Nordost

When we hear that one of our favorite artists is heading into the studio, it always piques our interest. When that artist is heading into the studio to record a direct-cut album, then that really gets the juices flowing—we couldn’t wait to get involved! That’s exactly what happened the week after the Munich Show. While we were all recovering from the show, the bier, the wurst and the spargel, our Ax Angel Cables were on their way to Air Studios in North London, where Eleanor McEvoy was getting ready to embark on one of “the most nerve-wracking experiences of (her) recording career”. Of course, Eleanor is no stranger to either recording or performing in front of a live audience, but she described the direct-cut experience as “not just different, but a whole different kind of pressure. One that asks different questions and definitely requires different responses.” Fortunately, this wasn’t producer Mike Valentine’s first direct-cut project and, along with the experienced staff at Air Studios, a calm, focused and creative atmosphere soon prevailed.

With just guitar, vocals and piano accompaniment, there really is no place to hide, musically and artistically, so the whole one-take/multi-track structure of a direct-cut LP side screams caution. The whole point of the exercise is to capture the immediacy and artistic tension of the live performance – without the benefit, energy and feedback of a live audience. The result is a musical tightrope that was negotiated with the aid of three weeks of intensive rehearsals and two takes per side. We’re still waiting on the vinyl test-pressings, but the digital copies are in and the results are everything we hoped for. A mixture of established and new material, the eight tracks will be available on LP, CD and analog tape, as well as downloadable from the Chasing The Dragon website.

Nordost Playlist – July 2018

Nordost is lucky to have a wonderful team of representatives and product trainers who travel around the world educating and demonstrating the effects of Nordost’s products. As part of these demonstrations, it is our job to find an interesting and diverse selection of music to showcase our cables, power devices, sort system and accessories. Whether at shows, visiting our dealers and distributors or even in our own listening room in our headquarters in Holliston, we are constantly getting asked what music we are playing (or if our audience is not so bold to ask, we can see their Shazams working overtime). So we thought this would be a perfect opportunity to share our favorite songs of the moment. Some may be classics, some may be brand new, some may not even be to your taste, but one thing is for sure …it’s all great music.

Here are some of the songs that we will have on rotation this July.

You can now listen to our monthly playlist here:  TIDAL  |  SPOTIFY

  1. Tell Me What We’re Gonna Do Now—Joss Stone—Introducing Joss Stone
  2. Sunny Afternoon—The Kinks—Face To Face
  3. Skip—Laura Misch—Playground
  4. June On The West Coast—Bright Eyes—Letting Off The Happiness
  5. Seasons (Waiting On You)—Future Islands—Singles
  6. July, July!—The Decemberists —Castaways and Cutouts
  7. Nobody—Mitski—Nobody
  8. Knives Of Summertime—Sparklehorse—Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain
  9. If You Want Me to Stay—Sly & The Family Stone—Fresh
  10. Your Dog—Soccer Mommy—Clean

EastSide Sound recording studio installs Nordost cables! [WATCH]

Nordost cables make a difference. Thanks to the series of live product demonstrations and cable comparisons performed worldwide at trade shows and dealer events, many hifi enthusiasts have had the opportunity to hear this difference for themselves — not to mention the improvements that people experience when introducing Nordost products into their own homes! However, there is one aspect of the chain that people have not been able to hear Nordost’s impact on — the musical recordings themselves.

A few years ago, Nordost launched its first range of pro audio cables, Ax Angel. Ax Angel studio recording cables are constructed using the same design philosophy and technology as our hifi audio cables, allowing musicians and recording engineers to fully capture music in its original state. This is what the Chief Engineer at EastSide Sound, Marc Urselli discovered when we initially installed Nordost cables in his recording studio, in order to record Newvelle Records’ fourth season. Once the cables were in place, we thought it would be fun for Marc to conduct an A/B test to hear the difference for himself. As a five-time nominated and three-time Grammy Award winning recording and mixing engineer, we wanted to hear his expert opinion.

