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Made In America
"Vaudeville Songs 1900-1925"
Released: March 2002
By Russ Schach

This album is a tribute to the performers who traveled around the country from the late 1800s to the 1930s, and Made in America is a "family" troupe of five performers, two adults and three young girls. This CD is a lot of nostalgic and melodic fun featuring lilting, swaying tunes and soulful ballads, all chockfull of character and insights into the American heart and mind of yesteryear -- a time of gentler expression but no less emotional depth. Today, at a time when many of us are developing a deeper sense of nation and community and rediscovering an appreciation of our own unique values and culture (yes, Americans DO have a "culture" despite the persistent and cynical perception to the contrary), this CD is a terrific way to enjoy bygone music, timeless feelings and the joys of family and children.

I was surprised that I was at least generally familiar with most of the 22 songs in this collection. (Oh, the terrors of being middle-aged!) Some songs here are rare or unknown -- a special appeal in itself -- but there are classics aplenty, including "By the Light of the Silvery Moon,"  "Alexander's Ragtime Band,"  "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen" and "Carolina in the Morning." There is a beautiful rendition of "Danny Boy" and even a short ukulele solo performance.

But there's another equally historic-cultural reason to enjoy this collection.

All the songs here have a connection with the Gumm family, which was a performing family through and through. Frank and Ethel Gumm formed a vaudeville  team known as: Jack and Virginia Lee, Sweet Southern Singers. They settled in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, and managed a local movie theater. The couple dreamed of having a child who would be a renowned singer. And guess what?  Along came a third daughter, whom they named Frances. The world would know her later as Judy Garland. The future star made her stage debut at age 2, singing "Jingle Bells" and in trio with her sisters, singing "When My Sugar Walks Down the Street." (That's a really fun song, by the way.)

Thus, the three children in the modern-day act represent the Gumm daughters, and they play a prominent role, solo and collectively, in many of the songs -- from the endearing "I Never Had a Mammy" to the innocently stirring "My Country Tis of Thee" to the joyful, can't-sit-still "Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue."

If you recognize "There's a Broken Heart for Each Light on Broadway," there's a very good reason. Judy Garland loved this song and used it to close her weekly television show. (No, I didn't know that one. That was just a tad before my time.) There's more information on the Web site about the family and Judy Garland.

Also on the CD: "My Wonderful Dream Girl" is a dreamlike, haunting ballad that will capture your attention and your heart. The title song, "Made In America" is really the song, "There's a Maid in America - A Maid for Every Boy," which you might even call a possible vaudevillian influence for the Beach Boys. (Did I say culture? You betcha.)

Made in America is a group comprised of sterling talent -- accomplished performers and up-and-comers (in some cases, both). There are lots of names and lots of credits, and it's difficult to know where to start and where to stop. So, I'm going to leave it up to you to check out the performers at your pleasure.

Even if these old songs and the vaudeville-cabaret style aren't your cup of tea, you're bound to find yourself getting caught up in it all anyway. Made in America a roadshow that really hits the theater
circuit, and the group's next performances will be at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, June 16, and at 4 p.m. Saturday, June 22, both at Don't Tell Mama, 343 W. 46th Street, NYC. Check out the particulars on their Web site.

Find Made in America at http//gumm_family.tripod.com/gummfamilyproject; for orders and booking, e-mail: catsong@surfbest.net

My rating:   7.  @@@@

--- WHAT THE "RUSS REVIEW RATES" MEAN ---

Using @ ("at" symbol) instead of stars. Numbers indicate something specific about the level and type of enjoyment derived. -- Please, please, let us never encounter anything below a 3!
-----

10.  @@@@@ The ultimate spiritual experience - transcends time and space - you feel completely new and different - can't imagine life without it.

  9.  @@@@@ Instant greatness - Gives you a heart-pounding rush or carries you away - instant fan - encore! encore!
  8.  @@@@ Total passion - irresistible - gets inside you, becomes part of you.
  7.  @@@@ True quality (has it all,  music / lyrics / vocals) - want to hear more - stays in your head - you have to buy it right away - immediately check concert listings.
  6.  @@@ Good stuff - satisfying - has a good hook, melody, or something solid - may not be inspirational but it keeps you there - you might buy it but won't chance concert tickets based solely on this.
  5.  @@ Decent, but nothing distinctive - has some good elements or moments, but not a lot to get or keep your interest - depends on your mood.
 4.  @ Take it or leave it - flawed or inconsistent - you're sort of fidgety and prefer to hear something else.
 3.  @  Boring or annoying - too slow, too loud, too "something"  - probably turn it off or switch the station.
 2.  (DOA - Dead on Arrival) A big nothing - no effort, no talent - a waste of time, money and natural resources - only exists to make a quick buck - if this is sincere, whoever did it is delusional.
 1.  (SIT - SamHill's Instant Turd) Total drek or a total scam - this isn't music, it's an escapee from an outhouse  - a garbage heap has better material - check your shoes to find where the stink is coming from.
 0.  (TWD - Toxic Waste Dump) The absolute lowest thing possible - So sick and twisted, whoever or whatever perpetrated this probably should be in prison (solitary confinement) - the "art" should be shot into the sun.

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