The bonus I referred to in my weekend update was an envelope from chirosinger containing the copy of Riverfolk's debut CD Meander. I listened to it in the car on the way home. I popped it in the CD player in my better boom box here at home (never having gotten aroudn to buying a real stereo from some reason) and, disturbingly, it refused to play it, so I put it in my second-best boom box and played it a couple more times while I was writing LJ entries.
The main point here: Wow. Just wow. I've been stalking chirosinger and chasophonic for long enough that I've heard all of these songs, most of them several times, many of them with Andy, and once at Barb's Basement with Sally and Roady as well. None of which prepared me for how good this album sounds.
Let's be simple and direct here. If you only buy one album this year, this is it. I don't mean "if you only buy one filk album". This is way better than anything you'll find on a so-called major label from so called professional musicians. (The music industry doesn't want talent, so talent doesn't make for success in the industry.) If you appreciate folk music with a high quality of musicianship, you must have this album. If you're a fan of good country music -- where you can still hear the lyrics and you want to -- you'll probably really like this album. Some of the arrangements are almost country. If you're a blues fan, there are echoes of that style here. If you're an Ookla the Mok fan, you'll be tickled to find a cover of one of theirs here. If you're an old time folk fan, there are covers of John Prine and Tom Paxton and even some Woody Guthrie lyrics with music by Billy Bragg. If you follow more recent names, there are covers of Cheryl Wheeler and Kate Wolf. All stunning. But it's not all covers; there are originals too, and they're songs every bit as good as the ones from the Big Names. And finally, if you've heard Riverfolk at cons around the Midwest, you've liked them (or, musically speaking, you're not worth talking to), so you've *got* to hear how good they sound with all the magic of a few guest musicians and a studio recording.
On the packaging: The cover looks good. The band name should be more obtrusive though. It would be nice if the liner notes included lyrics, but I understand about the economics of adding more pages to the booklet. I've only noticed one real problem: Nate's name is misspelled in the musician credits. Unless there really do happen to be two brilliant bass players with names that similar -- seems unlikely to me.
On the engineering: I really like the mixes. The vocals are clear and the lyrics understandable, but at the same time the instruments are clearly doing their thing. The bass is quite noticeable, and I love bass guitar, especially when it's played with a bit of panache, so I'm happy. The guest harmony vocals are sweet. The only quibbles that I can think to quibble are that Chas' vocal seems a little more raw on Five Days in May than usual, and My Kid Brother is too loud relative to the other songs (when I have the volume set to listen to the rest of the album, track 15 comes along and it's jarringly loud) -- I forget the technical term for this.
Oh, and there's something missing from my copy. Something your copy isn't supposed to have, but my copy was.