This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 7/99
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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Start with the basics of old time, traditional folk music. Add a pinch of celtic flourish here and there. No, on second thought, a pinch won't do, add more. Toss in a multitude of instruments from around the world. A sprinkle of Appalachia goes next, just before the lead and vocal harmonies. Mix well and what do you have? "A Dram for the Singer," the unsung 1997 release by Debra and David Cowan.
This CD is backed by Dave Cowan's work on hammered dulcimer, autoharp, guitar, Bolivian pan pipes (yes, you read right), Jew's harp, and Argentinean bombo; and Debra Cowan on whistle and guitar. This duo's work won't bowl over the listener but certainly will satisfy fans of traditional-minded folk music and provide a thoroughly welcome exposure to Debra Cowan's outstanding vocals.
The Appalachian-tinged "Moonshiner/Copper Kettle" opens the release, beginning with the a cappella "Moonshiner" with vocals by both Debra and Dave. "Copper Kettle" features Debra on guitar, Dave on autoharp and vocals by both. Dave moves over to the Jew's harp, backing Debra's solid vocals on "Wedding Dress."
The 'shrew songs' then take over the next two cuts. "Wondrous Love/Cold Rain and Snow" and "I Was a Young Man" magnify relationships that probably couldn't even be saved by a weekend at "Marriage Encounter." In fact, the husband in "I Was a Young Man' actually pleads for his wife's demise.
"Angel From Montgomery" remakes John Prine's classic while "In the Hills of Shiloh," penned by the late Shel Silverstein, first introduces Dave on pan pipes. "Two Soldiers" brings back Dave on autoharp while Dave solos on "Memorial Day," his moving remembrance of and homage to the lost souls, living and dead, who fought in the Vietnam fiasco.
"The Weaver and the Factory Maid" again showcases Debra's standout vocals. Backed simply by pan pipes, Argentinean bombo and Baby Goat Toes, her singing thoroughly carries the song, and is the focus on this cut.
"Subo' is sung in Spanish and, as the liner notes jokingly state, "Good thing this one's in Spanish or we'd really bum you out." You may have noticed this album does not carry the Norman Vincent Peale seal of approval.
"What We Gonna Do/Whipporwill" and "A Dram for the Singer" close out the CD. Debra again carries "Whipporwill" and "A Dram for the Singer" with the strength of her singing.
Give this one a try if it sounds like it meshes with your musical tastes. For the adventurous who think this may not be the 'sound' they prefer, take a chance on the exquisiteness of Debra Cowan's vocals.
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