Skip to main content

100 Albums: "Today" by The New Christy Minstrels


Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: The New Christy Minstrels
Title: Today
Released: 1964
Genre: ensemble folk



This was an album I listened to over and over again on car trips growing up. It was fifteen hours in the van from our house to my grandparents', so we had a lot of time to burn. This was one of a number of records that my dad had on vinyl and had put on tape, and this was on a tape of folk songs alongside the Kingston Trio. The New Christy Minstrels were part of the early 60's folk revival that would be obliterated when Bob Dylan hit the scene. They took their name from Christy's Minstrels, an old literally-a-minstrel act that performed in blackface (that's just Christy's Minstrels--NCM didn't do that, although taking a name from a group that did is a little... icky). The racial undercurrents of the album are interesting. It was released the same year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ended segregation, and it has a few appeals to Southern Pride, despite being an act founded by a Kansan and part of a musical movement that was mostly active in New York City and the West Coast. There's nothing overtly racist, but songs like Charleston Town and Company Of Cowards subtly but clearly make supportive reference to the Confederacy.

All that aside, when you focus solely on the music... it's pretty good. It has some impressive ensemble performances with energy and panache. In the chorus of Whistlin' Dixie the exact placement of the final word "South" moves around, making it tricky to sing along with unless you have it consciously memorized. There's a choreography to the music, with individual or small groups of singers picking up single lines and then handing the song off to the next vocalist. There's a spirit of fun to the whole affair. This Ol' Riverboat spins a yarn about steamboats racing to get to the next town to pick up shipments of cotton and running aground in the river. Songs are reprised and preprised. The title track is a crooning ballad that finishes off the record, but there's a lyric-less version called Love Theme that shows up early. Raucous opener Company Of Cowards is reprised later on with the Company Q Whistling March. There are a couple of oddball instrumentals, like a song called Ladies that is played mostly on kazoo, or a lurching dulcimer piece called Brackenby's Music Box.

It's something of a time capsule. My emotions are mixed about it now, but you can't help but admire the work and talent that went into making it. If you want to see some of the non-Dylan, non-Kingston-Trio strains of the 60s folk revival, it's worth checking out.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

100 Albums

Hello all!

In an attempt to keep the old blog from atrophying, I'm going to try out a project a friend of mine did a few years ago and spend the year writing about some of my favorite albums. So over the next 50 weeks, you can expect a couple entries a week until we get to 100. Or until I run out of steam and give up. Whichever comes first.

The only rule I'm giving myself here is to limit things to one album per artist. If that would preclude other favorite albums from making the list, I'll note it, but I don't want the list to be completely overrun by Radiohead and the Beatles. I'm going to start at the top of the list (that is, with my #1 favorite), but the ordering is not super rigorous--especially beyond the first twenty or so.

I'll put a master list on a page that's easily accessible from the front and I'll probably throw in some supplemental stuff, like albums I loved as a child but can't really listen to anymore for various reasons or albums …

"Writing Lots!" by Dawn Vogel

Hi, I'm Dawn, and I'm doing guest post here on Kurt's blog. I write fantasy, steampunk, YA, and pretty much anything else that looks shiny for a moment. You can learn more about me here! Today, I'm talking about how I write as much as I do.

I've been writing since I knew how to do so, but I've been writing with an eye toward publication for about eleven years. As I've gotten more comfortable with the craft of writing, my productivity has increased dramatically. In the first six years I was writing seriously, I wrote fewer than twenty short stories, all told. Over the next three years, I increased my output and wrote about a dozen stories a year (with an occasional poem mixed in). Last year, I wrote 38 short stories/flash and 6 poems. This year, I've already surpassed that, and it's only September.

In analyzing how I've increased my output so dramatically, I've found three main keys to my prolific writing: 1) planning, 2) stolen moments, and 3)…

100 Albums: "Untitled (IV/Zoso)" by Led Zeppelin

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: Led Zeppelin
Title: untitled
Released: 1971
Genre: classic rock


Is there a more epic album opening than Black Dog? Plant screaming "Hey, Hey, Mama..." and a trio of musicians exploding into that proto-metal riff behind him? There's a reason Led Zeppelin is always included in discussions of who might be the greatest rock band of all time: Plant's bluesy wail, Bonham's impossibly huge drum sound, Page's guitar work--and tone, when people talk about "vintage guitar tone" they're talking about Jimmy Page--and Jones's bass and keys (bassists are the unsung heroes of rock, and Jones's bass work here is low-key phenomenal). They're an iconic band, and this is their most iconic album.

Officially untitled, but commonly referred to as either Zoso or IV, this record is not only their best-selling, but it contains their most well-known song, Stairway To H…