Last Forever

Last Forever fuses the talents of Manhattan songwriter, arranger, and keyboardist Dick Connette and singer Sonya Cohen of Austin. She is the daughter of John Cohen of the New Lost City Ramblers and the niece of Pete Seeger. The music, most of it written by Connette, extends American folk traditions by putting them in a new context of violins, cellos, and horns, along with more typical folk instruments like dulcimers, mandolins, and guitars. Rather than remake familiar traditional material like "Casey Jones," Connette creates new songs based on those characters. Or he finds his own—"John Doe #24," whose obituary appeared in the New York Times —and writes traditional lyrics. This doesn't always work: The Mississippi John Hurt medley is lightweight, the snake-charmer version of "Duke of Earl" a noble failure. But most of these songs are as no-frills elegant as the music that inspired them, while likewise coming to the same conclusion: What an eerie thing is life in this land.

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