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Why is a singer one of your favorites?

22 Sep 04 - 08:44 AM (#1278163)
Subject: Why Is a singer one of your favorites?
From: Jerry Rasmussen

This is a companion thread to the "3rd Most Favorite Singer" thread. Every "Best" or "Favorite" thread in here becomes a long, long list of names, with only an occasional comment about why someone, or some song is "Best." For a change, how about chosing One of your favorites (whether your most favorite, or eleventh most favorite) and talk about why you like their music so much. (No need to list your top ten on this thread...)

There are a lot of reasons why a particular singer hits us dead on. It may be the songs they sing, or the songs they write. It may be the timbre of their voice, or the vocal range (sometimes we gravitate toward people with the same vocal range because it is easy to sing along with them.) It may be their stage presence, or who they are as a person (although some of my favorite singers I never heard in person and only know from recordings.)

I could easily chose Mississippi John Hurt (who I had the great honor of hearing perform a couple of times) or Lonnie Donegan (who I only know from recordings.) Talk about different styles! Just to get this thread started, I'll take Mississippi John Hurt, and come back later for Lonnie. If someone else talks about Lonnie, that doesn't mean I might not come back in and talk about him too.

Now, Mississippi John... it would take a long time to talk about why he is one of my very favorite singers. I first heard him on the Anthology Of American Folk Music and was equally attracted to his singing and his guitar playing. In Mississippi's case, I can't really separate the two, as his guitar so perfectly fits his singing. They seem organically joined at the hip. When I had a chance to hear Hurt, there were many things to enjoy about him. He was certainly the most modest, humble man I ever heard get up in front of an audience. With John, every room was a living room. While he didn't have a strong voice, and his singing lacked any dynamic edge to it, he had a wonderful, sly sense of humor, a great smile and a constant twinkle in his eye. All of this came through in his singing. I can't hear him sing the verse:
   "Big fish, little fish, swimming in the water
    Come back here man, and give me my quarter"
without laughing.

Hurt's material also fascinated me because it gave me a glimpse into a life and a culture that was exotic to a white kid growing up in Wisconsin where the only blacks I saw were in National Geographic.

There's a saying in the black community that really sums up everything I feel about Mississippi John's singing. When someone gets up and puts everything they have into a song, people say. "He was really SINGING that song!" It is a wonderful phrase that is used to compliment anything someone does that they are doing well.. "Man, you're WEARING that hat!"

Mississippi John really SANG those songs. Sang the Hell out of them.



22 Sep 04 - 08:46 AM (#1278164)
Subject: RE: Why I a singer one of your favorites?
From: Jerry Rasmussen

This title is upposed to be Why Is a Singer... I corrected the typo when I was doing it, but it didn't come through when I posted it. Maybe a Mudelf can correct it for me?


22 Sep 04 - 09:35 AM (#1278205)
Subject: RE: Why I a singer one of your favorites?
From: Georgiansilver

Strange for a folk singer I suppose but I like Elton John songs simply because I can sing them easily and sound good doing it.
With regard to Folk songs....Donovan..whose songs I can also sing reasonably well. Best wishes.

22 Sep 04 - 09:36 AM (#1278208)
Subject: RE: Why I a singer one of your favorites?
From: George Papavgeris

It took me ages to choose which one to write about - but I have chosen now, and I'll go with an unusual one, because he is known mostly for his fiddle playing as part of a due: Jon Boden of Spiers & Boden fame.

He is one of my favourite singers because:

a) He is correct, pitch-perfect (amazing how many "stars" are not)
b) He is selective in the material he chooses to sing
c) He has a "youthful" voice - unsurprisingly, as he's young; but one can be older and still have a young voice (June Tabor, Moira Craig)...
d) ...yet he can sound "world-weary" when required
e) He has an informal, non-pompous, delivery of the song
f) He is a tenor (there is a dearth of them in the folk scene nowadays)
g) He has "soul" in his voice
h) He has a very catchy (and hard to imitate) lilt to his voice, almost like a little sob, which he does NOT over-use, and I find it very endearing.
i) He has a very unaffected, workaday attitude and is a right good bloke (as indeed is his partner in music, John S)

So - I'd pay just to listen to him sing. The fact that he is also a great fiddle player with a grand sense of rhythm and a taste for the unusual just makes him even better.

22 Sep 04 - 09:57 AM (#1278230)
Subject: RE: Why I a singer one of your favorites?
From: The Borchester Echo

You forgot his concertina,accordion and guitar playing, Britney imitations and resemblance to a demented beanpole on acid when singing sans fiddle in Bellowhead.

You're right about his being pitch perfect - he always realises when he doesn't quite get that top note but this is part of the joy of his performance: will he or won't he?   And you're certainly spot-on about the 'all-round good geezer' bit (have to say that as Jon & John are playing my local venue, Islington Folk Club tomorrow.

