Unsung Heroes: Mary McCaslin
by Arthur Wood
March 10, 2004

Better Late Than Never

Mary McCaslin was born on December 22, 1946, at St. Elizabeth's Home located in the Indianapolis, Indiana, suburb of Beechgrove and soon afterwards was given up for adoption. When McCaslin was aged six her adoptive parents moved to Los Angeles initially settling in the suburb of Redondo Beach and later moving to Norwalk. Raised on a diet of television westerns McCaslin quickly became enamoured with the lore of the cowboy and the life of Native American tribes on America's wide-open, unblemished plains.

McCaslin also developed a love of Country and Western music at an early age. By her mid-teens that affair was tested by the arrival in the United States of The Beatles and other British Pop bands, as well as the rise and rise of Detroit's stable of Tamla Motown label hit makers. Aged fifteen McCaslin purchased her first guitar, a Stella. Three years later McCaslin began performing regularly at The Paradox, an Orange County coffeehouse and later at other West Coast venues. Working a day job at a telephone company, the teenager persevered with her music career. Aged 21 McCaslin cut a single for the Capitol label which teamed acoustic interpretations of Lennon/McCartney's "Rain" with Michael Nesmith's "This All Happened Once Before." The sessions, produced by the late Nick Venet, also yielded an album that finally saw the light of day in 1999. Released by the German-based label Bear Family Records it was titled Rain - The Lost Album.

Goodnight Everybody, McCaslin's debut solo album, produced by Larry Murray (ex-Hearts & Flowers), was released by the now defunct Barnaby label during 1969. This collection of eleven cover songs included "You Keep Me Hangin' On," a mid-1960s chart hit for the Supremes and Vanilla Fudge. In 1980 the Piccadilly subsidiary of the Washington State-based First National label reissued the album as Blue Ridge Epitaph. In the summer of 1972 while performing at California's Sweets Mill Folk Festival, McCaslin met performing songwriter Jim Ringer. The pair soon began performing together, a partnership that lasted for over a decade. 1973 saw McCaslin cut her sophomore album for the then-fledgling North Ferrisburg, Vermont-based Folk label, Philo. Way Out West was the first of three consecutive discs McCaslin recorded for the imprint and the eleven-track collection featured eight McCaslin-penned originals.

Released in 1975 and featuring more McCaslin originals she co-produced Prairie In The Sky with Jim Ringer, while two years on Old Friends was a collection of McCaslin's favourite songs by other writers. The ten-song set closed with the McCaslin-composed, album title song. During 1978 she worked on the soundtrack of the documentary Of Babies And Banners, which charted the rise of the American Woman's Movement. During the same year Ringer and McCaslin were married. The following year they cut a duo album of cover songs called The Bramble And The Rose for Philo. The album cover featured a portrait of Ringer and McCaslin by the multi-talented writer, musician, and painter Eric Von Schmidt. The album was the brainchild of their manager Mitch Greenhill and Philo's Bill Schubart. It featured material that the pair regularly performed in concert, and The Bramble & The Rose remains, in my opinion, one of the finest duo albums ever released. Its success as a recording, lies in the alchemy that merges Jim's gruff and gravel sounding bass with Mary's lighter alto, and no original compositions were included on this 1978 recording.

In the late 1970s Philo signed a production deal with Mercury Records and the latter imprint released the McCaslin and Michael Couture-produced Sunny California. Under promoted by Mercury the album was not a major seller. Alongside five McCaslin originals and a cover of Ringer's "The California Zephyr," there were covers of 1960s classics "Save The Last Dance For Me" and Sam Cooke's "Cupid." Ringer and McCaslin contributed a couple of songs to the 1980 Burt Lancaster movie Cattle Annie And Little Britches. In the spring of 1981 McCaslin signed with the now-defunct, Chicago-based Flying Fish label and they issued the Mitch Greenhill-produced A Life And A Time. The disc featured three of McCaslin's compositions including a reappraisal of "Northfield" from Way Out West and a new version of the cover song "You Keep Me Hangin' On." There were also readings of Jim Ringer's "The Band Of Jesse James" and Michael Nesmith's "Some Of Shelley's Blues."

