Work in Progress
Great musical variety, heart and soul! - Cathy Fink After years of being a fan, friend and champion of folk musicians everywhere, Deborah Van Kleef has finally come out with a CD of her own - and it's a gem. Her long apprenticeship to the likes of Woody Guthrie and Malvina Reynolds is evident in her own luminous compositions, where history, humor and passion combine to give us songs that tell real stories. Whether mining the rich lodes of traditional music, taking on bosses that ride the backs of their workers all the way to the bank, or singing a simple love song to her son, Deborah Van Kleef reminds us and reassures us that music - and we - are powerful. - John McCutcheon A soundtrack for the hard-workin' types sprinkled along Mermaid Avenue. Work in Progress blends music history and wit with old-school styles -- jug band, country blues, folk and swing. Pure and thrilling. - Peter Chakerian - coolcleveland.com What a splendid CD! The choice of songs is excellent, [the] band the same. I started out by making a list of favorites and found that it added up to nearly half the album. - Peggy Seeger Deborah Van Kleef joins the long tradition of folk artists who sing a good, and often tough, story to keep a bit of truth telling alive. Check out 'Talking Health Care'! - Holly Near Work in Progress boasts a nice blend of heartbreak and wry humor, righteous anger and playful goofiness. It includes several of Van Kleef's finely crafted original songs, as well as material by Woody Guthrie, Malvina Reynolds, A.P. Carter and others. Van Kleef shows herself to be an agile wordsmith with a slicing wit on "Talking Health Care,: a talking blues in which she takes on the greed inherent in the American health-care system. Perhaps her biggest hit is "The Great Fast Food Strike," an updating of the 19th century ballad "The Buffalo Skinners," this time retelling the story of McDonald's workers in Macedonia, Ohio and their 1998 strike for better treatment. The song caught the ear of Pete Seeger, who sang it at Carnegie Hall that same year. She puts together an ambitious train trilogy in which she segues from Woody Guthrie's "Little Black Train" to the late Cuyahoga County [Ohio] poet laureate Daniel Thompson's inspirational poem "Train!" to James Keelaghan's "Never Gonna Stop This Train." Ken Whiteley's production is clean and colorful, with guitar, bass, fiddle, washboard and "guitjo," among other sounds. The package is attractive, with some beautiful black-and-white photographs of industrial Cleveland [by documentary photographer Steve Cagan]. Fans of Malvina Reynolds, Peggy Seeger and Hazel Dickens will find much to enjoy here. - Peggy Latkovich, Cleveland Free Times.