Marc Silber CDs

From the Heart of Greenwich Village

In 1990 David Grisman made some recordings of my music in his studio in Marin County California. These were lost for over 30 years but have been found and made into a new compilation called “From the Heart of Greenwich Village”. It is now available at his site.

We received this amazing comment from Bob Dylan:

“Those of you familiar with the Gary Davis and Mississippi John Hurt approach to guitar playing will find not only has Marc mastered these ragtime gospel styles, but has extended and evolved the tradition with his own haunting original songs.”

Wow! I hope you enjoy it!

“ If Marc Silber seems to play and bend and sing every note like he means it, that’s because he means it. While he may look laid back or aloof, he brings the same passion and sincerity to a ballad or a blues, a spiritual, a country classic or a ragtime ditty that he brings to the standard folk repertoire or his own felicitous, haunting originals. Not only is he a superb performing musician, Marc is one of the all-time great listeners. Nothing gets past his hungry ear. In his calming presence, you can even feel him listening to and feeding his audience. His loving understanding of understatement and silence — when to play sparsely, when to lay out — make him one of the towering masters of artful understatement. Marc Silber is the real thing: an honest, living treasure. ”
– Al Young: Author, music commentator, and California’s former poet laureate

Click here to read a review by Dick Weissman of 3 of Marc’s CDs

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“Alone in San Miguel, 2009”
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“On the Way to Myself”
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“The French Hotel Cafe”
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“The Night the Tombstones Danced”
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“The Test Tracks”
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“Goin’ To a Better Land”
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“Live at STRINGS 2005”
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“You Gotta Start Somewhere”
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by DICK WEISSMAN (eminent musician, musicologist, and writer)

Dick Weissman reviews 3 CD Albums by MARC S. SILBER of BERKELEY, CALIF.

This is kind of a CD review, article combination. There’s a a photo of him on his website.

I listened to three Marc Silber albums. Marc Silber: The Test Tracks is a solo recording from 2001, recorded mostly at a radio station. Marc Silber: Songster is a collection from 2005, live music recorded at a club called Strings, with accompaniment by a group of well-known Berkeley musicians-Will Scarlet on harmonica, Jody Stecher on guitar and mandolin, and Suzy Thompson on fiddle and accordion. The Night The Tombstones Danced is a live recording with a trio with Marc playing mostly electric guitar, accompanied by Rob Glaubman on bass, and Michael Hubbert on clarinet and cuatro.

It’s hard to explain exactly what Marc Silber does. In a way, he’s a throwback to the original country blues artists of the 1920s and 1930s. He almost never sings a melody exactly the way you’ve heard it before, and he mixes words from other songs onto songs that you’re used to hearing specific verses for. After I started listening further, I realized that’s really the way the country blues evolved. There were common verses that most singers knew, and they’d throw them into songs, even when they didn’t necessarily relate specifically to the songs. Blind Lemon Jefferson was a master at this. He’d be singing a song about an event like a war, and suddenly he’d throw in some personal reminiscence of an old girl friend. Marc pursues the same path no matter what kind of music he performs. His Jambalaya is quite different than the Hank Williams version.

Once I got used to this concept, I started to really enjoy these albums. Marc is a very clean guitar picker, someone who obviously has listened carefully to people like Gary Davis and Mississippi John Hurt. His singing is straightforward, and he doesn’t really try to affect a “black” sound. The Test Tracks album is probably the best place to hear Marc most clearly. The other albums are fun, and the accompanying musicians are good, and they interact well with one another. The Tombstones album has a sort of light R&B touch, and I particularly liked the blend of the cuatro and guitar.

Marc Silber came out of Ann Arbor, and apprenticed as a guitar repair man and luthier with Jon Lundberg in Berkeley. He had a shop in New York next door to Izzy Young’s Folklore Center in the 60s, and he had a shop in Berkeley on Adeline for a while much later. He also designs some nice and reasonably priced guitars which are made in Mexico. His tune The Imbecile Daughter of King John the Simp is an interesting flamenco-ish sketch. Now and again he plays in Berkley and other places in northern California, but the chances are that most Victory readers are not familiar with Marc’s music.

The generation that Marc (and I) belong to all had some contact with the older great blues players, like Hurt, Davis, Skip James, or Son House. All of those artists have passed on, and those of us who grew up with this music are really the last link to that musical reality. After we’re gone, everyone will have learned from recordings or books. There’s nothing wrong with that, but this is a different universe, and one that’s worth examining and listening to. Check it out.

Dick Weissman

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