Appleseed Recordings; 610-701-5755; www.appleseedrec.com
You don't need to scour the Smithsonian Folkways archives or dig up scratchy field recordings cut 40 years ago in Appalachia to hear stirring vocal renditions of traditional folk ballads. Jody Stecher, a longtime collector and performer of old-time acoustic music, known for his duo recordings with San Francisco Bay Area partner Kate Brislin, has finally recorded an album that fully displays his emotionally powerful vocal style on a collection of American and English folk ballads, including "Gypsy Davy," "Lowlands of Holland," "Young Rapoleon," and "Barbary Ellen." Playing guitar, banjo, mandolin, and oud, and joined here and there by Hank Bradley (fiddle), Larry Hanks (bass vocals), and Kate Brislin (banjo), Stecher reaches back into a past where folks were bound together, from county to county and generation to generation, by their storytelling in song. He then brings the seemingly archaic narratives into a present of pure personal expression.
With a voice that's all backwoods twang and mournfulness, he pays meticulous attention to lyric interpretation and musical nuance, turning each starkly framed ballad into a sumptuous and breathtaking aural vignette that comes to life all around you.