David Essig’s latest: Rolling Fork to Gallows Point
Embarrassing to say but, with over 10 recordings under his belt since the ‘70s, Canadian songwriter David Essig is a singer-songwriter-producer I should know much better than I do – especially after hearing Rolling Fork to Gallows Point.
It’s a name I’d lump together with David Bradstreet, Doug McArthur, Ian Tamblyn — official folkies who are as much about the lifestyle as they were about the music. Since going back to retrieve their earlier music, I was wrong to discount their contributions in any way. And from the first playback of these twelve songs on Essig’s latest CD, Rolling Fork to Gallows Point, I‘ll never ignore him again.
Beginning with a group spiritual in the form of “Waitin’ On You”, sung a capella by Essig with players Chris Whiteley, longtime bassist Tobin Frank and drummer Alan Cameron, it’s a suitably gentle beginning to an album which is anything but. A recreation of a long gone ’85 release, Whose Muddy Shoes, this is a labour of love some 26 years after the fact – and it sounds it. Truth be known, Essig is a well-decorated roots musician, if not legend in his own right. He just needs to get out more. The 11 remaining tracks make up a beautiful, rough and tumble blues record — passionately played and lovingly recorded — for the most part, off the floor.
“If I Had Possessions” is a blues revival-esque showcase for harp and slide while “Candyman” is pure folk with a warm, Steve Goodman, sit-around-the-house feel, cueing the David Essig I remember. However, “Cypress Grove” is something altogether different — a slow, slippery ride with great electric guitars and a dark blues attitude. “Casey Jones” ups the folk/storyteller ante and is beautifully played while “If You Got A Good Friend” is another great harp and guitar workout benefiting from another exceptional lead guitar solo and Essig’s dead-perfect vocals.
“Give Me Back My Wig” is a somewhat frantic rock’n’roll jam that gets a tad screamy but makes up for it with its fun delivery. Likewise, the raucous, rough-edged blues of “Whose Muddy Shoes” is unapologetically heartfelt. “Come On In My Kitchen” gets the same treatment, slowed down and extra-greasy, Whiteley’s harp going to town and taking the rest with him. “Keep Your Lamp Trimmed And Burning” is also awash in slippery splendor — this session was purely a thrill for both Whitely and Essig. All these songs are in the public domain — which sadly ignores Essig’s songwriting prowess — with the exception of one of the disc’s key highlights: “Jackie’s Blues”. An intimate meeting of piano and electric guitar with an old-time sound, it’s pure bliss and a loving, lovely tribute for a dear friend.
This is a great record to own and I hope there’s more to come.
David Essig shares stories and songs in this video from episode five of the Woodshed Sessions.