22 Sep 04 - 10:41 AM (#1278274)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: kendall

I'm a "word" person. I like songs that have something to say besides yeah yeah baby, don't mean maybe. That crap bores me to tears.
In my not so humble opinion, two of the most profound songs of this century are, Eric Bogle's THE BAND PLAYED WALTZING MATILDA, and WHERE HAVE ALL THE FLOWERS GONE.

22 Sep 04 - 10:44 AM (#1278276)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: kendall

Gotta add Dylan's BLOWING IN THE WIND

22 Sep 04 - 11:01 AM (#1278286)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: Teresa

Can I do more than one? I will anyway. ;)

Well, stan Rogers. I heard his voice on the radio when I was 15 and that was it; he just literally yanked me into folk music. Wonderful pitch; delicious baritone. And I came to realize that his storytelling through is songs was incredible and always kept me interested.

Jean Ritchie, for an entirely different reason. Similar one to Jerry's with Mississippi John. She has this way of making everything warm and cozy without trying, and even her voice sounds like that. :)


22 Sep 04 - 11:03 AM (#1278288)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: PoppaGator

John Hurt is a favorite of mine, too, for all the same reasons as for Jerry. It's difficult to verbalize just what makes a given singer more appealing than another, but it certainly has a lot to do with how much of the person -- of the soul -- comes through in the sound of his/her voice.

Roy Bird, aka Professor Longhair, is my very-most-favorite of all, and I hear much the same type of feeling from him as I do from MJH. (The fact that I was able to witness Fess in person many, many times but know John Hurt only from his recordings, of course, probably has some effect upon my preference.)

Some might feel that Mississippi John falls under the definition of "folk music" while Fess does not, but to my thinking, both grew out of well-established musical traditions (one rural, one urban) and both added their own original flavor, so they have plenty in common and there must be some category that encompasses them both.

Both were virtuosos on their instruments, with totally unique self-taught, self-invented approaches to the piano and guitar, respectively. And both of their voices conveyed an irresitable combination of wisdom, world-weariness, sweetness, humor, and good will. What more could you ask for?

22 Sep 04 - 11:30 AM (#1278314)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: Rain Dog

One of my favourite singers is Tom Waits.
First saw / heard him on the Old Grey Whistle Test ( UK TV program ) back in 77 or 78 doing Tom Traubert's Blues and then Small Change. It was a case of what the hell is this ?
Then came across him again in the 80s when a friend put Frank's Wild Years on tape for me.
It was his voice that first made an impression on me. The way that he uses his voice as another instrument. On an album he might sing in a number of different ways, styles, sounds etc. Not to everyone's taste of course but then again what is ? Plus he writes some great songs.
Check him out. If you have heard him before and think along the lines of ; what the hell is this ? , he cannot sing etc etc , check him out again. He might very well surprise you.
He also has a reputation as being a great live performer, with the slight drawback that he does not appear to like touring much. Luckily I will have the chance to see him live ( for the first time ) in Berlin and London this November. I have to say that I am getting a little excited at the prospect and I do not normally 'do' excitement.

22 Sep 04 - 12:13 PM (#1278348)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: Jerry Rasmussen


Yes, Jean Ritchie is cut from the same cloth as Mississippi John. I had the great joy of booking Jean Many years ago, and her modesty and lack of any affection really made her music even more special.

Rain Dog:

Yeah, Tom Waits! I first became aware of him from a documentary about him, many, many years ago. I always was fascinated with that urban underbelly because it was exotic to me as a tropical rainforest.) Waits immediately struck me as a Hopper song, rather than a painting. He has that same ability to capture the bleakness and loneliness of late night America. Can he sing? Oh yeah! I recently picked up the Soundtrack for Sleepless in Seattle (used) and was reminded about how great a singer Jimmie Durante was, with no discernable voice. Jimmie Durante could Sing those songs.


22 Sep 04 - 12:19 PM (#1278353)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: Once Famous

Lyle Lovett is one who can really sing.

And write, too.

22 Sep 04 - 12:56 PM (#1278378)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: The Villan

I like Tom Waits. He has something about him, but I can't explain.

Downtown Train and Tom Trauberts Blues are great.

What makes it even better, is that another of my favourites has recorded those 2 numbers - Rod Stewart

22 Sep 04 - 01:51 PM (#1278437)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: GUEST,Chanteyranger

Of the several that are my favorites, two stand at the pinnacle.

She is the total package: unaffected moving voice, great interpretation, and the arrangements she and husband John McCusker put together turn every song into gold. Her recordings seem to get better and better at each listening. Songs I glossed over for others, suddenly hit me with their beauty, a year after owning that particular CD.

Louis just plain knows how to sing traditional songs. There is a certain high, faraway sound in chantey singing I really like, something similar to what bluegrass musicians call the "high lonesome" sound. A.L.lloyd had it, Ewan MacColl had it, and Louis has it. Louis's interpretations of traditional songs, for me, set the standard. Anyone who has heard him sing The Death of Nelson knows what I mean.

