"Lean A Little"
Barry Luft's new recording offers some of his favorite music from across a wide range of folk and contemporary musical styles. There is a solid core of songs and instrumentals from the bluegrass/gospel traditions of British-rooted North America, the cowboy poetry of western rural life, some darker contemporary urban themes and a sprinkling of Folk Club humour to balance the mix.
The first track, after the opening drummer's call to join the song circle, is the stirring shanty 'What's the Life of a Man?' with its rousing 88-man chorus. The unique recording session for this track is documented fully in Richard Scholtz's article in the June 1995 Bulletin (Vol. 29, No. 2). Any song following this track could not be anything but anticlimactic, so Barry wisely follows with a self-penned instrumental with a related theme-not the life of a man, but pathways in life followed by his two daughters.
Barry's primary instrument is the banjo, well-miked on this recording, with a clean and resonant sound. In 'God Who Stretched the Spangled Heavens,' his work on the fretless five-string echoes the lyrics, bending and stretching the melody like a Delta blues guitarist. He also varies the sound with lead instrumental tracks on the autoharp, guitar, concertina and harmonica, and is well supported by the instrumental and vocal contributions of several fine musicians, notably Jim Dauncey (guitar), Elmer Udahl (fiddle) and Alan Law (dobro).
Family and friends are integral to the material and performances on this CD. In a harmonica duet with his father, he pays tribute to Dad's guidance in starting him on his musical path. Daughter Toupey joins him in singing her own 'Song for Etty.' In bringing us this album of music that he loves and leans on, Barry Luft has 'leaned a little' on all of the foundations of his life: his environment and its history (and climate!); his faith and those he shares it with; his family; and his friends and' colleagues. The result is a work filled with joy, humour, thoughtful questions and, at the root of it all, sincerity.
Autoharp Clearing House - May 1999
Barry demonstrates considerable talent as a songwriter, making use of memorable melodies tied to thoughtful and original lyrics. Once immediately discerns that he knows just how to treat a song.Banjo Newsletter - Ken Perlman
Continuing to sustain the variety, Barry includes songs and tunes from a number of styles and in various tempos. On What's The Life Of A Man, he is joined on the chorus by "Eighty-eight Men" (one of whom is Bellingham, Washington autoharper Richard Scholtz). Barrys eighty-six year old father, Sandy Luft, plays harmonica on the Old Grey Mare/Now Is The Hour medley. Daughter Toupey sings lead while accompanying herself with guitar on the self-penned Sonq For Etty.
Barry's 'main' instrument is a 104 year old Cole's Eclipse five-string banjo, which he plays primarily in the melodic clawhammer style. (No mere plunkity-plunk to be heard here.) As a further display of his prodigious versatility, Barry lends his guitar, concertina, harmonica and guitar expertise to the album, as well as the aforementioned autoharp offerings. (Incidentally, Barry received his introduction to our instrument through a Chinese bartender from New York City named Charlie Chin--whom he met at the 1970 Pinewoods Folk Music Camp in Massachusetts.)
Regardless of which instrument may be in Barry's hands at any given moment, he plays it with a relaxed competence and ease. -Throughout the recording, Barry is flanked by carefully-recruited sidepersons, each of whom makes a significant musical statement in his or her own right. Imaginative arrangements serve to emphasize the versatility of all participants.
Barry Luft has both the chops and the voice to qualify him as a first-rate performer, and this album illustrates that point well. I consider Lean A Little to be an artistic success, and it is recommended for a broad range of musical tastes. - ER
Luft's solid, sweet, non-pretentious sytle of clawhammer has considerable charm - as is particularly evident on the several instrumentals included in this collection (I have a particular fondness for his tune Two Pathways which you can print from this file). The recording also features some able vocal and instrumental support from a cast of Calgary-area stars.Calgary Herald - Ken McGoogan , April 29/96
He's not old enough, at 54, to be called the Grand Old Man of Calgary folk music. On the other hand, Barry Luft has been making music locally for more than 50 years - and has anybody done it longer?
Luft, a five-string banjo ma man whose repertoire includes "maybe 500 tunes," has just released a CD/cassette called Lean A Little.
One of the highlights is the opening number, What's The Life Of A Man, which finds Luft leading a chorus of male voices through a sea chantey celebrating the seasons of human existence.
"As soon as 1 heard that song," Luft told me recently, "I knew I wanted to record it with a group of men." Busy with countless other projects, he eventually drew up an invitation list. In October of 1994, Luft recorded the song at a local community hall with 88 men - mostly friends from the Calgary area.
"One of the thrills to me," Luft said, "is to have people join me on songs. It's becoming a lost practice. In the olden days, people made their own music more."
The new CD establishes a Stan Rogers mood, with its stirring first cut, then builds upon this mood with a second highlight - an instrumental called Two Pathways that finds Luft picking and strumming his old favorite five-string
Luft discovered the banjo in 1962, while studying to become a teacher at the University of Alberta. He'd fallen in love with the instrument while listening to Pete Seeger records, and one day his brother called: "He'd spotted a five-string in a pawnshop. They wanted $35 for it. We ended UP splitting the cost. . . . "
By this time, Luft had been playing harmonica for years - "since about the age of five." He'd learned from his father, who performed "as a kid" on Calgary's first radio station - and who, like one of Luft's two musician-daughters, makes a guest appearance on the new CD.
By the late'60s, when the folk music revival swept North America, Luft was back home in Calgary - he'd attended Crescent Heights High - working as a teacher and performing every, chance he got.
Over the-years, he made three professional recordings - two with his ex-wife, Lyn Luft (House Concert, Flower in the Snow), and one with Tim Rogers (Songs of the Iron Trail).
For the past five years, besides appearing alone, Luft has been performing with Ceard, the house band at the Rocky Mountain Folk Club: "We'll put out a CD in the fall- called HomeBrew."
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