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Richie Havens:nobody Left to Crown

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By: Dennis Cook





Richie Havens doesn't make bad records, which is pretty impressive considering his career begins in 1967 and includes over 25 albums. It's arguable that he's retained the bulk of his powers better than almost any of his Woodstock peers, and his latest, Nobody Left To Crown (Verve Forecast) is an especially bittersweet reminder that a few folks from his era are still out there fighting the good fight.



Built with his longtime touring partners Walter Parks (guitar) and Stephanie Winters (cello) and the smart, subtle rhythm section of Keith Christopher (bass) and Shawn Pelton (drums), Crown bubbles with purposeful anger, not a roar but a self-possessed snarl that does occasionally slip into thoroughly justified bitterness and not just the ugly melancholy of the long fighting social warrior. Perhaps a sign of the times, Havens is more direct here than on any of his other recent releases, saying things with perhaps less poetry but absolute clarity. For example, the title cut announces:



What if they gave an election and nobody came to vote?
The system needs better direction right now
It just might seem like changing direction right now
As it stands, we don't even make the selection right now
To get into heaven we need to make a connection



The music is Havens' usual furiously strummed folk maelstrom, a sound that sweeps you up in his weather and doesn't release you till you're damp and slightly shaken. He's never been a polite musician and the lyrical urgency extends to the fiery performances here. Despite its folk roots, this isn't exactly easy listening and somewhat outside the usual comfortable mood of many Verve Forecast releases. Havens may be tuneful and ridiculously melodious but he's also a shit instigator and Crown finds him stirring the pot still, undaunted if a little pissed off at fighting the same battles 40 years on.

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