various artists,
Rasputin's Folk Cafe
Song Along 1999:
Quick & Dirty Does It

(Rasputin's Folk Cafe, 1999)

Rasputin's Folk Cafe Song Along 1999: Quick & Dirty Does It has an unadorned, no frills look and sound, down to the white on black packaging. It's a compilation from an annual event held at Rasputin's Folk Cafe in Ottawa, Ontario, featuring 27 songwriters who performed 54 songs over two days. The event was recorded and 15 tracks were selected for release on a CD.

According to the Rasputin's Cafe website and the liner notes, the musicians are both professional and amateurs and range widely in age. The catch is that they are each performing their own original compositions, not covering another artist, an element which adds to the mix.

The 15 tracks on Quick & Dirty Does It bear all the hallmarks of a live coffeehouse environment; voices occasionally bobble, guitar strings squeak, chords are missed, but the unpolished rough and ready sound enhances the selections, requiring the listener to pay close attention. The CD offers a rare opportunity to listen to performers with unique and appealing styles.

All of the performers are competent, and I'd love to hear more from them. There are stand-out tracks which appeal to me more than others, which is only to be expected from such a diverse collection. Wendy de Mos's husky vibrant voice caresses the notes of her poignant "The Great Divide," while Guy Major's "Garden of My Dreams" is reminiscent of Jackson Browne. His guitar accompaniment provides a rippling harmony. Beth Ferguson's "One More Try" is bittersweet with a hopeful edge, and Bev Black goes "Sweet" on the listener with a sassy jazzy delivery.

Bill Connelly's "Saturday Waltz" portrays a couple whose love has endured and who waltz together in their kitchen every Saturday. The imagery in this song is vivid, with the cat on the fridge and the dog on the floor, but Fred and Ginger never had it this good. It's followed by Dave Miller's mournful and well-polished "The Watchman," which features Miller's rich warm voice.

"The Rovin' Man" by Millicent Toombs lightens the mood with a song about Teddy, who can't find the perfect place in Canada in which to reside -- hence he is "a rovin' man" who won't find his paradise until his dying day -- if then. Tony Turner's "Shovelin' Coal" is an exuberant piece of storytelling through song, and David Keeble's title track "Quick and Dirty Does It" provides a lively finish to the album.

Although I've only touched on just over half of the performers, I think I'd happily listen to an entire CD or a full performance by any of them. My one regret is that Lancaster, Pa., is a long way away from Ottawa, and I'm not likely to visit Rasputin's Folk Cafe in person any time soon. Until then, Quick & Dirty Does It does it for me.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]