In the late spring of 1994, returning to Philo, now owned by Rounder Records, the label released McCaslin's seventh solo album, Broken Promises, a collection of ten McCaslin originals and three covers, including Lennon/McCartney's "Help." In her liner notes she wrote, "So much time has passed since my last recording that the possibility of making an album of new songs seemed like a far-off dream." A thirteen-year gap separated A Life And A Time and Broken Promises and an almost similar gap ensued before the appearance of her next studio recording, the appropriately-titled, self-release, Better Late Than Never. The latter twelve-song collection featured five McCaslin originals/co-writes plus covers such as Neil Young's "Losing End" and Jackson Browne's "You've Forgotten." In 1999 the aforementioned archive recording Rain finally surfaced. On June 15, 2002, McCaslin joined Lacy J. Dalton and Ginny Mitchell on the stage of Santa Cruz High's Performing Arts Theatre for a benefit concert to help save the wild horses of Storey County, Nevada. An in concert CD and DVD, titled Girls From Santa Cruz, was subsequently released. These days McCaslin lives in Santa Cruz with her husband, Greg Arrufat.

In the self-penned liner notes of her almost decade old Philo recording Broken Promises, Mary McCaslin confided, "I am proud and happy to say that I am adopted. Being adopted, means being wanted - and loved." Mary's affection for television westerns at an early age was hardly surprising, since that genre was at saturation level on prime time television during the fifties. The lore of cowboys, Native Americans, and the wide-open, unblemished plains became her world. What's more, McCaslin imagined that world still existed somewhere in California, though not in the heavily populated suburbs of Los Angeles.

Although there were no professional musicians in her adopted family, concurrently Mary fostered a love for Country and Western music and during the early sixties, Pop music. Mary's mother had arranged for her to work with a telephone company, but the teenager persevered with her music career and became a regular on the West Coast listening club and coffeehouse circuit. Aged 21, McCaslin cut a Nick Venet-produced single for the Capitol label, which teamed folkie interpretations of Lennon and McCartney's "Rain" with Michael Nesmith's "This All Happened Once Before." An album was also recorded, but never released...until decades later.

Larry Murray was one of many west coast musicians Mary met at the venues she played. In the early sixties, Murray had been a member of The Scottsville Squirrel Barkers. Other alumni included, Chris Hillman, Kenny Wertz, and Bernie Leadon. By the mid-sixties, Murray and Leadon were members of the seminal Country Rock band, Hearts & Flowers. Their two Capitol albums, produced by Nick Venet, Now is the Time For [1967] and Of Horses, Kids & Forgotten Women [1968] were reissued as a "2 on 1 CD c/w outtakes" by Collectors Choice Records during 2002 and was reviewed in FolkWax. Murray went on and cut a solo album titled Sweet Country Suite for Verve Forecast, and then pursued a career in songwriting and record production. In 1969, he produced Mary's debut solo album Goodnight Everybody for the now defunct Barnaby label. "You Keep Me Hanging On," a mid-sixties chart hit for the Supremes and Vanilla Fudge, was included among the eleven songs that McCaslin covered. Although a long deleted rarity, in 1980 the Piccadilly subsidiary of the Washington state-based First National label, reissued the disc as Blue Ridge Epitaph.

Mary was an integral player in the burgeoning Los Angeles contemporary music scene of the late sixties and early seventies. For instance, the liner of the Happy Is The... 1967 album by Sunshine Company features the credit "A special thank you to Miss Mary McCaslin for her guidance on 'Rain' and 'I Need You.'" It is a testament to Mary's strength of character and resolve, as well as her vision, that she turned her back on the contemporary scene and ploughed, instead, a considerably less commercial furrow in the field of Folk/Country music.

