Today’s Cool Album of Day (#802 in the Series) is Eddie Holstein, Eddie Holstein
When Eddie Holstein sings “I’m goin’ down to Morton Grove, baby do you want to go?” the answer is yes. And that is just how it is, after all these years and clubs and sing-a-longs and tributes, Eddie Holstein still makes you want to go.
The slightly fat sound of his free finger picking style on the folk guitar and the weathered but still potent voice takes you back to the days when folk singing was the bomb. Or, against the bomb. But he isn’t singing strident protest tunes on this set; no full-throated, head back sincerity ala Bob Gibson or Joan Baez.
Instead Ed stays in the pocket where he is comfortable and where we want him – singing songs we recognize, ones with lyrics that knock you out with their truth and warmth, songs with love and longing and hope and pain. And occasionally he reminds everyone that anytime he wants to, he can stop the show. And with Eddie Holstein, that’s where you have to watch out.
See, most folk singers back in the day could make you sing along. Hell, you came out because you wanted to sing along, although you acted shy for a verse or two. Eddie can still make audiences sing along, and he also still has the ability to make his audiences choke with laughter. Sometimes at the same time. Don’t take my word for it. Listen to the live version of “Back in the Saddle” and just see how long it takes for him to get to you. He had me at the third line. At the “Live at the Earl” Concert at FitzGerald’s a few months ago I thought some of the old folkies were going to need medical attention from laughing so hard at Eddie’s set.
It is true there is something inherently ridiculous about a bunch of city people sitting around singing old cowboy or blues songs. But we love them and so does Eddie. He just can’t help flashing a mirror at us all from time to time so we can appreciate how much fun we are having singing them. When the album opens with “I Love Me” with the Pickin’ Bubs (Maura Lalley and Peggy Browning) singing “He loves him” you know that he’s still having fun.
Eddie says he was very pleased with how the record came out. “I was a little reluctant to record an album because I’m not touring or anything, but I was really happy to be able to show these arrangements and what I could do.” He teaches guitar now at the Old Town School of Folk Music and still plays the occasional gig. A few of those gigs make it onto the side, including a great live version of “Done Laid Around” with Jim Craig and Mark Dvorak. “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” is on it too and if you have never heard Eddie’s classic Vincent Price story, (and even if you have) you need to hear it here.
There are a few Bob Dylan tunes, “Buckets of Rain” and “If You Gotta o, Go Now” for example. Eddie says he thinks “they are the most understandable of his tunes, and they’re not whiney.” John Prine’s “A Good Time” also makes an appearance. On these numbers, since you aren’t laughing, Eddie has to break your heart a little. He also includes a few traditional numbers such as “Shake Sugaree” and “12 Gates to the City” with Elaine Moore. A tribute to Big Bill Broonzy recorded live at the Old Town School yields “Tell Me Who’s Been Foolin’ You?” which is arguably one of the best song titles ever.
Bonnie Koloc, whose voice has somehow defied the years to stay as crystalline and pure as it ever was, duets beautifully with Ed on “Swinging On A Star” and “Bluebird Hotel.” (By the way, if you love Koloc like I do, don’t miss her brilliant new album, “Rediscovered.”) She doesn’t sing Eddie’s “Jazzman” this time, although Eddie says that like all of us he still loves her version from so long ago.
Instead Ed takes the vocal on his most famous original tune, joined by John Spiegel on dobro and John Abbey on bass. It takes on a new poignancy with its slower tempo and the voice of a man who has obviously tried a trick or two. “It’s not a mournful song; plaintive but not mournful.” It’s a great song that has been recorded by many performers over the years. Eddie loves them all and said it is “the biggest kick when someone else records your song. It was the ultimate dream come true to have Tom Rush record it.”
So, if you spent time on Wells Street or Lincoln Avenue back in the day, and wish you could time travel back there, here’s your ticket. Just like he always did, Eddie makes you wanna go.
- I Love Me
- Buckets of Rain
- Back in the Saddle
- A Good Time
- 12 Gates to the City
- Cuckoo Song
- Swinging on a Star
- Tell Me Who’s Been Foolin You?
- Shake Sugaree
- Drop Down Mama
- Bluebird Hotel
- Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right
- If You Gotta Go, Go Now
- Blow Whistle Blow
- Done Laid Around
- Eddie Holstein – guitar, vocals
- John Speigel – dobro
- John Abbey – bass
- Elaine Moore – vocals
- Bonnie Koloc – vocals
- Jim Craig – guitar, vocals
- Mark Dvorak – guitar, vocals
- Maura Lalley – vocals
- Peggy Browning – vocals
Here’s some live video of Eddie. He gives us “12 Gates to the City” and a also a fun ensemble piece with familiar faces.
Here are some additional folk albums you might like to check out.