Phil Rosenthal,
This Land Is Your Land:
Favorite American Folk Songs

(American Melody, 1999)

The 18 songs gathered here by "Connecticut State Troubadour" Phil Rosenthal do represent some very familiar family favorites, but this CD is hardly run of the mill. Rosenthal presents a refreshingly eclectic collection of folk songs, and if some are new to your family's ears now, they'll soon become favorites.

I was delighted to hear the first track, "The E-ri-e Canal." This is not the grade-school standard concerning a mule named Sal, a low bridge and always knowing your neighbor and your pal. Rather, it is the thrilling saga of how "The E-ri-e was a-risin'/And the gin was a-gittin' low" when a canal boat is caught in a terrible storm. It's all tongue-in-cheek -- canal boats were unlikely to meet up with the disasters described -- and it's a song my father taught me. (He also taught me "Hallelujah, I'm a Bum" -- but I digress.) It's not the first song I'd think of for the average family, but I'm glad it's included.

The appealing mix also includes "On Top of Old Smoky," "This Land is Your Land" and "Home on the Range," as well as "Shady Grove," "Liberty," "Worried Man Blues" and 11 others. The arrangements are straightforward and simple, conducive to learning the songs and singing along. But simple does not necessarily mean "dull" as Rosenthal's arrangements are pleasant and rich with a variety of instruments. In addition to vocals, Rosenthal plays guitar, banjo, mandolin, mandola and bass, and he is supported by an able group of musicians performing background vocals, harmony vocals, percussion, dobro, fiddle and more. The liner notes include some information on the songs and tunes.

This Land is Your Land is a perfect pick for folks who want to share and pass on folk traditions to the generations beyond theirs.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]
Rambles: 7 September 2002

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