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Letters 07-25-2016

Remember Bush-Cheney Does anyone remember George W. Bush and Dick Cheney? They were president and vice president a mere eight years ago. Does anyone out there remember the way things were at the end of their duo? It was terrible...

Mass Shootings And Gun Control The largest mass shooting in U.S. history occurred December 29,1890, when 297 Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee in South Dakota were murdered by federal agents and members of the 7th Cavalry who had come to confiscate their firearms “for their own safety and protection.” The slaughter began after the majority of the Sioux had peacefully turned in their firearms...

Families Need Representation When one party dominates the Michigan administration and legislature, half of Michigan families are not represented on the important issues that face our state. When a policy affects the non-voting K-12 students, they too are left out, especially when it comes to graduation requirements...

Raise The Minimum Wage I wanted to offer a different perspective on the issue of raising the minimum wage. The argument that raising the minimum wage will result in job loss is a bogus scare tactic. The need for labor will not change, just the cost of it, which will be passed on to the consumer, as it always has...

Make Cherryland Respect Renewable Cherryland Electric is about to change their net metering policy. In a nutshell, they want to buy the electricity from those of us who produce clean renewable electric at a rate far below the rate they buy electricity from other sources. They believe very few people have an interest in renewable energy...

Settled Science Climate change science is based on the accumulated evidence gained from studying the greenhouse effect for 200 years. The greenhouse effect keeps our planet 50 degrees warmer due to heat-trapping gases in our atmosphere. Basic principles of physics and chemistry dictate that Earth will warm as concentrations of greenhouse gases increase...

Home · Articles · News · Music · CD Roundup
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CD Roundup

Robert Downes - March 31st, 2008
Musicians throughout Northern Michigan put a measure of heart & soul into their CDs, which tend to be locally recorded and sold from the bandstand at their shows. Here’s the latest from songwriters and singers around the region.

A Little Slice • Jenny Thomas

Perhaps the greatest challenge for any musician is to craft a song that will live on in the listener’s memory. How many times have you gone to a concert and come away unable to recall any memorable songs or what the singer had to say?
That’s not the case for singer/songwriter Jenny Thomas, who has a gift for writing acoustic songs that take root and blossom in the listener’s heart. She wins you over with vivid images, optimistic melodies and a percolating, upbeat tempo. As a singer, there’s a shot of honey in the timbre of her voice -- a gift which draws the listener in, making you feel like a close friend. Her live performances are also noteworthy for their inviting, even delivery and assured stage presence. As one fan says, “Everybody likes Jenny Thomas.”
Examples of her best work are on this six-song EP, particularly “Oh My Soul,” a bouncy melody that captures the spirit of Northern Michigan with a driving rhythm and zinger lines such as “Take me for a ride on the back of a whitetail deer.” Another standout is “Betsy Brown,” about a pillar of the community who seems to have it made, but is in fact fatally unhappy. Its shocker ending puts one in mind of classic ballads such as Simon and Garfunkel’s “Richard Corey” or Dylan’s “John Brown.”
A graphic designer from Traverse City, Thomas’s themes embrace a love of family and friends. On this CD, which is available at Horizon Books and Border’s, she gets an assist from Will Thomas on drums, Crispin Campbell on cello, and the recording talents of Patrick Niemisto. “A Little Slice” is a great representation of her live show -- increasingly, she is in demand as the opening act for folk stars passing through venues such as the InsideOut Gallery.

Blues, Ballads and All That Jazz • Kerry Secrist and Jan Fisher

It’s obvious that Kerry Secrist and Jan Fisher are having the time of their lives belting out jazz and blues classics, some of which have slipped over the horizon of the popular consciousness, yet still hold up as timeless standards.
The duo are fronted by the Back Room Gang, including Hal Fisher on tuba, Don Frost on drums, Jim Acker on trombone, Jim Niessink on banjo and Steve Stargardt on piano. The album was recorded and produced by David Chown, who also performs on piano.
The 19 songs on the CD offer a stroll down memory lane to places like the “Beale Street Blues,” the “St. Louis Blues,” “Georgia On My Mind” and “Always” a touch of “All That Jazz,” with Jan and Kerry nailing the oldies but goodies with spirit and style.

Land of the Free • Victor McManemy

Perhaps Northern Michigan’s greatest ‘undiscovered’ folk player, Victor McManemy had a voice in the same neighborhood as that of Gordon Lightfoot, with songwriting talents to match when he released “Land of the Free” in 1983.
McManemy, a resident of Old Mission Peninsula, also had an attitude firmly on the side of the underdog, writing in the lost tradition of the angry, aggrieved balladeer on behalf of the dispossessed, with the injustice to Native Americans being a favorite theme. The album also took a bare-knuckles stand on issues of the day, such as the Big Rock nuclear power plant near Charlevoix (“Big Rock Point’s On the Line”) and atomic weapons (“Let’s Stop the Tridents!”).
If you haven’t heard the cassette tape of “Land of the Free” in a few years, the re-released CD offers a revelation on the superb musicianship found on the album’s nine songs, with McManemy performing on six-and-12 string guitars, Tom Dufelmeier on six-string acoustic lead guitar, Jerry Sprague on bass, and exquisite harmonies from Linda Dufelmeier.
Back in the early days of Northern Express, we used to play “Land of the Free” at rocket-liftoff volume while laying out the paper, finding inspiration in its powerful songs. It’s simply a knockout of an album and a master’s class in the power of folk.

The Fifth Street Sessions • Jim Bransky & Andy Rockwood

A truly unusual album in that “The Fifth Street Sessions” is an all-instrumental take on 12 traditional and jazz standard tunes, expertly played by a top-notch roster of local acoustic musicians.
Jim Bransky, who performs on diatonic harmonicas and penny whistle, says the disc had its genesis with the Road Kill Stew days of the late 1980s when the band got together to jam. Andy Rockwood on fiddle and acoustic bass was onboard with Bransky from those days, and the two have rounded out their sound with Mike Sullivan on guitar, Mike Parish on congas, Pat Ivory on guitar, Laura Miller on acoustic bass and Rick Jones on percussion.
Initially, the listener might wonder why the group didn’t think to add vocals to their CD -- one can easily imagine a skillful chanteuse rounding out the music. But subsequent playings reveal that the music holds up quite well on its own. This is meditative, thoughtful music, underscoring the power of acoustic instrumentals.
 
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