various artists,
ParkinSong, Vol. 1:
38 Songs of Hope

(Ryko, 2004)

ParkinSong, Vol. 1: 38 Songs of Hope offers a superb collection of singer-songwriters in a two-CD set assembled by Rob Litowitz with an acute ear for musical quality. According to the website, this release was preceeded by two benefit concerts and the establishment of the ParkinSong Foundation, all created by Litowitz and his two sisters to raise money for Parkinson's research, inspired by their mother who was afflicted by the disease in 1991.

There are too many worthwhile artists contributing tracks to name just a few like Jonatha Brooke, Greg Brown, Crosby/Nash and Bonnie Raitt, so in order to do justice to this collection, we are pleased to provide a complete annotated track listing. If more than a few of these artists appeal to you, you won't go wrong purchasing this set with the knowledge that you are also supporting a good cause. Most tracks are previously released, with the exception of exclusive tracks by Steve Forbert, Last Train Home and Little Pink.

Disc One:

1. Terri Hendrix: "Charlie Brown." This is a classic example of the benefit of a great sampler. I've heard of but never heard Terri Hendrix; with a jangly mandolin and harmonica combined with a fresh appealing voice, this track (from her 2002 album, The Ring) sounds great and makes me want to hear more by this artist.
2. Greg Brown: "Vivid." A nice, slow acoustic tune by this perennial folk festival favorite, this song is from Brown's 1997 release, Slant 6 Mind.
3. Caitlin Cary: "Cello Girl." An uptempo tune with full instrumentation, sounding like a single from Ryan Adams' one time partner in Whiskeytown. Cary included this track on her 2003 solo album I'm Staying Out.
4. Chuck Prophet: "Old Friends." Great production, nice deep bass and a clear electric guitar sound characterize this track, which also features nice backing vocals by Stephanie Finch. Again the mark of a great sampler, this track from his 2002 release No Other Love makes me want to hear more.
5. Hot Club of Cowtown: "Forget-Me-Nots." Sweet-voiced western swing along the lines of Asleep at the Wheel, this track was included on their 2002 album Ghost Train.
6. Pete Sears: "Darien." Sears has a world-weary voice accompanied by good band and backing singers, giving this track a sort of timeless quality; this sounds like it could just as easily have come from the 1970s, '80s, '90s or now. In fact, it comes from Sears' 2001 release, Long Haul.
7. Neko Case: "I Wish I Was the Moon." A good sounding track with full instrumentation and nice accents on pedal steel or slide guitar, this is from the 2002 album, Blacklisted.
8. Jen Chapin: "Gold." An arresting performance characterized by spare production, just voice and double bass with taps like on an acoustic guitar body. Chapin's voice has a sweet yet edgy quality. This is the 2002 version from her duet recording with husband Stephen Crump, Open Wide. A different version also appears on Chapin's debut solo album, Linger, released in 2004. With her contribution of this track, she continues the tradition of her father Harry Chapin, who was as highly regarded for his charity work as he was for his music.
9. Stone Coyotes: "Lucky Day." I love the combination of a sweet female voice with rocking electric guitar as heard on music from artists like Juliana Hatfield and Garrison Starr. The Stone Coyotes have a similar quality, and this tune is simplistic but infectious. This comes from their 2000 release, Situation Out of Control.
10. Lucy Kaplansky: "Song for Molly." A song about a mother or grandmother growing old and dying ("it's time to go/it's a dirty trick this growing old"), it's taken from Every Single Day released in 2001.
11. David Crosby & Graham Nash: "Carry Me." The combination of these voices still sounds magical. This is the classic track from 1975's Wind on the Water.
12. Dave Alvin: "The Man in the Bed."Alvin's a deep-voiced folkie with a song about someone old, in bed, hands shaking, etc. A theme about aging, death, disease, hope and redemption is revealing itself in a nice low-key manner. This is from Ashgrove (2004).
13. Florence Dore: "Christmas." Great production and electric guitar work characterize this anti-Christmas song ("Christmas means nothin' to me") from Perfect City, (2002).
14. Alejandro Escovedo: "Castanets." This rocks like the fast version of the Beatles' "Revolution." This was originally on A Man Under the Influence, from 2001.
15. EastMountainSouth: "Mark's Song." Great voice, nice understated yet powerful production, heavy on theme. This is from EastMountainSouth's self-titled debut album released in 2003.
16. Ana Egge: "Wedding Dress." Previously unknown to me, voice and production sound good, this is from Egge's 2000 independent release, 101 Sundays.
17. Tom Freund: "27." Another new one on me, with good bass and production, and a somewhat raspy voice; originally from Freund's 1998 debut release, North American Long Weekend.
18. Catie Curtis: "Don't Lay Down." Although Dougie MacLean may have said it better on "Not Lie Down," this is well produced with a sax solo that cooks. This comes from My Shirt Looks Good on You (2001).
19. Sara Hickman: "It's Alright." The momentous message of hope outweighs the lack of anything musically momentous on this track from Hope: Mothers Helping Mothers (2000).

