I just finished listening to a wonderful, recently released CD by Northwest duo Hank Payne and Claire Favro (Hank and Claire)! This is their second recording in four years, and it was well worth the wait. The CD is called “Home At Last,” and the title fits a strong theme throughout the CD. Their song selections let us know they’re home, in a place where they are happiest making music and sharing it with listeners who wish to be entertained and healed with its power and love.
This is a recording which makes the listener feel as if he/she was at a house concert, listening to Hank and Claire sing to an intimate group of friends, because what you hear on the recording is what you’d get at a live concert. The instrumentation is simple: two guitars, a bowed psaltery on a few songs, and a mountain dulcimer. At a concert, Hank and Claire might have a friend and guest musician play with them on a few songs. They chose to do that on this recording as well.
Although the listener mainly hears two guitars and two voices, Hank and Claire are definitely one single and solid unit when it comes to interpreting songs. They’ve done a nice job with their arrangements and variety, from serious and contemplative to songs of healing, to funny and whimsical. They sing songs written by such people as Hazel Dickens, Bill Gallaher, Bruce (Utah) Phillips, Carol McComb, George Harrison, and Pete Seeger, among several others. Three of Hank’s original songs are also featured.
Roger Ferguson added some tasteful mandolin accompaniment to a couple of selections. Musician extraordinaire Mick Nicholson also collaborated by adding tuba accompaniment on a song. Yes…Tuba!
All in all, very nice recording. Not only do I recommend people get a copy of this new album, but I also encourage everyone to catch Hank and Claire in concert when you get the chance.
Jim Portillo is a dedicated musician and promoter of all things folk, often through his involvement with Seattle Folklore Society. He and Bill Murlin are the folk duo Fine Company.
What a joy it has been to see this vocal and instrumental folk duo emerge. It has been only a few years since they met to merge music and lives. Hank and Claire's duo delivers quality to the folk music scene. Here, sixteen tunes and almost an hour of music cross from traditional folk to contemporary originals and even a pop interpretation. The two voices go unaccompanied on a couple of tunes, and they back themselves with guitars, bowed psaltery, and dulcimer. Roger Ferguson joins on two of Payne's tunes and Mick Nicholson on tuba for one song. This is a warm, passionate, and eclectic set of songs. They invite you into their lives and thought, singing about home, love, and our surroundings.
Hazel Dickens, my late musical acquaintance from the International Folk Alliance, wrote the longing, soulful "West Virginia, My Home" that has Favro's voice in her warm higher register and Payne in his mostly baritone gravel in harmony. The two guitars move the piece. They get to the mood of the song. Payne takes the lead vocal on his "Going Home" with nicely fingerpicked guitar--as he does throughout the recording. Here he is joined by Roger Ferguson on lovely mandolin. The harmonies are solid and the vocals ring out.
Guitar and baritone dulcimer back the lovely "Old Love," one of my favorite songs. Hank shows his ability to almost talk the lyric in his baritone resonance, something he should cultivate even more. Claire is maybe at her best here on "Timberline" by Laurie Riley, a friend of theirs. The harmonies work smoothly and have the characteristic contrast of his rougher vocal approach and her higher, warm voice. The guitar work is upbeat, fingerpicking clean, and the effect fits.
They (much like Heidi Muller and Bob Webb) bring "Here Comes the Sun" into the folk field, and I like the fingerpicking guitar runs. Favro is on bowed psaltery that she can play in swing or folk style. Here it is mixed way too low, and I could not hear the delicate nuances of this quiet bowed instrument. Two guitars are working well together to back the gorgeous "Secret Garden" which also showcases a fine Payne guitar solo. On his own song, "It's Only Words," Payne again virtually talks the words and it works. Again there is some bowed psaltery somewhere in the far background.
"Your Long Journey" is two harmonizing vocals and one of the highlights of the recording. This gorgeous traditional tune from Doc and Rosa Lee Watson was found by Hank and Claire in a 1964 SingOut! magazine. The instrumental "Lover's Waltz" is basically lost because the psaltery is mixed too far back. Would have liked this duo to lighten up a couple more times, as they do with the superb unaccompanied vocals and tuba on "Proper Cup of Coffee." Superb timing, tight diction and delivery, great toe-tapping fun. Mick Nicholson gives just a taste of emphasis that makes this song even more fun.
"I Remember Loving You" has the two taking all the verses and changes and boiling them down to three verses. Lovely duet. They are great fans of Bill Galaher and deliver the slow story ballad "Fishing with John" with grace and warmth. They give a lope to this folksong with lessons of heart, home, forgiveness, peace, and the healing power of music. They point out these are themes close to their hearts, and as listeners we see, feel, and hear this throughout.
Payne penned "Home is a River" and backs this with upbeat fingerpicked guitar and mandolin. The loping folk vocal uses his natural, full, slightly raspy vocal to very strong advantage. One of my favorites here as he sings of the river as a woman. On "The Bramble and the Rose" Favro leads, and they have solid harmonies but don't bring much new to this version. The short, unaccompanied vocals on Seeger's "To My Old Brown Earth" are gorgeous, quiet, and peaceful. Lovely closing to a solid folk recording by two of the Northwest's fine artists, who just keep growing.
I am ready for the next CD. Cover art is clean and clear. Tunes are listed with comments on each. A list of tunes and time length on back of the two-panel cardboard fold-over with slip-in CD pocket. CD has their picture on it and a list of the tunes, times, and total CD time to assist DJs. Binding for file retrieval is clear, and finally, they put contact info on both the CD itself and the packaging. Kudos from us DJs and reviewers who always manage to separate the CD and cover. Would have liked a lyric sheet. Metatags give tune number and time.
Chris Lunn is a founding member of International Folk Alliance, Founder/Director of Victory Music, and currently facilitates (with coaching, promoting, and general advocacy) the flourishing of folk music and folk musicians in the Pacific Northwest.