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West Was Burning
     

The West Was Burning

by Martha Scanlan
 
Martha Scanlan was a member of the contemporary old-time string band the Reeltime Travelers, who probably are best known for their appearance on the T-Bone Burnett-produced Cold Mountain soundtrack. For her first solo outing, Scanlan keeps one foot in the past and the other in the present.

Overview

Martha Scanlan was a member of the contemporary old-time string band the Reeltime Travelers, who probably are best known for their appearance on the T-Bone Burnett-produced Cold Mountain soundtrack. For her first solo outing, Scanlan keeps one foot in the past and the other in the present. There is plenty of fiddle, mandolin, Dobro, and banjo playing on this disc (often courtesy of producer Dirk Powell), but Scanlan doesn't limit her sound to acoustic instruments. The second track, "Get Right Church," is a robust, foot-stomping rendition of the Rev. James Cleveland gospel classic that is more Saturday night than Sunday morning. Later on, her original "Isabella" nicely balances front-porch fiddling with juke joint guitar. This song of sisterhood also slips in some subtle political references, name-checking the mother of civil rights figure Emmitt Till as well as Anna Mae Pictou Aquash, a female Native American political activist who was mysteriously murdered in the '70s. Scanlan doesn't hammer her listeners with her music, but takes an appealing low-key approach to both her songwriting and arrangements. The warm-hearted, winter-set courting tune "Walkin'" makes a simple yet poetic observation: "Ordinary is as ordinary sees/The quiet beauty in the shapes of trees." She uses the evocatively down-to-earth lyric "Somehow packing up your things/Didn't seem to bring/The peace I'd hoped to find" to describe post-breakup angst in "I Don't Even Have to Ask." Her songs are also very much rooted in nature and the outdoors, whether physically (the bittersweet rancher's tale "Up on the Divide") or metaphorically (the picturesque love song "Seeds of the Pine"). Trees are a recurring image, popping up in almost all of her original tunes. Besides her own earthy, folksy tunes, she also tackles the obscure Bob Dylan number "Went to See the Gypsy" and conjures up comparisons to Emmylou Harris on her tender, spare cover of the spiritual "Ten Thousand Charms." The Powell instrumental "Call Me Shorty" makes for a curious inclusion, as this bluegrass interlude seemingly serves -- at least on this disc -- as a showcase for the backing band. Still, Scanlan's unpretentious but thoroughly charming debut should appeal to fans of Gillian Welch and Iris DeMent and lovers of other Americana angels.

Product Details

Release Date:
02/13/2007
Label:
Sugarhill
UPC:
0015891108520
catalogNumber:
1085
Rank:
109430

Tracks

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Martha Scanlan   Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Vocals
Gina Forsyth   Fiddle
Levon Helm   Drums
Dirk Powell   Banjo,Bass,Fiddle,Mandolin,Percussion,Electric Guitar,Background Vocals,Vocal Harmony
Glenn Patscha   Piano,Background Vocals,Vocal Harmony
Amy Helm   Drums,Background Vocals,Vocal Harmony
Riley Baugus   Banjo
Michael Juan Nunez   Dobro
Eric Frey   Bass
Guy "Fooch" Fischetti   Steel Guitar

Technical Credits

James Cleveland   Composer
Bob Dylan   Composer
Dirk Powell   Composer,Producer,Engineer,Liner Notes,Audio Production
John Wyeth   Composer
Martha Scanlan   Composer
Ryan Ghent   Engineer

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