I was initially skeptical about the fact that an audio cable might be able to make more than just a subtle difference in sound. When I got to test these cables I was blown away by how big the difference actually was. It wasn’t just a subtle thing that only an audio engineer or an audiophile would hear, but a clear improvement in the overall frequency response of the signal that EVERYONE can hear! Sound comes through without restriction, in its full, bold, rich and wide original state! More low end, more high end and more of EVERYTHING!  – Marc Urselli

Nordost has captured the installation and A/B test on video, for you to enjoy: 


Nordost Playlist – May 2018

Nordost is lucky to have a wonderful team of representatives and product trainers who travel around the world educating and demonstrating the effects of Nordost’s products. As part of these demonstrations, it is our job to find an interesting and diverse selection of music to showcase our cables, power devices, sort system and accessories. Whether at shows, visiting our dealers and distributors or even in our own listening room in our headquarters in Holliston, we are constantly getting asked what music we are playing (or if our audience is not so bold to ask, we can see their Shazams working overtime). So we thought this would be a perfect opportunity to share our favorite songs of the moment. Some may be classics, some may be brand new, some may not even be to your taste, but one thing is for sure …it’s all great music.

Here are some of the songs that we will have on rotation this May.

You can now listen to our monthly playlist here:  TIDAL  |  SPOTIFY

  1. Deathless—Ibeyi, Kamasi Washington—Ash
  2. Righteously—Anna Ash—Righteously
  3. In My Life—Chie Ayado—Best II
  4. Wedding Song—Anaïs Mitchell, Justin Vernon—Hadestown
  5. Djougou Toro—Volta Jazz—Bobo Yéyé : Belle Époque
  6. Demolition Man—Def Leppard—Euphoria
  7. No Ordinary Love—Sade—Love Deluxe
  8. Catch My Breath—Confidence Man—Confident Music For Confident People
  9. Carry On—Wyclef Jean, Emili Sande—Carnival III: The Fall and Rise of a Refugee
  10. Talking Straight—Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever—Talking Straight


Newvelle Records records their fourth season with Nordost cables

Recording is about to begin on Newvelle Records’ fourth season, and this time…they are using Nordost cables! Newvelle Records is an exciting new company that produces original, high quality, vinyl recordings, which are distributed as seasonal subscriptions. The collaboration between Nordost and Newvelle Records, announced in December 2017, is a natural fit, joining two companies whose love of music drove them to go to great lengths in order to achieve the same goal: high fidelity sound. Nordost cables have set up permanent residency in Manhattan-based recording studio, EastSide Sound, and are burned-in and ready to capture some great jazz. Newvelle’s fourth season will feature artists such as Steve Cardenas, Lionel Loueke, Bill Frisell, Skúli Sverrisson, Francisco Mela, Jason Palmer, Andrew Zimmerman, Dave Douglas, Kevin Hays, and Thomas Morgan.

2018.02.12 Nordost Eastsound Recording Studio -59

In celebration of our collaboration and the commencement of their fourth season, Newvelle Records is offering an exclusive gift: For every box set purchased, customers will receive a complementary pressing of Piano Noir!

To receive your free copy of Piano Noir, shop for your box set HERE and enter promo code “Nordost” at checkout.

2018.02.12 Nordost Eastsound Recording Studio -73


Nordost Playlist – April 2018

Nordost is lucky to have a wonderful team of representatives and product trainers who travel around the world educating and demonstrating the effects of Nordost’s products. As part of these demonstrations, it is our job to find an interesting and diverse selection of music to showcase our cables, power devices, sort system and accessories. Whether at shows, visiting our dealers and distributors or even in our own listening room in our headquarters in Holliston, we are constantly getting asked what music we are playing (or if our audience is not so bold to ask, we can see their Shazams working overtime). So we thought this would be a perfect opportunity to share our favorite songs of the moment. Some may be classics, some may be brand new, some may not even be to your taste, but one thing is for sure …it’s all great music.

Here are some of the songs that we will have on rotation this April.


