"James Durst is an artist of integrity who has lived the authentic life of the artist as an observer, a voice, an activist, and a pioneer. He continues to walk the walk with his latest recording, INTERNATIONALLY UNKNOWN. How appropriate is the title track? Well, Durst has been performing and touring since the '60s and has persevered, recorded and produced while remaining below the radar as an independent. Early on in his career Durst turned his back on funding from an L.A. producer, choosing instead to forge his own path.
"You may know James who founded 'Work o' the Weavers' in 2002. He returns in this recording effort to the task of producing his solo work. You'll find that his lyrical wordplay packs a punch with his distinctive worldview and global socio-environmental concerns. He's got one foot rooted strongly in the folk tradition while bending and molding the material from various sources to create his own unique compositions. I think you'll find him at once humorous and witty, lighthearted and hopeful, while delivering meaningful songs on topics that matter."
--Erik Balkey, Hudson Harding Music
"Truly intelligent lyrics in these songs redress the usual heart-over-head balance of American singer/songwriters."
--Mitch & Robyn Park/Folk on Sunday, Radio Kidnappers, New Zealand ('Internationally Unknown' is among 15 titles singled out as "outstanding albums" of 2006.)
"James Durst is a world-class folksinger with a smooth, light voice. 'Internationally Unknown' may not be quite true, as Durst has spent a lot of time entertaining in and with players from other countries around the world. A wonderful up-tempo Bengali song adds to the international theme on this CD. With a smooth, light and musically adept voice, Durst fills this CD with new words and arrangements of traditional works as well as a few by other writers. 'A Whaling Trilogy' is told from the view of the whaler, the whaler's wife and the whale, covering all the angles. 'A Mighty Day' is a good example of new words and arrangements that Durst uses to bring us his message. He is a purveyor of messages, a deliverer of news and a peacemaker of sorts with his ability to open our eyes to other worlds as we listen to his songs. This is definitely a timeless folk CD with a message that crosses the attitudes of the 2000s with the 1970s. There are some folksy guitar beats and a pleasing voice that meanders with us around the globe and offers some sparkling thoughts on humanity along the way." --Rambles.NET
CD OF THE WEEK! (9/30/06)--Midnight Special (Rich Warren), WFMT-FM, Chicago
"Liked especially Talking Life and Duranta Ghurnir."
"A terrific CD."
--Bob Sherman, 'Woody's Children', WFUV-FM, New York
"James is a terrific songwriter with a very prolific penchant for weaving humor into his songs. His easygoing vocal demeanor is captivating whether live or on CD. He is also a global activist as well as a gentleman of contemporary folk music."
--RA Lindquist, Singer&Musician Magazine, iRadio
"Love it...why, it's almost as if someone were writing for me! And your singing seems so effortless."
--David Roth, Singer-songwriter/Recording artist
"Your CD is a hit in my house. I believe that it's your best recording yet. The simplicity of the instrumentation is a plus, and your delivery is super."
--Simeon Pillich, Bassist/radio host & Ph.D. in Musicology
"Just in case you ever suffer from the "What difference is my life making, anyway" blues, I thought you'd like to know that at least a couple of days a week you lighten and brighten my morning stretching routine with your wonderful songs - touching, moving, funny, and just plain beautiful. Thanks again for doing what you're doing!"
--Kalen Hammann, Ph.D., Maine
"Thanks for sending the very excellent CD from James Durst...it locked me in throughout."
--Eddie Russell, 'From The Dirt Radio Show,' Columbus TX
James Durst's first solo album in four years contains 15 original and gathered songs that reflect James' distinctive worldview and longheld socio-environmental concerns, expressed with his characteristic humor and wordplay, lightheartedness and hope. "Melody and words and rhythm to the bone..." (--from the title song, 'Internationally Unknown.')
The collection is sparingly produced, very much like a live set. Durst's vocals and guitar are prominently mixed up front, supported by New York session players Ritt Henn on upright bass (except for Mark Murphy on 'Twelve Gates') and Jagoda on hand percussion. Durst's life partner, Calcutta-born Madhumita Chakrabartti, joins him in his arrangement of 'Duranta Ghurnir (Life is a Whirlwind)' by the renowned Bengali composer, Salil Chowdhury.
Since founding Work o' the Weavers (www.workotheweavers.com) in 2002 to celebrate the musical and social contributions of America's pioneering folk quartet, The Weavers, James has focused on getting the group out and about. The release of 'Internationally Unknown' marks a return to balance between his group and solo endeavors, and reaffirms his personal vision.
