A bit of old and a bit of new this month. We took a long trip out to Prince Edward Island, where I was hoping to hear some traditional island music. We did find some Acadian music in the Evangeline Region, which of course sounded familiar to anyone related to Cajuns, as we are. The other music we heard tended to be “Atlantic” and was as likely to have come from Nova Scotia or Newfoundland and Labrador as PEI. I picked up a couple of new discs after a bit of a preview and wasn’t disappointed.
We listened to Great Big Sea a lot on the drive over to PEI, going through the States. It almost put me off purchasing the Atlantic Standards, which kicks off the Great Big Sea’s General Taylor, a family favorite. But the rest of the CD was all new tunes, if not all new performers. It was the first Barra McNeil performance I really liked (Misty Moisty Morning, which I”d first heard done by Steeleye Span) and there were a number of other bands from the Maritimes that I’d never heard. It’s a good CD, with a nice variety of traditional music and styles.
We also came across The Sons of Maxwell. As a coincidence, a number of the tunes on their CD Sailor’s Story (not their latest!) were also on Atlantic Standards or other discs we own. I tend to avoid duplicates of a band, unless it’s a particular difference (live v. studio, etc.) that makes the music different. But usually two versions of a traditional song will be as different as chalk and cheese, and it was fun to play some of these versions soon after another, for the comparison. It was also funny to hear which ones family members preferred, although Oliver’s favorite was their remake of The Yellow Submarine! Go figure! The traditional-sounding “Barrett’s Privateers” was new to us (and on both discs) but we loved Mary Mac (Great Big Sea’s version is another great one), The Mermaid (the traditional one, not Great Big Sea’s version), and The Irish Rover (which we also have by the Irish Rovers (check out this video by the Dubliners and the Pogues!), with additional sound effects).
When I first came across the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, I had to learn more about ska core. I’m a huge ska fan so this was new terrain for me. The Question the Answers disc has some great songs, including Kinder Words and Jump Through the Hoops. I really got hooked when I picked up Let’s Face It. This is one of those discs that can be irritating for others, because I’ll listen to it over and over again. Although it has one of their big hits, “The Impression That I Get”, I really prefer the first three tracks, particularly “The Rascal King”.
I was recently supplementing my CD playing and MP3s with Last.fm, and tried a Mighty Mighty Bosstone’s station. Unfortunately, I find my tastes are still much more “ska” than “core”, so I switched over to one built around Fishbone and The Toasters instead. But Let’s Face It remains one of my favorite CDs.
I also rolled out an even older favorite, first heard on vinyl and recently added in digital. Tom Lehrer is a riot, an American professor who, in the late 50s and early 60s, wrote some great songs about the human condition: the Old Dope Peddler, Poisoning Pigeons in the Park, the Hunting Song. In the same vein as Michael Flanders and Donald Swann, or the more modern Capitol Steps, the words are smart, the music is easy to listen to, and the whole package is great fun. One of my favorites is the Periodic Table (here is an interesting, animated version on YouTube), which is recited in Gilbert and Sullivan patter style to the music of G&S’ Modern Major General (Youtube). To get the broadest flavor of Tom Lehrer, check out Songs and More Songs by Tom Lehrer, which brings together a lot of different songs, including orchestrated remakes (he usually accompanies himself on piano). This is the disc I’ve got, and which, when I’m listening to it on headphones, I have to watch myself from laughing out loud!