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Happy Traum (from There’s a Bright Side Somewhere on Lark’s Next Music) (by Lee Zimmerman)
Some people retrace history. Others make it happen. Happy Traum fits into the latter category. He began his career as an aspiring Folk singer in Greenwich Village in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and can even claim credit for imparting his influence on a young Bob Dylan, newly arrived in New York during the bleak winter of 1961. Happy Traum made such a formidable impression on Dylan, in fact, that he went on to back Dylan on guitar and vocals during one of the aspiring troubadour’s early recording sessions approximately two years later. Nearly a decade after that, he’d lend his efforts again after being asked to contribute to songs that would eventually end up on Dylan’s Greatest Hits Volume II and later, Volume Ten of Sony’s official Bootleg Series.
Notably, Happy Traum never chose to rely on those credits alone to further his fame. A legitimate founder of the modern Folk movement, he’s avoided the kind of commercial concessions that might have won him the wider recognition he so decidedly deserves. That said, he made several albums for Capitol Records with his late brother Artie Traum, and has continued to release his own records intermittently ever since.
Still, recent recordings have been somewhat scarce of late, which makes There’s a Bright Side Somewhere, his first new offering in seven years, a real treat for admirers as well as those who may have been heretofore unawares. The title itself, and the beaming countenance Happy Traum shares on the front cover reflect the unyielding innocence and optimism imbued at the heart of actual Folk tradition, but so too, it’s Traum’s unblemished performances and barebone arrangement that find him staying true to those archival intents.
That’s especially evident in his choice of material. Most of it is culled from age-old sources, as reflected in his bold take on Woody Guthrie’s “New York Town”, a jaunty version of “Living With the Blues” (inherited from his mentor, singer/guitarist Brownie McGhee), “Farewell” (a song shared with Bob Dylan early on), and, of course, the cheery title track. Several instrumentals fill out the roster, along with a handful of his own originals and songs by Blind Willie McTell and longtime colleague Eric Andersen. So too, various notables make occasional cameos — banjo player Tony Trischka, John Sebastian, drummer Eric Parker, Amy Helm, Cindy Cashdollar, Geoff Muldaur, pianist Marco Benevento, and violinist Darol Anger, among them. However real credit is due Happy Traum who not only lives up to his nickname, but also ensures that the album stays true to its title.
After all, given the trouble and turmoil the world’s had to endure, it’s nice to know that particular promise of There’s a Bright Side Somewhere still persists. (By Lee Zimmerman)
Listen and buy the music of Happy Traum from AMAZON
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