As a solo artist since the mid-'60s, James has performed his songs in more than two dozen languages for audiences of all ages in 49 states and 45 countries throughout the Americas, Europe and Scandinavia, in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Japan, Russia, Azerbaijan, and most recently, India and Israel. More about James Durst can be found at www.jamesdurst.com.
1) SONG FROM SLOVENIA Imagine yourself sliding across the back seat of a speeding auto careening perilously along the steep mountain roads that join the Slovenian cities of Maribor and Ljubljana. The song recalls my white-knuckle experience and the blurred images that gathered on the page along the way.
2) INTERNATIONALLY UNKNOWN In my 40-some years of global touring, I’ve made a career out of performing my songs for folks who’ve had no idea who I am, and as a result, no expectations for me to live up to. I can go virtually anywhere and capitalize on the element of surprise (see my previous CD), and enjoy the benefits inherent in playing for people whose experience of me is a blank canvas upon which I may paint freely. Liberating!
3) A MIGHTY DAY Last year’s Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma brought to mind this song which commemorates the great storm that devastated Galveston, Texas in 1900. I’ve added some new verses of my own to contemporize it, and commingle them with the gathering storms yet to come that threaten the planet due to our relentless flatulence of greenhouse gases and resultant global warming.
4) TALKING LIFE (PROBLEM SOLVED) It may be simplistic, but it has seemed to me that if one steps back far enough to gain sufficient perspective, Evolution and Creation are but two divergent descriptions of the self-same event that continues to unfold before us. Must we continue to respond like the blind men and the elephant?
5) TWELVE GATES TO THE CITY As in ‘A Mighty Day,’ I’ve employed the “folk process”, lending new verses to a traditional song. My metaphorical intent is to underscore the notion that if one is to achieve anything, one must first envision the possibility.
6) LIVING ON BORROWED TIME I was in a somewhat less sanguine place when I wrote this. Here I see humanity at a crossroads, and wonder whether we’ll choose to affirm Life and continue moving forward (albeit “two steps forward, one step back”) along our evolutionary continuum.
7) THERE GOES THE MOUNTAIN I’ve been singing this powerful Tom Paxton ecological lament for a couple of decades and even recorded it for inclusion on an earlier project, only to have it miss the cut. But now this newer rendering fits perfectly among the other songs in this collection.
8) A WHALING TRILOGY: WHALING IS MY TRADE, THOUGHTS OF A WHALER'S WIFE and WHALE SOLILOQUY These interwoven songs evolved into a Rashomon-like epic trilogy over a 4-year period beginning in 1969, when I wrote ‘Thoughts of a Whaler’s Wife’ for a female folksinger friend. I’m delighted the work has finally found its place among my recorded songs. The Whale has the last word.
9) THE SEEKER AND THE SIGN “These things and greater shall ye also do,” are words ascribed to our great teacher and wayshower, Jesus of Nazareth. Was it his intention for us to stop and worship the signpost, or to continue on to our ultimate destination?
10) WEALTH & CONSEQUENCES A whimsical imaginary meandering inspired by the daily news, bassist Ritt Henn says he thinks it’s a film. I’ll leave it to the Jung and the restless to attempt to interpret its meaning.
11) DURANTA GHURNIR This is a song I fell in love with when sung by a gathering of my in-laws upon my first visit to Kolkata (Calcutta) in 2000. I’m joined here by their darling--and mine, Madhumita Chakrabartti. I was struck by the infectious intermingling of melody, words and rhythm by the renowned Bengali composer, Salil Chowdhury (pron. Sho-lil Cho-dhu-ree). Dedicated to my Kolkata family.
12) GRACE I first recorded ‘Grace’ with my 1980s singing partner, Ferne Bork, for our only album, ‘Light Up the Sky’ (1987). I’ve been enamored of Melissa Javors’ songwriting since we first met at the Kerrville Folk Festival in the late ‘70s. Once more, with feeling!
13) IF I HAD A HAMMER My rendering here of the oft-recorded ‘Hammer Song’ is a tribute to my two most influential mentors, Pete Seeger and Bob Gibson. You’ll hear Gibson especially in the ending. (I would thank Gibson every time I saw him--until he got tired of hearing it. Sure miss him.) I hope you’ll hear Pete throughout. Love you, Pete! Words alone can’t express my gratitude.
--James Durst, June 2006