Baby, Let Me Lay It On You, Eric Von Schmidt, Gazell Productions, 1995
If I were to ask someone, in the year 2008, to name a male folk singer from the 1960's I would assume that if I were to get an answer to that question that the name would be Bob Dylan. And that would be a good and appropriate choice. One can endlessly dispute whether or not Dylan was (or wanted to be) the voice of the Generation of '68 but in terms of longevity and productivity he fits the bill as a known quality. However, there were a slew of other male folk singers who tried to find their niche in the folk milieu and who, like Dylan, continued to produce work and to perform beyond the 1960's. The artist under review Eric Von Schmidt was one such singer/songwriter.
I have been posing a question, in reviewing the work of a number of male folk singers from the 1960's, about whether their dream was to be 'king of the hill' on the folk scene and it is certainly an appropriate question to ask of Eric as well, although in this case I may know the answer. I do not know if Eric Von Schmidt, like his contemporary Bob Dylan(and early friend in the Cambridge folk scene), started out wanting to be the `king of the hill' among male folk singers but he certainly had some things going for him. A decent acoustic guitar but a very interesting voice to fit the lyrics of the kind of traditional songs of the sea, the Caribbean and the like that he was singing about at the time.
In Eric's case though, I believe, I can partially answer the question for, according to a couple of long time friends that I ran into a few years ago, he just flat-out did not care for success in the folk field. For him it was about fun and carrying traditional music forward, and besides, they argued, he was as interested in becoming a painter as a singer. Fair enough.
As for the songs here, most of which were written by Eric early on, he does a very nice rendition of "Joshua Gone Barbados" a song covered by both Tom Rush and Dave Van Ronk. But here is a surprise the best cover version I have heard was recently on Volume Five of Bob Dylan's "Genuine Basement Tapes" done in an upstate New York studio in 1967 with The Band for kicks. It blew me away. Eric's "Light Rain" and "Rule the Road" also should get a listen.
Roy Cahn and Eric Von Schmidt, Eric Von Schmidt, Roy Cahn, Smithsonian Folkways, 2007
As for the songs here, most of which were covered by Eric early on he does a very nice rendition of "Wasn't That A Mighty Storm" (about the Galveston, Texas flood in the early 20th century) a song covered by both Tom Rush and Dave Van Ronk. "Buddy Bolden's Blues" (used by August Wilson in one f his plays) and "He Was A Friend Of Mine" need a listen. But you are getting this one for the archival value and for "Wasn't That a Mighty Storm"- a rare treat.