Richard Fariña / Eric Von Schmidt

Dick Fariña & Eric Von Schmidt

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This obscure album, recorded in January 1963 at Dobell's record shop in London, is known primarily for a very famous session musician playing under a pseudonym. Blind Boy Grunt, aka Bob Dylan, contributed harmonica and backup vocals to half a dozen of the tracks (using that pseudonym, most likely, as he was under contract to a different label at the time). Farina and Von Schmidt, already noted performers in the American coffeehouse folk scene, are the principal figures on this pretty typical '60s folk revival LP. The material and delivery are rooted in traditional folk forms, including jug band, blues, and Appalachian music, and are neither too dry nor too exciting. Certainly Farina, the more talented of the front line pair, shows few flashes of the first-rate songwriting and arrangements that would flower on the albums he did in the mid-'60s with his wife Mimi Farina. The one vivid flash of that brilliance is on the instrumental "Old Joe's Dulcimer," in which he unveils his considerable talents on the instrument. With its almost Indian-like drones, it could just about fit as one of the instrumentals on the Richard & Mimi Farina albums, although the absence of Mimi Farina's guitar accompaniment creates (if only in retrospect) a sonic gap. "Wobble Bird" (derived from the standard "Cuckoo") and "Wildwood Flower" (a vocal number which has some dulcimer) aren't bad, but really this is just another folk album of its time, notable primarily as a collector's item. If you're picking this up just for Dylan's contributions, be advised that those are pretty low-key; he doesn't contribute any songwriting or lead vocals. Also lending a hand on these sessions is Ethan Signer of the Original Charles River Valley Boys.

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