Andy Cohen | Road Be Kind

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Folk: Fingerstyle Blues: Folk-Blues Moods: Type: Acoustic
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Road Be Kind

by Andy Cohen

ROAD BE KIND reflects Andy’s life over many years on the road, folkin’ around with the blues. A masterful acoustic guitarist, folklorist, and genuine troubadour, Andy never ceases to impress with his expert knowledge and high level of playing traditional blues, folk and true Americana music. This new album offers, in addition to traditional songs, several written by old friends whose voices he wants to keep alive, plus, as a special treat, his self-penned “Five And Ten Cent Blues,” the song Andy says sets the tone of his life and is his personal favorite.
Genre: Folk: Fingerstyle
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Five and Ten Cent Blues
2:07 $0.99
2. Seldom Seen Slim
2:06 $0.99
3. Spread the News Around
2:30 $0.99
4. Road Be Kind
2:45 $0.99
5. Windy and Warm
3:01 $0.99
6. More Wood
3:16 $0.99
7. High Country Caravan (Song for Stephen Stills)
5:55 $0.99
8. Mysterious Mose
2:21 $0.99
9. Fort Sumner Dance
2:39 $0.99
10. The Goodnight - Loving Trail
4:39 $0.99
11. Seaboard Train
4:22 $0.99
12. Talkin' Hard Luck
6:58 $0.99
13. Ten and Nine
3:18 $0.99
14. Blarney Pilgrim / Jig McCoy
3:59 $0.99
15. John Ate the Locust and the Honey
3:18 $0.99
16. Blackbird
2:32 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Introductory notes by Andy Cohen

About half of this collection is more or less contemporary music, including a couple of things I wrote myself or helped write. That's out of character for me, as I mostly I do Blues and related traditional material. There's some of that here too. But some of these songs were written by friends of mine now gone, and I want to keep their voices going too. Accordingly, this CD is dedicated to Luke Baldwin, Loring Janes, Glenn Schultz, Pat McGuinn, Bruce ‘Utah’ Phillips, Pegleg Sam and Bill Hinkley.
5/23/15 Song Notes

1. Five and Ten Cent Blues- (Andy Cohen) - BMI-

I wrote this song in the late 1960s, on my way to Saint Louis. Of all the songs I’ve written, which is not that many, I like this one the best. Kinda sets the tone of my life, you might say.

2. Seldom Seen Slim (Luke Baldwin)

Luke never graduated from high school, he just read and wrote. Nevertheless he earned a Ph.D in Educational Psychology from Harvard after testing out of its undergrad requirements in one swell foop. Once he got his doctorate, he proceeded to work himself to death, teaching teachers of adult literacy how to teach it. But before he passed, he graced the cover of a Flying Fish vinyl record, ‘Tattoo on My Chest’, filled up with a dozen or so of his songs, of which this is one. He said he got the story of it from the (recently deceased) cowboy singer Glen Ohrlin.

3. Spread the News Around- (Sonny Terry)

Joe Larose and Gary Hawk taught me this song not long after I moved to northeast Ohio in 1977. They did it together, guitar and harmonica, and I always wanted to record it, but never have until now. Sonny and Brownie had a real gift.
4. Road Be Kind (Scott Alarik)

Scott Alarik is a journalist, songwriter and with three books behind him, now established as an author. When I met him he was not long out of the federal pokey. Seems he wouldn’t get behind killing Southeast Asians on behalf of the mineral interests, and made the mistake of being honest about it. This greatly endeared him to me, as I also refused induction, but I never had to go to jail for it.

I folk-processed the song a little; I hope he doesn’t get mad at me for it. I stuck my sister in there in place of Poor Howard, because she turned up the same way at the same place. We’re both friends with Howard, so I figured it was okay…

5. Windy & Warm (John D. Loudermilk)

John D. Loudermilk, cousin to the Louvin Brothers and an A-list Nashville songwriter for decades, made this one up. It is a benchmark piece for learners, a level or two more complex than Freight Train. I learned it in its four-part fullness from Loring Janes, then of Detroit. I learned a lot from Loring, and not just about a guitar, either. I always think of him when I play this piece, the way he timed his thumbing so that he integrated two lines through four parts in three keys. It was a wonder to me at the time.
6. More Wood (Dillon Bustin)

This song is aptly described as the national anthem of wood stove lovers. I learned it from a high school friend, Denya LeVine, who plies the music trade on her fiddle from her home on Cape Cod. Dillon Bustin, who wrote it, is a folklorist, singer, writer, filmmaker and playwright. After getting his doctorate in Folklore and Anthropology at Indiana University, Dillon returned to Massachusetts where for many years he held Program Coordinator positions at the Massachusetts Council on the Arts and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Currently, Dillon is director of the South Shore Art Center in Cohasset, Massachusetts.

