A Production of The Folk Life ( Inc. 1976)
John McLaughlin and Jamie Downs, Editors


CD Reviews: “Roots & Wings,”
(dba The Digital Folk Life. Org)

Russ Rentler, “Acoustic Minstrel” (RussRentlerMusic),

On a late-blooming debut recording, multi-instrumentalist Russ Rentler – an old Moravian College band-mate of Richard Shindell and John Gorka, sidelined from folk music by a career in internal medicine and geriatrics in Pennsylvania – takes his listeners thro a tour of his instruments and repertoire, from “Planxty Fluharty” and “Jacob’s Ladder,” both on the hammer dulcimer, “Storm Over Delmarva,” on bouzouki, “All Thumbs,” a tricky DADGAD guitar tune, and “Footsteps, “ a guitar-mandolin-duet, to “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” a clearly Bryan-Bowers-influenced auto-harp selection, and some blues of his own composition, “Recycled Tin Man Blues,” “the real story of the Tin Man’s demise and my 30” National guitar," “Hypertension Blues” (“Old Testament Theology meets Renal Physiology”), and “Maggie’s Blues,” a dog’s eye view of the world from a traveling crate, whose jolting contributes to the lyrics.

Apart from “Window in Heaven,” a “shepherd boy’s view of the first Noel,” which garnered Honorable Mention in the mid-Atlantic Songwriters’ Contest, mention might also be made of “Jewel of the Caribbean,” an ode, he says, “to our brother and sisters in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti,” where he has been visiting each year for the last six years, volunteering his time and medical expertise to help children and old people, living in the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere, right in the shadow of the richest nation in the world. If you visit his website, you can see some up close and personal pictures of some of our Caribbean neighbors; he invites you to drop him an email, thro the website, and he’ll give you some tips if you’d like to help his “Medicine for Haiti” project. The music’s the thing on the CD, however, and I’m happy to say this one more than passes Gene Shay’s listenability test (I know, IMHO and YMMV – when was it ever any different?) But try it out for yourself; see if you don’t like dancing to that hammer dulcimer, patting your feet to that big old National steel guitar. I hadn’t even mentioned that fiddle.