You can now listen to our monthly playlist here:  TIDAL  |  SPOTIFY

  1. Hallelujah I Love Her So-2016 Mono Remastered—Ray Charles—The Atlantic Studio Albums In Mono (Remastered)
  2. Messaien’s Gumbo—John Patitucci—Remembrance
  3. I Choose You—Sara Bareilles—The Blessed Unrest
  4. Call Out My Name—The Weeknd—My Dear Melancholy
  5. My Way—Ivy Sole—West
  6. Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye—Feist—Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye
  7. Stravinsky: Le Sacre du Printemps—Igor Stravinsky, Teodor Currentzis—The Rige of Spring : Part One : Adoration of the Earth: Spring Rounds
  8. Astonished Man—Thao & The Get Down Stay Down—A Man Alive
  9. Follow My Voice—Julie Byrne—Not Even Happiness
  10. Kill My Sorrow—Joy Kill’s Sorrow—Darkness Sure Becomes This City


Nelson Brill On New Audiophile Jazz Recordings

Real music lovers can find the melody in everything. From the park to the concert hall, our friend Nelson Brill is always on the hunt for great sound. In this blog, Brill shares some new Audiophile jazz recordings.

New Audiophile Jazz Recordings To Spin And Savor

By Nelson Brill

January 14, 2018


Audiophile buddies gather around! Here are a few of my favorite new jazz recordings on CD or vinyl to share. They all contain toe-tapping music recorded with excellent sonics that deliver all the dynamic presence of these great musicians at play.


First off, there is cause for celebration in hearing the new recording by the magnificent vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant and her savvy trio: Aaron Diehl on piano; Paul Sikivie on bass and Lawrence Leathers on drums. Dreams and Daggers [Mack Avenue Records; www.mackavenue.com] captures this magnetic partnership in delicious flight in their performances at the Village Vanguard in New York City in September, 2016.



Salvant’s singular voice fills every nook and cranny of this glorious live recording with joy. She pours herself fully into the vessel of the blues singing slow and radiant on her powerful version of “My Man’s Gone Now” and then spiky and sweet on Ida Cox’s classic “Wild Women Don’t Have The Blues” and in the comic stroll of “Sam Jones’ Blues.” Her vocal playfulness positively glows on such burbling romps as “Let’s Face The Music And Dance”; “Nothing Like You” and “Never Will I Marry.” She effortlessly fashions narratives by Kurt Weill and Langston Hughes into a coiled, unfolding performance (on the unflinching “Somehow I Never Could Believe”) and then she joins a velvety string ensemble with cool vocal glow on a few zesty originals. Salvant inhabits the narratives of her songs with effortless aplomb. She fills each with soft scampers; slow delicious murmurs or heady crescendos – all with expressive delight. She possesses this protean ability to maintain her lithe pitch control to lightly perch on any twig or branch in her wondrous vocal range with indelible expressiveness (from tender quips to full blasts of soulful heat).


Harlem World Magazine

Her partnering trio is as dapper and impeccable as one of Mr. Diehl’s fastidious bowties. On Dreams and Daggers, each player dazzles in their solo work and in their collective whimsy with Salvant’s creative lead. Diehl is a master storyteller at his keyboard. He possesses the lightest of touches; the most devious velvety runs and can surprise with fresh bursts of octaves or soft isolated notes that combine for deep expressiveness. Sikivie’s bass is a resonant juggernaut (check out his pumping presence in duet with Savant on “You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me”) and Leathers is a sensual propulsive machine on his drum kit (listen to his impeccable backbone on “Si J’etais Blanche”). Savant’s duet with guest pianist Sullivan Fortner on “You’ve Got To Give Me Some” is another highlight as it shakes with sassy fury and showcases Fortner’s own transfixing piano style and his swanking partnership with the ever-adventurous Salvant. The audiophile quality of Dreams and Daggers captures every tactile detail of these gleeful encounters within the acoustic space and energy of the Vanguard. The adoring audience is also ensnared up close and present in their  boisterous enthusiasm for each musical gift bestowed by this stunning jazz band in action.



Across town from the Village Vanguard, the eminent Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (www.jazz.org/JLCO/) creates its own magic in performances at Lincoln Center in New York City. Two of its stalwart musicians, bassist Gerald Cannon and alto saxophonist Sherman Irby, each have new recordings out in which they contribute to each other’s smart, bracing and vital music.


