Jim Stricklan | Blues for Stephen Foster

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Blues for Stephen Foster

by Jim Stricklan

Contemporary folk - riverboat cruise through the art of American song.
Genre: Folk: Folk Blues
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Stained Glass Heart
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2:44 $0.99
2. Small Betrayal
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4:59 $0.99
3. Our Little Man
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4:01 $0.99
4. No Goodwill Stores in Waikiki
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2:40 $0.99
5. Mess of Blues
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3:21 $0.99
6. Got My Mojo Working
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4:57 $0.99
7. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
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2:51 $0.99
8. Whiter Shade of Pale
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4:21 $0.99
9. Wish I Knew
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4:48 $0.99
10. Oh! Susanna
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3:04 $0.99
11. Blues for Stephen Foster
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3:31 $0.99
12. Leaning Rock
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5:09 $0.99
Available as MP3, MP3 320, and FLAC files.


Album Notes
Although my album pays tribute to Stephen Foster, it's not merely a collection of his songs performed by me. The exception is an arrangement of "Oh! Susanna" that my friend Greg Lowry and I worked out together in my front room. Greg removed the wooden back from his banjo and, playing claw-hammer style (without picks), achieved the very sound I was looking for. Greg also improvised the splendid one-take harmonica solo! I believe Stephen Foster would like our treatment of his classic (by historical accounts one of the first songs he wrote). What we commonly regard as folk music was the pop music of Foster's era, despite its sad reflection of a nineteenth century American culture that was racially depraved.

"Blues for Stephen Foster" {the song} began as a haunting 5-string banjo instrumental that came to me while I was working at KWKH in Shreveport, Louisiana around 1988. I played a lot of banjo during the three years before Leslie and I moved to Austin, and even attended Pete Wernick's famous Banjo Camp in Niwot, Colorado. It was an experience I'll always treasure. Twenty years later, Leslie and I visited our friends Butch Hause and Sarah Lincoln at their farm near Berthoud, Colorado. Butch sat me down in his recording studio (The Ranger Station) with a [000] Martin guitar and we improvised—on the spot—a basic vocal and guitar track that eventually became the title-song for this album. These are the only two Foster-related songs you’ll find on the album.

"Ranger" Butch mossied over to his computer and printed out several recognizable Foster lyrics and I inserted them into the piece at regular intervals. A year or so later, Butch invited [into the studio] his extraordinary neighbors Joe Scott and Hannah Alkire...a husband and wife musical sensation known worldwide as Acoustic Eidolon. With Butch at the knobs, playing sublime bass, Joe’s harmonic kisses on his custom made guitjo, and Hannah's magnificent cello soaring on the melodies of a beautifully interwoven medley of Foster tunes, this tour de force was created.

This album also pays tribute to my late songwriting friend and partner Larry M. Rothwell. Years ago, Larry gave me his blessing to record a song he'd never gotten around to recording. After his death I immediately began working on "Stained Glass Heart". I chose an arrangement and sound reminiscent of POCO, one of our favorite bands. Another of Larry's oldest pals, Chuck Ditto, played piano and Danny Hawk is on steel guitar. Maybe POCO will get wind of it and decide to cover it too. As Larry would say, “who knows?!” One of my original song tributes to Larry, Our Little Man, also found a place on this album. My thanks to Chuck for the “rainbow” lyric idea.

This CD is dedicated to three friends who are all songwriters: Sally Townes, Steve Brown, and Jack Mathes. I wrote about my history with Jack and Steve in the liner notes of the Front Room Music Album in 2003. Sally Townes, a professional musician, played most of the keyboard tracks on this album and joined me for a zydeco duet arrangement of Muddy Waters’ "Got My Mojo Working". I first heard this song by organ master Jimmy Smith on a vinyl Verve record in the 60s, and decided to call my rock band The Mojo Hand. Another bit of trivia: Sally Townes was in that band, back in 1967! Her piano work on "Small Betrayal" is truly amazing and I believe Stephen Foster would like it. The song has a timeless quality and is part of a trilogy that began with "Rosewood Piano" and ends with "Neither Here Nor There" (from earlier CDs).

Leslie and I have been fans of Sara Hickman for many years and when I wrote "Wish I Knew", I immediately thought of her as the perfect duet partner to sing it. Sara is as gracious as she is talented, and she was kind enough to accept my invitation. Naturally, she hit a homerun with her passionate vocals on Wish I Knew. I think it's one of the top ten songs I've written, so I'm happy to share it on this album. You should definitely check out Sara Hickman's albums if you haven’t already. She’s also a brilliant performing artist, and I’ve been around long enough to know.

I met Blaze Foley in 1979, while working at Runaway Radio, KLOL-FM in Houston. Blaze was among the colorful and talented characters on the Houston scene at the time and we shared the stage at Corky’s on a few occasions. When Ryan Rader began working on a series of tribute CDs featuring Blaze’s songs, I was invited to participate. On Blaze Foley Volume Too, (released in 1999), I performed "No Goodwill Stores in Waikiki". Lately I’ve noticed a resurgence of interest in Blaze’s life and music, and I decided it would be fun to add the tune to this album. Incidentally, there are now a few good Blaze Foley collections available on CD, aside from the tribute series.

"Leaning Rock" is a fictional story-song I wrote years ago. I’ve read countless novels and short stories by many of the great western writers. This song was inspired by Louie L’Amour, truly a gifted story teller, if there ever was one! Thanks Louie for your extraordinary imagination and the powerful characters you brought to us so vividly. Doug Taylor, Greg Lowry, Leslie, and Kevin Hall (the Daydreamers) helped me bring "Leaning Rock" to life. You can search the map, but your chances of finding Sharktooth, Arizona are about as remote as discovering the Dutchman’s gold.

I wrote "Mess of Blues" on July 4th, which just happens to be Stephen Foster's birthday! The song has nothing to do with him really, except for the fact he could really relate to the blues. It's in his music that has moved people for more than a hundred and sixty years. Consider this quote from W.C. Handy, Father of the Blues: "I suspect that Stephen Foster owed something to this well, this mystery, this sorrow. ‘My Old Kentucky Home' makes you think so at any rate. Something there suggests close acquaintance with my people.”

For Stephen Collins Foster, times were never easy, even before the War Between the States. Copyright laws didn't exist back then; nor did the recording industry. In my view, Foster's demise owed less to his domestic problems than to the damage inflicted on the American psyche and economy by the Civil War. And yet, ironically, as hard times come once more to America, Foster's words may again ring true and his music soothe the souls of those willing to listen.



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