By Nan Bovingdon
The first time I experienced a Cory Goodrich performance was when I happened on a YouTube rendition of, "Will The Circle Be Unbroken," as done by Cory and the veteran folk musician Dennis Cash, filmed onstage as presented last June at Mountain Laurel Autoharp Gathering.
First impressions can create a stunning sense of WOW! that sticks with us. Here is a real singer, her voice immediately soars into a lyrical soprano range, delivered with feeling and clarity, no questionable high range warbling, as is my admitted musical pet peeve - wondering just what note that was supposed to be.
Cory’s high range is clean and
beautiful. After that dynamic introduction to the song, she settles into a natural sounding Carter Family type woman’s alto. Some of us would love to have that vocal competence in either musical range. She demonstrates impressive ease with both.
While introducing the song, Cory explained that song-catcher A.P. Carter took songs everyone was singing and rewrote them just enough so that he could copyright the material. In this version, she has returned to the original hymn as it was known and sung before being collected and modified. (No following dead mother’s casket. YEAH!)
One YouTube can lead to another, and on the "Wildwood Flower" performance with Dennis, she explained that she’s reasonably new to the autoharp, two years, which made me wonder how she’d know and appreciate these great traditional songs.
It turns out she’s a singer and actor first, has played roles in several well known productions, and performed the role of June Carter Cash in the Johnny Cash review, "Ring of Fire," at the Mercury
Theater in Chicago. An experienced performer and singer already, she gravitated toward natural and Appalachian styles of music and song as a result of playing the role and learning about the people and their music.
Cut to the present. Cory is the
most recent recipient of the generous Cohen/Grappel recording grant, made available each year to a group or person that has not previously made a CD of primarily autoharp music. Her resulting album, Wildwood Flower, is an eclectic combination of well-known Carter
songs, classic traditional music--such
as "Shenandoah," and "Tiny Sparrow," composed music, like "Ring of Fire," "Hard Times Come Again No More," and four of her own originals. The opening cut, "Wildwood Flower," begins with Cory’s crisp, accurate melody autoharp playing; just enough and just right. Which leads into her well-captured Appalachian style vocals. The guitar backup balances the vocal and ‘harp beautifully. I’m sure Carter fans will approve. This version is both authentic and respectful.
A most gorgeous selection on this CD is the traditional "Tiny Sparrow." Her solo singing is in the low expressive alto range; there’s a country style harmony chorus (all Cory?), with some tasteful dobro sweeping gently in and out. This is just all around lovely.
"The Far Side of Lovin’ You’," a rip- along bluegrass song by Malcolm Ruhl, shows how well the musicians gathered here, banjo prominent and Cory’s
own brassy, driving vocal, demonstrate versatility in material and delivery styles.
This one is a completely different listening experience from her own song, "Sycamore Tree," which sounds as though it’s a mournful chestnut from the 1800’s, long buried in grandma’s cedar chest and just recently rediscovered.
Andoh,thewomancanyodel! (What else? I am by now beginning to wonder. Tap dance? Ventriloquism? Juggling?)
"I Wanna Be a Real Cowboy Girl," by Prentice Forester, is reminiscent of the Patsy Montana classic, "I Wanna Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart," in all the good ways. Great vocal, western chord patterns that just announce that there’s a yodel right around the corner, and then there is one, and it’s a dandy.
There have probably been hundreds of recorded versions of "Shenandoah," but I can’t imagine many could be any finer than this one on Wildwood Flower. It
is clean, pure, uncluttered. Fine singing, including the harmony vocal. The whole effect is just very pleasing.
The most classical sounding of the songs presented here, a composition of Cory’s, "C’est Plus Facile Sans Toi," sung in French and English, is a reminder of some of the carnival/fantasy melodies in 1950’s musicals. Anyone out there remember ‘Hi Lili, Hi Lo?’ That sort of instrumentation and lyricism. Dreamy.There is just a
huge variety of material here, and it all seems natural and fresh. Fans of old style country songs will like her composition, “Home to You," (nice mandolin on that one!) Nothing seems to be an add-on (‘ooops, we’d better include a country song,’ NOT).
