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Joel Mabus CDs
    ...and how to get them!          


Click on the CD title to see the cover & read about it 
or scroll down to browse the overview:

Time & Truth *
Ukulele Crimes
Different Hymnals
A Bird In This World 
Pepper's Ghost & other banjo visitations 
A Parlor Guitar Christmas
American Anonymous
No Worries Now  *
The Banjo Monologues *
Parlor Guitar *
Golden Willow Tree
Thumb Thump *
Six of One *
How Like The Holly *
Top Drawer String Band
Rhyme Schemes *
Western Passage *(cd is out of stock, but available as download)
Promised Land *
Flatpick & Clawhammer *
Short Stories  (out of print, but most cuts reissued on Omnibus)
Firelake (out of print, but most cuts reissued on Omnibus)
Naked Truth *
Fortunes (CD-R)

DIGITAL SINGLE (downloads only)
The Lights Are On In Michigan *

* also available as download at  iTunes and Amazon

How to Order
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Song Index
Find which CD has the song you are looking for!

Read Reviews 
see what others have written about these CDs


Joel Mabus Recordings

CDs are $16 each, to your door. [Click here for ordering info]


Here is a list of my recordings. Click on any title to read more about it, including a list of song titles, cover art, and a link to the lyrics for that CD. There are links to listening (updates in progress)  Or try my own MP3 page at this site for some full length free downloads. Listed in reverse chronological order: 

Time & Truth -- Release date February 1, 2019. My latest CD, all new original songs plus one Robert Frost poem sung to my music. 
            It's about Truth, and it's about Time! 
Herein you'll find a salute to teachers, the romantic memory of a moonlit shore, a banjo tribute to the sound of a silver coin, and a train inside an old guitar. You'll find dogs in heaven, scoundrels in hell, a grudge against infernal devices, an essay on Truth in the age of mendacity, a wistful Odyssean jazz ballad - and that lonesome fellow with his skeptical horse on a snowy evening. All that, plus a Hallelujah chorus.

Ukulele Crimes -- Release date, March 2, 2018.  My first and -- so far -- only ukulele album. Six original cuts written for this album, and 7 ukulele versions of great American songbook treasures all-but-forgotten.  Fun.  Meant for grown-ups, but safe for kids. 

Different Hymnals. -- Release date, Jun 30. 2017.  Nationally known radio host, Rich Warren named this as one of his favorites of 2017. He wrote:  "Mabus selects a different framework and motif for each album he records. His knowledge of music runs exceptionally broad and deep. Different Hymnals covers shades of faith from near agnostic to devout. The album is highly spiritual, but not particularly religious. Although it includes a few Christian hymns, it is not a Christian album. The spiritual songs suit nearly any faith. He includes originals, rewrites of traditional hymns and even a lengthy Child ballad imbued with spiritual/moral overtones. An outstanding guitarist, Mabus also mixes instrumentals with songs. Mabus connects all of these fourteen songs with the message that shared faith of whatever religion can bring us closer together and that peace is the ultimate goal."

A Bird In This World -- Release date, Feb 24, 2015.  All original songs visit the blues, after a fashion. Voice and acoustic guitar, recorded live in the studio. 10 songs, one is an instrumental.  Again, using a sustainable tri-fold wallet, with no plastic.  Some of the best stuff I've written, if I do say so myself. 

Pepper's Ghost & other banjo visitations -- Release date, Oct 28, 2013.  This album is all-banjo.  13 tracks, some with vocals, some instrumentals.  All are the old-time clawhammer style of playing, more rhythmically diverse than typical bluegrass style.  Some are new tunes, some old.  My first all-banjo record since The Banjo Monologues in 2007, and a good follow-up to that one.  Packaged in an eco tri-fold wallet, with no plastic to crack.  A good choice for you if you love the sound of banjo -- or for the banjo fan in your life.  

A Parlor Guitar Christmas -- Release date, Oct 2, 2012.  The holiday sequel to Parlor Guitar (see below) wherein I play 14 great old Christmas Classics on an acoustic guitar in the fingerpicking style.  No vocals, just a guitar with great tone played with care and affection. I am very pleased with the way this one turned out.  Just the thing for calming the nerves in Christmas shopping traffic, or for an evening spent with candles and starlight. 

American Anonymous -- Release date, July 4, 2011. Available here 6/1/11. Fourteen classic American folk songs, all by "author unknown" adapted and arranged by me for either guitar, banjo or autoharp, and of course, my voice. This is an album I've been cooking up for years. If you like my rootsy side, you'll go for this one. 

