The Tradition Album (RGFCD025)
This historic album (originally released in 1961) first emerged under the title of 'Carolyn Hester', but as Carolyn has released several eponymous albums, it is now retitled 'The Tradition Album' - it was made for the Tradition record label, which apparently belonged to The Clancy Brothers, one of whom produced it.
Carolyn and her husband, Dave Blume, have always called it 'The Tradition Album', which makes this title appropriate. It was also released in the UK some years ago (pre-CD) as 'Thursday's Child', with a sleeve note signed by Carolyn which she has no memory of writing ! Recorded in New York, it features Carolyn totally solo, singing to her own guitar accompaniment, with a song selection combining traditional songs sung in both English and Spanish with notable contemporary folk songs and standards.
'House Of The Rising Sun' is plainly the same song later recorded by Bob Dylan and then by The Animals, 'If I Had A Ribbon Bow' was chosen as Fairport Convention's debut single (pre-Sandy Denny), while 'She Moves Through The Fair' has also been recorded by Van Morrison & The Chieftains, Art Garfunkel and Marianne Faithfull, and 'Summertime' (from 'Porgy & Bess' is one of Gershwin's finest and most enduring songs.This was not a long LP, and in order to enhance its appeal as a CD, Carolyn has recorded four 'new' songs in 1995 as bonus tracks, using material she might have included in her repertoire in 1961. 'Let It Be Me' and 'Man Of Constant Sorrow' particularly caress the ears...
The original LP is generally believed to have attracted the attention of John Hammond of Columbia Records, who signed Carolyn, and produced another LP titled 'Carolyn Hester', which featured harmonica from a young friend of Carolyn's from Greenwich Village. As a result of this meeting with Hammond, Bob Dylan signed with Columbia, where he remains today. Historic or what ? Fast forward to 1993, when Carolyn appeared with Nanci Griffith on the tour to promote Nanci's 'Other Voices, Other Rooms' album (a masterpiece). Following a 'Folk Roots' feature on Carolyn, she invited RGF's John Tobler to release her two 1980s albums, 'Music Medicine' and 'Warriors Of The Rainbow', in the UK, and in 1994, 'Texas Songbird', a CD containing both albums, was released as RGFCD 019.
Carolyn toured Britain in her own right for the first time in a quarter of a century, backed by her husband Dave Blume, and has returned every year since. The original sleeve artwork of what has now become 'The Tradition Album' has been abandoned in favour of a colour shot of Carolyn from the same session, which has fortunately survived the '60s, the '70s. the '80s and half the '90s. The CD booklet contains lyrics, much of the lengthy original sleeve notes, and reflections from Carolyn in 1995 - incidentally, she cannot recall ever before receiving royalty payments for this album - plus quotes from Martin Carthy and others (thanks, Martin). This album predates The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and many other household names, and like the work of many great blues giants, it was recorded many years before many of today's record buyers were born. The difference is that Carolyn is still active, performing songs from a 39 year career (her first LP was released in 1958 and produced by Norman Petty, the man who helped Buddy Holly to superstardom). The term 'living legend' was never more apposite.
Also available by CAROLYN HESTER on Road Goes On Forever Records:
Texas Songbird (two complete 1980s albums on a single CD)
From These Hills