22 Sep 04 - 02:07 PM (#1278458)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: GUEST,Chanteyranger

...and just to be clear, I wouldn't limit my taste for Louis' singing only to chanteys (as the Nelson song is not a chantey). Whether it's an industrial song, love song, you name it, he knows how to interpret them.

22 Sep 04 - 02:11 PM (#1278460)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: frogprince

Allow me one male and one female:
STAN ROGERS: with that voice, and the ability to write things like "The Mary Ellen Carter", I'm sometimes tempted to call him the "best in the world", tho I really know there ain't no one such thing.
ANNE HILLS: partly because she is the one really great singer I have had the chance to hear from the stage of the "NO EXIT" in Chicago on up to the present, and because the closest I ever came to fame back then was telling a stupid joke to Ann at the NO EXIT and having her repeat it on stage. But really because I still don't think there is a prettier, more impecabbly handled, voice out there.

22 Sep 04 - 02:22 PM (#1278471)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: Jerry Rasmussen

Lyle Lovett:

Another great, MG. Even though he does the big band blues well, I prefer his simpler stuff. Pontiac is worth a whole album.


22 Sep 04 - 02:31 PM (#1278479)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: Once Famous


I have and love the Pontiac album. Interesting, it was the last new vinyl LP I ever bought and it's sound quality was tremendous. I did later replace it with a CD for car listening.

Lyle Lovett's newest album "My Baby Don't Tolerate" is also outstanding. check out the song called "In my Own Mind." He is a most prolific singer and songwriter and is country music at it's most sophisticated best.

22 Sep 04 - 02:49 PM (#1278500)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: Cool Beans

Cisco Houston, whose voice draws you to it like an open window on a warm night or an open fire on a cold one. Never heard him in person.

22 Sep 04 - 02:55 PM (#1278502)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: Teresa

Oh, foo, ... just an addition here, because tom Waites is someone I admire very much for his wackiness and profundity.

"The piano has been drinking ... not me." heeheeheeheehee


22 Sep 04 - 02:57 PM (#1278504)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: GUEST,chinmusic

For the past 6 or 7 years, I have been totally blown away by the music of Gillian Welsh. This wonderful talent has risen to the top in the craft of songwriting, and together with her partner David Rawlings, they have turned out quality albums. Her recordings are a testimony to the 'less is more' theory. I caught them a few years ago here in Toronto,and this experience left an indellible mark on me. I love the texture and tonal quality of her vocals, and I feel like an artist like this, comes along just every once in awhile. Catch her if you can folks.

22 Sep 04 - 06:48 PM (#1278676)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: Ebbie

Tommy Sands is one of my favorites. Mick Moloney is another.

Both of them, although very different from each other, are engaging, excellent singers and storytellers. And they are wonderfully interesting people to talk with.

Tommy may be coming to Juneau again next spring- the local Arts and Humanities concil are booking him. I wouldn't miss it- I'd cancel a planned trip in order to hear him.

22 Sep 04 - 07:09 PM (#1278690)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: Chris Green

For me a great folksinger is someone who can use the dynamics of the tune to tell the story in the song they're singing. Let's face it, a thirty-eight verse ballad sung in a monotone is piss-boring! Stan Rogers, who I've only really encountered in that last month or so, is great at this! A few more...

James Keelaghan - "Captain Torres" had me in bits.
Cloudstreet - they do the voices of the different people in the song.
Eva Cassidy - had the ability to take sometimes banal and insipid songs and make them utterly compelling.
Vin Garbutt - well, for lots of reasons really but mainly that he's a giant of a singer!

23 Sep 04 - 04:10 AM (#1278935)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: The Villan

I have just been listening to Elton John singing "Ballad of the boy in the red shoes" and blimey it reminds me of why I like his ballad type stuff.

Your Song
Madman Across The Water
Indian sunset

The jolly little tune "Holiday Inn"

and the very short 1 minute 45 seconds version of "Goodbye"

to name but a few.

Of course its the Bernie Taupin/Elton John magic.

23 Sep 04 - 04:15 AM (#1278943)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: s6k

my all time favourite singer is jon anderson, from "Yes"

23 Sep 04 - 04:31 AM (#1278951)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: George Papavgeris

Shame on me - shame on us all, for forgetting one of the greatest singers of all time. Well, in my book anyway. Not folk, but WHAT a voice, and what a stage presence, what artistry, what technical capability, what power, what sensitivity....

Freddy Mercury of course...God rest his soul, if that guy had lived on, what could he have accomplished!

23 Sep 04 - 05:49 AM (#1278979)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: The Villan

My 9 year old is besotted with Freddie Mercury and Queen.

I Saw them live twice and each show was excellent.

23 Sep 04 - 05:53 AM (#1278981)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: GUEST,An English Patriot

Why do so many people, who otherwise show signs of good taste, like Tom Waites? I think his style of singing is affected and put on. Some, and only some, of his songs are fine but sound better when covered by someone else.

As for my favourite, well, that is a difficult one, even if you narrow it down to folk. Certainly, Dick Gaughan has a wonderful, wonderful voice and is a truly wonderful guitar player. On the negative side, his song writing is mediocre and I am sick to death of him shoving his political views down our throats, especially as his sort of totalitarian socialism advocates state terror. But his voice.... now that is something.

