Georgia Kyle's An Angel and a Devil isn't the only new Savannah-centric acoustic music available for your listening pleasure. Here's a quick look at some just-released new CDs from a few others.
One Man Band
After gigging and recording with several versions of a self-titled, hard-rocking band, local vet Beasley commits to tape what he's best-known for: He's the only musician in attendance, picking (and playing slide on) his acoustic guitar, blowing on the ol' harmonica, and providing the percussion with a bass drum pedal, an old suitcase and a tambourine. Onstage with this rig, Beasley looks a bit like Bert the Chimney Sweep in Mary Poppins (you'll wonder why he doesn't have a trumpet attached to his shoulders), but this CD is all business. It's Mississippi Delta blues, mostly, sung in a distinctive rasp that recalls Randy Newman with its traces of irony and dry wit. Beasley's original tunes ("Down to the River," "Like Rain," "Ain't Done Lovin' You Yet") are keepers, but he also takes serious possession of classic growlers from the likes of Taj Mahal ("Fishin' Blues," "Paint My Mailbox Blue") and Delbert McClinton ("Back to Louisiana"). See jeffbeasleyband.com
A Splash of No Regrets
For those of you who only know this native Irishman from his ongoing stint as an onstage regular at Kevin Barry's on the river, this CD will come as fresh and welcome as a breeze out of the ocean. It is a fully-realized set of acoustic ballads - some original, some from the Celtic tradition - that features not only O'Donoghue's supple tenor voice and guitar, but pipes, whistles, flutes, piano, percussion, cello and angelic background vocals by Marian Makus. O'Donoghue co-produced the album in New Jersey with master musician Gabriel Donohue, who toured for years with the Chieftains' band, and there isn't a voice or instrument out of place. From the haunting "The Mad Lady and Me" and "The Galway Shawl" (the one-two punch that opens the disc) to the traditional Scottish lament "Loch Lomond" to O'Donoghue's "The Time Has Come (Ron's Song)," A Splash of No Regrets is a thing of beauty. See harryodonoghue.com
Strategic Howling/Best of First Friday 2010
The Savannah Folk Music Society's annual recap of performances from its monthly concert series includes a wide range of acoustic music, from blues to bluegrass, and it's the variety that makes it a nice listening experience. Michael Maddox takes us down to the delta ("Driftin',") there's old-school harmonic folk story-songs from the likes of Kathy Waters and Linda Combs ("Cat Eyed Willie Claims His Lover"), the gospel side ("Just a Closer Walk With Thee" from the Islands Christian Church Band) and even a brilliant, Guthrie-esque lament from the pen of Bruce Springsteen (Jason Bible's "The Ghost of Tom Joad"). A couple of our local folkies are well-represented (Harry O'Donoghue, Lauren Lapointe) and visiting First Folk regulars (Roll on Rodney, Southern Tied), and what the set lacks in consistency (some performances, frankly, are better than others) it makes up in charm. Society chief Hank Weisman and his musical partner, John Powers, have made a concurrent CD as the Old Folkers, Openers, and both recordings can be had at savannahfolk.org.
Savannah needs at least one contemporary country singer, and Chuck Courtenay fits the bill nicely. Produced in Nashville by pedal steel player Tommy Butler, Different Man finds this Chatham County stage vet in full Brad Paisley/Jake Owen mode, with a deep and throaty baritone singing songs about wild wimmen, fishin' and drinkin,' against a full band complete with (of course) wailing pedal steel. There's a great version of "Baby Please Roll Down Your Window," a tune by Savannah's own Greg Williams. Courtenay plays these tunes out with a full country band, but more often you'll find him alone onstage in a pub corner, crooning ‘em with an acoustic guitar. Personal fave: Merle Haggard's "Makeup and Faded Blue Jeans." It's good stuff. See chuckband.com