Well Tempered String Band,
Book Two
(Lutra, 2004)

Mutability and the inevitability of change is the theme that holds together the wonderful songs on this 20-song CD by Pete Peterson, Eileen Kozloff and Kellie Allen, a group collectively known as the Well Tempered String Band. All the songs are treasures and anyone who loves Appalachian folk songs with accompanying banjos, mandolin, guitar and autoharp will definitely love this album.

The very witty "Good Enough for Now," authored by Weird Al Yankovic, is the only really contemporary song on the album. Sung by Peterson, this is a sweet little ditty that could be about triumphantly living in the present and accepting things as they are or non-commitment and mediocrity. Either way it's playful and fun.

Love songs, songs of departure and death, and religious songs are the staple of folk, and this collection gives the listener a well-rounded collection. The love songs are pensive with uneasy narrators who are wise enough to have known all along that love and life would change. From the bluesy "Long-Lost Lover" to "No Need to Say Goodbye" and "Are You Tired of Me, My Darling," love and dissatisfaction are explored but the songs never become maudlin. "Always Wrong from the Start" is lively but done in the tradition of the great "he done me wrong and I knew it" songs. Just as wise is the slower and sadder "Broken Moon," which has a country-and-western feel, and both "You'll Get No More of Me" and "You're Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone," the first song on the CD, are triumphant and bittersweet, while "My Baby's Gone" is gently plaintive.

The album also has some pretty catchy southern and Appalachian gospel tunes. From the conversion revival meeting song "Something Got a Hold of Me" to the apocalyptical "This World Can't Stand Long" with its prophetic meditation on a world that is "too full of hate," and the triumphant "Ain't No Grave" with its joyous hope of a resurrection, the songs show the importance of religion in folksongs. "Good Night, the Lord is Coming" is a wonderful a cappella call song that relates events surrounding the death of Jesus. But the sadness and reality of death are also shown in the sweetly sad "Your Long Journey," which could be said at the funeral of a life-long spouse, and "Away Out on the Old St. Sabbeth," which is a version of the old cowboy song "Bury Me Not on the Lonesome Prairie."

The only instrumental, "Fiddle Medley," didn't impress me but perhaps it'll grow on me as this CD became an immediate favorite on my first listening. My favorite song on the album is "Our Town," which is the nearest thing to a protest song about changes brought to a small town. Highly Recommended.

- Rambles
written by Carole McDonnell
published 12 March 2005

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