23 Sep 04 - 08:31 AM (#1279042)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: AggieD

I have recently become completely captivated by the voice of Kieran Means (Sara Grey's son). I hadn't heard his singing until recently, but there is a very unusual quality to it. It has to me an unusual timbre that makes him unique.

Trouble is there are soooo many out there, that I could have a list as long as my arm for all time favourites.

23 Sep 04 - 01:56 PM (#1279254)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: Nerd

You are making an assumption, Jerry. A singer is NOT one of my favorites.

No, seriously. Mississippi John is also one of MY favorites, as you say he sang the hell out of those songs. But I also love Jesse Fuller, who just sounded like he was having fun with his drums and fotdella and guitar and kazoo and harp.

I love Nic Jones' recordings from the early 1970s; his voice has an indefinable "chuckle" in it during the humorous songs.

In Cowboy/Western music, I love Skip Gorman; he just sounds "right."

Niamh Parsons is one of my favorites in Irish music; a slight smokiness to her voice.

I also agree with just about everyone on here; Kieron Means, Lyle Lovett, Dick Gaughan, Stan Rogers...all great!

23 Sep 04 - 04:08 PM (#1279326)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: *Laura*

Not my favourite but did anyone see Kerfuffle at Towersey? When she (Hannah?) sang that Norma Waterson song - i was compelely blown away! And she's not much older than me! It was incredible!

I love The Demon Barbers - partly for the great performance atmosphere.

I love the way in some Nic Jones songs (mainly 'Billy don't you Weep for Me') he sounds like he's chuckling through the whole song. On really serious lines too like 'she drowned in the water butt'.

I love Jon and John for sheer energy and the way they always seem like they're just having a laugh on stage.

I like the way when Pete Coe sings he sounds like when he talks. (I mean - some singers sound like completely different people when they sing and talk, and he doesn't)

I love Martin Simpson's voice becasue all the words are so clear and some of the songs are really emotional.

Oh I could go on all night!


23 Sep 04 - 05:28 PM (#1279370)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: GUEST,Jon

I don't believe I have a consistant reason. Sometimes I suspect it may have a lot to do with the material they sing rather than thier own vocal qualities. On others, perhaps the quality of the musicians they have around them could be a factor. I suppose it's not impossible that the choice of a good sound engineer and/or some electronic "trickery" might make the difference...

Overall though as far as I can work out, it is often the treatment of the song rather than quality of voice that would get to me most. I listened for example to Christy Moore (Planxty CD) singing the Good Ship Kangaroo yesterday having not played it in a while. The first thing that grabbed me was his easy and natural sounding but still very ryhmical treatment of the song. For a really clear narrative sung with emotion, you could try Luke Kelly - sticking with the Dubliners, I also hapen to like the rough voice of Ronnie Drew, esp when singing something even as simple as I'll tell my Ma - I guess the point there is he does convey the feeling that he was singing them from as soon as he learned to walk...

23 Sep 04 - 05:43 PM (#1279381)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: Fran

My favourite singer is Gerry Colvin

He is so expressive when he sings and he really tells you the story, he sings 100% original songs and they are about everyday life and love and lost love in this time, he is a genius with words and sings about high rise flats, door to door market researchers, Penguin chocolate biscuits, dyson vacuum cleaners, the London Underground and old peoples homes.

Some of his songs are sad, some are just observations of real life situations but no-one could sing his songs with the same emotion and timing as he does here are a couple of verses from one of his songs, he sings this one unaccompanied and the full version is heartrending.

She turns to the man with the clipboard and says,
'put me down as a "don't know"
I don't know why my life has ended like this,
don't even know why God let me exist, to live with a man who just thinks with his fists, stares at the neighbours, fights with the kids, don't give a damn about anyone's views, and you want to know what detergent I use, go and ask somebody else.
Her home is a stain on the apron of London, they call it St Mary Crae, but if St Mary ever came around here she'd be mugged for her halo as passers by cheer, people who just keep themselves to them selves and woe betide anyone ask them for help they'd say go and ask somebody else.

23 Sep 04 - 05:44 PM (#1279383)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: alanabit

I could bore you all night on this one!
I adore Misissippi John Hurt. I recall saying on another thread that I don't understand all of his "Moaning The Blues", but I find it compelling and deeply affecting. There is a sort of a laugh and a bemused tolerance about the way his voice tells the stories. "Let The Mermaids Flirt With Me" has that melancholy humour down so perfectly.
I am surprised that Billie Holiday's name has not appeared here yet. She could take so many songs which I would normally be indifferent to and really make me care about them. I can't think of anyone who could make "They Can't Take That Away From Me" sound so moving yet uncontrived at the same time. She had a range of only about an octave and fifth - but what she did with it!

