A Production of The Folk Life ( Inc. 1976)
John McLaughlin and Jamie Downs, Editors
CD Reviews: Roots & Wings, (dba The Digital Folk Life. Org)
Neal & Leandra, "A Dreamer's Holiday" (Uncle Gus Music), www.nealandleandra.com
Remember a triumphantly beautiful song, "(We've got an) Old Love (one we never will get tired of)" that was getting almost constant play on folk music radio shows a few years back? How do you top that? Well, this 14-song tribute to Perry Como, the singer/host of his own popular network TV show of the late forties to fifties, manages to be both amusing and sweetly touching by turns, re-setting the songs made popular in Mr C's laidback show for a new family audience (they passed from Leandra's father, thro her to her daughter), in the process allowing the singing couple to show their ability to deliver jump versions of songs like "Kewpie Doll" in alternation with sweet and almost melancholy ballads such as Leandra's version of "Let a Smile Be Your Umbrella," gently swinging "Girl of My Dreams" (addressed by Neal to their little girl, Madeline?), and including the classic "Catch a Falling Star" - can you play this in the car without singing along? - besides the happy gibberish of "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo" (yes, from Disney's "Cinderella") and the ever-gentle "Far Away Places" in the tight (40 minute) set. Just right for the baby's room.
The backup musicians, Brian Barnes (guitar), Dan Chouinard (piano), Gordy Johnson (bass), Peter Johnson (drums), Dave Karr (clarinet/saxophone) and Jim tenBensel (trombone) provide a tasteful jazz-pop combo backing for Neal & Leandra's well-honed harmonies, with not a false note in the bunch. Is it folk music? Interesting question. If you mean, "Was it passed initially and primarily thro the family before going on to a wider audience," then I guess it doesn't pass that probably unrealistic test, in an age when old Irish fiddlers matter-of-factly use cassette recorders to pass along songs to friends. But if you've ever listened to how songs like the Beatles' "Hey Jude" have become part of campfire circles, or if you've ever sung "A You're Adorable" to a wide-eyed little girl - it's on this recording - then you're enjoying a wider definition of folks' music than might satisfy some eye-of-the-needle-threaders. Everybody loved Perry Como -didn't you? Neal & Leandra did. And now you can enjoy him all over again with this nice little combo and this melodic Mommy and Daddy. A CD for the kids, and for the parents too.
(Copyright John McLaughlin, 4/04/2004)