Cannon’s Combinations [Woodneck Records; www.cannonmusicart.com] fires on all cylinders with swinging prowess, such as on the opening “Every Man Is A King” (with blaze of trumpet from Jeremy Pelt) or on “One For Amos” with  Cannon’s fluid bass pumping behind Irby’s biting alto sax. The musicians gathered on this recording offer dynamic companionship to Cannon in their eclectic journey together. Russell Malone’s swanking guitar joins Cannon’s nimble bass in a radiant duet on “How Great Thou Art” while Gary Bartz’s smoothly cascading alto propels the unflinching R & B of “Gary’s Tune.” Pianists Kenny Barron and Rick Germanson bring their own glowing styles to several tunes that run from a shimmering bossa (“Amanda’s Bossa”) to the feathery lightness of “How My Heart Sings.” Drummer extraordinaire Willie Jones III brings his panache to everything he touches, including the blaring cacophony of “Columbus Circle Stop” which blares with Jones’ humming snare and crisp cymbal heat. Don’t miss the last tune, “Darn That Dream,” in which Cannon stretches his elastic acoustic bass to the max in a glowing solo piece where his fingers pull, hold and pluck upon his low strings to create a brewing cauldron of deep soulful dance.


Cannon and Jones shine as well on Sherman Irby’s new recording, Cerulean Canvas [Black Warrior Records], another powerful statement of creative jazz mixing with blues heat.


This recording is another audiophile gem, recorded by engineer Katherine Miller, who also recorded the Cannon Combinations session. Miller takes great care to deliver all the tactile details and buoyant energy of these two heated blowing sessions and ensnares all of their superlative musicianship and comradeship up close and personal.



Irby’s sharp robust attack on his alto sax can sing in bellowing breathy notes as on his molten slow grooving heater, “John Bishop Blues” (with Cannon’s pungent bass pumping behind) or on his “Blues For Poppa Reed” (with pianist Eric Reed tenacious and twinkling). He can also sing on his alto sax in full ballad glory on the slow unfurling swing of “From Day By Day” and the loping gait of Wayne Shorter’s “Contemplation”. The unusual front line of Irby’s alto sax mixing it up with a tenacious trombone (plied by either Vincent Garner or Elliot Mason) is bold and expressive. “Willie’s Beat” and “Racine” are stellar examples, with trombone and alto sax rollicking to Reed’s pouncing piano notes and the sparkle of Jones’ nimble cymbal/snare combinations. Irby’s version of “Sweet Georgia Brown” is a sprite swinging delight where trombone, sax and bass frolic in lightning elegance to the dance of Jones’ wood rim hits.

Trombone also plays glorious partner to sax in another blazing recording session brought to us by the young baritone saxophonist, B.J. Jansen, on his new recording, Common Ground [RonninJazz; www.bjjansen.com].


Jansen joins one of my favorite trombonists, the dapper and keenly creative Delfeayo Marsalis, in a collective that also includes trumpeter Duane Eubanks; bassist Dezron Douglas; pianist Zaccai Curtis and the indefatigable drummer, Ralph Peterson. They create another barn burning session that is captured on this recording in all its intense up-front energy and tactile crackle.



The heat is immediately felt on “Stacey’s Plan” as Jansen’s reedy baritone plunges and flows deep in partnership with Douglas’ bass and Marsalis’ colorful trombone declarations (filled with high note blares and slippery slides). Curtis shines with keyboard prowess as he delivers tight bluesy turns of phrase and deft soft note accents. “Bucket Full of Soul” also swings kinetically on Jansen’s baritone pelts and gutsy breeze (blowing from high registers to low) with Marsalis working his creative banter and bluster. In contrast, “Brandon’s Blues” walks in slow strides as baritone and (muted) trombone take a stroll in warm meandering fashion, until Eubanks trumpet interrupts with his brazen calls – all angular, creative shine. This glittering band can do anything it wills: moving effortlessly from the full bore swing of “Angela’s Aggravation” to the melodic flow of “Relaxin’ With Jessica”. The title cut, with a feel of John Coltrane’s combination of soulfulness and heat, is ignited by Jansen’s baritone solo roiling in colorful declarations of low reedy power and heft partnered with Douglas’ heady bass rolls and Peterson’s snare and cymbal power. The magnetic Peterson is a creative gale force throughout the recording. His percussive foundation lays the brickwork for all the garlands of sonic riches and grooves that are delivered from this tight adventurous band flourishing in their companionship.



Shadows of John Coltrane and his compatriot genius, Thelonious Monk, linger over many of these new artists’ creative visions. Appropriately, two new recordings shine brightly upon Monk’s legacy.


