The first album by the trad folk duo of Tim Hart and Maddy Prior, Folk Songs of Olde England, Vol. 1, is as interesting for what came of it as for what it is. This album, recorded in 1968, led directly to the formation of Steeleye Span, whose early albums were an electrified variation on this album's traditional acoustic British folk-rock. It could also be argued that Hart and Prior's example was influential in Fairport Convention's decision to move from a California-style folk-rock sound into something more uniquely British. In light of what came after, Folk Songs of Olde England, Vol. 1 sounds a bit tentative and at times slightly twee (Prior's voice has not quite matured into the rich, expressive instrument it would soon become), but on their own merits, these sensitive renditions of traditional British folk favorites like "Maid That's Deep in Love" or "A Wager a Wager" are respectful of tradition but not bound to it, performed with an infectious enthusiasm quite similar to what the Young Tradition were doing around the same period.
This is an album that should not have worked. LaVern Baker (a fine R&B singer) was joined by all-stars from mainstream jazz (including trumpeter Buck Clayton, trombonist Vic Dickenson, tenor-saxophonist Paul Quinichette and pianist Nat Pierce) for twelve songs associated with the great '20s blues singer Bessie Smith. Despite the potentially conflicting styles, this project is quite successful and often exciting. The arrangements by Phil Moore, Nat Pierce, and Ernie Wilkins do not attempt to re-create the original recordings; Baker sings in her own style (rather than trying to emulate Bessie Smith), and the hot solos work well with her vocals.
Taken from a live recording in 2004, Nagual features three artists known for their individual work - Todd Merrell on electronics, Aidan Baker on guitar, and Patrick Jordan on "processing," with Jordan and Merrell also working shortwave radio - in an enjoyable collaboration. As is always the case with improvisation, the performance runs a risk of simply being indulgent rather than truly memorable, but in its understated fashion the four pieces featured here show that the three performers are able to combine forces well. The overall feeling is unsurprisingly one of sheer meditative chill, often being the kind of dark, reflective electronic pieces that call to mind everyone from Mick Harris to Robert Rich at the latter's most moody…
Aidan Baker is a Canadian musician making experimental ambient music. Three tracks of ambient/drone/space-rock, originally released on CD by A Silent Place in 2006.