Raised by Humans

"Spider" John Koerner

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Raised by Humans Review

by William Ruhlmann

Fifty-three-year-old folksinger Spider John Koerner delivers only his sixth solo album in 27 years with Raised by Humans, following Spider Blues (1965), Running, Jumping, Standing Still (1969), Music Is Just a Bunch of Notes (1972), Some American Folk Songs Like They Used To (1974), and Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Been (1986). That last album marked something of a resurgence for Koerner, but it was a little deceptive in the sense that the recording was six years old when it was released. So, it's been more than six years between albums for Koerner, but not, perhaps, as much as 12, by the evidence of one of the few original compositions, "Summer of '88," the singer's wry observation of the state of the planet as of that year and season. For the most part, however, the album is consistent with Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Been in the sense that it consists of Koerner's easygoing takes on traditional material and songs associated with Leadbelly and Woody Guthrie. Accompanying himself on 12-string acoustic guitar, Koerner is joined by John "Mr. Bones" Burrell on bones and occasional other musicians, many of them also playing percussion instruments. He sings in an assured, rhythmic voice that has taken on a certain gruffness since the early days of Koerner, Ray & Glover more than 30 years ago, making it all the more appropriate to the often familiar songs and enabling him to create his own distinct interpretations. He doesn't need to make albums frequently, as long as the ones he does make are as enjoyable as this one.

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