7. High Country Caravan (‘Song for Steven Stills’) (Steve Fromholtz)

I prefer the first title. This was one of the numbers Steve recorded on his underground classic ‘Frummox’, done with his partner Dan McCrimmon. I first heard the song done by Pat and Sandy McGuinn, up in the Bay City area of Michigan. I keep songs or not, based on how stringently the hairs at the back of my neck stand when I hear them. I no longer have those particular hairs, but I still have the feeling of the song.

Steve Fromholtz, among other things, was Texas’ 2007 Poet Laureate. Remember those Luckenback outlaws? They were following him into outlawry. After a lengthy career, he retired to his ranch, where he was killed accidentally last year (2014) while preparing to defend it from feral hogs. A rifle, insecure in its case, slipped out and went off.

8. Mysterious Mose (Walter Weems Doyle)

What were those boys into, I wonder? Walter Weems Doyle wrote this in early 1930. There’s a bunch of recordings of the song, including Cliff Perrine and his Orchestra, and R. Crumb & His Cheap Suit Serenaders (from whom I stole it). The first recording of it was by Rube Bloom and His Bayou Boys in April 1930, for Columbia. A classic spoof, it served as the debut vehicle for the character Betty Boop in an animated cartoon that year. You can look at the cartoon on You Tube. It's a hoot.

9. Fort Sumner Dance- (Steve Cormier /Andy Cohen – Earwig Music)

Visiting my old friend Steve Cormier out near Albuquerque, I picked up his D-28 and fiddled around on it with his flat pick. ‘EUREKA’, he expostulated, ‘THAT’S IT!’ He ran into his bedroom and began throwing things around, emerging shortly with some words scrawled on a dog-eared sheet of notebook paper. Together, we brought this pair of half-songs to life, Steve supplying most of the words and me, a few words and the tune. I ain’t no songwriter, but I do have a surplus of melodies running around in my head.
10. The Goodnight-Loving Trail (Bruce Phillips)

Extending from San Angelo, Texas to Cheyenne, Wyoming, somewhat west of the Chisholm and the Sante Fe trails, it was set up by two military men, Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving, to deliver meat to the army. The long trip would be supervised by an ‘Old Woman’, a superannuated cowboy too tore up to do anything but cook anymore, and tend to bruises. I learned this song from Bruce shortly after he wrote it, maybe 1971.

11. Seaboard Train (Larry Johnson)

Larry grew up around Wrightsville (NOT ‘Riceville!’), Georgia, just outside Atlanta, during the forties, when the folks around there still played a lot of country blues. His dad, ‘Preacher’ Johnson in one of his other songs, worked for the Seaboard as a fireman. This is a version of what Sam McGee did as ‘Railroad Blues.’

12. Talkin' Hard Luck is a routine that I concocted out of pieces-parts, and I can give a citation for every joke in it. There are many versions, but I used Chris Bouchillion's1925 rendition for the front half and Pegleg Sam's (Arthur Jackson) version for the back half, appending jokes of my own as it felt appropriate.
13. Ten and Nine (Mary Brooksbank) (paraphrased from Wikipedia)

Mary Soutar Brooksbank was born in 1897 in Dundee, the oldest of her mum’s brood. Family sing-a-longs nurtured her love of music. She sang, played the violin and wrote songs. When money was low, she would ride the ferry from Dundee to Tayport and sing for money in the street.

She began working illegally in Dundee's jute mills about age 12, and was known for her Socialist activism and trade unionism, spending three periods in prison as a result of her agitation. She is remembered today as a prominent figure in Dundee's labor movement, having founded the Working Women Guild to fight for better health and social services in Dundee, among other accomplishments.

She came from the slums and had her first experience of trade unionism at the age of 14, when the girls at her jute mill successfully marched for a 15% pay raise. The Soutar family was "effectively blacklisted in Dundee because of their trade union activities.”