In the summer of 1972, while performing at California's Sweets Mill Folk Festival, Mary was introduced to a fellow songwriter, Jim Ringer. Jim and Mary soon became a regular, performing partnership, an alliance that lasted for the ensuing decade. In 1973 Mary cut her sophomore solo album, for the then new Vermont-based Folk label, Philo. Way Out West was the first of a trio of solo discs McCaslin recorded for the imprint during the seventies, and the eleven-track collection featured eight McCaslin originals.

Co-produced by Mary and label co-owner, Bill Schubart, her "Music Strings" opened the set, and is an exploration of her deep love for music. It's segued with "Oh Hollywood," penned by friend and kindred spirit, Bob Simpson. Maury Manceau, former leader of Sunshine Company, co-wrote "Waiting." "Way Out West" closed Side One and included the line "My first love was a member of the Hearts and Flowers scene." Mary's childhood expectations of what lay way out west, became a recurring theme in her work. Other themes found on that first Philo release include, life on the road (from a joyous and positive perspective), an outlaw's life in the Old West, and the necessity of having friends one can fall back upon.

Released in 1975, Mary co-produced Prairie In The Sky with Jim Ringer, and the singularly acoustic instrumentation employed on her debut, was fleshed out by the inclusion of a pedal steel guitar. This augmentation lent a Country feel to Mary's songs. Of the dozen tracks, Mary penned four and co-wrote, with Jim, "Ballad Of Weaverville," the tale of a gambler who woos and wins the girl of his dreams against all the odds. The remaining tracks included the standards "Pass Me By" and "Ghost Riders In The Sky." In "Last Canonball" McCaslin yearns for the steams trains that once plied the old west. The title track proves to be a eulogy to freedom, particularly in terms of possessing the capability to travel, wherever and whenever you want. Marty Robbins' "My Love" closes the album, and lyrically encapsulates Mary's western philosophy.

As hinted by the album title, Old Friends which appeared in 1977, brought together some of Mary's favourite songs by other writers. Except that is, for the self-composed title track that closed this ten-song set. Side One opened and closed respectively with Lennon and McCartney's "Things We Said Today" and Pete Townshend's "Pinball Wizard." The latter may appear to be an odd choice musically for this Folk/Country artist. McCaslin places her stamp indelibly on the songs. Three tunes that loosely shared a western theme were wedged between the latter titles - the timeless "Oklahoma Hills" by Jack Guthrie; "Wendigo," a focus on the Spirit of Death; while Bob "Sons of the Pioneers" Nolan's "Way Out There" described the loneliness experienced while crossing a desert. Thematically, freedom pervades the song lyrics on the second half of the recording. There's Tex Ritter's 1956 chart success "Wayward Wind," while "Blackbird," yet another Lennon and McCartney cover, featured stunning banjo work by Mary. The depth of feeling and breadth of description that Mary attained with "Old Friends," marked the song out as one of her best. For newcomers to Mary's work, this album is probably her most accessible.

During 1978, Mary worked on the soundtrack of the documentary film Of Babies And Banners. The film charted the rise of the American Woman's Movement. It was subsequently nominated for an American Academy of Motion Picture Arts Award.  The work of contemporary composers, Michael (Martin) Murphey and Herb Pedersen, lie side by side with Ralph Stanley's "Rank Strangers" and the traditional "Canaan's Land." The sombre, traditional lament "Oh Death" is given a haunting treatment, only to be followed by the up-tempo rhythms of  "Hit The Road, Jack," and yet as a collection the dozen songs gel wonderfully.

In late 1978, Philo took the rare step of releasing a single of "Things We Said Today," a track from the Old Friends album. It charted in a number of the Northwestern states, particularly strongly in Oregon. As a result, Old Friends began to sell in, what was for Philo, relatively large quantities. With Mary's popularity at an all-time high, Philo signed a production deal with Mercury Records, for the recording and release of her next solo album. Titled Sunny California and co-produced by Mary with Michael Couture, it appeared in 1979. Although her previous work was generally acoustic, strings are prominently featured on Sunny California. Due to a lack of promotion by Mercury, the album was not a commercial success. Mary performed at The Roxy in Los Angeles, in support of the release as the opening act for Orleans, hardly a billing that was targeted at followers of her music.

