- Foster's Folly, for orchestra
- Rolling River, Sketches on Shenandoah, for orchestra
The Cincinnati Pops Orchestra under John Morris Russell has come up with a genuinely original set of American Originals here, and if some parts of it work better than others, that should not diminish the scope of the accomplishment represented by the whole. The main innovation in this January 2015 live recording at Cincinnati's cavernous Music Hall (which yields just adequate sound here) is the presence of folk, bluegrass, and country musicians rather than the usual pop mega-stars who tend to deliver rather generic performances. The musicians here presumably share the orchestra's commitment to investigating the musical past, and the results, though a mixed bag, are unique. Songs of Stephen Foster predominate in the program, and perhaps the centerpiece are the pair of famous ones sung by Rosanne Cash, whose vocal resonances come very close to equaling those of her famous father. But the variety is equally appealing. The gravelly-voiced Joe Henry, a cousin of Madonna, seems to be one of the precious few performers who realizes that "Oh, Susanna" is a serious song, and the underrated Cincinnati folk-rock duo Over the Rhine, whose namesake is the location of the venerable Music Hall, offers an extraordinary Foster rarity, "Why No One to Love?" (track 6). The arrangers acquit themselves well in a few fantasy-like treatments. The treatments of banjo-flavored tunes by Dom Flemons, an African-American specialist in old-time music, are especially arresting, for Foster worked within, although he also subverted, the minstrel tradition that began the long process of the appropriation of black American music by whites. The rather generic vocals of folksinger Aoife O'Donovan and the rhythmically constrained massed bluegrass musicians on several tunes are less effective. But this is a very fresh entry in the rather moribund patriotic pops genre.