Carolyn Hester

We Dream Forever

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Carolyn Hester was an early and important member of the Greenwich Village folk scene, giving a young harmonica-wielding Bob Dylan some of his first recorded exposure on one of her early albums for Columbia, and boosting Richard Fariña's career. Although her peers (Peter, Paul & Mary, Joan Baez, Judy Collins) went on to renown and massive record sales, Hester remained relatively modest in stature, with a restless muse that led her from trad folk to psychedelic folk-rock to, eventually, child-rearing and radio silence for over 20 years. Her career revival, aided by her late husband and collaborator, jazz pianist David Blume, has been tentative. This 2009 release was her first full-length recording after a gap of almost ten years. Hester's daughters Karla and Amy Blume produced We Dream Forever, adding some contemporary touches but foregoing any attempts to Rick Rubin-ize their mother's music for a newer audience. Listeners may experience a bit of an early-‘60s flashback as Hester sticks to what comes naturally: emoting quaintly over spare acoustic guitar patterns. Remarkably, the 72-year-old's soprano is as lush and supple as ever, and the song choices suit her voice, particularly old-school folk ballads like "Brother Warrior," Ed McCurdy's classic anti-war lament "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream," and "Boots of Spanish Leather," which Hester covered memorably, with Nanci Griffith, at Dylan's 30th anniversary concert in 1992. The album is saved from sameness by the presence of the insistent, minor-key "Morning Star," which reveals a slightly more aggressive side of the Texas songbird, and "Love to be Deceived," featuring a gorgeous, meandering melody worthy of Joni Mitchell. This kind of throwback sound is not likely to make Hester the comeback story of the year, but the utter sincerity with which she preserves a lost genre is commendable.

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