Online since August 2002

Second volumne of Guthrie tribute just too dark

Reviewed June 2005

WoodyBoye: Songs of Woody Guthrie
WoodyBoye: Songs of Woody Guthrie (and Tales Worth Telling) Volume II
By the Joel Rafael Band

Appleseed Recordings: 2005

To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.

For the casual Woody Guthrie fan, Joel Rafael's first volume of Guthrie songs, "Woodeye," was a wonderfully fresh, interesting album. One that was hard to put away. One that seemed to have wide appeal. This second volume, "WoodyBoye," has been harder to continue playing. It doesn't make itself at home in the CD player.

It's too bad, really. Rafael seems to have a genuine connection to the great American folk singer. The effort to continue to honor Guthrie seems as noble, even more earnest, perhaps. Somehow, though, Rafael seems to have lost his connection to the listener. As a bridge between the music fan and the music legend, this album falls short.

The biggest hurdle for "WoodyBoye" becoming a well-liked, well-worn CD is the almost overwhelmingly depressing selection of songs. Even those that start with an upbeat melody become morose as the storytelling unfolds. "Stepstone" and "Sierra Blanca Massacre," for example, have a pleasing sound – until the lyrics get in the way. Other songs, like "Circle of Truth" and "Two Good Men," seem to get bogged down by a convoluted story, the talents of Rafael's band seemingly neglected in the background.

True, Woody Guthrie had much to say about tragedies and injustices, but these messages seemed to be interspersed with hope – at least they were in Rafael's "Woodeye."

One bright spot in "WoodyBoye" is "Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key," a much-needed silly song in the midst of woeful tales and convoluted vocals. A couple more light-hearted songs like this one would have been very welcome.

To his credit, Rafael's plaintive voice still rings warm and true. In addition, his collaborations have a powerful presence. All that's needed is a better mix of songs.

Review by Kathy Klassen. Kathy is a writer living in Escondido, Calif.

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