Alligator Records is not the only independent label to issue an anthology celebrating its catalog. "40 Years of Stony Plain," is the latest installment in such compilations from the Canadian label, apparently the oldest independent Canadian record company still with the same ownership. Stony Plain is much more than a blues label, although love of blues and jazz is at the core of Holger Petersen who has also hosted blues radio programs for nearly fifty years, helped found the Edmonton Folk Festival and so much more. The Stony Plain catalog spans folks and roots to jazz and blues and has issued 15 albums from Canadian Country Icon Ian Tyson (formerly of Ian & Sylvia) as well as 20 Duke Robillard releases along with over a half dozen he produced with other artists, eight CDs and one DVD by Ronnie Earl and six releases from Eric Bibb. Richard Flohil provides an overview of Stony Plain including excerpts from his notes to earlier compilations as well as song notes in the enclosed booklet.
This celebration of the label has three discs. The first is entitled "Singers, Songwriters and much more" and includes performances, from amongst others, Colin Linden, Spirit of the West, Doug Sahm, Harry Manx and Kevin Breit, Emmylou Harris, New Guitar Summit, Rodney Crowell, Ian Tyson, Jennifer Warnes, Steve Earl and Eric Bib featuring Taj Mahal, The Blind Boys of Alabama and Ruthie Foster. Highlights on this disc include is the acerbic roots-rock of Linden's "No More Cheap Wine"; the Irish flavored "The Crawl" from Spirit of the West; an unusual folky Doug Sahm performance; the atmospheric reworked blues of Manx and Breit, "Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep"; the revival of an Elvis Presley Arthur Crud-up cover by James Burton, Albert Lee, Amos Garrett, and David Wilcox; a hauntingly beautiful Emmylou Harris performance; Duke Robillard, Jay Geils and Gerry Beaudoin recorded a lightly swinging "Flying Home" as part of New Guitar Summit; the traditional country of Ian Tyson's "Cottonwood Canyon" and Tim Hus' "Wild Rose Waltz," and the Eric Bibb led gospel "Needed Time."
The second disc brings "Blues, R&B, Gospel, Swing, Jazz and even more," with performances by the likes of Kenny 'Blues Boss' Wayne, Joe Louis Walker, Rosco Gordon, Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters, Maria Muldaur with Taj Mahal, MonkeyJunk, Jay McShann, Jeff Healey, Billy Boy Arnold, Ruthie Foster, Sonny Rhodes and King Biscuit Boy. There is a rollicking "Bankrupted Baby" by the Blues Boss from his most recent recording; Joe Louis Walker's revival of a swamp rockabilly number "Eyes Like a Cat"; late Rosco Gordon and Jay McShann (both from Duke Robillard produced sessions I believe); Ronnie Earl's revival of Otis Rush's "It Takes Time" with vocalist Michael Leadbitter from his latest album; Muldaur & Taj doing an impassioned take of Blind Willie Johnson's "Soul of the Man"; Jeff Healey's amusing swing era jive of "Hong Kong Blues"; a terrific Billy Boy Arnold Chicago blues; Ruthie Foster's excellent Memphis Minnie interpretation from Stony Plain's Memphis Minnie tribute album; and the late King Biscuit Boy's Louis Jordan cover. There are also acoustic blues interpretations from Rory Block and Big Dave McLean on this.
The third disc contains "Rarities and Previously Unreleased Material" starting with a couple of Duke Robillard numbers including a Smiley Lewis cover; two tracks from Eric Bibb including a hauntingly beautiful "Wayfaring Stranger"; live performances by Maria Muldaur of songs from Memphis Minnie and Reverend Gary Davis; a lively acoustic guitar instrumental blues by David Wilcox; Colin Linden and Doc MacLean backing the legendary Sam Chatmon on two songs from the long defunct Flying Fish catalog; two Bob Carpenter's two folk numbers and a closing instrumental by Shakey 'Walter' Horton backed by Hot Cottage. The inclusion of these rare selections enhance the already considerable value of compilations such as this one.
I received my review copy from a publicist. This review appeared in the July-August Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 367).