Various Artists 'The Beautiful Old' - Doubloon

This collection is sub-titled Marsteller and Rhodes present Turn-Of-The-Century Songs. Both are know for their work with the Fiery Blue, who have released a couple of albums under that name and the later for his work also with his mother Kimmie Rhodes. This is a wonderful album that matches song that were likely hit parade hits in their day. In those days, of course, it was sheet music sales rather than any other form. To people of a certain age many of these songs will be familiar. Home Sweet Home is the earliest song here having being published in 1823 while Beautiful Ohio dates from 1918.

Marsteller and Rhodes, respectively executive producer and music producer have matched these classic songs to a distinctive vocal performance while the music is largely an acoustic bed that could have been present when these songs were first played and is equally appropriate to a contemporary listening audience. The arrangements allow each vocalist complete freedom to sing these songs in a way that shows their individual talent to best advantage. There are also a couple of instrumentals included Garth Hudson plays The Rosary with his customary skill.

However the attraction here will be the array of vocalists that the producers have assembled and matched to the songs. They included Richard Thompson and Christine Collister, Graham Parker, Jimmy LaFave, Eric Bibb, Kim Richey as well as, not unexpectedly, Kimmie Rhodes. However the least expected turn here comes from Dave Davies. The Kinks' guitarist delivers a vulnerable After The Ball that adds a poignancy to the song's sense of heartbreak and regret. 

The assembled players do a great job of bringing the songs to life behind the vocalists. Yet there is a question as to how an audience completely unfamiliar with many of these songs will enjoy them. In truth the context of some of the songs and their language may not be that current but the sentiment is clear and often universal. But that may not be enough to connect them with a wider audience who may not get the chance to hear them, which is a great shame as there is much to enjoy in The Beautiful Old. Performances that will make it an album that once heard will not be easily forgotten. Kudos to all involved for the concept and for the execution.