Roger McGuinn: Treasures From The Folk Den (2001)

Honestly, I thought this was going to be a folk den waste of time. Instead, it awakened a hunger in me for folk music that I didn’t know I had. First, to backtrack for a bit, the origins of the Folk Den Project, which has consumed much of Roger McGuinn’s time in the 21st century. McGuinn began posting folk songs, one a month, on his web site, which led to a dual discovery wherein McGuinn delved deeper into our country’s musical heritage (folk) while simultaneously exploring our digital future (the Internet, MP3 technology and digital recording/editing tools). From these came the Folk Den projects (volumes one through four), which typically featured McGuinn multitracked in his home. This disc features McGuinn taking his exploration on the road, visiting the homes (temporary or otherwise) of artists such as Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Tommy Makem and Pete Seeger. Given the guests involved, Treasure From The Folk Den is a more professional affair than the previous Projects (as I understand it), though the folksy informality of the original sessions remains since, after all, these are still essentially homemade recordings. Now, that bit of history settled, onto the music. McGuinn’s voice has always had a “tart innocence” to it that you either enjoy or you don’t. To my ears, it sounds as good as ever, though I would argue it’s out of its element on the Irish songs (“Finnegan’s Wake,” “Whiskey in the Jar”). Paired with Baez and Collins, it’s a thing of beauty: “John Riley,” “Bonnie Ship The Diamond,” “Wagoner’s Lad.” It’s even more effective on its own: “Alabama Bound,” “Cane Blues.” Those tracks account for most of the treasure; I’d add “John The Revelator” and the instrumental “Reel” for good measure. The Tommy Makem tunes are also good, but the man has released an album or two of Irish music himself, and you’d best go searching there. The Folk Den series is clearly a labor of love for Roger McGuinn, and establishes him as an able ambassador of American Folk in the new century. I wouldn’t be scared off by the cover (or what you can see of it after the label-happy people at Plymouth Public Library got through with it); this is folk captured in its very essence: fleeting and timeless.

The Songs
1. Wagoner’s Lad (traditional) (2:38)
2. Dink’s Song (traditional) (4:17)
3. Bonnie Ship The Diamond (traditional) (2:16)
4. Cane Blues (traditional, new music by Roger McGuinn) (3:42)
5. Reel (traditional) (2:33)
6. Fair Nottamuun Town (traditional, arr. by Jean Ritchie) (3:34)
7. John The Revelator (traditioal, arr. and new lyrics by Roger McGuinn/Camilla McGuinn) (2:28)
8. Alabama Bound (traditional) (3:24)
9. Finnegan’s Wake (traditional) (2:25)
10. In The Evenin’ (traditional) (4:13)
11. Willie Moore (traditional) (3:30)
12. The Brazos River (traditional) (2:42)
13. Sail Away lady (traditional, arr. by Odetta) (3:01)
14. John Riley (Phil Belmonte/Bob Gibson/Ricky Neff) (3:37)
15. Trouble In Mind (traditional) (2:42)
16. Whiskey In The Jar (traditional) (3:57)
17. The Virgin Mary (traditional, arr. and new lyrics by Roger McGuinn) (1:59)
18. Pete’s Song (Pete Seeger) (1:41)

The Players
Roger McGuinn (12-string guitar, 5-string banjo, vocals, guitar, Rickenbacker electric 12-string guitar) with Joan Baez (vocals & guitar on 1/11), Eliza Carthy (fiddle on 1/5/11), Judy Collins (vocals on 3/14), Martin Green (accordion on 5), Frank & Mary Hamilton (guitar & vocals on 12), Tommy Makem/The Makem Brothers (vocals on 9/16), Odetta (vocals & guitar on 7/13/17), Jean Ritchie (dulcimer & vocals on 6/7), Pete Seeger (12-string guitar, 5-string banjo, vocal and recorder on 2/8/10/18), Elizabeth Spaul (vocals on 7), Josh White Jr. (vocals & guitar on 2/15). Produced by Roger McGuinn/Camilla McGuinn; mixed by Roger and Camilla McGuinn.

The Pictures
Liner notes by Roger McGuinn. Cover photo by Linda Palmer Lee. Photos by Camilla McGuinn, Dana Thnan, Jim Musselman, Shonna Valeska, Jack mitchell. Package art direction by Carla Leighton @ Gloo. Design by Carla Leighton and Chris Kommann.

The Plastic
Released on compact disc on August 28, 2001 in the US (Appleseed, APR CD 1046).

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