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"Curlew’s A Beautiful Western Saddle is one of those New York genre-bending records that’s ridiculous to categorize. Whatever you call it, it’s the most delightful hour of music I’ve heard all year. To start with, the melodies are gorgeous.... The record is full of brilliant performances too...magnificent"
– The Boston Phoenix
For about five years in the mid 80s/early 90s, not enough people seemed to realize that the best live band in the USA was Curlew. Their heyday featured the classic line-up of leader George Cartwright (saxes), Tom Cora (cello) (who also played with Holland's legendary art-punk band, The Ex, as well as being half of Skeleton Crew, with Fred Frith), Davey Williams (guitar), Ann Rupel (bass) and Pippin Barnett (drums). Curlew were one of the groups that defined ''the Knitting Factory sound', along with Naked City, Ronald Shannon Jackson and the Decoding Society, James Blood Ulmer, Last Exit, etc. They packed the clubs (CBGBs, Mudd Club, The Knitting Factory), toured hard throughout the world, and thrilled audiences and critics alike with their unique, infectious blend of punk-jazz/downtown sound, roadhouse blues & a distinctly Southern esthetic. A Beautiful Western Saddle was the last album by the classic lineup, and it differs from all of their other works in that it's an album of songs, with lyrics by Paul Haines (Escalator Over the Hill, Tropic Appetites, etc) and with wonderful singing by Amy Denio. For me, this is the best-ever musical usage of Paul's words (yes, even better than his great work with Carla Bley). ABWS brings the concept of the "art song" into a whole new light.