Birth


Artist: Mel Lyman Family
Label: Transparency
Released: January 1, 2002
Genre: FOLK

This is a most mysterious CD, with nothing in the way of liner notes to explain how these sessions came to pass, although it does include musician credits and a sticker on the case describing it as a "previously unkonwn [sic] folk masterpiece from January 1970." No label address is listed, and for that matter the website address that appears on one page refuses connection. It can be deduced, however, that it's quite likely this material was recorded at or around the sessions yielding Mel Lyman's obscure 1969 album, American Avatar, since many of the musicians on that LP -- Jim Kweskin, Bruce Langhorne, Geoff Muldaur, and Lisa Kindred -- also appear in varying combinations on these tracks. It's not a "folk masterpiece," or indeed especially folky. What it sounds like, actually, is an extremely subdued, drumless (save for one track) 3 a.m. folk-blues-rock jam, as if the musicians were fighting off both sleep and the effects of some extremely potent barbiturates. It's not as bad or indulgent as that description might portend; it's rather like hanging around a bar after closing time in which some bohemian just-ex-folkys have commandeered the instruments from the resident lounge band. The floating conglomerations of musicians run through drowsily mournful takes on "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," "Careless Love" (with exceptionally low, wraithlike vocals from Kindred), a way-slowed-down Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready" (on which Maria Muldaur takes the lead), "He Was a Friend of Mine," and a couple of other traditional tunes. Perhaps there's some intriguing story behind this release and this ad hoc ensemble of musicians, but it's not evident from either the packaging or the sounds themselves.

~ Richie Unterberger, All Music Guide

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