Tag Archives: Folk

28: No Easy Walk to Freedom (Peter, Paul and Mary)

Album: No Easy Walk to Freedom
Artist: Peter, Paul and Mary
Year: 1986

1. Weave Me the Sunshine
2. Right Field
3. I’d Rather Be In Love
4. State of the Heart
5. No Easy Walk to Freedom
6. Greenland Whale Fisheries
7. Whispered Words
8. El Salvador
9. Greenwood
10. Light One Candle

Everyone’s favorite folk hippies are most famous for puffing on magic dragons, leaving on jet planes, and blowing in the wind. And while I certainly like all of that, this is my favorite collection. Right Field is a classic original, detailing the shame of playing right field for a Little League team.  Greenland Whale Fisheries is an almost 300 years old sea shanty and they do it justice. No Easy Walk to Freedom is a great tribute Nelson Mendela; I’m sure when he was freed four years later it was a fabulous day in the Peter, Paul, and Mary households.

My two favorite songs are State of the Heart, an elegant ballad by Peter, and El Salvador. It’s a scathing, powerful protest song about the then civil war that the U.S. was involved in, and it got the band booed at concerts. I was too young to be aware or concerned about the conflict, so it holds little emotional resonance for me. All I know is that Peter Yarrow rocks it out and it sounds awesome.

58: Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy (The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band)

Album: Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy
Artist: The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
Year: 1970

1. Some of Shelly’s Blues
2. Prodigal’s Return
3. Cure
4. Travelin’ Mood
5. Chicken Reel
6. Yukon Railroad
7. Livin’ Without You
8. Clinch Mountain Backstep
9. Rave On
10. Billy in the Low Ground
11. Jesse James
12. Uncle Charlie Interview
13. Mr. Bojangles
14. Opus 36
15. Santa Rosa
16. Propinquity
17. Uncle Charlie
18. Randy Lynn Rag
19. House at Pooh Corner
20. Swanee River
21. Uncle Charlie Interview #2 / Spanish Fandango

With 21 songs, you’d think it was a double album. In reality, it’s a lot of short songs and instrumentals. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band is most famous for their song Fishin’ in the Dark, but they released a ton of albums before that song ever hit the airwaves. This one’s my favorite.  Like many folk albums, a lot of the songs are borrowed, but they’re borrowed pretty damn well.

The album is strongest at the beginning. Some of Shelly’s Blues (Michael Nesmith) is a classic, but it doesn’t let up for a while after that. The instrumentals are true jugband material, replete with mandolins, a washtub bass, a washboard, conga, accordion, and lots o’ pluckin’. Some of the more solid vocals are on Prodigal’s Return (Kenny Loggins) and Livin’ Without You (Randy Newman).

Then the album is broken up with random interviews with some old guy named Charlie (an in-law of the album’s producer), who is supposed to be Mr. Bojangles. They’re not terribly interesting, and the harmonica is pretty obnoxious. Thankfully, Mr. Bojangles is strong enough to help you forget.

The rest of the album is hit and miss, with the hits being Propinquity (Michael Nesmith) and House at Pooh Corner (Kenny Loggins). I can’t explain why I’m obsessed with this version of the Three Acre Wood homage, but they turned a pretty but nap-inducing lullaby into an uplifting romp.

The album ends with another silly interview, but that’s a nitpick for this otherwise fun folk record.