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Stephen C. Foster July 4, 1826 - January 13, 1864

BEAUTIFUL DREAMER: The Songs of Stephen Foster
(American Roots) • Various Artists  

Finally, a truly great and worthwhile tribute record.

It’s something historical, something essentially American. Although he was the first American rock star, right down to his ultimately lethal alcoholic excesses, Stephen Foster’s songs are everywhere in our culture and yet largely unheralded and little known. How can it be, for instance, that there’d never been a tribute record to this seminal songwriting genius, when so many knuckleheads have been so recognized? It’s interesting, and kudos to co-producers David Macias (whose idea it was) and Steve Fishell for putting the project together to fuel the efforts of American Roots Publishing. Tamara Saviano and her cohorts are already doing great things, and they’re just beginning.

Since all these songs were written before Lincoln was shot, for God’s sake, it’s amazing how vital they sound today, and how each of the superb artists have chosen to present them. It’s so full and magnificent, for instance, that it’s uncanny that Raul Malo’s album-opening title cut is only him, producing himself on acoustic guitars and bass, and singing like a modern day Caruso. He’s outrageous.

On the other hand, two of my favorite soft singers shine like the first rays of a morning on still waters. Alison Krauss is featured on a cut of "Slumber My Darling," with Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, and Mark O’Connor. (The absolutely exquisite arrangement by bass phenomenon Edgar Meyer is from 2000, previously released on the Appalachian Journey CD. The seventeen other cuts were all recorded especially for this project.)

Judith Edelman does a breathtaking rendition of "No One to Love," it’s brilliant. Along with the opener, to me it’s the standout vocal track on the record. The interplay between her inspired piano arrangement and the guitar of her co-producer Gawain Matthews is great work.

The liner notes read that all the tracks were "Mastered by our Hero, Dave Sinko." A lot of people in Nashville or people from everywhere who have worked with Dave in Nashville feel the same way. There are a few engineers who are just way more than simply engineers. Many of these tracks were engineered and mixed by Dave at the Sound Emporium.

I’ve singled out but a few of the surprising and compelling songs on this landmark record. There are many different kinds of beautiful arrangements and performances, but some of my favorites are the most simple and hand-hewn, like John Prine’s version of "My Old Kentucky Home, Goodnight" or Alvin Youngblood Hart’s take on "Nelly Was a Lady."

This record needs to be part of your collection. And you’ll feel good about yourself after you buy it, here. • FG

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beautiful dreamer pages at americanrootspublishing.org

a Stephen Foster very brief bio and more info about him

featured performers:

raul malo online        duhks.com        judith edelman online 

mavis staples onlin        br549.com        edgarmeyer.com

markoconnor.com      alisonkrauss.com        yo-yoma.com

alvin youngblood hart online         john prine online

roger mcguinn online         michelleshocked.com      

peteanderson.com         greydelisle.com       bogguss.com

ollabellemusic.com         bethnielsenchapman.com

henrykaiser.net        davidball.com       ronsexsmith.com

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