None of the latter should detract from the fact that Sunny California is another classic McCaslin creation. The title track lyric, explores the myth that California is a land of milk and honey. Her affection for sixties' music manifests itself again, with The Drifters' "Save The Last Dance For Me" and Sam Cooke's "Cupid." In her "Dust Devils," the passage of time is exquisitely and poetically equated to those violent dust storms that traverse the American plains. As if to prove that her taste in music was neither blinkered, nor catholic, Louden Wainwright's amusing "The Swimming Song" is given the McCaslin treatment.

The soundtrack to the 1980 Burt Lancaster film, Cattle Annie And Little Britches boasted a couple of songs which Jim and Mary contributed. Purporting to be based on the true story of two young girls who joined the notorious Doolin' Dalton gang, the movie gained glowing press reviews, but the expected droves of customers never materialised at the box office. The film enjoyed a U.K. video release during the early eighties. During the same year, Mary and Jim appeared at the Kerrville Folk Festival. When the Live Highlights album for that year was subsequently released, their theme song "The Bramble & the Rose" was included. In 1981, the pair played the prestigious Vancouver Folk Festival. Mary and Jim were operating from a base in San Bernadino, California, at this time. During 1981 they were filmed at home (with their clan of basset hounds) as well as on the road performing, for a sixty minute documentary, that was subsequently screened by the Public Broadcasting Service station WOUB, based in Athens, Ohio.

At the dawn of the eighties, Mitch Greenhill negotiated a one-off deal for Mary to record an album for the Chicago-based Flying Fish label, a disc he also produced. Released in the spring of 1981, the sessions for A Life And A Time, took place at Hit City West in Los Angeles. Only three of Mary's compositions appear on the release, including a reappraisal of "Northfield" from Way Out West. Mary also re-cut "You Keep Me Hangin' On." The remaining songs include Jim Ringer's "The Band Of Jesse James" and "Some Of Shelley's Blues" by Michael Nesmith. The title track, penned by Mary, recalls through the memories of his family, a beloved father who had passed away, while "Santana Song" focuses on the hardships pioneers endured while working the land during the late nineteenth century.

In 1984 Philo released a Best of Mary McCaslin LP collection. Almost a decade later, they followed it with the eighteen-song retrospective Things We Said Today. Through the eighties, Ringer's health deteriorated and their public appearances eventually ground to a halt. The couple separated towards the close of the decade. In March 1992, Jim Ringer passed away. Mary relocated to Santa Cruz, where she presented her Fat Farm music show on local radio station KZSC for a number of years. She also became a guitar teacher at a local store, Sylvan Music, and continues to occasionally contribute features to the Santa Cruz Sentinel. McCaslin has continued to tour nationally and in 1994 her composition "Way Out West" was included on the celebratory compilation Philo So Far...The 20th Anniversary Folk Sampler.

In April 1994, Mary performed at the Philo showcase during the annual South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin, Texas. One month later, Philo released her seventh and, to date, most recent solo album. Titled Broken Promises, for me it was a long awaited fruition. Quoting from Mary's liner notes, "So much time has passed since my last recording that the possibility of making an album of new songs seemed like a far-off dream." Thirteen years on from A Life And A Time I never gave up hope that Mary would record another solo album. Now, almost a decade after Broken Promises, that dream still burns strong and true.

Broken Promises, was co-produced by Mary and Steve Netsky, and the recording sessions took place at the Soundworks Studio in Watertown, Massachusetts. Featuring ten new McCaslin songs, at turns on Broken Promises, her lyrics displayed anger and uncertainty, as well as humility, hope and humanity. There was certainly a powerful maturity to her writing. Considering Mary's experiences through the eighties, it's hardly surprising that her principal focus lyrically should have become relationships. "There's No Way To Say Goodbye" and "You're Gone" are powerful testaments to lost love, while "Ghost Train" adequately proved that Mary's original vision of things way out west remained intact. 

