FolkFireMay/June 1996 Issue Reviews

  • Catie Curtis - "Truth From Lies"
  • Gloria and Michael Bauermeister - "Into the Hands of Angels"
  • Cathy Barton, Dave Para, Bob Dyer - "Rebel in the Woods"
  • Red Mountain White Trash - "Fire in the Dumpster"
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  • Catie Curtis - "Truth From Lies"
    by Rich Simmons

    Perhaps the most immediate response one gets from Catie Curtis’ songs is the sheer honesty that shines through. In an age of increasing cynicism and hidden agendas, that in itself is a revelation. Coupling that fact with Catie’s unique voice and skill at crafting memorable melodies, Catie Curtis is an artist that deserves attention.

    Raised in rural southern Maine, Catie was surrounded by a family in love with music. Show tunes and standards from the 1920s were regular fixtures in her home. Catie’s mother, in particular, had an ear for arranging harmonies and influenced Catie’s developing songwriting attempts. By her college years at Brown University in Rhode Island, Catie had begun to play her original works in the coffee houses around that campus. With the encouragement and support gained from that experience, she decided to pursue music as a career.

    Catie settled in Boston in 1989 and split time between a day job as a social worker and building a reputation as a songwriter at night. Soon, she gained winning endorsements from the New England Folk Almanac and Performing Songwriter. In 1991, Catie produced her first recording, From Years to Hours. That collection earned her recognition beyond New England and lead to more touring. With the success of From Years to Hours and growing support as a performing musician, Catie left behind her day job and hasn’t looked back.

    Her newest collection of songs, Truth from Lies, marks her major label debut. Working with producer David Kershenbaum, known for his work with Tracy Chapman and Joshua Kadison, Catie has created a very palatable context in which to absorb her songs.

    The instrumentation is expanded to a full band on most cuts, but is subtle enough to allow the song to breathe and let the lyrics shine through. Good examples of the band’s synergy can be heard on Slave to My Belly and The Wolf. Duke Levine’s prodigious use of a volume pedal makes his electric guitar swell in and out of the mix, adding a subtle change in tonal color. Catie’s own guitar style is a solid mixture of finger-picking and a rhythmic strumming that is similar to Patty Larkin’s. Songs like Troubled Mind and Crocodile Tears show the strength of her playing and are most reminiscent of Catie’s live solo shows. Catie’s lyrics and melodies are what jumps out at you though. Her gentle way with words is evident in Troubled Mind:
    "And I’m tired from all the weight
    I’m tired of being strong
    So won’t you come and stay
    And let me lay down in your arms
    Down in your arms"

    Her deeply-felt love for her father is chronicled in My Dad’s Yard. The Wolf is perhaps the most powerful song in this collection. Written with her friend, Jennifer Robohm, this song about spousal abuse is chilling:
    "Cause when the wolf lives in your house
    You can’t get him out"

    Catie’s most radio-ready song is Radical. This song about an alternative love affair has already gotten airplay from public and acoustic-oriented radio. Its message of tolerance and understanding should go a long way towards opening up a new audience for her.Catie Curtis is one to watch. As her friend, Patty Larkin, says, "Catie’s songs ring true enough in feeling and form to be called brand new standards."

    Gloria and Michael Bauermeister - "Into the Hands of Angels"
    by Judy Papian

    "New Folk?" "Original Traditional?" "Flood plain ballads?" I admit when I sat down to review Into The Hands Of Angels I was stumped about how to categorize this collection of fine original songs. This talented young couple from the heart of Missouri river and hill country writes songs rooted in their daily lives, and close to home for all of us. With wit and charm, tenderness and humor, they share, first hand, the saga of the great flood of ’93, which did indeed fill their home with Missouri river mud. Gloria sings stories of children, (I loveThe Pear Song), immigrant parents, love and growth. She sometimes croons, sometimes belts it out in her feminine yet strong vibrato.

    Michael sings in his low key style of the power of humor and optimism in face of disaster, in When We Stood In The Ashes.

    Excellent engineering by Paul Stamler lends a crisp, balanced studio sound to this tape (though it was recorded at the Nona General Store in Augusta.) Do not miss this opportunity to hear their music as it pours forth from the hands of Gloria Bauermeister on guitar, mandolin, and banjo; Michael Bauermeister on guitar and dobro; Paul Ovaitt on guitar and mandolin; and Rebecca Weis Mayer on acoustic bass.

