If you're like me, you've been a Prairie Home Companion (PHC) listener in good stead for almost 25 year. Now there's a movie based on Keillor's book about the behind-the- scenes and onstage saga of a night on the radio, Minnesota Public Radio, that is. I'll review the accompanying CD to the movie, which will prove to be a listening delight for old timers like me as well as newcomers to PHC music.
You're in for a earful of sweet treats including the old regulars like Robin and Linda singing their bluegrass, Rich Dworsky and the Shoe Band playing everything from rag to swing with Hot Club of France , gospel and klezmer overtones. Jearlyn Steele belts out her sonorous tunes while the Hammond B3 from the band wails under her delicious voice.
The timeless musical ads of Guy's Shoes and Jens Jensen's Herring give us a good chuckle every time they are heard, and the Johnson Sisters' (Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlinson) rendition of "My Minnesota Home" even has that little Minnesota lilt to their voices. Perfect! The other Johnson Sisters' song "Goodbye to My Mama" drips with Penecostal hymnody and allusions to the 23<sup>rd</sup> Psalm. In typical PHC fashion this is contrasted with a humorous rendition of "Frankie and Johnny" sung by Lindsay Lohan's character. Add to that Dusty and Lefty's tasteless "Bad Jokes", a nod to the yearly joke program that Garrison always puts together, and you have the flavor of this album, if not the movieâ€¦.which I'm looking forward to viewing.
. My two personal favorite groups of the album include Robin and Linda --both their "Plank Road" and their gospel rendition of "Let Your Light Shine On Me". These folks are among the core of what PHC is about. I've listened to their voices mature over the years, both on this radio program and at festivals around the country. It doesn't get much better than listening to those two. When you combine Rich Dworsky and the Guys All-Star Shoe Band with Butch Thompson and Peter Ostroushko, there is no sweeter band sound. The ragging piano, the double stop fiddle, Peter's mando style, Butch Thompson and Andy Stein noodling around on clarinet and sax , and Pat Donohue playing Reinhardt-style licks on his guitar--all had me up shuffling all over the floor, just wishing for a swing partner.
Garrison isn't featured as much on this album as he usually is on the program, so I missed his deep voice. This is due to the fact that these are just the musical cuts from the film. The piece "You've Been A Friend To Me" done by L.Q. Jones' character Chuck Akers took the place of Keillor's often tear-jerker pieces on the Saturday night venue. The usual Lake Woebegon chronicle is not part of this album but the "My Minnesota Home" mentioned above, carried the flavor of our beloved town out on the prairie.
There were two things that annoyed me about this CD soundtrack. The first was the layout and contents of the album notes. Having been a long time collector and lover of this kind of music, I found the notes sorely lacking in background. If this had been produced by the likes of Rounder Records, they would have listed that Peter Ostrushko was playing on # 23 or that Butch Thompson and Andy Stein were playing on "Summit Avenue Rag". Was it Garrison singing the bass on the gospel tune with Robin and Linda? Though the average listener will pay no attention to this aspect, those of us who breath this music were left without our usual prompts.
I found that Gold Watch and Chain just didn't ring with enough bluegrass voicing for me. It needed more twang than Meryl Streep's voice provided. She definitely doesn't sing bluegrass.
This album will be a good companion for a listener who has seen the movie. It's top notch with musicians that can't be beat, and will rank up there with the "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou" album as a grassroots runaway seller. Like Prairie Home Companion radio show, this is the music and stories of America.
ClickÂ hereÂ to hear clips from the soundtrack! Enjoy!!!!