Early on in this tale, I mentioned that circa 1967/68 Mary cut an album for Capitol Records. In 1999 the German reissue imprint Bear Family Records issued an eighteen-track collection titled Rain. In a recording career that has spanned well over three decades, McCaslin's work remains original, valid, fresh, and vibrant. During the years that elapsed between A Life And Time and Broken Promises, Nanci Griffith and Iris DeMent became Philo artists and passed on to major label deals, each gaining a degree of fame and fortune in the process. It is a testament to the quality of her music that eight of Mary's albums, including Rain, remain in Rounder/Philo catalogue.

Time Flying!, (11/03/04)

The realisation that this recording is almost a quarter of a century old is somewhat hard to comprehend. Once upon a time, McCaslin's epistles were a biannual event to look forward to, savour, and spend time with. How time flies ... and all that! To date, McCaslin has released eight solo (and one duo) recording(s). Circa 1981, A Life And Time was a Flying Fish release, and as history has proved (so far), in studio session terms, it was her penultimate solo recording. Rounder Records purchased that catalogue about a decade ago, a propitious fit considering their ownership of McCaslin's handful of Philo albums.

Throughout her recording career, in terms of content, McCaslin's albums have consistently been a marriage of covers and her own compositions. Produced by her then-booking agent Mitch Greenhill [See Note #1], it featured a coterie of top Los Angeles session players, including Jim Fielder (bass) and Al Perkins (pedal steel), A Life And Time conforms to the foregoing song pattern. Three McCaslin songs are featured and "Northfield," which opens the album, originally appeared on her Way Out West [1973]. Thematically, it is a song about seeking freedom, and in the chorus the narrator references that aim with "Eighteen miles to Northfield, One more town along the line, I wish I knew how far to go to leave the pain behind." The album's title cut, a ballad, recalls a man, now passed, who, through the way he conducted his life, set an example to his offspring (and acquaintances). The plaintive "Santana Song," the closing cut, finds the narrator recall at the outset "ninety days of drought" following which the lyric focuses upon the arrival of the Santana wind - in California it's an almost annual source of searing heat waves ... and firestorms.

Back in 1966 the Holland/Dozier/Holland composition "You Keep Me Hangin' On" gave Motown's Supremes a Pop/Soul #1 chart single, and two years later Iron Butterfly's heavier sounding reading reached #6 on the same chart. Here McCaslin reprises this song about a love affair that is foundering on the rocks of indifference - the chorus attests "Get out of my life, why don't you say it?" Mary first cut the song for her long out-of-print 1969 album Goodnight Everybody. Subjectively, the situation that prevails in Lehman, Lebowsky, and Clarke's "Tender Love And Care" is the antithesis of the situation presented in the foregoing song. Completing a consecutive trio of love songs is the traditional, Bluegrass-sounding "Fair And Tender Ladies," a cautionary tale concerning faithfulness in affairs of the heart. On the original vinyl version of A Life And Time, Side 1 closed with a song by Mary's first husband, the late Jim Ringer. Ringer's only current, in-catalogue recording - a compilation - is titled The Band Of Jesse James. The song of the same name relates the story of a roguish, unfaithful character whose behaviour marked him out, like Jesse James, as an "outlaw on the run."

