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Catch a Fire (11/02/2001) Write to CD Shakedown
Randy CrawfordRandy Crawford, Permanent (Warner Bros. 2001) - Vocalist Randy Crawford, with a career stretching back more than 25 years, puts forth a tasty serving on Permanent. The album's 13 tracks highlight the singer's jazzy and soulful side.

Born in Macon, Georgia, and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, Randy first sang in the choir loft of her neighborhood church. By the time she reached 21, she had already shared the stage and studio with such jazz legends as Quincy Jones, Cannonball Adderley, and George Benson.

Randy CrawfordCrawford released her debut album in 1976, and scored a hit with the Crusaders on "One Day I'll Fly Away" (1980). Randy has also contributed vocals to numerous soundtracks, including Lethal Weapon 2 and Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown.

Permanent was produced by Pete Smith and recorded in London, with Peter Gordeno on keyboards, Phil Spalding on bass, Steve McNichol on drums, and Graham Kearns and Gus Isador on guitars.

Randy CrawfordIf this were an LP, I'd tell you to skip side one and jump to the second side, which opens with "Fire and Rain" and "When I Get Over You," both tracks that work in the vein of Sade's world jazz sound. Also included is a successful cover of the Burt Bacharach/Hal David song, "Alfie."

The highlight of the album is the poppy "All I Do," with strings 'n things, followed by the power ballad, "Tell It to Your Heart."

Randy Crawford is a real talent, waiting for jazz/pop fans.

Fred EaglesmithFred Eaglesmith, Live: Ralph's Last Show (Signature Sounds 2001) - This is a hard one for me, as I think highly of hardscrabble Canadian singer Fred Eaglesmith and his delightfully twisted songs.

But Ralph's Last Show, a double disk set that was recorded live in Santa Cruz, California, is a disappointment.

Fred EaglesmithYes, the songs are here - "Freight Train," "My Big Car," and "Crashin' & Burnin'." And the band holds its own - Fred on acoustic guitar and vocals, Ralph Schipper on bass, Willie T. Bennett on mandolin and harmonica, and Washboard Hank on percussion.

But the vocals are too ragged: Eaglesmith sings full tilt throughout Ralph's Last Show, which eliminates all subtly in the songs.

Much as I like Fred Eaglesmith, Ralph's Last Show ranks as a disappointment.

Bob MarleyBob Marley and the Wailers, Catch a Fire (Island 1973/2001) - The incomparable Bob Marley is being treated to an ambitious reissue series on Island Records. While you wait for later albums like Kaya and Uprising, start with the classic Catch a Fire.

The band included Marley on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, Peter McIntosh on keyboards and guitar, Bunny Livingston on congas, bongos, and vocals, Aston (Family Man) Barrett on bass, and Carlton (Carly) Barrett on drums.

Bob Marley With great tracks like "Concrete Jungle," "Slave Driver," and "400 Miles," Marley had a unique style that made him one of the most recognized reggae masters in the world. Also included are two bonus tracks: "High Tide or Low Tide," and "All Day, All Night."

Fans of Bob Marley will be delighted by Catch a Fire.

Soundtrack to Songcatcher (Vanguard Records 2001) - Songcatcher is a new independent film by Maggie Greenwald.

SongcatcherAlthough Songcatcher never played in Fresno, it's described as a turn-of-the-century journey into Appalachian music, as Lily Penleric (played by Academy Award-nominee Janet McTeer, who also appeared in Tumbleweeds) is passed over for a promotion at a university and responds by dragging a primitive recording device into the Appalachian Mountains to record music never heard before. While there, Lily becomes privy to the mountain people's struggles and falls in love with the rough local musician, Tom Bledsoe (played by Aidin Quinn).

SoncatcherI didn't see the movie, and have no comments about it. But the soundtrack, featuring all female voices on traditional hillbilly and blue grass songs, is an organic offering. Appearing on the soundtrack are such notables as Dolly Parton, Allison Moorer, Gillian Welch, Julie Miller, Sarah Evans, Marie McKee, Iris DeMent, Patty Loveless, Emmylou Harris, and Hazel Dickens.

Now that's an all-star cast. Listen for the great traditional sound of Dolly Parton and Emmy Rossum on "When Love is New," the impeccable Emmylou Harris on the traditional "Barbara Allen," and the soaring voice of Maria McKee on "Wafarin' Stranger."

Iris DementSongcatcher was shot almost entirely on location in Madison County, North Carolina, one of the contemporary homes of traditional Appalachian culture. Comments Ellen Ragis Venetis, the film's producer, "Being on location in the mountains, you realize just how reliant we have become on modern technology. There are wild contrasts. You have people playing banjos on porches of cabins that have satellite dishes and the Internet."

SoncatcherThe hillbilly music of the Appalachians, which was first popularized in the 1920's through such acts as Uncle Dave Macon and the Fruit Jar Drinkers, has a decidedly melancholic streak, derived from its Scotch and Irish roots. So don't come looking for a bunch of uptempo, toe-tapping tunes.

Yet the music remains powerful and enduring. Explains composer David Mansfield, "The sounds of Appalachia are basically Scots-Irish ballads and English folk songs that have changed very little from generation to generation."

SongcatcherAdds director Maggie Greenwold, "I would sing something to people from the region and hear things like, 'That's not the way I sing it, that's how my great aunt used to sing it.' These are the descendants of the long musical legacy, and their music is just as exciting today."

For a genuine sampling of blue grass and hillbilly, performed by lovely voices and not gussied up by new recording technology, try Songcatcher.

- Randy Krbechek © 2001

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