No Worries Now -- Release date, September 15, 2009.  A collection of new songs, all written 2008-2009.  A plate-full of new songs for these weary times. The musical moods oscillate from jump swing to bluegrass to gospel — with a little taste of jazz manouche and ragtime guitar in-between. The lyrics blend whimsy, politics, history, humor & philosophy in my usual manner.

Omnibus -- New for Fall of 2008. A two-for-one compilation.  My 1990 album, Firelake and 1992's Short Stories are combined in one 70 minute disc -- 19 cuts in all. Includes "A Better Voice," "The Fiddle & the Bow," "Love Is A Song," "Snow On The Water" and many more. (note: 3 songs are not included from those two original albums due to time constraints, but they are available on other discs.) 

Retold -- New for 2008.  All new recordings of 12 of my vintage songs. Includes studio versions of "Touch a Name on the Wall,"  "Duct Tape Blues,"  "The Naked Truth" and "Swing That Thing."  Also: a new version of "Hopelessly Midwestern" and fresh takes on "Holding to the Land,"  "Five Kinds of Snow,"  "What 'my doin' Wrong,"  "The Preacher & the Flood,"  "Guadalupe,"  "Sea of Dreams" and "Lucky, Lucky You."

The Banjo Monologues -- New for 2007, a unique album of oldtime banjo (clawhammer 5-string) with traditional songs and tunes wedded with storytelling. The monologues tell of 1930's radio (WLS Barn Dance, Crazy Water Crystals) and my family's career as professional "hillbilly" musicians in downstate Illinois. Also speaks to why oldtime music -- and the banjo in particular -- matters. REVIEWS

Parlor Guitar -- From 2005. All guitar instrumentals on a small "parlor guitar" playing classic melodies from the parlor music era -- about 100 years ago. George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Eubie Blake, Irving Berlin and much more.  You don't have to be a guitar player to enjoy this stuff, but fingerstyle players will want to check some of these arrangements out.  A book of ten arrangements, note for note, is available now from Hal Leonard Publishing, also titled Parlor Guitar.  It includes a CD of those ten songs.  REVIEWS

Golden Willow Tree --  From 2004, my idea of folk music. 
A few originals, and a few traditionals and some versions of old songs you probably haven't heard before. A fair dose of banjo and a bit of a capella singing along with the guitar & vocals you might expect.  REVIEWS
Joel Mabus' new CD, "Golden Willow Tree," has such a classic, timeless feel that one is surprised to discover all but a few tracks are originals. But this CD, perhaps more than any of his many recordings, exemplifies Mabus' grasp of traditional music as a living thing - it's always been impossible to distinguish the proverbial roots from the new fruit. LANSING STATE JOURNAL

Thumb Thump -- from 2002, a blues and ragtime collection with all guitar & vocals. 
It takes its name from the incessant rhythm created by the thumb of the right hand -- something common to both traditional blues and ragtime guitar. A few originals, but mostly my versions of traditional music, with a nod to my St. Louis roots. REVIEWS
Mabus’ weathered voice is a great folk-blues instrument. Just the move from free time to a steady meter leading into “East St. Louis” is a thing of beauty.  Named for its fingerpicking style, the exquisitely recorded Thumb Thump (Fossil 1402) is irresistible in a Mississippi John Hurt way – unless your blues have to be all low-down, all the time, you should love it.

Six of One -- from 2001, a great "first choice" if you want to check me out. 
Half original and half traditional, the old songs and the new ones take turns exploring life's perplexing questions of love and life. The styles of music run from country-folk to crusty blues to old-time bluegrass to smooth swing. Fabulous sidemen, Don Stiernberg and Madcat Ruth lend their talents. REVIEWS
Six Of One combines the best of both worlds, good songwriting with songs that have stood the test of time, performed with intelligence and honesty. I'd like to hear dozens more recordings like this one from other contemporary singer-songwriters. SINGOUT

How Like The Holly -- A holiday CD.  
Not your typical Christmas album, I have gone way back to include some rarely heard carols, along with a few of my own new songs and my new settings of some old chestnuts. 
It's something of a quiet album, more powerful for its understatement. But more importantly, Mabus brings a clear-eyed sense of tradition, of connectedness to the past that rings just the right bell for the season in a way that few other Christmas recordings do. LANSING STATE JOURNAL

Top Drawer String Band -- all contra and square dance music. 
Not really my album, but that of my partners in the TDSB. The fiddling of Brian Bishop takes the spotlight. Laura Stein plays Boston-style dance piano.  I'm in the middle, playing sometimes guitar, sometimes banjo and sometimes fiddle, too.  This album includes several hot Brian Bishop originals, and the first recorded version of my contra "hit" -- "The Blue Jig". It has been covered since by several top contradance bands.

