If you’re any kind of bluegrass fan, you’ve probably got at least a couple of Stanley Brothers recordings that have been reissued over the years, either their classic Mercury sides or their unvarnished first sessions for Rich-R-Tone. Ralph and Carter Stanley also cut a whack of amazing music for King at the label’s excellent Cincinnati studios. Yet until recently, most of the reissues have focused on the earlier portion of the 220 tracks recorded during their stay. The Later King Years (Ace) attempts to redress the problem with a a 24-song single-disc sampling of what they were up to between 1961 and 66, and of course these boys never recorded anything but their top-dollar best. Songs like I’m Only Human, Don’t Cheat In Our Hometown and I Just Stood There are as good as anything recorded in bluegrass at the time. www.acerecords.co.uk.
Digging for Dalton
Since cult folk artist Karen Dalton only recorded two albums during her short life, and no significant studio outtakes have been uncovered, all that’s left to locate are live tapes and home recordings, which the folks at Megaphone have come up with for the two-CD-plus-DVD Cotton Eyed Joe (Delmore) package. Subtitled The Loop Tapes: Live In Boulder 1962, what you get are previously unknown amateur live recordings made of Dalton’s intimate performances in a basement coffee house called the Attic across the street from the University of Colorado prior to her hitting New York’s Greenwich Village folk scene. For that reason, this is a historically important document, since it shows that Dalton’s style and repertoire were already developed before she shared stages with Bob Dylan and Fred Neil, who some believe had a big influence on her rather than the other way around. The DVD includes recordings from 1969 and 70, but unfortunately it’s more like a Cat Power video than perfomance footage, which is a bit of a disappointment but still better than a stick in the eye. www.delmorerecordings.com.
Cuban bass boss Israel “Cachao” López knocked out some of his most combustible performances in Havana between 1957 and 61, before moving to the U.S. The double-disc Cachao Descargas: The Havana Sessions (Yemayá/Disconforme) includes the best of his all-star jams with his own Ritmo Caliente band and the orchestras of Chico O’Farrill and Walfredo de los Reyes involving an impeccable cast of players, such as his older brother Orestes “Machao” López, Guillermo Barreto, Richard Egues, Niño Rivera, Tata Güines and other legends. Now, some 47 years on, there’s still nothing that can touch the fiery passion Cachao and cookin’ company put down without a script. www.disconforme.com.
Back in 1997, jazz vocalist Andy Bey released his first new solo recording in 22 years, and the Ballads, Blues And Bey album met with critical acclaim that led to a two-night stand at New York’s Birdland with his piano trio. Producer Herb Jordan, perhaps realizing that this was an unsual situation for Bey, who rarely received the red-carpet treatment at home he clearly deserved, had recording engineer Dave Ruffo document the shows. Ten years later, he finally got around to putting them out as Ain’t Necessarily So (12th Street).
As for Bey, he’s in top form, creatively deconstructing a few classics from the great American songbook, seemingly loose and playfully inventive yet in firm control of subtle changes in mood and direction at all times. Even if the balance between the instruments isn’t always perfect, Ruffo’s job number one was to caputure Bey’s voice and piano playing, and he’s got it covered. This should be required listening for aspiring jazz singers.