RAISE THE ROOF
That two conjoined 18th-century barns could prove so hospitable to so much fine music won't surprise anyone who's ever visited them at Wolf Trap. In fact, 17 acts have recorded live albums at the Barns since they opened in 1981 as the smaller, year-round adjunct of Wolf Trap, and a handful of compilations have also come out of assorted folk-focused programs. This new CD gathers one track from each of 16 artists, about half of them local, and captures the venue's populist appeal, nowhere more raucously than in the opening track, "Rock This House," a Jimmy Rogers blues classic delivered with typical bravado by the Nighthawks.
The Barns' juke joint feel is brought home in similarly energized performances by the Deanna Bogart Band, the Grandsons and the aptly named Roomful of Blues, who romp through the T-Bone Walker instrumental, "Two Bones and a Pick." Beausoleil's "Perky Dance Two-Step" and the Iguanas' sinewy "Para Donde Vas" exemplify why the Barns also doubles so effectively as a dance hall.
On the other hand, its superb acoustics are well suited to the subtler singer-songwriter offerings of Nils Lofgren (the airy, hopeful "Some Must Dream"), John McCutcheon and Chris Smither. Among the previously unreleased tracks: Tom Paxton's gentle evocation of the '60s folk boom, "Did You Hear John Hurt?," with harmonies from Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer, whose wry and mirthful "Daughters of Feminists" is a highlight. So is Eddie From Ohio's "Great Day," a rousing a cappella gospel quartet built around Julie Murphy Wells's sterling lead and underscored by clapping hands and tapping feet.
-- Richard Harrington
The Barns at Wolf Trap celebrate the release of "Raise the Roof"on Friday with a performance by the Iguanas and appearances by Tom Paxton, Deanna Bogart, the Grandsons, Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer, and Cravin' Dogs. The Iguanas also will appear Sunday at the Rams Head Tavern in Annapolis.
During its first go-round, Magnapop was built for the moment -- the female-fronted Atlanta band had the support of alt-rock heroes Michael Stipe and Bob Mould, and its buzzy guitar pop complemented the output of the Breeders, Liz Phair and Veruca Salt.
But that was about a decade ago, and the last flicker of that sound (at least on the pop charts) is being carried by the overheated likes of Ashlee Simpson and Avril Lavigne.
For them, Magnapop's long-forgotten lesson -- one in abundance on the band's new disc, "Mouthfeel" -- is that being "edgy" sometimes is just a matter of playing it cool.
Singer Linda Hopper still delivers her melodies in a way that is decidedly feminine but almost deadpan, and guitarist Ruthie Morris still plays big, crackling riffs that favor control over outright aggressiveness.
The long layoff did nothing to harm their musical relationship -- they push and pull each other through some songs (notably "Pretend I'm There"), but most of the time they roll ahead, arm-in-arm.
As a result, the disc sounds like an extension of Magnapop's mid-'90s discs, not a half-hearted comeback or a vanity project.
The hooks in songs such as "California" and "Satellite" are a little rough around the edges, but they're as indelible as anything from the band's heyday. (One oldie, "Texas," popped up on a recent episode of HBO's "Six Feet Under.")
If anything, "Mouthfeel" offers further proof that '90s alt-rockers are best when they stick to what got them noticed in the first place.
-- Joe Warminsky