Various Live At Caffe Lena: Music From America’s Legendary Coffeehouse 1967-2013

Various Live At Caffe Lena: Music From America’s Legendary Coffeehouse 1967-2013
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The early '60s folk music scene is inextricably linked to Bob Dylan's history, although 50 years on, some new perspective is starting to be gained. There are many other interesting ways to tell the tale, as the Coen brothers have proved with their latest film, Inside Llewyn Davis. By sheer coincidence, another has arrived, in the form of this lovingly produced three-disc set paying tribute to Caffe Lena. The Saratoga Springs, NY coffeehouse opened in 1960 and remains an important venue for touring acoustic artists. While Dylan's shadow is present on this set — the club was the first he played outside of Greenwich Village following his 1961 arrival in NYC — this collection essentially honours the café's founder, Lena Spencer, whose devotion to folk music's ideals stayed true up until her 1989 death. Compiled from over 700 personal tapes donated to the project, the sonic quality is remarkably high, thanks to the club's intimate confines, which heightens some equally remarkable performances. It's particularly fascinating to hear the first two discs, featuring recordings from 1967 to 1974, and realize that Dylan going electric didn't kill traditional folk after all. However, the set's strongest moments are the most recent, featuring some powerful contemporary singer-songwriters such as Greg Brown, Mary Gauthier and Sean Rowe. Yes, folk fans should be grateful to Mumford & Sons for bringing the music's spirit back to the mainstream, but it's places like Caffe Lena where folk has always lived and breathed. This collection does much to affirm that. (Tompkins Square)