Taryn Fiebig / Juan Jackson / Andrew Greene

Old American Songs

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AllMusic Review by

The title Old American Songs suggests the presence here of Aaron Copland's two-book collection by that title, but only five of Copland's arrangements of traditional songs are included. Instead, the program has similar arrangements by a variety of composers, including unlikely items such as a pair by Kurt Weill and a version of Shenandoah by Percy Grainger. Some of the songs are by Stephen Foster, whose music is often taken to be traditional anyhow. The program concept is very strong, for it encompasses the resonance of American folk songs in the careers of some very diverse composers. The treatments range from the lightly colored (Warren Michael Swenson) to the full-on impressionist (Jake Heggie), and those by Benjamin Britten and Ned Rorem are entirely characteristic of those composers' personalities. Swenson's Foster arrangements include a couple of less commonly heard items, "Why No One to Love?" and "Was My Brother in the Battle?," that are arguably on par with his standards. The performances are very nice, and there's no exoticism factor connected with the disc's Australian origins. Taryn Fiebig is a fine light soprano with excellent articulation (a critical factor in any Stephen Foster recording), but the real standout is tenor Juan Jackson, an Australian of African-American origin who has a real grasp of the diverse ethnic currents running through American song of the nineteenth century and can shift in and out of slight African-American, Scots, Irish, or Italian inflections -- more melodic than verbal -- as needed. Both performers catch the humor that's on display in many of the traditional tunes, and the disc is consistently fun for any listener. A final bonus is the booklet essay by American musicologist Deane L. Root, which can start any listener on the way toward knowing where some of these familiar songs came from, and how they got to be that way. A winner all around.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
3:40
2
4:47
3
3:16
4
2:41
5
3:20
6
2:59
7
5:02
Down in the Valley, opera
8
4:06
9
1:43
10
2:15
Tom Bowling and Other Song Arrangements, for voice & piano
11
2:00
12
3:36
British Folksongs (8), for voice & harp
13
1:27
Tom Bowling and Other Song Arrangements, for voice & piano
14
3:04
15
1:29
16
4:01
17
3:25
18
2:50
19
1:54
20
2:29
21
2:59
22
3:17
23
1:33
blue highlight denotes track pick