23 Sep 04 - 06:35 PM (#1279411)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: Joe_F

Almost entirely, because he or she sang songs I admire. That means my mother, Burl Ives, me, some classmates in highschool, Richard Dyer-Bennett, Pete Seeger, Leadbelly, Tom Lehrer, Flanders & Swann, Marlene Dietrich, Ewan MacColl, Margaret MacArthur, Peggy Seeger, Peter Bellamy, & Cyril Tawney, anyway.

23 Sep 04 - 06:40 PM (#1279418)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: Joe_F

Forgot Jean Ritchie.

23 Sep 04 - 06:57 PM (#1279425)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: GUEST,Augie

Eva Cassidy
If you want someone who not only has a superb set of pipes, but knows how to use them as well, its tough to top the late Ms. Cassidy.

23 Sep 04 - 07:01 PM (#1279427)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: GUEST,Murkey

I'd have to pick Linda Thompson. She has such a raw, unadorned voice without ever lacking depth. It's less chiming than someone like Mary Black, with a rough edge and a hint of her Scots ancestry, and less consciously grandious than say Sandy Denny's, but has a strong sense of unforced realness, without ever going close to a nasal folky voice.

Her voice was the perfect match for Richard's songs, able to convey deep melancholy on something like Dimming of the Day, but equally capable of portraying the edgy sarcasm of songs like Hard Luck Stories. And on Fashionably Late she's found her own wonderful songwriting voice that plays to all of her strengths.

I particularly love it when she duets with Kate Rusby on Fashionably Late, it must be two of the greatest voices of their respectives generations sounding wonderful together. I'm at uni and most of my housemates hate, or at the least tolerate, my folk music, but they all love Fashionably Late!

23 Sep 04 - 09:43 PM (#1279527)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: freightdawg

Why my favorite artist is my favorite artist:

10. He was born in New Mexico and loved flying airplanes.
9. He performed for his audience, not his image.
8. He composed in several different styles - he experimented.
7. He allowed his music to evolve while staying true to his roots.
6. His lyrics actually meant something.
5. He sang with great conviction about his beliefs
4. Clear tone of voice that only improved with age.
3. Great guitar playing/guitar features to his music.
2. Beautiful melody lines to his music.
1. Topics of his music: the West, freedom, nature, love, and humor.

The singer: John Denver


23 Sep 04 - 10:42 PM (#1279557)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: KT

I know what you mean about those two, Ebbie! I agree! And from Tommy's website,

" Tommy Sands has achieved that difficult but wonderful balance
between knowing and loving the traditions of his home and being
concerned with the future of the whole world ....PETE SEEGER

Kendall, I do believe that Tommy Sands and Pete Seeger recorded "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?"

I know some who'd say it's been overdone, but I agree with you, Kendall, about "Blowin In the Wind." I'm asked to sing that from time to time at my regular gig, and I'm always a little hesitant because it's been done so much, but it is still a very powerful song, perhaps even moreso now than it was back when it was written. As I watch the faces of those in the audience, I see a variety of expressions....... "a stroll down memory lane," or a pensive expression and a shaking of the head in response to the question, "How many times?" ...or just pure enjoyment at hearing it and being able to sing along. For whatever reasons they bring, they seem to love it.


24 Sep 04 - 12:57 AM (#1279636)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: The Villan

Next time you come down KT you will be forced to sing Blowing In The Wind. :-)

I still think the best version I ever heard of that was from Peter, Paul & Mary - never get tired of it.

24 Sep 04 - 02:30 AM (#1279656)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: Teresa

Ok, I was afraid to mention him, because I didn't think he was "folk". Silly me. Freightdawg, when I heard his song "calypso" at age 10 I literally cried for two hours. I had this sense of longing ... what was this calypso all about; it had to be some great work that was being done. And a lifelong interest in the cousteau Society and ecology began. Hee! I just bought a bunch of John denver's earlier stuff. I started playing 12-string guitar because of his music.


So there you have it.

See, this is why favorites are so very tricky. I mean, those other singers I mentioned are my favorites, too. No doubt I'll acquire many more before my life is over. :)


24 Sep 04 - 03:58 AM (#1279694)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: Georgiansilver

I also have great regard for David Gray and particularly the song "This years Lovin'" The timing in that song is brilliant and seeing him in Concert is something else. Most of his music is Folklike. Best wishes.

24 Sep 04 - 04:40 AM (#1279718)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?

I love The Demon Barbers - partly for the great performance atmosphere.

Not to familiar with them but for atmosphere, I do/did like Damien. Years ago (late 80s/ early 90s I think) he used to be a regular to the bi-annual Bangor Festival. He had the abilty in a (mostly Irish) session to strike up say on English Concertina and sing quite powerfully and would choose his timing for a song in a mostly instrumental session carefully and had another ability too - to capture the attention of everyone around - even the players who would be normally wanting to get on with jigs and reels rather than listen to a song.

24 Sep 04 - 04:47 AM (#1279721)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: fat B****rd

I tend to like the whole thing. Song and singer. Ray Charles at his best had the same quality as Billie Holliday of singing most anything and making it souind good. But his Atlantic and early 60s vocals are amazing. The whole "Ray Charles In Person" LP is elctrifying.

