sábado, 26 de septiembre de 2009

Judy Henske: Judy Henske (1963) / High Flying Bird (1964)

Success is a matter of luck as well as talent. Given different circumstances, Henske could have certainly been a much bigger star than she was. Instead she's a hazily remembered figure, known if at all for some recordings that faintly prefigured folk-rock, and tangential associations with more famous performers. Her strong, bold, and versatile delivery would have been well-suited for the folk-rock era; her timing was just a bit off. Signing to Elektra as a solo artist, she released her eponymous debut in '63, following it up in '64 with the album that is generally accepted as her best Elektra release. Judy's 1963 debut for the label was a live affair recorded in front of a well-oiled studio audience, the perfect venue for not only her passionate singing style but also her irreverent between-song patter. Henske belts out numbers that most folksingers of the period approached gently and reverently, as though they'd break, and the arrangements, acoustic guitar and bass with harmonica and the occasional presence of a trombone, interspersed with some brassy orchestrations. This wasn't the G-rated side of the folk revival, either, as Henske makes more mentions of sex, whores, whorehouses, and other subject matter not suitable for children than one usually heard on records from this period. As she would throughout most of her career, on this album Henske eludes easy categorization. There's barrelhouse blues with a touch of Broadway belting, there are folk standards, and even Dixielandish jazz. She's at her best when she eschews the jivey jazz for a more straight folk-blues approach (on 'Wade in the Water,' 'Love Henry,' and 'I Know You Rider'). High Flying Bird offers a somewhat more restrained presentation, without the same level of humor and, generally, more conventional blues arrangements — Henske does a version of the title-track that blows the Jefferson Airplane's rendition right out of the sky, and she may give us the most distinctive performance of 'Columbus Stockade' this side of Darby & Tarlton's early-'30s recording, interspersed with works by Hoagy Carmichael and Billie Holiday. High Flying Bird virtually prefigured folk rock, featuring as it did guitars, bass and drums (played by legendary sessionman Earl Palmer). I added a live version of 'House of the Rising Sun' as a bonus track here. As these two recordings show, Judy Henske should have been a major star, rather than the hazy cult figure that she has become. http://www.allmusic.com/
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