FolkFire Reviews

January/February 1996 Issue
  • John Hiatt: Walk On on Capitol Records
  • Rhys Jones: "On the Shoulders of Giants"
  • Storytelling Treasure
  • Reviews Index
  • FolkFireHome

  • John Hiatt: Walk On on Capitol Records
    by Rich Simmons

    You may not recognize John Hiatt if you pass him on the street, but you’ve heard the songs A Little Thing Called Love by Bonnie Raitt, Angel Eyes by the Jeff Healey Band, and Have a Little Faith in Me by Delbert McLinton. By writing songs like these, John Hiatt has quietly built a reputation as one of the most respected songwriters to emerge in the last ten years.

    He has augmented these successes by releasing a series of critically acclaimed recordings; Bring the Family in 1987, Slow Turning in 1988, and Stolen Moments in 1990. Now comes Walk On to further that reputation.

    This collection of songs bears the Hiatt stamp of pathos and humor, and wears it proudly. The characters found in these songs are watchful and wary of an increasingly cruel world, yet unfailingly search for love and acceptance. Hiatt’s hero in Ethylene wonders about his lost love while sitting on the toilet. In Good as She Could Be, Hiatt tells us about a 14-year-old millionairess looking for love:
    She hit upon the drug of love
    Though there was no hole in her arm
    There was a hole someplace else
    About as big as Daddy’s 10,000 acre farm

    Yet, Hiatt can also be touching and insightful. The River Knows Your Name tells of the constants that remain in life even though time waits for no one. You Must Go gives us John’s take on the inevitable:
    You were born to blunder
    Born to wander, born to wonder
    Even when you’re six feet under
    There’s a place that you must go

    For this release, Hiatt has used a stripped-down mix of acoustic and electric instrumentation. The band features Hiatt on vocals and guitars, Davey Faragher on bass, David Immergluck on guitars, slide, mandolin, pedal and lap steel, and Michael Urbano on drums and percussion. Also, Bonnie Raitt and Benmont Tench lend their talents to several songs.

    The stylistic thrust of this release runs the gamut of Hiatt’s influences. Cry Love” and Dust Down a Country Road show why Hiatt is sought after in Nashville. His love of Al Green’s Memphis R&B is heard on Native Son and I Can’t Wait. Still, Hiatt can rock just a bit as he reveals on Wrote It Down and Burned It. In short, Hiatt refuses to be pigeon-holed; he just writes great songs.

    Hiatt’s friend and sometimes partner, Ry Cooder, may have said it best, "He’s the real thing, and I’ve met a few, but only a few." Experience John Hiatt’s music; you won’t be sorry.

    Rhys Jones: "On the Shoulders of Giants"
    by Andrew Limanni

    Get yourself ready for the greatest tape release of the year! The long-awaited recording of up-and-coming fiddle genius, Rhys Jones, has finally been released. Many of you know Rhys from all his connections to the contradance scene, both at the Kimmswick St. Louis dance weekends and at the Chicago and Bloomington, Indiana weekends. He has provided the most consistently brilliant, exciting, and generally kick-ass late-night fiddling of any performer at dance after dance, and has made quite a name for himself in the process. Many a dancer knows that when a band with Rhys takes the stage, the dancing will become fabulously hot. Great playing, great musicianship, good looks (it has been rumored that he will become the first FolkFire centerfold if we ever start that feature) and friendly personality have combined to make Rhys Jones the young Mick Jagger of the Midwest contradance music scene.

    At first notice, Rhys, at the Sugar Hill 1992 dance weekend, roused an unusually tired and bored dance floor at 2:00 am into cheers of screaming approval. When Rhys, Chirps Smith, and Jim Johnson took the stage, some of them never having played with each other before, the Midwest contradance scene would never be the same. It was an historic moment (which, thank God we captured on tape) and was Rhys’ coming out. The general reaction at the time was "Who is this kid?" He was 19. We booked him for the summer 1993 Kimmswick All Night Dance and had to think up a name for the band at the last minute (The Rhys Jones Project) and the crowd went wild. It’s been one success after another since then, and Rhys is becoming truly one of the greats.

    His tape (soon to be a CD also) captures much of this excitement. It’s 71 minutes of great fiddle tunes and waltzes and it’s called On the Shoulders of Giants, to acknowledge the debts that Rhys owes to the community that fostered him, his fellow musicians (Fred Campeau - fiddle and banjo, Steve Rosen - guitar and banjo, and Chirps Smith - mandolin, possibly the greatest musicians in Chicago) and his parents, Howard and Bonnie Jones, well known as dear friends and great supporters and pioneers of old-time dance and music in Chicago.

    Some of the best tunes are the most familiar ones we’ve all danced to. On the hard driving side, Rhys’ own "Elzic’s Farewell", "Chinkapin Hunting" (possibly the most amazing and exciting tune on the whole tape) "Forked Deer" (a perennial crowd favorite) and "Granny Will Your Dog Bite", especially come to mind. In a beautiful and haunting vein, "Big Cabin" and the final "Ookpik Waltz" are gorgeous tunes. The tape was flawlessly recorded by Flawn Williams and the photographs inside are by Paul Watkins, the well-known caller from Chicago. You will enjoy every cut on this tape. Go out and buy it now - you can get it at local stores (we suggest Backroads Music in Kirkwood) or order it for $10 from Rhys Jones, 6443 North Bosworth, Chicago, IL 60626, phone (312) 262-7120.

    But beware, it will make you drive fast and will set your feet to dancing!

    Storytelling Treasure
    by Elliott Ribner

    The folktale is at the pinnacle of traditional folk culture. Retold in every generation to enraptured audiences, the motifs are born from the creative center of a people’s life, and give image to its experience.

    In Lilith’s Cave-Jewish Tales of the Supernatural, Annette Harrison retells fairy tales collected and published by Howard Schwartz, who, in turn, gathered them from printed sources, both ancient and modern. These aren't didactic stories created by wise old rabbis with a moralistic point to make. These are genuine folktales gathered from Europe, Israel and Egypt, much like those of Grimm or Perrault.

    To prepare a taped program, a careful storyteller has to make several choices: what stories? in what order? and how to dramatize them and bring them to life? With Lilith’s Cave, Annette Harrison has mad a cascade of perfect choices. She has chosen five chilling tales from different times and places, joined by a thread of demonic terror. In The Bride of the Demons and innocent girl is captured by Lilith and Asmodeus, the King and Queen of Demons. In The Knife a man seeks the help of a witch to speak with his dead mother, but refuses to pay for the witch’s services. Perfectly scary. Perfectly satisfying. The Bridegroom Who Vanished is an Eastern European variation on the Rip Van Winkle tale, with a rather different ending than you might think. The Beast is an Egyptian story of a couple who are granted a child with the help of the prophet Elijah’s prayers, only to find that the child is to have an unusual fate. In The Underwater Palace a midwife travels to an unusual place to deliver an unusual child.

    Annette’s ability to project each story in a soft, measured tone is engaging, but not animated. Before you know it, you are swept away by the narration!

    Don't wait for Halloween to sample this tape. The ghosts and goblins will be right alongside you, listening in!

    Lilith’s Cave - Jewish Tales of the Supernatural, as told by Annette Harrison, from the book by Howard Schwartz, music by James Stone Goodman. This collection, produced entirely by local talent, is available from Annette Harrison, 6370 Pershing Ave., St. Louis, MO 63130.