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Internationally Unknown contains a mix of 15 original and gathered songs that reflect James’ distinctive worldview and longheld global socio-environmental concerns, expressed with his characteristic humor and wordplay, lightheartedness and hope.
The collection is sparingly produced, very much like a live set. James’ vocals and guitar are prominently mixed up front, supported by New York session players Ritt Henn on upright bass (except for Mark Murphy on Twelve Gates) and Jagoda on hand percussion. James’ wife, Calcutta-born Madhumita Chakrabartti, joins him in singing Dhuranta Ghurnir (Life is a Whirlwind) by the renowned Bengali composer, Salil Chowdhury.
1 James revisits Song from Slovenia, his account of a harrowing automobile ride on the road that joins Slovenia’s cities of Maribor and Ljubljiana.
2 The title song Internationally Unknown refers to the term James coined some years ago to tongue-in-cheekly refer to himself and his musical journey.
3 Post-Katrina & Wilma, James employs the ‘folk process’ to contemporize A Mighty Day, the traditional song that recounts the Galveston flood of 1900.
4 Talking Life (Problem Solved): Utilizing the traditional talking blues form, James seeks rapprochement between the seemingly irreconcilable perspectives of Evolution and Creation, noting that if one steps back far enough to gain adequate perspective, perhaps one can see they are but disparate descriptions of the self-same event that continues to unfold before our eyes. His “largest” song, it begins with the Big Bang and distills the story of life into 9 verses.
5 Like in A Mighty Day, James lends new verses to a familiar traditional song, giving Twelve Gates to the City new life both literal and metaphorical, asserting that if we are to achieve anything, we must first imagine the possibility.
6 Somewhat less sanguine perhaps is his portrait of humanity at a crossroads, Living on Borrowed Time, which wonders whether we’ll choose to continue evolving or slide backwards into the primordial abyss.
7 There Goes the Mountain is James’ cover of Tom Paxton’s powerful environmental lament.
8 A WHALING TRILOGY weaves three of James’ songs (Whaling is My Trade, Thoughts of a Whaler’s Wife and Whale Soliloquy) into an epic tapestry that views whaling Rashomon-like, from three disparate perspectives, ultimately in defense of the majestic leviathan.
9 “These things and greater shall ye also do,” are words ascribed to our great teacher and wayshower, Jesus of Nazareth. The Seeker and the Sign posits whether he can truly have wished us to stop along the path and worship the signpost.
10 Wealth & Consequences is the product of a rich imagination, best left to the Jung and the restless for deconstruction.
11 James is joined by his life-partner Madhumita Chakrabartti in singing the rhythmic Duranta Ghurnir (Life is a Whirlwind) in her native tongue, written by the renowned Bengali composer, Salil Chowdhury.
12 Melissa Javors’ dance of life song, Grace suggests we’re all born in what Matthew Fox called “original blessing.”
13 With his fresh version of If I Had a Hammer, James pays tribute not only to its creators Lee Hays and Pete Seeger, but also with its style and conclusion to one of his other primary influences, the under-appreciated folksong innovator, Bob Gibson.
“Truly intelligent lyrics in these songs redress the usual heart-over-head balance of American singer/songwriters.”
— Mitch & Robyn Park/Folk on Sunday, Radio Kidnappers, New Zealand. (Internationally Unknown is among 15 titles singled out as “outstanding albums” of 2006.)
CD OF THE WEEK! (9/30/06)
—Midnight Special (Rich Warren), WFMT-FM, Chicago
“Liked especially Talking Life and Duranta Ghurnir.”
“A terrific CD.”
–Bob Sherman, Woody’s Children, WFUV-FM, New York
“Thanks for sending the very excellent CD from James Durst…it locked me in throughout.”
–Eddie Russell, ‘From The Dirt Radio Show,’ Columbus TX
“You may know James who founded ‘Work o’ the Weavers’ in 2002. He returns in this recording effort to the task of producing his solo work. You’ll find that his lyrical wordplay packs a punch with his distinctive worldview and global socio-environmental concerns. He’s got one foot rooted strongly in the folk tradition while bending and molding the material from various sources to create his own unique compositions. I think you’ll find him at once humorous and witty, lighthearted and hopeful, while delivering meaningful songs on topics that matter.”
–Erik Balkey, Hudson Harding Music
“James is a terrific songwriter with a very prolific penchant for weaving humor into his songs. His easygoing vocal demeanor is captivating whether live or on CD. He is also a global activist as well as a gentleman of contemporary folk music.”
–RA Lindquist, Singer&Musician Magazine, iRadio
“James Durst is a world-class folksinger with a smooth, light voice. Internationally Unknown may not be quite true, as Durst has spent a lot of time entertaining in and with players from other countries around the world. A wonderful up-tempo Bengali song adds to the international theme on this CD. With a smooth, light and musically adept voice, Durst fills this CD with new words and arrangements of traditional works as well as a few by other writers. A Whaling Trilogy is told from the view of the whaler, the whaler’s wife and the whale, covering all the angles. A Mighty Day is a good example of new words and arrangements that Durst uses to bring us his message. He is a purveyor of messages, a deliverer of news and a peacemaker of sorts with his ability to open our eyes to other worlds as we listen to his songs. This is definitely a timeless folk CD with a message that crosses the attitudes of the 2000s with the 1970s. There are some folksy guitar beats and a pleasing voice that meanders with us around the globe and offers some sparkling thoughts on humanity along the way.” –Rambles.NET
“Love it…why, it’s almost as if someone were writing for me! And your singing seems so effortless.”
–David Roth, Singer-songwriter/Recording artist
“Your CD is a hit in my house. I believe that it’s your best recording yet. The simplicity of the instrumentation is a plus, and your delivery is super.”
–Simeon Pillich, Bassist/radio host & Ph.D. in Musicology
“Just in case you ever suffer from the “What difference is my life making, anyway” blues, I thought you’d like to know that at least a couple of days a week you lighten and brighten my morning stretching routine with your wonderful songs – touching, moving, funny, and just plain beautiful. Thanks again for doing what you’re doing!”
–Kalen Hammann, Ph.D., Maine