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FATEA - Review: Joel Rafael: Baladista

Joel Rafael - Baldista

With a warm, sandy voice that sounds far younger than his 66 years, the Chicago-born folk singer-songwriter's has been making music for over half a century, often as an interpreter of Woody Guthrie, releasing two albums of his music, as well as his own material, not to mention collaborating with John Steibeck for a radio version of The Grapes of Wrath. This is his ninth album, a 10-song collection of which eight are self-penned, the others being the lovely Jack Tempchin co-write Love's First Lesson and a fine cover of Hedy West's lonesome train song classic 500 Miles featuring electric guitar from John Inmon and Terry Ware.

Not surprisingly, given his age, there's a good deal of reflection here with easy rolling songs about loves lost and held, times past and roads travelled, two of the best being the Prine-like harmonica blowing old flame ballad opener She Had To Go and the travelling musician's love song When I Go. Elsewhere memories surface on Old Portland Town's tale of being busted for hashish possession in the 60s and on the bluesy harp wailing Sticks and Stones he recalls singing Don't Kill My Baby & My Son, an obscure Guthrie number about the racist lynching of Laura Norton and her son in the Oklahoma town where he was performing, and of the black woman in the audience, "the only person of color in that place' who told it had redeemed all the hatred she's had to endure to see him...

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