Dark, death-obsessed Newage weirdness beginning with a Quicksilver-esque rock number and ending with a 30+ minute sound sculpture featuring rain stick and assorted small percussion instruments. In between lurk four Goth-folk pieces that many aficionados consider among Bill Ring's best-written songs. Some very cool, dreamy instrumental work here as well, particularly the electric guitar lead on Sand. Only six songs, but an hour's worth of highly unusual music. Very different from his other albums, and well worth repeated listening.
About the songs:
Whirl - Newage complaint rock (is this a genre?) Featuring vocals by Constance Taylor, drum programing by Jay Byrd, bass by Bob Ross, and a truly demented clavinet lead by John Pendley.
Tonight in the Alehouse - Apparently a comment on the head-in-sand approach to dealing with disaster. (Even I am not sure just what some of these songs are about.)
Card Games - A meditation on mortality.
Sand - Like the two previous songs, a solo effort. Polyrhythmic instrumentals with lyrics reflecting on duality. (Yang, Yin, and company)
Dancers at the End of Time - Named after the books by Michael Moorcock. Vocals by
Constance Taylor, bass by Bob Ross.
Sounds of the Venusian Rain Forest - Sound sculpture featuring rain stick, friction drums, and other small percussion instruments. Just over thirty minutes long with no loops or samples.
About the artist:
Bill Ring began playing in New York City in 1968. His first band, Another Country, was a folk-rock group that played mostly at the appropriately named Cafe Bizarre on Third St. in Greenwich Village. That club, along with pretty much every other venue they ever played (including the old Sterns department store across 42nd St from Bryant Park!) has long since been torn down and plowed under.
After 15 years of solo performing, Bill joined with Sally Eaton and Peter Pasco to form a new version of Another Country, featuring assorted acoustic instruments, three-part harmonies, and the considerable songwriting talents of all three. The acoustic edition of Another Country appeared frequently at Speakeasy and Folk City, both of which no longer exist. (Anyone notice a trend here?)
Along the way he mixed live sound for performers including Herbie Mann, Aretha Franklin, Paul Butterfield, Kiss, and many others. He has also been an electronics designer and chief tech at a major New York studio.
After Another Country, Bill began working with his backup band, Ironwood, which at one time or another has included most of the musicians listed in the notes of the CD Bill Ring and Friends. There was also a short-lived collaboration known as Sixteen Wheeler, which featured Bonnie Burns, Jaki D'accardi, and David Ruderman for one gig at Wetlands, and Rod Horowitz in place of David at the Eagle Tavern.
In 1991 Bill teamed with Constance Taylor to front Ironwood. They also appeared as a duo under the name Cool Dolphin. (Constance now lives and performs in San Francisco. Check out her page on Folksmith.com.)
Besides the clubs mentioned above, Bill Ring has been heard live and recorded on many NY area radio stations, including WBAI and WQXR, and on college and community stations around the USA.
In 2002, he moved from New York City, his life-long home, to a renovated barn in the Catskills, where he set up the recording studio in which he completed all five of his CD's (available on CDbaby.com). The first four compiled remastered versions of his earlier recordings. The most recent, Still On My Mind, was recorded and mixed in his new studio.
Since July, 2007 he has lived in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, where he works as an electronics designer. He has recently begun playing clubs in the Ithaca area. (See the new Folksmith Show Announcements page for details of upcoming appearances.)
Other recordings available on CD Baby include:
Still On My Mind: Latest and best. Beautifully recorded in the sweetest-sounding barn in the Catskill Mountains, Still On My Mind features drums and percussion by Bob Lepre, acoustic and electric bass by Rusty Boris of Barely Lace, fiddle by Brahm Stuart of Shaman, sax by Chuck Hancock, harmonies by Bibi Farber and Constance Taylor, and acoustic and electric guitars, harmonica, and vocals by Bill Ring. A bakers dozen original songs performed, arranged and engineered by the writer.
"I think all my albums have a lot to offer, but this is the best-sounding by far. It features several old friends and a couple of new ones, and all their performances are very special. You'll find some humor here, and a dash of social comment, but the prevailing theme is memory, particularly bittersweet recollections of love."
If you buy only one album by this artist, this is the one you must have.
Bill Ring and Friends: Digitally remastered cuts from early cassette releases Heaven Somewhere; Ironwood; and Cool Dolphin. Also includes two songs recorded live at the Sun Mountain Cafe. All original songs. Lyrics and music by Bill Ring except for song 13, which is an original musical setting of a poem by John Keats. Lots of acoustic instruments, including 6- and 12-string guitars, fiddle, mandolin, banjo, flute, harmonica, harmonium, and percussion, with some electric bass and even an electric guitar thrown in.
Invisible Fingers: "Except for the Mehndi hand illustration by Loretta Roome, this CD is an exercise in solipsism. What I could do myself (guitars, harmonicas, vocals) I did; the rest (drums, keyboards, wind instruments) I programmed in midi. This is probably as close to a rock album as I'm likely to come." All of the mixes on this CD were previously available only on limited edition cassettes Don't Worry, It's Only Me; The Fall of the House of Escher; and Invisible Fingers. They have been remastered for improved sound quality.
You Are Here: The fourth and final album compiling Bill Ring's pre-millennium recordings, which were previously available only on private release cassettes. The first seven songs are similar to the material on Bill Ring and Friends: Old-time country sounding instrumentals featuring fiddle, banjo, guitar, and harmonica, but with less than traditional lyrics. The next three songs are electric productions that might have been included in Invisible Fingers. The next four songs are solo folk numbers, including a tribute(?) to the guru of deconstruction, Jaques Derrida, and the title song, whose gist can be gathered from a quick glance at the cover art. The album concludes with a pair of instrumentals: one an acoustic improvisation in 10/8 time based on a diminished scale, and the other a dreamy meditative piece featuring harmonium and whirling gong.