Various Artists – Portland Stories
Sonic Pieces 2009
[tags: acoustic, folk, compilation, 2009, great!]
01. Kele Goodwin – Kite Strings
02. Sarah Winchester – Northeast Kingdom
03. Michael Elias – Halfway There
04. Nicholas A. Marshall – Into the Night
05. Maymay – The Fall
06. Rauelsson – Liebre
07. Town Rill – My Park Bench
08. Galveston – Never Ask Why
09. Heather Woods Broderick – Behind Doors
Listen while reading:
I think every record collector knows the pleasurable feeling of having bought a very rare or very special record. The happiness of actually having it in the own collection is something that can last for years if not forever – it’s like owning a personal little Mona Lisa in audio format with all the pleasures included like touching it, looking at it, (why not) smelling it and most important listening to it whenever one feels the need to do so. And Heather Woods Broderick’s (the sister of Peter Broderick) compilation Portland Stories is nothing but such a record you desire with all your heart if you love acoustic folk music.
Heather had had the idea of creating a compilation of Portland based music to have all the music she loved at hand whenever she was away from home. And so she decided to ride her bike and her portable four-track recorder to the artists she knew and liked and asked them to play a track for her. They had to meet the following criteria: every artist shall select a song he wants to record, but mustn’t use more than the 4 tracks and one microphone. And so Heather wrote her bike to different places and recorded and collected musical instant moments – just like Polaroid photos in sound. “The idea was to have incredible simple recordings of the songs, so that they sounded just like you might hear them performed live,” it runs in the CD insert.
With the encouragement of her brother she finished recording and on a trip to Berlin Nils Frahm (who also did the mixing and mastering for the record) introduced her to Monique Recknagel, proprietress of the Sonic Pieces label. Monique fell in love with the songs and the compilation and decided to release it via Sonic Pieces in a wonderful handmade and hand-numbered edition of 369 copies back in December of 2009.
The compilation starts off with Kele Goodwin and his wonderful sing-along song of contemporary folk music Kite Strings. An easy melody played on acoustic guitar and his soft but a bit sad sounding voice in combination with the melancholic timbre of the song make a wonderful opener for the compilation. It’s one of those tracks that stay in your head long after you listened to them. Goodwin is followed by Sarah Winchester and the title track from her Northeast Kingdom Demos which she had also released in 2009. The version on Portland Stories comes with rough guitar sound, lots of edges and a very nice contrast between the hushed vocals and the cool sound of the instrument. Doubled voice layers create an airy feeling and the song feels a good bit like floating through clouds. Great folk track with authentic atmosphere. And speaking of authentic atmosphere, Michael Elias on third position kicks in with Halfway There, an awesome country folk ballad at its best. The man got so much feeling in every note that the music alone would be able to tell the story without words – an absolute highlight that reminded me a bit of Jonathan Byrd sometimes. Judging from the sound of Sarah Winchester’s track and the country feeling of Michael Elias, I would say that Nicholas A. Marshall’s quiet and sad folk song Into The Night is the middle ground between the two artists before him. The vocals are very calm and quiet, but the lullaby like tune bears strong country influences without being as much country as Halfway There. I think it can be easily recognized that the order of the tracks is not random at all and it is justified to speak of a composition of the single tracks to an elaborate whole.
Next candidate in line is Maymay (Laurel Simmons with real name who occasionally plays together with Heather Woods Broderick, Raúl Pastor Medall and Nicholas Archibald Marshall) and she presents a typical modern folk song with finger picked acoustic guitar melodies and soft but present vocals. The name of the song is The Fall and the gloomy atmosphere is supported by some nice piano and string arrangements (which may be synthesizer sounds after all, I don’t know). Really nice track that transforms Into The Night’s sleepiness into some cozy afternoon mood with cold windy weather ouside. Rauelsson (real name Raúl Pastor Medall) is a Spanish “but self-considered adopted Oregonian” Spanish singing musician with very smooth played acoustic guitar melodies and a warm voice. Liebre perfectly completes the mentioned afternoon mood of The Fall and got some of the lullaby sound from Into The Night. Very good track even though I don’t understand about what he’s singing (seems that Liebre means hare in English). Break. Track seven is unexpected and you might call it the moment of final suspense for Town Rill sings to us a strong and honest blues song with a strong and rough voice that sounds old and harassed. My Park Bench is certainly different in style than the rest of the compilation, but nevertheless it fits in very well and rounds down the overall picture of the CD. Nice surprise. After this little trip to the bluesy boarders of folk music we go one step back and arrive at Galveston’s song Never Ask Why. With My Park Bench it has in common, that the voice of Christopher Ashby sounds familiar to that of Birger Olsen, the man behind Town Rill. But the guitar work is very different and more folk orientated like the other tracks before. And the fact that Galveston’s track is such a nice addition to Town Rill shows again the dexterity of compiling the loose parts to a great musical experience. The single guitar sounds at the end of the track open the door to the last track of our musical journey through Portland. Heather Woods Broderick herself contributed a track of her own that’s called Behind Doors. Her vocal style is similar to Sarah Winchester’s, but her guitar play reminds me of Lotte Kestner. All together a very nice walkout for the compilation with lots of emotion in it that completes the circle perfectly to the tracks beforehand.
As I said at the beginning of the post, if you like acoustic folk music, Portland Stories is a record you want to get your hands one because it not only catches some serious folk tunes but it catches the authenticity of folk music and all the honesty and intimacy that lies within this beautiful, beautiful music. To get a copy of the record head directly to this site and purchase your CD version there. If you want to take another listen first, stream the whole record on soundcloud.com. Do yourself a favor and be quick to get one of the last copies – CFM awesomeness guarantee!