After Cory landed the role of June Carter Cash in the Chicago production of "Ring of Fire," the director of that show was quoted as saying, "most audiences have seen Cory doing musical theater, classical music and operetta...some people are going to be surprised in a wonderful way at what they hear from her." From the vantage point of someone who hadn’t heard her before, I’d say that the blending of musical stage and natural country music, with autoharp is a wonderful package to open.
￼Autoharp Quarterly Fall 2016
Singer/Actor/Musician Cory Goodrich recently released her latest album titled "Wildwood Flower," which is a tribute to the music of The Carter Family. Cory's portrayal of June Carter Cash in the musical "Ring Of Fire" inspired her to pick-up the Appalachian autoharp and learn these songs. Beginning with the title song, "Wildwood Flower," Cory delivers the songs with such grace and respect. Her voice soars in her rendition of "Tiny Sparrow" and she brings out the traditional tones of "Far Side Of Lovin' You." She adds four originals on this new release like the gentle folk ballads "Sycamore Tree" and "Still In Love." Sandwiched between these tracks are Cory's versions of the classic songs "Ring of Fire" and gospel-like quality of "Will The Circle Be Unbroken." To find out more about Cory Goodrich and her latest release "Wildwood Flower," please visit corygoodrich.com.
Chicago musician and actress Cory Goodrich turned to autoharp for her newest album, Wildwood Flower, after portraying June Carter Cash in a stage production of Ring of Fire. Like Carter Cash, Goodrich plays the instrument simply, with a steady hand and an ear for melody.
Wildwood Flower opens with the title track, a straightforward Appalachian folk tune in which Goodrich’s singing and playing directly echo June’s. The following cut, “Tiny Sparrow,” proves that Goodrich has decidedly more vocal range than Carter Cash, while song number three, “Far Side of Lovin’ You,” splits the difference between Honky Tonk shit-kicker and Broadway show-tune.
Further along on Wildwood Flower, “I Wanna Be a Real Cowboy Girl” is solid Western Swing and “Ring of Fire” is fairly faithful to versions performed live by Johnny and June Carter Cash back in the day.
Elsewhere, “C’est Plus Facile Sans Toi” stands out as a curious choice for the album, but “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” fits in with the proceedings perfectly.
Rounding out Wildwood Flower is “Home to You,” a comforting folk/country confection, and “Hard Times Come Again No More,” which strips everything down to Goodrich’s voice and (barely audible) autoharp. It is a brave move that might have benefited from better production.
CORY GOODRICH/Wildwood Flower: When you're a big fish in a small pond, you have to wear a lot of hats and this award winning autoharpist wear them all well. Coming in with a tribute to the Carter Family, produced by Malcolm Ruhl, Goodrich not only cooks up a classic, killer folk album, she makes the kind of record you wish Jac Holzman had made with the classic artists you wanted to like but couldn't warm up to. An ostensible niche set that really reaches handily over so many borders, anyone with a taste for back porch/organic sounds can't help but to fall in love with this set and spread the word. This set is so endearing it's one of those ones that those to cool for school will find themselves liking in spite of themselves. Organic sounds as they were meant to be played and heard. Killer stuff throughout.
Mountain Laurel Autoharp Gathering
The 2015 Cohen-Grappel Autoharp Recording Endowment winner, Cory Goodrich, gave an absolutely knockout performance in a new, dedicated workshop slot wherein she not only performed a number of her tracks on her hot-off-the-press CD, Wildwood Flower, but was able to discuss the inspiration of their writing, selection, and arrangement as well as her personal background and music progression. This is definitely an entertaining and well-merited release party change allowing appreciation for the enormous amount of work entailed in such a project. Actress/singer/performer Cory had only been playing the autoharp for two years, yet her CD release demonstrates that exceptional instrument mastery is not a pre-requisite if you possess a credible overall musical talent and a burning vision. And, boy, is she (in)credible. Congratulations, Cory!