The first is a special audiophile quality LP (also available in a deluxe 2-LP box set) of a never-before released recording session by Monk joined by saxophonists Charlie Rouse and Barney Wilen; bassist Sam Jones and drummer Art Taylor at the Nola Penthouse Sound Studios in July, 1959. The occasion was to record a soundtrack for Roger Vadim’s film, Les Liasons Dangereuses and this new vinyl release of the same title, (produced by Zev Feldman, Francois Le Xuan and Fred Thomas for Sam Records/Saga [www.samrecords.fr]) invites the listener to take a front row seat to experience the informal give and take between these great musicians. Listening through my Rega RP-10 turntable with Alpheta 2 cartridge (www.rega.co.uk) and Aesthetix Rhea phonostage, (www.aesthetix.net) this LP’s surfaces were dead quiet and images were beautifully rendered. Although Monk’s piano is a bit recessed and its harmonic body slightly curtailed, there is a naturalness and informal quality to this session that immediately draws one into the drama and chemistry between these simpatico players. When the full band is involved, such as on their swinging “Well, You Needn’t,” or “Rhythm-a-Ning”, Rouse and Wilen’s saxes explode with dynamic presence in each corner; Taylor’s jumping sticks on his cymbal are crisp and clear and Jones’ walking bass is a pungent engine. Monk’s delicious and obtuse keyboard chases bind all this buoyant drama with his limpid bluesy phrases and pouncing chords. On “Six in One”; “Crepuscule with Nellie” and “Pannonica”, Monk’s solos are little marvels which are revealed on this splendid LP in all their intricate design and playful vision. The swank of Monk’s 12-bar blues, “Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues-Are” is icing on the cake as all of these gifted musicians take a spirited run at this voluptuous romp. The Sam Records LP of this historic session allows us to time-travel back to sit in a folding chair in the Nola Studio and relish all of these potent grooves and musical drama within the air, warmth and naturalness of the studio space that only an LP can provide.


Taking his own inspiration from Monk’s incomparable razzmatazz with rhythms, instrumental colors and melodic fancy, pianist, composer and arranger John Beasley has reinvented many of Monk’s compositions into his own exuberant stew for his “MONKestra” Big Band. The band has released two volumes of recordings, entitled MONKestra Volume 1 and 2 both on Mack Avenue Records [www.mackavenue.com]. The recording quality of both of these titles is excellent with the full weight, spaciousness and colorful imagery of a swanking big band in creative flight captured in a layered and airy  space. Beasley and his MONKestra can make a blaring New Orleans’ parade out of the glory of Monk’s “Round Midnight” or sail Monk’s “Skippy” into bluesy R & B territory, carefree and swinging. Monk’s “Little Rootie Tootie” is a collage of start and stop brass and woodwind soars while “Epistrophy” beckons with its dissonant swipes and clusters of tumultuous sounds (with guest Gary Burton frolicking on his crisp vibes). From Monk’s unpredictable vamps to his swinging bebop glory, everything is within the grasp of Beasley’s creative arrangements and the MONKestra’s consummate music making. They partner on these two recordings to flutter, spin and carouse in the playful landscape of Monk’s genius to the delight of our ears and our spirit.



If you would like to read more reviews like this one, visit Nelson’s blog at www.bostonconcertreviews.com.


We’re collaborating w/ Newvelle Records!

newvelle banner_3

Nordost is very proud to announce an exciting new partnership with Newvelle Records!

This innovative company has made its mark on music distribution since their first pressing was introduced in 2016. Throughout the year, Newvelle creates a series of six exclusive, vinyl records, each paired with curated artwork and writing, which are released to customers in bi-monthly installments. These six pressings combine to form a box set that takes advantage of its full canvas to express something exceedingly deep and affecting.

The response to their work has been overwhelming, with an onslaught of positive reviews raving about every aspect of Newvelle, from the integrity of their records, to the quality of artists they feature, to the distribution model that they employ.

newvelle season 2-1

We’ve found great symmetry in the ideals, aesthetics, dedication, and craftsmanship between Nordost and Newvelle.  Like us, they care fundamentally, and above all else, about the music. For their next set of recordings at East Side Sound in NYC, Newvelle will be using Nordost cables, including our Pro Audio studio series, Ax Angel, to create their highest quality recordings to date. This partnership will give Nordost customers the unique opportunity to experience their music through Nordost cables from beginning to end.


