Thursday, October 29, 2015

Andy Cohen - Road Be Kind

Andy Cohen is a remarkable performer who i am most familiar with from his blues playing, but as Earwig's Michael Frank observes, "he never ceases to impress me with encyclopedic knowledge and ability to play at a high level, Traditional blues, folk and true Americana music …" On two days in August and September 2014, he recorded 25 songs from which Michael Frank chose 16 for Cohen's new Earwig album, "Road Be Kind." As Cohen notes in the booklet, roughly half of the music is contemporary which was out of character from the blues and related traditional material he performs. Some of the material was in tribute to folks he has known, like Luke Baldwin, Utah Phillips, Pegleg Sam and Bill Hinkley, whom have passed on.

The opening "Five and Ten Cent Blues," one of his originals with his nimble accompaniment and natural, slightly raspy singing, evokes sixties recordings from Bob Dylan, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, Steve Goodman and others. This feel is carried forward in an original by the forgotten Luke Baldwin, "Seldom Seen Slim." Then there is the delightful fingerpicking rendition of Sonny Terry's "Spread the New Around," along with the delightful, "Talkin' Hard Luck," taken from Chris Bouchillion's 1925 recording as well as Pegleg Jackson's version with plenty of delightful guitar and a mix of a rap and talking singing. One can only conjure up in one's mind how an old medicine show performer as Chief Wahoo would try to sell some elixir to this.

The title song was written by Scott Alarik and receives a lovely, lilting performance, while John Loudermilk's "Windy and Warm," allows Cohen to showcase his marvelous fingerstyle playing as he adroitly handles its complexity (Cohen notes its a level or two more complex than "Freight Train"). "Mysterious Mose," which Cohen admits he stole from R. Crumb and His Cheap Suit Serenaders, is a delightful hoot that contrasts with his very moving treatment of Utah Phillips' cowboy song "The Goodnight - Loving Trail." Another outstanding blues performance is "Seaboard Train," taken from Larry Johnson's rendition of a song old timey artist Sam McGhee recorded as "Railroad Blues." Cohen plays with a deft touch and invention that might have even made Johnson's mentor, Reverend Gary Davis, smile.

"Ten and Nine" is a labor song about women working in the mills, some very young. Its author, Mary Brooksbank," who spent time in prison for labor agitation. It is followed by a lovely medley of Irish songs, "Blarney Pilgrim / Jig McCoy." A lovely instrumental rendition of the Lennon-McCartney penned "Blackbird" provides the coda to this recording. "Road Be Kind" is an fabulous recording from an truly special talent.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is Andy playing a selection from the new album.

1 comment:

Bill Haines said...

Jim Schwall sent me a copy of the new Road Be Kind album. Jim and Andy played together some and Jim said Andy stayed with him for awhile in Madison, WI. I love this record and I'll be investigating some of Andy's back catalog.