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Reviews of CDs from Happy Van Gogh, Geoff Muldaur and Tara Nevins

CD Reviews

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Happy Van Gogh, "Supraliminal"Geoff Muldaur, "The Secret Handshake"Tara Nevins "Mule to Ride"
Play These Songs"Specimen""Radio Free Lexington""Nobody's Business"

Real Audio Required Happy Van Gogh, "Supraliminal" (HVG) — No frills here, just some good old-fashioned wham-bam rock 'n' roll. On this self-produced nine-track CD, HVG gives listeners lots of straight-ahead groove, frantic drums, crunching guitar lines and strong singing. The guitar, bass and drums lineup — together since 1997 — sounds more influenced by the late-'60s, early-'70s rock trio approach than by some other retro styles around; this is most definitely and oh, so thankfully, not another Grateful Dead retread. To these ears the lyrics could use some work, but that's not really what all of this is about. Recorded in Richmond, "Supraliminal" is a worthy, danceable party record that gets up and kicks some business around the block a time or two. An upbeat yet funky and hard-rockin' effort by a talented local band, this project is well worth a listen. Check it out. Support your local musicians. — Ames Arnold
Play These Songs"The Wild Ox Moan""This World Is Not My Home""Alberta"

Real Audio RequiredGeoff Muldaur, "The Secret Handshake" (Hightone Records) — Geoff Muldaur's latest release gives clear witness to why this singer-guitarist is such a quietly important figure on the American roots scene. From the git-go, this smartly crafted CD showcases Muldaur's command of traditional acoustic country blues, zydeco, folk and fife-and-drum influences. The combined result makes for great relaxed listening. The CD booklet also contains extensive historical background for each song and this adds even more to the overall quality of the project. Muldaur's credits stretch back to the '60s when he first received notice as a member of Jim Kweskin's Jug Band. He later joined Paul Butterfield's Better Days before recording with the Velvet Underground's John Cale, Jerry Garcia and many others. Though he still occasionally plays the folk-festival circuit, Muldaur rarely records these days, so it's strongly recommended to fans of folk and acoustic blues that they take up the title's implied initiation offer and join Muldaur's cool little club. — A.A.
Play These Songs"Fall On My Knees""Sittin' On Top Of The World""Troubles"

Real Audio Required Tara Nevins "Mule to Ride" (Sugar Hill) — Fiddler Tara Nevins (of Donna the Buffalo) kicks the first cut of this CD off with a hard-sawing flourish and the 20-cut project never looks back. Joined by a revolving cast of players including Ralph Stanley, Mike Seeger, Don Rigsby and Buffalo mates Jim Miller and Jed Greenberg, Nevins rolls through traditional mountain, bluegrass and pedal steel-sweetened country music styles with equal ease and honesty. There's plenty of pickin' and high lonesome harmonizing to delight, but there's also the occasional ballad that gives Nevins the chance to show off her fragile, crystalline pipes. Traditional tunes are rearranged and covered along with some Nevins originals. But regardless of musical style, the project's overall loose and earthy feel never strays far from a front-porch jam vibe. "Mule to Ride" is a high-spirited collaboration that captures some seasoned musicians on a mighty sweet ride. — A.A.

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