Latest free CDs available to review writers—this could be you! Contact the Club to get your very own copy, and see below for where to send the review when you’re done.

  1. Special Consensus, 35. “Special Consensus is a superb bluegrass outfit in a classic vein… The vocals are spotless, the playing as shiny as a newly minted penny, and music like this is the reason people come to love bluegrass.” (Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange) 35th anniversary album, featuring half new and half re-released tracks. Samples at


Gordon Bok, Other Eyes
CD info and samples: or

Other Eyes is the latest offering from Gordon Bok. It is a concept album, which asks us to “learn to hear with other ears, look through other eyes,” presenting songs from the points of view of seals, birds, various fish, even a boat on the ocean. The CD is packaged beautifully, featuring a seascape by Kat Logan, who sings and plays keyboard on the album.

The arrangements are varied: a spoken word women’s chorus recites “Captive Water,” “The Seals” takes a choral treatment. Bok himself plays 12-string guitar, Spanish guitar and viola da gamba, and the 12-string “Bell” guitar. He sings duets with Carol Rohl on “The Maiden Hind,” a ballad-like composition made from traditional Danish words and with Kat Logan, a poem by Sherry MacMahon that he put to music.

Bok revisits two old songs on this CD, singing “The Brandy Tree” from 1967 and recording “Herring Croon—The Last Verse,” which refers to his 1965 composition.

Folk Club stalwarts will want to know that this CD includes two songs [see sheet music on the Song Page] by long-time Club member Valentine Doyle, “The Shepherd’s Call” and “Sarabande’s Story.” Unfortunately, Bok wrote his own tune to “The Shepherd’s Call” and swamped it with a percussive 12-string accompaniment, so we don’t get to hear the song as Doyle has written it. Her words are well worth a listen. “Sarabande’s Story,” to my mind the most singable song on the album, fares better, with a changing word chorus, always beginning “And oh, the ocean is wide.”

If you “would pay to hear Gordon Bok read the phone book,” as an old Club member once said, you might like this album, as you might if you are fond of his guitar style, or if you are trawling for sea songs to add to your repertoire (lyrics are available on the timberhead website). As for me, lacking the right ears for this album, I may just tack the cover painting to the wall and be done with it.

—Sharyn Dimmick

Stephanie Bettman and Luke Halpin, It All Comes Back to Love.
CD info and samples:

Stephanie was trained as a classical violinist, and has done quite a job mastering the folk fiddle. She has a voice with a smooth extended range, which blends very well with Luke Halpin’s mellow voice. On the road they’ve done everything from house concerts to festivals. Tenacity runs in her family.

In their set they do a song from Stephanie’s first album “Get Close to Me”. The song “The Letting Go” comes from the answer an old man gave to the question of how he’d managed his life.

Stephanie composed most of the songs on this second album. The song “Fiddler’s Bend” came from staying as guests in a house on stilts in the flood plain of a nearby river. Luke, who plays fiddle, guitar, and mandolin, wrote an instrumental that was without a title, until he saw the exit sign for “Buttonwillow” on the highway near Bakersfield. Problem solved.

“I Just Wanna Love You” is very pop-like and manages to combine love, hope, and fear all in one lyric. “The Darker Side of Happy” is about suicide. Beautiful rather than morbid, it expresses feelings upon receiving the news that a friend has taken that exit.

The song I nominate for adoption at folk sings is “Stiff Upper Lip”. It’s simply fun.

—Roy Trumbull

Brian Peters, Songs of Trial and Triumph.
CD info and samples:

Ballads, so many ballads, offering some of the finest musical storytelling on this or any other side of a yarn session or ballad swap. Simply put, Brian Peters is one of the finest ballad interpreters in today’s British folk music scene.

On this, his latest recording, Peters centers in on the corpus of ballads from the 305 compiled by Harvard professor Francis J. Child, also known as the Child Ballads, found in the comprehensive collections of the English and Scottish Popular Ballads (collected in the last two decades of the 19th century in Britain).

All 14 selections on this remarkable CD come from the Child collection, and their modes, images, and themes range the musical landscape: from concise to epic, from comic to tragic, from whimsical to darkly sinister, from the ordinary to the realm of the supernatural. From a cappella versions of “The Demon Lover” and “Georgie” to a full band rendering of “The Three Ravens,” the musical narratives are memorable to say the least. If there is honor, heroism and loyalty in these ballads, there is an equal amount of duplicity, jealousy, revenge, incest, and mutilation; with lots of accompanying blood and gore to satisfy anyone of that persuasion.

Some deserve special attention. In “Six Nights Drunk,” a variant of “Our Goodman,” in which what one sees is not what one may believe, Peters’ clever rewriting gives an up-to-date treatment to the classic tale of the hoodwinked husband. In “Sir Aldingar,” a very rare ballad and a grand epic narrative, an enigmatic and miniscule champion saves the life and honor of a wronged queen and brings the nasty villain to his knees (in more ways than one). Another rare ballad is “False Foudrage,” a tale of regicidal murder and a son’s revenge upon his father’s killer in ghastly bloody ballad manner. Other excellent cuts include “The Golden Vanity,” “The Farmer’s Cursed Wife,” and “Banks Of Green Willow.” A booklet lists Peters’ sources for each ballad.

Peters is more than ably assisted by Margaret Peters, Nancy Kerr, Gordon Tyrrall and Lorraine Baker on acoustic and electric guitar, fiddle, viola, banjo, melodeon, Anglo concertina, synthesized percussion, and bass. Ballad lovers and devotees will find this recording an absolute must to add to their musical libraries.

—Robert Rodriquez