Joel Rafael: Baladista

review rafael x1 cong

Rafael is the real deal if you want folk: born in 1949, he’s known in the States as an interpreter of Woody Guthrie’s lyrics and music, though despite a long life he’s released only eight albums (two of which were Guthrie: both called Woodyboye: Songs Of Woody Guthrie).
Musically: it’s mostly Rafael and his acoustic guitar and harmonica, with bass, guitar, pedal steel guitar but no drums. His vocals are smooth and inclusive, drawing the listener in; he reminded us of Donovan’s syrupy voice at his peak.
Rafael has been known to be political but most of the songs here are about life, from She Had To Go: “She used to come to see me play / But now she never does / I can’t spend my life this way / Thinking about how it was”. That lyric illustrates the simplicity of Rafael’s words in telling a good story.
Moving on is a theme, whether it’s from Love’s First Lesson or thanks to the passage of time in Old Portland Town.
There are exceptions: El Bracero is about the unnamed Mexicans who died doing farm work, paid on a piecework basis and not by the hour, while The Good Samaritan is about being that person and loving thy neighbour. A simple but powerful album.

About jerobear

Weekly newspaper editor in Cheshire, England. I blog my editorials and the CDs I write about. I play drums, drink coffee, play music, meditate. I hate filling in forms.

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