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The Huffington Post - Hot Albums Before Folk Alliance 2015

Feb 18 | Posted by: Stephen D. Winick

I ... first heard the Yonkers-based roots outfit Spuyten Duyvil at Folk Alliance a few years ago, and they just sent their forthcoming release The Social Music Hour Vol. 1. Band member Mark Miller describes it as "a modern love letter to Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music." (For those who don't know, the Anthology was bootlegged by Smith in the early 50s from old 78s of blues, country, folk, and roots artists, and later licensed and provided with detailed notes by Smithsonian Folkways.) Mark also tells me the CD grew out of a workshop, "The Social Music Hour," which was held at Caramoor a couple of years ago, featuring traditional songs popularized by Woody Guthrie. I provided Miller with some archival help for the workshop, but I can't take any real credit for the goodies here. They range quite far from Woody's repertoire, and more importantly, the band's arrangements, energy, and attitude always amaze me. Hot playing on harmonica and guitars fronts a gritty rock sound on most of the album, with detours into folk and gospel where appropriate. Spuyten Duyvil aren't afraid to take traditional ballads, blues, and spirituals and go big: big sound, big drama, big groove, big noise. They don't overpower the songs, but give each one what it needs to stand out. Like Dolly Parton, they find out who each song is and then do it on purpose. Their inspired medley of "Hot Town in the Old Time Tonight" with "Praying on the old Campground" is a classic "Saturday Night/ Sunday Morning" pairing. Similarly, their insertion of "Sweet Georgia Brown" and other harp licks into "Stewball" feels natural, spontaneous, and right. Their rendition of "Lord Franklin" nods to the classic version by English folk-rockers Pentangle, but establishes its own loping groove and layers some nice guitar solos on Beth Kaufman's clear-voiced interpretation. They transform Henry Thomas's sweet ditty "Fishin' Blues" into a duet, increasing its burlesque double-entendre value, but paradoxically making it a fun song for kids as well. (By the way, everyone should hear Thomas's original, which featured "quills" or panpipes.) Anyway, I am having a great time hearing Spuyten Duyvil, so to quote their exuberant yet down-and-dirty rendition of "Daniel," "why not every man?"...

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