24 Sep 04 - 11:10 AM (#1280009)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: Jerry Rasmussen

If you notice the title of this thread, it does not have the word "folk" in it, so Billie Holliday and John Denver are as legitimate favorites as any "folk" singer.

I'll add another great, great singer who is not "folk" even though he had a major interest in whetting my curiosity for folk music: Clancy Hayes. Clancy played plectrum banjo and guitar (only rarely recorded) and was known mostly for doing vocals with Bob Scobey's Frisco Band. Many of the songs Scobey sang were what I'd call "folk." Among others, he did Silver Dollar, Ace In The Hole, Sailing Down to Chesapeake Bay, Won't You Come Home, Bill Bailey, Blues My Naught Sweetie Gave To Me, Do You Know What I means To Miss New Orleans, and Long Gone. I loved Scobey's singing, and imitated him while singing along for several years before I had a chance to hear him "live." Like Mississippi John, Scobey brought a maravelous, warm, humorous personality to everything that he sang, and he was a delight to hear in person. His choice of material (when he recorded on his own) was as wonderful as the songs he did with Bob Scobey.

For me, one of the dimensions to a singer that attracts me most is enthusiasm for the songs. Even though Mississippi John was quiet and humble, there was no mistaking how enthusiastic he was about the songs he sang. He was a singer in love with the song, not the sound of his own voice. Bob Scobey was the same, and perhaps one of the greatest examples of almost uncontrollable enthusiasm was another of my great, great favorites... Lonnie Donegan.

Someone commented earlier in this thread about my asking why people weren't mentioning "older" singers. In here, most of us are "older," so my comment didn't say what I meant. What I meant to ask is, are there singers who are no longer alive, who you only know through their recordings and never heard in person who you love as singers?

I never heard Lonnie Donnegan live, or Leadbelly (another great favorite with high-powered enthusiasm) or Uncle Dave Macon (got enthusiasm?) Others I've had the honor to hear who deserve their own post are Reverend Gary Davis, and Almeda Riddle.

Like many of us, I came to love folk music through recordings. It was years before I had a chance to hear live folk music. Maybe that's why so many of the now-gone folk singers hold such a high position in my love of music.

In folk music, death is the best career move.


25 Sep 04 - 09:04 AM (#1280679)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: matai

I always come back to Joan Baez yet I can't tell you why. Maybe it is because I admire so many things about her and it seems like she has always been there singing her traditional songs, her political songs, her relationship songs with that beautiful voice that has changed over the years but never lost its richness. It never fails to draw me in. (I guess that's why) She is like my alter ego.
She has a song (she wrote) 'Speaking of Dreams' in which there is a line...you are a breath of Spring and I am vintage wine... referring to a relationship between an older woman and a younger man. I couldn't think of a better way to put it. And as for 'Diamonds and Rust' who hasn't experienced it? ...you who are so good with words and at keeping things vague. I need some of that vagueness now...
I like the way she changed the ending too. 'If you're offering me diamonds and rust, I'll take the diamonds.'

25 Sep 04 - 08:25 PM (#1281088)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: Big Al Whittle

I suppose I differ from most people. I couldn't give a toss about ability to pitch notes etc. all that stuff is nice if you've got it.

i like somebody who can make me feel like theres a human being in there. not just a set of rules about how (delete as appropriate) country/folk /jazz/rock/opera should be performed.

some people do it by the intelligence of their lyrics, the humour, the phrasing. others do it just by the way they walk to the microphone. sometimes you hear the records of people who have really made your heart sing in live performance, and their recordings are dreadful.

sometimes you hear people with glorious voices and their lack of intelligence in telling the story that the song tells really turns me off.

still I can see I'm in a bit of a minority here. its the trouble with getting old, you start arguing that music isn't really all that important when it comes to judging musicians - and other daft ideas.

all the best


25 Sep 04 - 08:42 PM (#1281092)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: pdq


In another thread you mentioned Bill Clifton. He is my favorite singer of all time, folk or not. He is unpretentious, positive, good natured and non-political. His choice of material gives him a unique repertoir and he is always surrounded by the best musicians.

Your statement about wanting to hear a real "human being in there is" is perfect. That surely applies to Bill Cliftom.

25 Sep 04 - 09:22 PM (#1281100)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: lucky_p

There are just so many over the years that I could go on and on and on...

For starters, Dylan, Baez, Judy Collins, Dave Van Ronk, Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs, Raun MacKinnon, Almanac Singers, Weavers, Joni Mitchell; all of the 1980s new folks from Greenwich Village (Jack Hardy, Ilene Weiss, Rod MacDonald, Frank Christian, many others...), Rik Palieri, Robin Greenstein, Vance Gilbert, David Roth, Guy Davis; and the chantey singers such as David Jones, Geoff Kaufmann, Schooner Fare, Dan Milner, and the list goes on.

