Story-telling binds Guthrie, Rafael
From the Autumn 2003 issue.
By the Joel Rafael Band
Nine Yards Records: 2003
To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.
Eespite the often mournful and tragic subject matter contained within, this CD invokes joy. It's just such a pleasure to hear the words and music of one of America's most beloved folk heroes, Woody Guthrie, performed by San Diego County's Joel Rafael.
"Woodeye," Rafael's fourth CD, seems a logical and natural matching of talents, so much so that its sometimes hard to distinguish the one singer/songwriter from the other. Many causes affecting the common man from Guthrie's days are as relevant now. And the plaintive vocals of Rafael take you back to a time when dances where held in barns and small-town "justice" might end with a lynching. One track, "Dance a Little Longer," perfectly pairs the words of Guthrie with the music of Rafael.
What's crystal-clear in listening to the 14 tracks of this CD is that both Guthrie and Rafael have a gift and love for story-telling. From the melodic first song, "When the Curfew Blows," to Rafael's finale, "Talking Oklahoma Hills," recounting of a visit to Guthrie's hometown of Okema, Oklahoma, there are many tales told. Some, as mentioned, are sad, like "1913 Massacre" and "Don't Kill My Baby and My Son." The often tragic plight of refugees is expressed as well, with "I Ain't Got No Home" and "Plane Wreck at Los Gatos."
But there are also songs of hope, love and happiness, despite hard times. "Ramblin' Round," "Dance a Little Longer" and "Talking Fishing Blues" are three memorable selections.
Truly, this entire CD is memorable, and not just because of the songs of Woody Guthrie. Rafael, his band and collaborators offer a cohesive and interesting musical presentation that is only occasionally a tad overproduced. For the most part this album is a gift. Rafael makes Guthrie's songs his own, and he seems to do it effortlessly.
Review by Kathy Klassen. Kathy is a writer living in Escondido, Calif.