various artists,
Treasures Left Behind:
Remembering Kate Wolf

(Red House Records, 1998)

Produced by longtime friend and sometimes band mate Nina Gerber, this is a tribute album to honor Kate Wolf, a singer/songwriter who died of leukemia at age 44 in 1986, but whose subtle magnetism remains a force in the lives of many fans and performers. As Gerber so eloquently states in the liner notes, "I've never felt comfortable trying to verbalize just how important Kate was in my life. Words couldn't begin to explain my feelings for Kate and her music. So, I hope that this album will convey the love and respect in my heart for Kate, for all she has given me."

Some of the performers on this release were friends of Wolf, others were acquaintances, still others knew her only through her music. The admiration of Wolf by all who had a hand in making this CD, shines through mightily here.

Opening with Kathy Mattea's "Give Yourself to Love," this take does justice to Wolf's version although Mattea's voice is much deeper than Wolf's. Dave Alvin adds a soulful, expressionistic touch next on "These Times We're Living In," and lends a nice overlay to the emotional core of the song.

In "Sweet Love," the soothing voice of John Gorka, combined with Jami Sieber on the cello and Jim Rothermal on the soprano sax, open up the composition and draw in the listener to the message being proffered.

One of the highlights of this album is Lucinda Williams' version of "Here In California." A superb choice for performing this selection, the sensual weariness of her voice, wrapped around the words, accentuates the admonition offered in the tune.

Utah Phillips, generally a boisterous, larger-than-life performer, adds another highlight with his low-key recounting of "See Here, She Said." It's not too often Phillips employs sublety -- here he does with excellent results.

"Cornflower Blue" performed by Eric Bogle and aided by Jami Sieber on cello, has the love and caring Bogle felt for Wolf seeping through his performance. The album fittingly ends with Terri Garthwaite's earthy rendition of "Thinking of You," a remembrance of experiences shared and missed.

Oftentimes, tribute albums can meander all over the map. This one, however, coalesces into an insightful, heart-warming collection of love, appreciation, admiration, passion and sense of loss for one who departed way to soon but left many wonderful gifts to remember her by.

This CD, although containing just a portion of Wolf's collection of songs, also demonstrates the brilliance of Wolf's songwriting. She was a superb songwriter, able to capture and put into words and music so many of the thoughts, feelings and experiences of the human spectrum.

This would be a nice addition for those long-time fans who could use another dose of Wolf's brilliance. For those unfamiliar with her, this would be a good opener from which to explore further.

[ by Kevin McCarthy ]

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