The Deal: Revamped folk dusts off chestnuts and makes'em palatable to a new generation.
The Good: The Chicago-based Old Town School of Folk Music has been training students in musical culture from around the world since 1957. Thankfully, it's progressed from the fireside Kumbaya sessions of the '60s into some serous examination and adaptation of world music. On this compilation, folk staples like "Nine Pound Hammer," "Down By The Riverside" and "Nine Hundred Miles" are done by a mix of the known, including Marvin Etzioni from Lone Justice, Dan Zanes and John Stirrat from Wilco and Danny Barnes from the Bad Livers, and the unknown, a bunch of teachers from the school whose versions often are better than the more recognized performers. Scott Besaw's version of "Nine Pound Hammer" blends Paul Simon, the Bobs and Bobby McFerrin. Eric Noden and Joe Filiska's "Down by the Riverside" is as good as Brownie and Sonny's version. On the electric side, Tedd Parrish's take on "It Hurts Me Too" gives Elmore a run for the money.
The Bad: It gets a little tedious trying to go all the way through in one sitting. Savor 'em a little at a time.
The Verdict: If the only way you know these songs is from your parents Kingston Trio or Peter, Paul and Mary vinyl collection, give folk another chance. With the glitter stripped off and the songs pepped up and roughed up a bit, most of this stuff is pretty good bar band material. Unplugged ain't just for rock classics. As this compilation aptly demonstrates, the music that came before electricity ain't all bad.