    Out Attoun Productions. Available in cassette now by writing or calling the Bauermeisters at home: 6560 Augusta Bottom Rd., Augusta, Mo. 63332 ; (314)228-4663; and soon at Music Folk in Webster.

    Cathy Barton, Dave Para, Bob Dyer - "Rebel in the Woods"
    by Andrew Limanni

    It is with great joy that I call to everyone’s attention the latest CD release of that most delightful and talented duo of Missouri folk musicians, Cathy Barton and Dave Para, who with their friend, Bob Dyer have created yet another richly textured and flawlessly performed work that resonates as well with a sense of history and deep folk scholarship, while still remaining lots of fun to listen to. Kind of a neat trick to do all of that at the same time, but Cathy and Dave have managed to do it over and over again, whether in recordings of hammered dulcimer music, Christmas folk tunes or Civil War material, as in their latest Rebel In the Woods, which is part II of a set, the first having been the 1993 Johnny Whistletrigger.

    This is pretty serious Civil War stuff, and a sense of the story of what happened in Western Missouri during that time of terrible Guerrilla war is helpful, although not necessary due to the extremely extensive notes on each song given in a beautiful and photo-filled 40 page book that comes with the CD.

    Some of my favorites were the rollicking Atchison’s Buccaneers and The Death General Lyon. Kelly’s Irish Brigade is a genuinely funny song about recruiting Irish for the Confederate side - something not usually thought of in conjunction with Civil War history. The song Daniel Martin contains lots of history and sings of almost every battle fought in Missouri. There is an extremely chilling Anderson’s Warning, taking the viewpoint of one of the most dangerous guerrillas of the war, written by none other than the gentle Cathy Barton! There’s even a song about Jesse James.

    All in all, lots of history, lots of spirit and fun and entertainment by some of our region’s best cultural historians. The engineering on this recording is excellent and extremely professional throughout - you will enjoy it immensely .

    You can get this CD for $15 direct from Dave Para at Big Canoe Records, 513 High Street, Booneville, MO 65233 or 816-882-7821.

    Red Mountain White Trash - "Fire in the Dumpster"
    by Paul Stamler

    Old-time music is alive and kicking. With the explosive growth of contra-dance groups across the country, a new generation of bands has developed to provide live music—for traditional dances in the northeast, and for "zesty contras" across the country. In the Midwest and South, the music has been based on traditional southern string-band styles as documented in the 78s recorded in the Twenties and Thirties, and reissued on LPs (later CDs) in the Sixties and Seventies.

    The Red Mountain White Trash, from Birmingham, AL, fit firmly into the old-time sound, as learned from the scratchy records (and a few surviving artists), and transformed by the first generation of revival string-bands. Their repertoire is decidedly regional, drawn primarily from Alabama, Kentucky, and Tennessee; as a result, this CD contains tunes mostly new and fresh to the ears of this Missouri listener. (A good thing, too; Soldier’s Joy is a great tune, but after 1,000 years I suspect there aren’t many new ways to play it.)

    There are four melody players (twin fiddles, mandolin, and harmonica or banjo-uke) and a three-piece rhythm section (guitar, string bass and autoharp). As a result, the band tends toward a richly textured sound reminiscent of the Cash Rebates or, particularly, the Fuzzy Mountain String Band, rather than the leaner sound typified by the Ill-Mo Boys. There is always a good deal going on melodically, but the band remains consistently tight and clean, never cluttered, on the dance tunes that make up the bulk of this recording. They hew to the classic southern “boom-chuck” rhythm, rather than the “sock” rhythms beginning to be used by bands like Pigs’ Eye Landing, and the wailing harmonica and twin fiddles add drive and energy.

    The recording is filled out by a few vocal pieces; my favorite was a solo, with autoharp, on Wild Bill Jones. Some of the other songs sounded under-rehearsed, which was made more noticeable by the engineer’s mixing the harmony vocal higher than the melody. (The engineering was otherwise excellent.)

    Taken as a whole, this is a fine album: good regional tunes, strong playing, clean arrangements. I’d take Fire in the Dumpster on a long car trip any day (if I could trust my car), and I look forward to hearing these folks play at a dance.

    This CD can be ordered through J. Cauthen; e-mail or phone 205-822-0505.