Latest free CDs available to review writers—this could be you! Contact Beth Berkelhammer if interested.

Note: For this issue we’ve received two new recordings and an illustrated book up for review, all from longtime members and dear friends of our Folk Club community. I won’t be greedy and try to review all three myself in future issues, but I offer here mini-reviews of my impressions.

  1. FRED CARLSON, A Luthier’s Alphabet. Guild of American Luthiers. Luthier, songwriter, and artist Fred Carlson sends this delightful and whimsical alphabet book in verse. The book is illustrated with Fred’s woodcuts of imaginary musical instruments ranging from Autoharp (and no, this is not Adam Miller’s autoharp!) to Zukulele. “O is for Opossimer, found down in Appalachia/With a sound so sweet and quiet/ You can play it late at nigh-et/And your neighbors will not hate ya.”
  2. LARRY HANKS & DEBORAH ROBINS, Old Days, Zippety Whippet Music. This brand-new CD from one of our very favorite musical duos offers 20 lovely old American songs that make the most of Larry’s one-of-a-kind bass voice and Deborah’s close twining harmonies, in spare arrangements using their two guitars and occasional Jew’s harp. Plus some terrific yodeling! Many of the songs are from the 19th and early 20th centuries and include “Don’t Leave the Farm,” “Boll Weevil Holler” (one of my favorites here, wonderful singing by Deborah), “Idaho,” “Rooster on a Limb,” “Katy Cruel,” and the quietly heartbreaking “Tenting Tonight,” plus Larry’s own “Apple Picker’s Reel.” This is earthy, warm, haunting, honest, quintessential American music. Produced by Steven Strauss.
  3. SYLVIA HEROLD AND THE RHYTHM BUGS, The Spider and the Fly. A new CD from the extraordinary Sylvia Herold. The talent that went into this recording (produced by Sylvia) is staggering: Jennifer Scott, Ed Johnson, Cary Black, Jason Lewis, Christian Tambour, Charlie Hancock, John Worley, Evan Price, and more. (Flugelhorn and vibraphone—what a treat!) “All the Cats Join In,” “San Fernando Valley,” “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes” (which knocked my socks off), “Happy Feet,” and “Come to Baby, Do” are some of the 14 songs, mostly of 1930s and ’40s vintage, featuring stunning solo and close harmony singing, sophisticated and swinging arrangements, and top-notch playing all around.


ADAM MILLER, Buttercup Joe: Timeless Ballads and Folksongs, 2011

Buttercup Joe is the latest offering from noted storyteller, folksinger, and autoharpist Adam Miller. Adam’s deep voice, with sometimes the hint of a broad country accent and an occasional growl, is a perfect match for these mostly old story-songs. Adam accompanies himself on autoharp and guitar, and other instruments enhance the sound. Unlike his previous recording, Bare Fingers, most of these songs will likely be unfamiliar to you. (Two you will recognize are “The Winding Stream” and “Brother Can You Spare a Dime.”)

Adam weaves a history book with song as he explores tales from a seventeenth-century copper mine, an abolitionist tune, a teamster’s lament at the coming of the railroads, the development of the seaplane, a World War II parody, and a protest song about the atom bomb. Woody Guthrie fans will be interested to learn about the final disposition of Woody’s ashes. Extensive footnotes provide information about the origins of each song.

Included are some songs that bring to mind the natural beauty of the land. My favorite recalls our agricultural past, when families buried their dead in an honored corner of their hard-won land. Adam’s a capella version of Kate Wolf’s “The Lilac and the Apple” evokes the loneliness of an abandoned farm. The last song, like so many ballads, is one of many verses, telling of the treacherous journey west by wagon train, including Indian raids and a love story. The day has been long and hard, and night has fallen. Just keep putting wood on the campfire while this story rolls on.

Buttercup Joe is available directly from Adam Miller, P.O. Box 951, Drain, OR 97435, and from his Web site.

—Sally Schneider

Laurie Story Vela, 2011

If you have ever seen Laurie Story at Camp Harmony or one of the Free Folk Festivals, the mere mention of her name will conjure up a colorful vision of Laurie with children following her like the proverbial Pied Piper. Well, listening to In Our Hands will bring that image to life. It epitomizes the work Laurie does in schools, where she teaches kids that not only can they sing, they can write songs, too.

There are 12 songs on the CD, all written by Laurie between 1997 and 2009, some with help from her son Jeremiah and other children with whom she has worked. The one exception is Pete Seeger’s “Turn, Turn, Turn,” but even here, new lyrics have been supplied by Laurie. Vocals are by Laurie, Jeremiah, and three other children. Jeremiah is now 11, and some of the tracks were clearly recorded when he was considerably younger.

Laurie has produced close to 30 CDs, eight of which are currently available. In Our Hands is aimed at elementary school age children and families. It has been a real labor of love, taking more than three years to produce.

If you have children (or, more likely, grand-children), nieces, nephews, or friends in that age group, this CD would make a great gift. It’s available from, Napster, Rhapsody, iTunes, and Amazon, as well as from, where you will also find the lyrics to all the songs.

—Bev and Jerry Praver