But as someone said above, for the power of the pipes, intonation and phrasing, no one can beat Eva Cassidy.

25 Sep 04 - 09:30 PM (#1281102)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: Jerry Rasmussen

Hey, Weelittle:

I understand what you're saying, although I wouldn't go so far as to say I don't care whether people can sing on key. But, feeling that the person is present in the song and sharing of themselves, as well as the music means a lot to me. There are some singers I've really loved to hear in person, who never quite made the transition to electronic impulses coming out of a speaker. There is an extra dimension, hearing and being in the presence of a person, rather than just hearing a recording. Some people manage to squeeze through the wires and emerg out of the speaker three-dimensionally, but many don't.

Many, many years ago, I ran what I called a Potlatch. It's a native American term for a gathering where the one who is most generous wins.
I thought was a good attitude for a "song swap." It was interesting to see the dynamics of the group. Some people came and tried to impress everyone else and then, when I didn't offer them a booking in the concert series I was running, were never seen again. The people who came ran the gamut from casual professionals who had released records, to young musicians making their first, tentative effor at singing in front of a group. In the middle, I guess, were singers who had been singing and playing instruments all of their life and were who they were...

Of all the people in that gathering, the one I enjoyed listening to the most was this tall, lanky, awkward, modest, bashful guy in his 40's or 50's. He played 5-string banjo, but only knew three chords. At least that's all I ever heard him play. He didn't know how to pick or frail the banjo, so he just strummed it. He did every song in the same key with those same three chords with the same rhythm.
He was by far the least accomplished of all the musicians and singers who came. His voice wasn't anything special, either... rather dry and emotionless. But, there was something about the way he completely immersed himself in each song, like they were his beloved children. As far as I could tell, he only knew a few songs, because when he came, he'd always do the same ones. But man, I really loved to hear that guy sing and play. I never got tired of him. He'd just come in, talk a little with people, and sit down. And when it was his turn, everything in him came out in the song.

I am not overly impressed with technique. They can teach bears to rollerskate. It takes more than technique, or a great voice to grab me.

But, I do care whether they can hit the notes...


25 Sep 04 - 10:37 PM (#1281121)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: freda underhill

Gerry Humphries (the Loved Ones, a Melbourne rock band) had a singing voice which was powerful, rhythmic and raunchy, and straight from the thighs. I love his singing, it is passionate and potent. Formerly a jazz musician and singer, his bluesy creative voice is the best.

There are two australian singers, Ruth Forshaw and Stephanie Osfield, whose voices are so free and melodic, and the tones so clear. They sang together with some other musicians as The Creel, and only produced one CD (Appelation). Their voices on this CD are angelic and haunting.

Sean Keane, an Irish singer, has a soft, sensuous voice, a thick accent and just a beautiful quality to his singing. he is a great storyteller, he is another one of my loves.

martin whyndam read is more than a collector and fine singer. He has returned to the roots of australian music , back from the punchy feisty sweaty style that became popular in the 60s here. Martin sings australian traditional songs the way they should be sung, the way they were sung in the old days, with longing, with sadness, and with gentleness. his singing has brought the old songs alive for me.


25 Sep 04 - 11:04 PM (#1281136)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: sharyn

I like singers who have a sense of humor, who may be enormously talented guitar-players or songwriters, but who manage to laugh at themselves instead of thinking they are all that. There is a generosity to them as well -- if they write songs themselves, they also do covers because they acknowledge that there are a lot of fine songs in the world. I agree with Jerry that they need to be able to sing in tune. I also like singers who have steeped themselves in some kind of traditional music. Examples are Chris Smither, who does exquisite covers of blues standards and good covers of Dylan songs, Richard Thompson who is at home singing "Bogie's Bonnie 'Belle" and "Honky-Tonk Blues," and Lyle Lovett, who did a double album tribute to Texas songwriters.

Then there are qualities that it is hard to name, like presence or sincerity, the ability to inhabit a song. Jeannie Robertson had it, Cindy Kallet has it -- it's a permeability, an ability to be vulnerable to what you are singing and whatever it brings up for you.

The rest is mere preference: as I write this I am listening to kd lang's Hymns of the 49th Parallel, the first kd lang album I have owned. I like the sound of her voice, the tones. I don't always like her arrangements and I can't stand a few of the songs on this cd, but I like the overall sound -- I find it soothing. I've only had it a week, so I don't know if she will make it into favorite status. And even my favorite singers sometimes sing material that leaves me cold, which makes me not like them: I couldn't stand Dick Gaughan's "A Different Kind of Lovesong" album or Joni Mitchell's "The Hissing of Summer Lawns
and I generally like them both and look forward to their recordings and concerts.

26 Sep 04 - 06:57 AM (#1281302)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: Jerry Rasmussen

You said it all, Sharyn:

I can respond to a singer, just because of their talent. They may or may not be someone I'd like to sit around talking with (or listening to talk) for an evening, but I can enjoy them just because of their gift. But, there is another dimension to their singing if they recognize their gift as being just that. Cindy Kallett, Jean Ritchie, Ed Trickett and many others I've had the pleasure to book over the years have that basic humility which makes them wonderful people to know, as well as to listen to.