She called her song "Mill Songs" because most of them were about the life of the working-class mill workers of Dundee, mostly women. They were full of detail and sympathy for the struggle with which these hard-working, poorly paid women were engaged just to feed and care for their families. Her most famous song was "Jute Mill Song", here retitled ‘Ten and Nine’.
Liam Clancey did this song, but I never heard him do it. I learned it from Stan Werbin (founder and proprieter of Elderly Instruments, the best music store in the world), way back when he was an undergrad at University of Michigan. I've changed it a bit for clarity to my American audience, but here are her own words:

Oh dear me, the mill's gannin' fast
The puir wee shifters canna get a rest
Shiftin' bobbins coorse and fine
They fairly mak' ye work for your ten and nine

Oh dear me, I wish the day was done
Rinnin' up and doon the Pass it is nae fun
Shiftin', piecin', spinnin' warp weft and twine
Tae feed and clad my bairnie affen ten and nine

Oh dear me, the warld is ill divided
Them that works the hardest are the least provided
I maun bide contented, dark days or fine
For there's nae much pleasure livin' affen ten and nine

14. Medley: Blarney Pilgrim (traditional / The Jig McCoy (Andy Cohen)

The first tune in this medley I learned from my wife Larkin, who is an erstwhile Irish fiddle player, among other things, and from Dave Howe, who lives down the street from us in Memphis. When I put it up on You Tube some years ago, someone sent back a note that I had ruined the cadence. For that person, my apologies, but the world won’t stop turning because of it. I made up the second tune, naming it for the contra dance band Larkin and I play in, Reel McCoy.

15. John Ate the Locust and the Honey (William Lee Ellis)

I can’t say enough about the heavy lifting my friend Bill Ellis has done in the service of finding out what’s really going on in this music. In addition to being a fine guitar player, he is a journalist, researcher, teacher, writer, husband, father and one fine songwriter. He’s able to evoke old weird American things that help us understand new weird American things. I took this song for an instant classic, tune and rhyme inspired by the many folk hymns Bill has played over the years, but in debt to none of them.

16. Blackbird (John Lennon / Paul McCartney)
I don’t do popular music. I just don’t. But this one is too tempting and besides, there are so many variants of it that it has ‘passed into tradition’ as the folklorists say. I learned it from one Glenn Anthony Schultz (‘Gypsy’), around 1968, at Loring’s house in Detroit. Glenn was a toolmaker, a fashioner of wooden flutes and PVC whistles, a poet, an accordionist and a helluva git-tar picker. It’s tricky to do it in Drop D while playing in the key of G, but the low note on the payoff chord makes it worth the trouble. When I showed it proudly to Bill Hinkley (may his name be praised) he remarked, “Oh yeah, you ‘tenth around’ in G”.

Note from Producer Michael Frank
I have known Andy nigh on 40 years now, and he never ceases to impress me with his encyclopedic knowledge and ability to play at a very high level, traditional blues, folk and true Americana music (not the pop/singer-songwriter, folk/blues/country hybrid being marketing as such these days). Andy is a die-hard, died-in-the-wool, traditionalist/preservationist/revivalist of music, with a keen sense of social justice and a ravenous intellectual curiosity about music, community, science, medicine, culture, anthropology and archeology, philosophy, and a whole lot of other things which I have not yet had an intellectual discussion with him about!

So when Andy and I discussed recording another album for Earwig Music Company, I had no idea where to start in selecting repertoire with him for the project. Andy Cohen has such a deep repertoire of traditional pre-World War II blues and folk music from America and the British Isles, that we could easily have done a whole album of obscure blues tunes, or of just traditional folk tunes. But Andy showed up to record in August 2014, as he had done on his first Earwig session in 2009, with a mixed bag of about 25 tunes, including some by contemporary folk-style songwriters and surprisingly, one by Lennon and McCartney. By the time we did two days of recording, I had enough to slant the album more towards one genre or the other, which initially Andy would have preferred.

However, as a producer, I aspire to capture on record or in concert performance the essence and deepest part of what an artist has to express at that moment in his musical life when we are working together. So even though Earwig is primarily focused on blues music, if the artist I am working with, or want to, has something deep to express in a related genre at a particular moment in time, then that is what I prefer the artist to record and that I hope will emerge organically in the sessions. In the case of this project by Andy, I chose the final album track list to reflect his life over so many years on the road, folkin' around with the blues. He is a masterful acoustic guitarist and folklorist, true road warrior and troubadour.



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