Sunday, October 5, 2003

Must-have river albums



Here are five must-have CDs of river music.

John Hartford

Me Oh My How the Time Does Fly

Flying Fish; $17.98

Before his death in June 2001, the singer/banjo picker/fiddler/songwriter riverboat pilot was the Bard of Boats. He wrote and played dozens of songs about his love of rivers and steamboating. His album Down on the River includes "Delta Queen Waltz," "Old Time River Man" and "General Jackson."

The Annual Waltz gets even closer to home with "Ohio River Rag," but my pick is his anthology, Me Oh My How the Time Does Fly that includes "Skippin' in the Mississippi Dew," "Julia Belle Swain" (named for a riverboat from Iowa), "Natchez Whistle," "Slumberin' on the Cumberland" and "Way Down the River Road."

Johnny Cash

The Essential Johnny Cash

Sony Legacy; $24.98

The late Johnny Cash was raised on an Arkansas farm, the frequent flooding inspiring his song, "Five Feet High and Rising." But Cash's ultimate river song was "Big River," in which he loses his woman, not to a human rival but to the river itself.

Various

Cincinnati Blues

Catfish; $15.98

Here's a blues portrait of our little rivertown, the music of the African-Americans who worked below decks on the boats and hauled freight on shore and the good-time men and women who provided rowdy recreation on payday. This double disc covers both sides of the river, including the Cincinnati Jug Band's "Newport Blues."

Bix Beiderbecke

Great Original Performances: 1924-1930

Louisiana Red Hot; $15.98

Raised in the rivertown of Davenport, Iowa, the cornet player became a jazz legend for his silvery tone and modern ideas. But the music he made in his brief life never strayed far from the river.

This 22-track collection showcases the kind of hot jazz you'd hear on the riverboats of the 1920s, including such river classics as "Mississippi Mud," "Davenport Blues" and of course, "Riverboat Shuffle." Along with the Louis Armstrong's Hot Fives and Hot Sevens, these were the sides that codified what has become known as Dixieland and Classic Jazz

Creedence Clearwater Revival

Chronicle, Vol. 1: The 20 Greatest Hits

Fantasy; $17.98

John Fogerty's band played roots rock before roots rock had a name, and those roots were in the river, the inspiration of Fogerty's signature song, "Proud Mary (Rolling on the River)." Ike & Tina Turner made the song do the boogaloo, but CCR's lazy, easy-rolling original had the sound of the riverboats in its DNA. Chronicle also includes such swampy, river-drenched tunes as "Susie Q," "Bad Moon Rising" and "Green River."

- Larry Nager

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