The B-side of the Capitol Records single that marked the launch of McCaslin's recording career featured one of Mike Nesmith's lesser-known tunes, "This All Happened Once Before." On this collection Mary casts her eye over one of the former Monkees' better-known numbers, "Some Of Shelley's Blues." Nesmith included his song about faith and love on Pretty Much Your Standard Ranch Stash [1973] [See Note #2]. Mary's banjo playing on this cut is best described as strident, and according to the liner the arrangement is based upon one the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band used when they cut the song for their 1970 album Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy. Once upon a time - well back in the late sixties at least, Folk songwriter Paul Siebel was a contender who cut a couple of fine albums for the then independent Elektra label. His western-flavoured horse song, "Pinto Pony," first appeared on Jack-Knife Gypsy [1971]. In her youngster years, McCaslin was a major fan of television westerns. M. Rust's "Farewell Lone Ranger" recalls the occasion in 1979, over two decades after the TV series was cancelled (1949 - 1957), when the actor Clayton Moore, who played The Lone Ranger for the longest period, was taken to court by the producers of a new Lone Ranger movie, to prevent him making further public appearances in full Ranger regalia. The court's decision was overturned in Moore's favour in 1985. The thought occurred to me that the lines "He caught the bad guys and saved the women, Was a friend to the settler and the Indian" hold a message for today's politicians, in terms of approaching many of our vast, modern day divides.

True Listening Pleasure, (01/10/07)

A FolkWax feature that surveyed Mary McCaslin's recording career appeared in the spring of 2004. Toward the close I referred to this California-based musician's two most recent studio recordings with "Thirteen years on from A Life And A Time [1981] I never gave up hope that Mary would record another solo album. Now, almost a decade after Broken Promises [1994] that dream still burns strong and true." According to McCaslin's liner notes the initial Better Late Than Never sessions took place during 2004 and while she confirms that the album title acknowledges the span of years it took to complete the project, for me Better Late Than Never could equally apply to the dozen years that elapsed since the appearance of Broken Promises. The new collection features a handful of McCaslin originals, some co-written with others, plus her arrangement of the traditional "California Joe," added to which there's half a dozen cover songs. When compared with the content of McCaslin's previous releases, that mix pretty much amounts to situation normal. In terms of subject matter, McCaslin has always dreamed of long-gone, simpler times and that theme also pervades segments of this recording. Those familiar old feelings can be so comforting.

In her liner notes McCaslin recalls a recent visit to North Ferrisburg in Vermont, one that subsequently informed her "Acres Of Houses" lyric. Therein, McCaslin compares the current little boxes landscape she witnessed with the wide-open rural countryside that existed back in 1973 when she recorded her sophomore solo album, Way Out West, for the original incarnation of Philo Records. The late Walter Hyatt was born in 1949 and raised in Spartanburg, South Carolina, a town that has long been a magnet for Folk and Country musicians according to Peter Cooper's Hub City Music Makers - One Southern Town's Popular Music Legacy [1997]. While travelling home after a gig it would appear that the well known duo Robin and Linda Williams passed Hyatt's birthplace on the late May 1996 night that the ValuJet DC-9 on which Walter was travelling crashed in the Florida Everglades. Sadly Hyatt perished, but countless musical acquaintances have kept his music and memory alive and McCaslin's song is based on the story that the Williams' related to her.

Throughout her career, McCaslin has displayed a penchant for covering Pop and Soul songs, particularly those penned during the 1960s. In the process McCaslin imbued them with her unique acoustic Folk/Country style. In that regard, towards the close of this collection you'll find Neil Young's "Losing End" from his sophomore outing, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere [1969]. The Canadian resurrected the song for his recent Greendale tour. Jackson Browne has never officially released his early career composition "You've Forgotten," which is credited here to the publisher Open Window Music. This song, on the subject of lost love, is set to a loping rhythm and appeared on the renowned 1967, two-LP demo that Browne recorded for Nina Music. It's followed here by the late Hoyt Axton's anti-war number "To Some Cool Blue-Iced Shore," which McCaslin previously covered on Goodnight Everybody [1969] and Rain - The Lost Album [1999]. The latter album was recorded during 1967-8 when the Vietnam War was still raging. Time passes- almost four decades - yet little changes as McCaslin once again comments on America's latest military adventures.