To celebrate this new collaboration, and help you celebrate the upcoming holidays, Newvelle Records is offering the first 100 Nordost customers who purchase their already completed Second Season Box Set an exclusive gift: Piano Noir.

Piano Noir is a record born from the idea of “Making the Connection”— in this case, the connections that can be found between all of the arts involved in the project: audial, visual and literary.  Based on a story that was commissioned by Newvelle from best-selling author Douglas Kennedy, with music written by Newvelle cofounder pianist Elan Mehler, and featuring some of NYC’s best musicians, Piano Noir is a unique piece of art not currently available for sale, and made to Newvelle’s exacting standards.

Take advantage of this exclusive offer by using the promo code “Nordost” at checkout to get your copy of Piano Noir with a purchase of Newvelle’s Season Two, and be a part of this exciting musical movement.

Learn more about Newvelle Records at www.newvelle-records.com


Analog vs Digital — The Great Audio Debate   

One of the most hotly contested debates in modern-day hifi is one of source and substance: analog or digital. The preferential rift isn’t as clear-cut as one would think. Thanks to the recent resurgence of vinyl (and even reel–to-reel, which is increasingly seen at hifi shows), one’s inclination towards LPs or CDs, tapes or WAV files, can’t be determined by the decade one was born in.  There are benefits and deficiencies to both formats to be sure, and that is exactly what we are exploring here…



Argument for Analog

Aside from the obvious nostalgia, there are several reasons why discerning music lovers would opt for analog over digital sources. To many, vinyl recordings have a more authentic, natural quality than their digital counterparts (which critics often describe as cold and uninviting). Some may argue that analog bandwidth is superior, especially when compared to the dumbed-down results of compressed recordings (although those recordings are getting better with time, thanks to modernized digital files). Bandwidth aside, the REAL allure of analog is its raw charm, which has the power to elicit an emotional response from listeners. The term that is typically associated with this emotional response is “analog warmth”. It is interesting to note that this distinctive warmth is in fact a side-effect of technical imperfections in the analog recording process. Whether it is speed-stability issues of magnetic recording tape, or harmonic distortions created by transformers, each of these flaws leads to an enhancement of the mood, character, and enjoyment that comes with analog reproduction. And that enjoyment is only amplified when you add the ceremonial aspects to LP listening. No skipping around tracks—just you, the music, and the liner notes and artwork provided on your canvas-like cover.



Digital Defense

Where analog may sweep with the nostalgia and feel-good factors, digital sources win out in terms of precision and convenience. We have advocated for “analog warmth”. However, let’s not forget that a lot of that warmth is the direct result of distortion—and some of that distortion is not so welcome. In general, digital recordings have a greater SNR (signal to noise ratio), and in many cases, that leads to a more enjoyable listening experience. Of course there are some wonderful pressings of vinyl available, but those LPs come with a high price tag. Unfortunately, the majority of affordable records are noisy, warped and distorted. Furthermore, while the ritual of getting out an album and listening to it play out in full may stand the test of time, the album (or tape) itself does not. The grooves and tapes of analog recordings can only withstand so much play time—digital files, on the other hand, can be listened to ad infinitum without any negative repercussions to their sonic integrity. Even at “first play”, you may be better off going with digital, since even standard CDs have significant dynamic advantages over vinyl. Lastly, consider the convenience of digital storage and the variety of digital streaming. Thanks to new technology and ever-improving files, audiophiles can keep their entire music catalog at their fingertips and explore artists and genres that they never would have been exposed to otherwise, with the click of a button.


The debate of analog vs digital could go on and on without a concrete, impartial conclusion. For the most part, the correct answer is highly individualized and preferential. It is a testament to our industry that we have so many great options on which to experience high fidelity recordings. But a debate is a debate, so we ask you: How do you like to have your music delivered to you?

Nelson Brill On New Audiophile Quality Recordings From Troubadours Spinning Tales From Americana

Real music lovers can find the melody in everything. From the park to the concert hall, our friend Nelson Brill is always on the hunt for great sound. In this blog, Brill focuses his attention on three wonderful folk acts — Charlie Parr, John McEuen, and Sherman Holmes.  



