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The Be Good Tanyas

+ {Frazey Ford}

A melting honeypot hybrid of old-timey folk, country and bluegrass, The BE GOOD TANYAS were put together by singer/mandolinist Samantha Parton and fiddler/vocalist Jolie Holland, the former bolstering the all-girl Vancouver outfit with her tree-planting buddies Frazey Ford and Winnipeg native Trish Klein (on banjo), who’d struck up a musical kinship during their time at Selkirk Music School in Nelson, British Columbia.
Almost immediately, the Canadian buskers stepped up from their Lilith Fair hotspot to coffee shops venues, but in the midst of recording their rootsy debut set BLUE HORSE (2000) {*7}, JOLIE HOLLAND upped sticks and left. Rejuvenating a handful of traditional tunes (namely `The Coo Coo Bird’, `Lakes Of Pontchartrain’, `Rain And Snow’ and negro nugget `Oh, Susanna’) and echoing Appalachia with Ford or Parton originals (choice picks `Only In The Past’ and `Dogsong (aka Sleep Dog Lullaby)’, Parton and Holland even had the courage to insert a few bookending lines from SYD BARRETT’s Pink Floyd-era ditty `Jug Band Blues’ on opening track `The Littlest Birds’; the only proper cover was from fellow Canadian GEOFF BERNER’s `Light Enough To Travel’.
Picked up by Nettwerk Records, the remaining trio worked on the similar CHINATOWN (2003) {*7}, covers this time stemming from TOWNES VAN ZANDT (`Waiting Around To Die’) and PETER ROWAN’s `Midnight Moonlight’; sourced tracks came by way of trad/DYLAN procurements `House Of The Rising Sun’ and `In My Time Of Dying’, plus `Reuben’ and `I Wish My Baby Was Born’; avant-jazz artist Olu Dara performs on Parton’s JONI MITCHELL-esque `Dogsong 2’.
Leaving it another three years, HELLO LOVE (2006) {*6} was almost formulaic, the girls’ back-porch cool and kitchen-table tales once again overshadowed by some effective readings from the pens of NEIL YOUNG (`For The Turnstiles’), SEAN HAYES (`A Thousand Tiny Pieces’) and MISSISSIPPI JOHN HURT (`Nobody Cares For Me’); an ill-advised rendition of PRINCE’s `When Doves Cry’ stretched it too far.
With The BE GOOD TANYAS on temporary hold (Trish had moonlighted with alt-country project Po’ Girl), it was down to quavering vocalist FRAZEY FORD (with Trish in tow) to keep the neo-trad flag flying. OBADIAH (2010) {*7} was her attempt to draw music from other genres into her musical manifesto – acoustic R&B a la NEIL YOUNG one can hear throughout; choice cuts to croon over are `Lay Down With You’, `Gospel Song’, `Goin’ Over’ and a shimmering take of DYLAN’s `One More Cup Of Coffee’.
The proposed temporary hiatus looked to be increasingly permanent when Parton was involved in a car collision in September 2012, which left her concussed and with multiple injuries; fast-forward 8 months and lightning struck twice, so to speak, when she was involved in another automobile accident; as she recovered medical staff informed her of an aneurysm behind her left eye and a benign tumour. Needless to say, The BE GOOD TANYAS had to carry on without her, enlisting the help of Caroline Ballhorn.
© MC Strong 2011/GFD2 // rev-up MCS Apr2015

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