15 Aug 12 - 04:08 PM (#3390623)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: Claire M


I'll have to give Mississippi John Hurt a listen.

I always come back to Maddy Prior.    When I was little I thought she was some mythical creature who really did talk in those old fashioned words. Her voice left me spellbound as a child & it still does. I've never been disappointed by her work with or without Steeleye. (I do like a nasty, gloomy song, & they do it so well.)

I've heard some amazing stuff & been to amazing concerts because of my appreciation of her; mum got me a cd with gallery hymns on, just because she was on it. & when I heard her version of 'Down In The Valley To Pray', I had to have the cd it was on, which has since been played to death. It always puts me in a good mood. I don't have a care in the world when it's on.

One of my biggest regrets is not seeing her live before.
I'd love to hear her do some vocals like   
this , but I've heard that ruins your voice.
I'd also love to hear her do 'When I was No But Sweet 16' and maybe a whole album of blues covers.

When you know someone's good, you never tire of them; you look forward to playing their cds even after hearing them 1,000,000 times, you're never ashamed of liking them, & you never want to box said cds up or give them away.

15 Aug 12 - 07:55 PM (#3390699)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: Elmore

Elizabeth Laprelle is one of my favorite singers, because when she sings a ballad she brings me right into the story and the time frame.

15 Aug 12 - 08:05 PM (#3390703)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: gnu

I saw Tommy Makem many years ago... not only did he sing to my heritage but, I was in the fourth row, some 40 feet away, and I felt his voice reverberate in my chest. A singer that powerful can make an inpression on you.

16 Aug 12 - 01:23 AM (#3390779)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: Elmore

Tommy was grat. I miss him, and all the wonderful Irish performers who have left us.

16 Aug 12 - 01:25 AM (#3390780)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: Elmore

Tommy was GREAT!

16 Aug 12 - 10:56 AM (#3390914)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: SonnyWalkman

For me it's not necessarily about the musicality, it's more about the delivery.

Some people who have experienced life's highs and lows seem to express that in their voices. Both Townes Van Zandt and Chet Baker have voices which wouldn't be considered as musically great, but they can make both make a sad song sound even sadder and put a blue edge on a happy song. They could sing the phone book and make me cry.

16 Aug 12 - 12:33 PM (#3390962)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: blinddrunkal

Dolores Keane with a voice of heart-breaking maturity and experience, sings every song as if she's lived it , as do Norma Waterson, Amalia Rodrigues, Cerys Matthews, and John Stewart.

16 Aug 12 - 01:24 PM (#3390977)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?

I started to post a long dissertation, then I realized, I know all of them so I can't be objective.

I like a voice that can stay on pitch, has a pleasing timbre, and tells me something that I want to hear.

16 Aug 12 - 03:06 PM (#3391024)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: Larry The Radio Guy

I'm going to move away from the folk or singer/songwriter genre, and vote for somebody whose voice and singing style, to me, makes me exceptional. Thew late Gene (aka Eugene) McDaniels.

Why? It may be history....I loved his 'pop' hits of the early 60's....100 pounds of Clay, POint of No Return, Tower of Strength, Walk With a Winner, etc; they weren't all great songs, but his vocal dexterity was so incredible....and the different dynamics and 'expression' made the songs come alive.

He later became a songwriter and producer....but his vocals were to me still the hilight. His best lp was from 1962, called The Wonderful World of Gene McDaniels, where one of the exceptional numbers was his vocal version of Thelonius Monk's "Straight No Chaser"

On his last recording, Evolution's Child....a couple years ago, just a year before his death, he added lyrics to some great jazz tunes (eg. Giant Steps....where he really sounds like a male Sarah Vaughn)...and his voice was as amazing as ever.

16 Aug 12 - 03:33 PM (#3391035)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: GUEST,petecockermouth

i can still remember visiting my sister at uni when i was 15 and looking at the cover of john martyn's 'bless the weather'- just the coolest thing and i knew i would love it before i heard it. 30 ish years later i saw him playing in the breakfast bar of a hotel in perthshire, just after the legoff. maybe he was the first to offer me an alternative (he actually was one of the first to offer me a joint!) maybe he has always represented my youth..... he was not always a nice man but he was all heart and probably not too much head. i can be awed by dylan or richard thompson's guitar and transported by gillian welch and i'll dance to anyone but i just love john martyn -there is a warmth to his music only matched by joe strummer - both very sadly missed

16 Aug 12 - 05:24 PM (#3391086)
Subject: RE: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
From: Gurney

The only singer whose entire CD output I have collected, mostly at full price and sometimes with difficulty, is Madeleine Peyroux.
Well, all but the first. Can't get that one.
I think it is mostly that I like her accompaniments, which can range from a single Spanish guitar to a jazz group, and that her timing sometimes seems almost a little ragged, and that she doesn't imitate anyone else.