WVA Program 97
"Like a River" is the newly released album by Walnut Valley favorites, Aileen and Elkin Thomas. Aileen says in the liner notes, "How wonderful it is to be harvesting another season of songs in this, our 25th anniversary year. Thanks to all of you who await, and welcome, our work." It's been four years since Aileen and Elkin's last release on Shantih Records, and this makes the long-awaited "Like a River" welcome indeed. And, as it turns out, it was well worth waiting for.
The music on the album is simply pro-duced. Tommie Ward’s beautiful acous-tic guitar enhances the rich, full sound of Elkin's six-string Gallagher, and togeth-er they really flow, well, Like a River. Elkin says, "Tommie has an uncanny sense for playing with me. He is sensi-tive and intuitive. He's like a weaver who picks up my dropped stitches." Good friend, and Winfield champion, Dana Hamilton, adds just the right flavor to several songs with his hammered dul-cimer, old-timey banjo, and autoharp. And Elkin plays more harmonica than he has in a while.
The 14 songs on "Like a River" are the most interesting, and varied, collec-tion Aileen and Elkin have recorded to date. Among them is "The Arabia," which tells the story of a great sidewheel steamboat that sank in the Missouri River in 1856, and whose salvaged cargo is now displayed at the Arabia Museum in Kansas City. Also "Lift the Wings" from the phenomenal "Riverdance;" "Willow John," a lovely and haunting song that Elkin adapted from a poem in Forrest Carter's wonderful book, "The Education of Little Tree;" the title song, "Like a River," based on First Corinthians 13; three songs from the Psalms; a traditional Hebrew folk song called Lecha Dodi;" a hauntingly beautiful rendition of Eric Andersen's great song, "Thirsty Boots;" and a new benediction called "The Blessing." These two great artists are not getting older - they're getting better, and those sweet country/folk harmonies are really flowing on 'Like a River.' As another reviewer said, "They're a tonic for the soul."