By Nelson Brill

NOVEMBER 3, 2017


First up, a recent movie tip: the 2016 biopic, Maudie [Screen Door Productions/Sony Pictures Classics] is a stellar film that portrays the life of Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis [1903-1970] who overcame many obstacles, including being orphaned at a young age; suffering a lifetime of disease and abuse from her husband and society at large, to blossom as an artist. In this moving film, the actress Sally Hawkins plays Lewis and captures all of her fragility, sense of humor and resilience with passion and quiet dignity. Ethan Hawke is also superb as Lewis’ abusive and reclusive spouse.




Lewis’ paintings capture her love of the landscape of her native Nova Scotia, (dancing flowers, bleak wintry scenes, birds in flight, workers in the fields), and is a testament to the power of folk art grounded in a particular place and time.




Folk art, in the musical context, can also work a mesmerizing hold on the human need to tell stories of a certain place and time, accompanied by an irresistible back beat. One such master of this musical form is Minnesota native Charlie Parr, (www.charlieparr.com) who performed an intimate solo concert within the warm pine-paneled walls of the Atwoods Tavern in Cambridge, MA. (www.atwoodstavern.com) on October 2nd. Parr’s inventive yarns glowed with the glory and heartbreak of people living within his landscape of rural Minnesota and beyond, sung in a voice that rose in spiky, maverick expression.



Parr’s show at the Atwood, (resembling a house concert with the capacity young crowd swaying to Parr’s fleet guitar and thunderous foot-stomping) was ignited by Parr singing a number of originals from his 2015 audiophile gem, Stumpjumper [Red House Records; www.redhouserecords.com).


Highlights included a lilting “Remember Me If I Forget” (with swirling slide guitar accents quick and agile) and the contemplative “Over The Red Cedar”, a revolving beauty that tells the tale of a neighborhood kid growing into a man and realizing the passage of time. Parr also took a raucous detour into “Falcon”, (another highlight from Stumpjumper), that rocked furiously on a spinning tale of a wisecracking “north of the Red River” character surviving as best he can. On “Falcon,” Parr’s pumping acoustic guitar and heavy foot stomps sounded like baseball cards flipping in bicycle spokes: revolving in crisp colors with great vocal bravado, string heat and fleet guitar propulsion.



Parr also plunged with scrappy heat into several numbers taken from his new recording, Dog [Red House Records] where his lyrics shone like little powerful firecrackers, bursting with life. He sang meditatively about a tale of sons following in the footsteps of their fathers (“Hobo”); about our comic rituals surrounding death (“I Ain’t Dead Yet”) (with Parr’s slide working its greased magic) and finishing with a blistering version of the classic murder tale, “Stagger Lee,” belting his vocals and tumultuous guitar strums to the height of expressive power. Parr also paid tribute to his friend and fellow traveler, the incomparable Spider John Koerner, playing a version of one of Koerner’s comic tales (that features Buffalo Bill and Koerner’s contemplation of Free Will) in an effervescent tumble of Parr’s sharp guitar lines and playful majesty. Parr left the stage to the raucous ovations of the audience who hung on every one of his craggy lyrics and the crackling sound of his spinning, incisive guitar licks.


Returning from Parr’s intimate and soulful performance, I was reminded of a new recording by another superb folk art master who also takes his inspiration from the likes of Spider John Koerner, Jerry Jeff Walker, Johnny Cash and Warren Zevon to create his own stew of rollicking folk music joy. Roots Music Made in Brooklyn [Chesky Records; www.chesky.com] is a new recording by singer, songwriter and string master John McEuen. For this recording, McEuen assembled a sterling group of musicians at the Hirsch Center in Brooklyn, New York for an informal jam session that delivers a bountiful feast of acoustic gifts. The audio quality of this Chesky “binaural recording” (utilizing their “3D and Applied Acoustics” recording technics) is superb in its tactile and dynamic presence; its natural tones and colors and, (as always with the Chesky label), a beautiful capturing of instruments and voices illuminating the natural space and air of the particular recording venue.  [For another vivid dose of the Chesky label’s new sonic gifts, listen to the amazing 2016 Chesky recording Stripped that ensnares the craggy vocals of Macy Gray (with her stellar band) in a performance that shimmers and soars in airy delights].


