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

Alexandra Rowland And Bad Faith Accusations

This morning, writing twitter was blown up by a post from Alexandra Rowland accusing Scott Lynch and Elizabeth Bear of some nasty manipulative behavior. I have reason to believe that Rowland is acting in bad faith. Seven or eight years ago, Rowland and I were in the same writing group. I didn't know them well, but we became Facebook friends because that's what you do. At some point after we fell out of contact with each other, they made a post about an affair with an influential older male who had lied about being in an open marriage and proceeded to manipulate and gaslight and emotionally abuse them. I didn't know any of the people involved other than Rowland, but I was affected enough by Rowland’s post that I can still recall reading it all these years later. So when I saw Rowland's blog this morning, I assumed it was the same situation... except the dates weren't right. The Bear/Lynch events took place in 2016, but the post I remembered was older than that. So I

100 Album: "Game Of Thrones Season 3 Soundtrack" by Ramin Djawadi

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the  explainer  or view  the master list . Artist:  Ramin Djawadi Title:   Game Of Thrones, Season 3 Soundtrack Released:  2013 Genre:  DAH duh, duh-duh-DAH duh, duh-duh-DAH duh He's not as big a name as Hans Zimmer or John Williams or the various Newmans out there, but Ramin Djawadi is easily the most interesting composer working in television right now (with due respect to Bear McCreary). Soundtracks, especially television soundtracks because they're produced so quickly, have a tendency to serve more as a wall of atmosphere than anything else. But Djawadi's work here and on Westworld  has generated some amazing musical themes. There's a strong undercurrent of leitmotif informing the way the music flows together and the themes those motifs are built around are damned  catchy--which you know if you got the joke in the genre description above. While all of the soundtracks for GoT  are very listenable, this is m

On Getting Laser Eyes

Last week I got Lasik. I was looking forward to not having to deal with glasses getting smudged by my kids or slipping off my face. I figured that not needing them would be pretty convenient. However, the words I heard over and over from other people who'd already done it were: "life-changing." That seemed to be overstating a bit. Convenient, yes, but life-changing? I didn't get it. I get it now. I've had some kind of vision correction, either glasses or contacts, for the last thirty-odd years, which is nearly as far back as I can remember. And what I hadn't realized was the extent to which this had become part of my identity. It's not that I thought glasses were cool because I wore them--although I did and they are. It's that the ability to see was, for me, artificial and temporary. And my vision was pretty bad, so my natural state was one of... not so much "blindness" as "isolation." There was a layer of vagueness that sat bet