Andrew Calhoun

Telfer's Cows: Folk Ballads from Scotland

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After listening to Telfer's Cows, one would never guess that Andrew Calhoun was an American artist, much less a singer/songwriter of contemporary material. The subtitle -- Folk Ballads from Scotland -- partially explains this impression, but it's strengthened by the singer's thick brogue, which recalls Edinburgh more than Portland, OR, where the album was recorded. The transformation has less to do with trends, though, than a desire to bring forth an even dozen songs that date back hundreds of years, and have thus stood the test of time. Calhoun's interpretations of songs like the title cut and "The Unquiet Grave" eschew contemporary artifice for straight traditionalism. His vocal readings are straightforward and his arrangements, featuring guitar, bass, violin, and accordion -- are simple and spare. It's also nice that Calhoun avoids a number of obvious songs for rarer fare like "King Orfeo" and "Kinmont Willie," and that he doesn't mind spinning these songs out for five and six minutes. As with a number of older folk songs born out of oral cultures, it's the stories, not a catchy melody or chorus, that hold the listener. Calhoun has crafted a fine album, which qualifies as the closest thing to real Celtic music on this side of the Atlantic.

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