Bootleg Volume 3: Live Around the World (Sony Legacy)
In its heyday throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Cecil County's New River Ranch hosted afternoon concerts by the likes of George Jones, Patsy Cline, and Johnny Cash in a park-like setting. Many of the shows were recorded by Baltimore audiophile Leon Kagarise, whose stash of tapes became legendary. In fact, we profiled Kagarise about 10 years ago, when he was negotiating with various record labels to release the tapes. After he passed away in 2008, those talks stalled, and the tapes never surfaced. But, lo and behold, Kagarise's recordings of Cash at a New River Ranch concert in 1962 turn out to be the highlight of this two-CD set. Cash, sounding completely at home at the country-music park, banters with the crowd between tunes and rips through sparse and spirited versions of "Country Boy," "Rock Island Line," and "I Walk the Line." It's thrilling to hear Cash at the height of his powers, before being anointed a country-music icon and national treasure. And maybe there's more where this came from—we can only hope it's the first of many releases gleaned from Kagarise's vault.
Borrow a Horse (No Quarter)
This might be the year that former Baltimore contributor and Old Calf songwriter Ned Oldham gets beyond the shadow cast by his brother, indie icon Will Oldham. Ned, a gifted writer often relegated to "Will's brother" status, was recently cast as the lead in Matt Porterfield's upcoming film, I Used to Be Darker, and he's also released his best CD yet. Borrow a Horse mines a twangy folk sensibility that characterized Ned's earlier work, as it explores newfound nuances that brighten the material and make the most of his wistful singing. Ned shades these 11 songs with nods to Irish ("Follow My Bangalorey Man"), country ("Stool-ball"), and rock ("Do Not Play With Gypsies"). This time next year, we might be referring to Will as "Ned's brother."