On McEuen’s disc, instrumental compositions “Acoustic Traveler”, “Brooklyn Crossing” and “Miner’s Night Out” are all shining, carefree explorations of Americana melodies with garlands of beautiful solos from this swanking ensemble.



These include sweet clarinet solos from Andy Goessling; sparkling fiddle from Jay Ungar; deft guitar solos from David Bromberg and McEuen and pumping acoustic bass from Skip Ward. McEuen’s canvas encompasses the swanking gospel of “I Rose Up” (with layered background vocalists rising and falling around banjo pricks and fiddle sways), to the rough and tumble sounds of  New Orleans in “Travelin Mood,” (with David Bromberg firing up his acoustic guitar flowing into David Amram’s soaring penny whistle solo).



The crisp interplay between these spirited musicians also propels McEuen’s free-flowing versions of Warren Zevon’s comic, sardonic treats: “Excitable Boy” (with Bromberg’s vocals taking a turn next to swaying mandolin, fiddle and chorus) and “My Dirty Life And Times,” taken at a bluesy pace (led by Steve Martin’s scrappy banjo) with mandolin, dobro and fiddle accents swirling around McEuen’s vocals. Delectable blue-grass is also here on “Blue Ridge Cabin Home” and “The Mountain Whippoorwill,” where McEuen’s solo fiddle and spoken words pay tribute to another folk hero, Vasser Clements. McEuen’s words and instrumental radiance reverberate off the walls of the recording space in spare elegance on this twisting tale.



The crowning glory to this recording is McEuen and his band’s version of Jerry Jeff Walker’s folk classic, “Mr. Bojangles.” This swaying beauty brews on the expressive vocals of David Bromberg, John Cowan and others, reveling in this expressive tale all curled up with acoustic accompaniments plied and strummed with quiet passion.



A final, glorious dip into new musical folk art recordings takes us to Christchurch, Virginia into the deep blues, gospel and tumultuous rock flowing in the blood of Sherman Holmes, bassist and vocalist for the venerable Holmes Brothers Band. Since the death of his two brothers, Holmes has soldiered on to now produce a glowing new recording with his Sherman Holmes Project, The Richmond Sessions [M.C. Records; www.mc-records.com] in which his voice, bass and keyboard presides in a gathering of musicians and gospel singers who make these folk, gospel and rock tunes shimmer and shake.


The recording quality is superb. This is no surprise because Mark Carpentieri’s M.C. Records is well known for producing recordings with great presence, dynamic energy and natural, life-like image dimensionality. (Take a listen to M.C. Records’ 1999 recording of Odetta, in her Blues Everywhere I Go for a reference blues recording of knockout beauty and passion).


A crackling presence of pumping guitars, propulsive bass and vivid vocals sears this new M.C. Records recording of the Sherman Holmes Project from start to finish. Holmes and his swanking band glow in their gospel righteousness on such gut-thumping traditionals as “Wide River”, “I Want Jesus” and “Rock of Ages.” All of these tunes are laced with the deep spirited vocals of Homes and the surging power of his background vocal group, “The Ingramettes,” three female vocalists who bring supremely assured vocal prowess and soaring power to the mix.



The band extends their gospel and soul roots into exuberant, rocking versions of Ben Harper’s “Homeless Child”, John Fogerty’s “Green River”; Holland, Dozier’s “Don’t Do It” (made famous by The Band’s rollicking version) and a roguish “Breaking Up Somebody’s Home”.  In each of these volcanic gems, the musicianship is superb, with sparkling solos from Rob Ickes’ spindly and inventive dobro and David Van Deventer’s crafty fiddle.  Jim Lauderdale’s “Lonesome Pines” brings us home, with its slow cyclical expressive vocals, spinning banjo and ebullient hits from Ickes’ dobro. Here is power and soul; instrumental glitter and intoxicating singing that all take the Sherman Holmes Project’s folk portrait to a foot-stomping earthy place within the rich and diverse soil of Americana.



If you would like to read more reviews like this one, visit Nelson’s blog at www.bostonconcertreviews.com.