While the latter trio of covers appears towards the close of Better Late Than Never, earlier on, there's a pair of pre-WWII compositions. The lyric to "Unchained Melody" was penned by Hy Zaret (aka William Stirrat) in 1936, at which time film composer Alex North added music. Dormant for almost two decades it finally appeared in the public domain on the soundtrack to the (long forgotten) prison movie Unchained [1955]. Four versions featured in the U.K. Pop singles chart in the summer of that year and to date it has been recorded some five hundred times, but it's the 1965 Phil Spector-produced version, performed by the Righteous Brothers, that is best remembered. Here, McCaslin's stripped-down, acoustic rendition perfectly captures the misfortune of lovers separated by time and the walls of prison. "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen" (the title translates as "To Me You Are Beautiful") was composed by Sholom Secunda and lyricist Jacob Jacobs for a short-lived 1932 Yiddish musical. Five years later Sammy Cahn heard the song performed by a duo at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem and persuaded Warner Brothers to buy the song. This they did, Cahn-penned English lyrics and The Andrews Sisters took it to #1 in the States for five weeks. On the latter cut McCaslin underpins her vocal with a driving banjo rhythm.

By trade Mike Beck, the composer of the contemporary "Oildale," is a working cowboy and his participation in "an olde worlde" profession undoubtedly led him to hanker for simpler times as evidenced by "He laboured in the fields by day/And he honky tonked at night." Oildale is obviously a blue-collar town evidenced by Beck's amusing and biting ecological contention "There ain't no yuppies in Oildale/It's damned near yuppie free/And you won't find no soccer moms riding around in SUV's." Furthermore, it's located close to Bakersfield, hence the reference to California's 1950s Country music answer to Nashville in the first quote. It appears that the late Jim Ringer, McCaslin's first husband, composed the Civil War-themed "Sabres And Guns," but never got around to recording it. The writing credit here states Ringer/McCaslin, as McCaslin decided that the song required an additional closing verse.

The phrase "there but for the grace of God go I," underpins the mindset of the principle character in "Standing In The Doorway" as an old lady down on her luck recalls better days now long gone. I'd suggest the line "hums a tune from some old song she learned when it was new" was intentional, since word for word it mirrors the phraseology present in Michael Smith's classic, "The Dutchman." On the latter number McCaslin's lyric is supported by a melody penned by Rounder Records alumni Steve Netsky. Towards the close of the album, "Missing" finds McCaslin focusing on an ever-present social ill as a young girl is kidnapped by a man, only to be found seven months later where he had dumped her that day, half a mile from her home. Between those two events McCaslin perfectly captures the initial, yet fruitless search by friends, neighbours, and the authorities, and the month's of utter aguish endured by the young girl's parents with "faith becomes insanity, hope becomes despair, night becomes eternity, a curse becomes a prayer."

As I stated at the outset, the contents of Better Late Than Never amount to situation normal. Just let me say how great it is to see the release of a new Mary McCaslin album. Always a true listening pleasure.

With Jim Ringer: The Bramble & The Rose [1978]
With Lacy J. Dalton & Ginny Mitchell: Girls From Santa Cruz also available on DVD [2002]
Solo: Goodnight Everybody [1969]; Way Out West [1973]; Prairie In The Sky [1975]; Old Friends [1977]; Sunny California [1979]; A Life And A Time [1981]; The Best Of Mary McCaslin compilation [1984]; The Best Of Mary McCaslin: Things We Said Today compilation [1992]; Broken Promises [1994]; Rain - The Lost Album [1999]; Better Late Than Never [2006]

#1 - Mitch Greenhill is the son of the legendary promoter Manny Greenhill (founder of Folklore Productions, which Mitch now owns and manages).
#2 - The Monkees' version appeared on the posthumous 1989 CD album Missing Links, Vol. 2. While a member of The Stone Poneys, on Volume III, Linda Ronstadt was the lead vocalist on that trio's 1968 version of the song.

Arthur Wood is a founding editor of

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