Disc Two:

1. Bonnie Raitt: "Fearless Love." Sounding as much like Sheryl Crow as Bonnie Raitt, this cowboy-like song comes from Raitt's 1998 CD Fundamental.
2. Eliza Gilkyson: "Beauty Way." Gilkyson is another folk festival favorite, offering strong vocals, good songwriting and excellent production. Matt Andes' cool electric guitar lead is reminiscent of David Lindley's work with Jackson Browne. You'll find this track on Hard Times in Babylon(2000).
3. Grey Eye Glances: "The One." I'm glad to see Grey Eye Glances included here, sounding great on this track from A Little Voodoo (2002).
4. Richard X. Heyman: "Let It Go." Another artist new to me, this popmeister invokes Buffalo Springfield, at least vocally. Quality performances and production are the common denominator of this collection, plus the theme is approached from many angles and on many levels. This comes from Heyman's 2002 independent release Basic Glee.
5. Last Train Home: "Flood." This is one of the few tracks on this collection that is previously unreleased. This is alt-country with more excellent production.
6. Amy Farris: "Let Go." Produced by fellow contributor Dave Alvin, Farris seems to be heavily dialed in to the Austin music scene, having sung and played with Alejandro Escovedo and Kelly Willis, both also represented here. Anyway (2004) is the original source of this tune.
7. Cindy Kalmenson: "Right or Wrong." Sounding a bit like Shawn Colvin, this track comes from her second independent release, Witness (2002).
8. Alice Peacock: "I'll Start With Me." Also sounding like Colvin, these lyrics that sounded annoyingly simplistic on her self-titled 2002 debut, kind of work here.
9. Michelle Malone: "Flagpole." Sounding intense and maybe a little angry, this comes from Malone's debut solo album Stompin' Ground (2003).
10. Kim Richey: "No Judges." Great tune from Richey's Rise album from 2002.
11. Steve Forbert: "It's a Shame, You Know." His voice hasn't changed since his 1978 debut, and as far as I can tell, this is the only place you can find this tune, a must for Forbert fans.
12. Amy Rigby: "All the Way to Heaven." A nice tune, but 31 tracks into this set, the theme is starting to seem depressing. This comes from Rigby's fourth album, Til the Wheels Fall Off (2003).
13. Jonatha Brooke: "Walking." An exellent choice from Brooke's Steady Pull album (2001).
14. Tom Russell: "Muhammad Ali." The fact that Ali suffers from Parkinson's is not enough reason to include this lame track, which only sounds better here than on Modern Art (2003) because we're not subjected to the rest of the second-rate songwriting contained on that record.
15. Dar Williams: "The One Who Knows." A little something for the Dar-heads from The Beauty of the Rain (2003).
16. Utah Carol: "Like You Used To." A previously unreleased tune from this Chicago-based duo featuring good vocals, sound and production.
17. Little Pink: "Miles from Nowhere." With a track exclusive to this collection, Little Pink hails from Arlington,Va., self-described as "heart-rent, heat-seeking, post-modern twang."
18. Kelly Willis: "Reason to Believe." An excellent, thematically redeeming offering from Willis' alt-country Easy (2002).
19. Lowen & Navarro: "That's What I Make Myself Believe." More great production complements the always pleasing mix of these two voices and their guitars on this set-ender that goes all the way back to their 1990 debut album Walking on a Wire.

- Rambles
written by William Kates
published 26 March 2005

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