Kate Wolf Classics Get Reissued

(conqueroo) Kate Wolf was a welcome presence in the late '70s and mid-'80s folk scene. Her blend of folk, country and pop helped pave the way for artists like Nanci Griffith and Mary-Chapin Carpenter. Wolf never had a hit single, and in fact the All Music Guide points out that "her style is one that tends to grow on listeners over time, as Wolf is not about flash. Her songs, characterized by a strong narrative thread, are about the ebbs and flows of adult life, in terms that are neither overly sentimental not mundane." As late singer-songwriter Utah Phillips once introduced her, "I'd like you to meet Kate Wolf. She owns herself."

Wolf died of leukemia in December 1986 at the age of 44, leaving behind a vast catalog of albums. Five of those albums Back Roads, Lines on Paper, Safe at Anchor, Give Yourself to Love and The Wind Blows Wild will be reissued on CD by Collectors' Choice Music on July 7, 2009.

Wolf's legacy is renewed and commemorated every year with the Kate Wolf Memorial Music Festival in her native Northern California. That area is the backdrop to many of her songs, which tackle themes of family, love and loss with uncommon sensitivity and insight. It's music for folks with open ears, hearts and minds.

Back Roads: Wolf's 1976 debut, recorded with her long-time band Wildwood Flower, was "made by people who live and work in Sonoma Country, California," as the liner notes say. Recording was overseen by Dan Dugan "in front of an open fire with friends coming and going, and time to walk on the beach and eat good home cooking." The Wildwood Flower (Don Coffin, Paul Ellis and Will Siegel) added Pete Wiseman, a member of the Santa Rosa Symphony Orchestra and David West from the Cache Valley Drifters. The album contains "Lately," "Emma Rose," "Sitting on the Porch, "The Redtail Hawk" and eight others.

Lines on the Paper: Like Back Roads, this 1977 release featured the Wildwood Flower with additional help, this time from all the Cache Valley Drifters (David West, Cyrus Clarke, Bill Griffin and Wally Barnick). It was recorded live in a living room in a working ranch above the Pacific Ocean. Included are "I Don't Know Why," "Lines on Paper," "You're Not Standing Like You Used To," "Picture Puzzle" and eight more.

Safe at Anchor: Album annotator Phil Elwood, then the jazz critic for the San Francisco Examiner, describes Wolf as possessed of "a deep, rich, beautifully tuned vocal instrument," which he felt was served beautifully by the arrangements here. The album contains orchestrations by piano player Bill Griffin, who as Elwood writes, "has a feeling for Kate's voice, treating it with affection and supporting it (including fondling it) with original and enhanced instrumental mixes." Examples of these, he notes, are "the mandolin/accordion blending on the title track, the violin/steel guitar combination of 'September Song,' the pair of guitars under Celtic harps on 'Seashore Mountain Lady.'"

Give Yourself to Love: Wolf's 1983 double live album, recorded at San Francisco's Great American Music Hall, featured long-time band members Nina Gerber and Ford James. Kate's friend Rose Maddox, California's "grandmother of rockabilly," wrote in the liner notes, "I'm sure you are going to enjoy her talents throughout the years as I have. She is a truly great artist!" Collectors' Choice has reissued the two LPs as a double-CD set; among 19 tracks are "Give Yourself to Love," "Desert Wind," "The Ballad of Weaverville," "Green Eyes" and covers of songs by John Stewart, Sandy Denny, Mary McCaslin, the Incredible String Band's Robin Williamson and the Eagles.

The Wind Blows Wild: This release was compiled after Wolf's passing by long-time associate Nina Gerber from studio recordings, radio shows and live performances. The title track is the last song Kate recorded before her death. The rest of the album spans her entire career, offering live and studio performances of such heartfelt and beautiful songs as "Old Jerome," "Statues Made of Clay," "Mountains," "Laugh Like That," "Rising of the Moon" and more, plus the studio version of "Give Yourself to Love." According to the notes, "Since some of this material was not originally meant to be released on record, the technical quality may not meet modern studio standards and the performances may not be perfect, but the music is real and from the heart."

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