Oscar Brand

A Folk Concert in Town Hall, New York

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A spirited 1959 live set from the ongoing duo of Jean Ritchie and Oscar Brand (with their usual banjo-playing accompanist, Dave Sear, getting equal billing for the first time), A Folk Concert in Town Hall, New York sounds downright jubilant most of the time. Although Ritchie and Brand had long and successful solo careers, there's something special about their harmonies. Unlike many of the more mannered and academic folksingers of the age -- Pete Seeger comes immediately to mind -- Jean Ritchie grew up singing these songs for fun, and that brand of unfeigned enthusiasm comes through on her freewheeling renditions of familiar tunes like "Shortenin Bread" (sung as a round with Brand and Sear) and "Shady Grove." Even less familiar to the casual folk fan, nuggets like "Ennery My Son" and "The Inniskillin Dragoon" sound intimate and lived-in (Brand, who had a sideline in risqué folk ditties, spins the occasional double entendre with dry wit) in comparison to the technically "correct" but often far-too-stiff versions so common in the '50s folk revival. A Folk Concert in Town Hall, New York is an impressive addition to both Jean Ritchie and Oscar Brand's catalogs.

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