various artists,
Raise the Roof: Live
from the Barns at Wolf Trap

(independent, 2005)

Our good friends at the Wolf Trap National Center for the Performing Arts in Virginia have put together for our edification this collection of performances staged at their Barns complex. This self-produced disc is offered by Wolf Trap, with the expectation that sales will help raise funds for the ongoing preservation and enhancement of the facilities there; a portion of the purchase price is bent towards that effort. As a general observation, the production values on the audio are exceptionally clean for live performances. The insert is adequate but not much beyond that.

Turning our attention to the music, the opener is the hard-charging, harp-driven "Rock This House," offered without apology by the Nighthawks. It is just the tune to hit the ground running, and sets the table nicely for "Peephole," an urban R&B boogie delivered via strong vocals by the Deanna Bogart Band. A John McCutcheon performance from 1991 finds John in top form on "Yesterday's Fools," and that is followed in turn by Nils Lofgren's acoustic rumination "Some Must Dream," one of the strongers numbers on the disc.

The sax-driven samba, "Para Donde Vas," by the Iguanas is next, and it in turn gives way to the finger-poppin' boogaloo of the Grandsons' "Don't Let Go." Two strong tunes follow: "Lefty's Boys," by Speidel, Goodrich, Goggin & Lille, and a vintage bit of Tom Paxton, "Did You Hear John Hurt." His harmonizing vocalists, Cathy Finkl and Marcy Marker, take their own turn in the anthemic "Daughters of Feminists," and the ramblin' blues tune "Winsome Smile," by Chris Smither, follows.

The closing four songs are a strong set. Roomful of Blues gets things started with "Two Bones & a Pick," a fast stroll boogie that gives way to the fast two-step "Perky Dance 2," presented with fire by the zydeco masters Beausoleil. A tight harmonica/vocal duel opens the exceptional blues hymn "Some Cold & Rainy Day," offered by the Uppity Blues Women, and the barns are absolutely burned to the ground by the over-the-top soul-shouting a cappella pyrotechnics found throughout Eddie From Ohio's scorching presentation of the timeless "Great Day." Great day, indeed! It's a marvelous end to a marvelous disc, one that will do what the best compilation discs make one do: scurry forth and unearth fresh treasures from the newly discovered artists within this virtual concert.

by Gilbert Head
17 June 2006

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