Rhyme Schemes -- from 1997, all originals with an emphasis on wit.  
Actually the humor is a bit on the dry side most of the time.  But it does include the tongue-twister, "The Druggist" and the silly "Bubba's 3 B's (Barbeque, Banjos & Beer)".  Also has the spoken poem, "The Fiddler's Reply" -- a favorite of many fiddle players and reprinted widely on the web.
The depth of this recording is astounding. SINGOUT  
 A tour de force of contemporary folk performance CROSSCURRENTS

Western Passage -- from 1996, fingerstyle guitar instrumentals. 
Recorded on a classical guitar, this is a highly personalized look at the music of the early 19th century America. Sort of an instrumental "Heart of Darkness" tour of early American music. But I don't try to recreate an early style -- this is "all Mabus" on the guitar.
NOTE: Western Passage is currently available only as a Music CDR. I have plenty of the original printed matter that came with the original pressing -- booklet and traycard -- in the normal jewel case. But if you order this today, the disc will be a CDR burned from the original master and signed by me. Guaranteed to work in any music CD player.

Promised Land -- a songwriter's look at the USA, from 1994.  
This was out of print for a while, but happily back in stock. A lot of fans' favorites:  "Alice & Ralph" -- the out-of-step couple, "Holding to the Land" -- a song that Tom Paxton always asks for, and "Sea Of Dreams" -- the lullaby that begins, "In the morning comes the sun..."
Progressive populist songwriting that would do Woody Guthrie Proud  ACOUSTIC MUSICIAN

Flatpick & Clawhammer -- guitar and banjo double album. Newly remastered! 
This one takes some explaining. This was originally two albums on tape. "Clawhammer" came out in '91 to great reviews. Even though on cassette, this all-banjo  album sold like gangbusters.  The sequel was 1993's "Flatpick" which came out on tape the same time that the CD compilation was released.  Both halves of the CD were digitally recorded, so the sound is very clean. All the tunes and songs are traditional, and the instrumentals outnumber the vocals, though there are both.  Runs a full 74 minutes.
... a relaxed yet propulsive feel, unfailingly beautiful tone, and fine, ever-graceful ornamentation. Beautifully simple and simply beautiful. GUITAR PLAYER  
What a pleasure ...a wonderful album  BANJO NEWSLETTER

Short Stories -- from 1992, all original songs with a tale to tell. 
Don't be confused -- these are all songs, not spoken storytelling. At least two songs on this album I get requests for continually: "The Preacher & The Flood" and "The Fiddle & The Bow"
The best crop [of songs] Mabus has produced to date DIRTY LINEN

NOTE: Short Stories is out of print. (I have a few copies left -- write to me if you are desperate to have one) But most of the cuts were re-issued as part of the compilation album, Omnibus 

Firelake -- from 1990, a personal favorite.  
The title cut is a banjo original that serves as the theme song for Public Radio's "The Folk Sampler" with Mike Flynn. This is also the CD that has "Hopelessly Midwestern" on it -- a song that has been covered by many other folksingers since.  "A Better Voice" is on this one, too. 
Fine listening for a cold quiet winter evening -  DIRTY LINEN

NOTE: Firelake is out of print. (I can burn a CD-R -- write me)  But most of the cuts were re-issued as part of the compilation album, Omnibus 

The Naked Truth -- 1988 concert CD, my best seller (NOW with new liner notes!) 
This one has a bit of history. This is a "true" concert recording, meaning that it was recorded in one night at one place. No edits or sweetening were done, and all the songs were originals being debuted in my first set that night. It originally was on LP, and the first side of the platter was the first 22 minutes, and the flip side was the rest of my first set that night. Folk radio station WUMB in Boston named it the best folk album of the year.  When it was re-released on CD in the 1990's, we dipped into that same night's second set for a few bonus tracks.  The first CD version was in a long box (remember those?) and didn't have room for notes. The current version has notes written in 2003, fifteen years after the show.
        Fans still request this album for several of the songs here. Most notably, "Touch A Name On The Wall" is still my most requested song in concert. "The Duct Tape Blues" still has its fans, and "Swing That Thing" is the favorite of many guitar players. The title cut is also still in my repertoire and a favorite of some.

Fortunes -- originally an LP, now a CD-R  
In 1987 I launched my own record label after being on Flying Fish records for a few years. This was my first LP. It sold pretty well as an LP and a cassette tape, but when those media went the way of 78's and 8-tracks, the album was hard to find. In 2004, I took the original masters and had them remastered into CD format.  For now, I am making CDR copies of the master for sale in a slim-line case with a one-page insert. I hadn't listened to this album for a few years before remastering it, but I was surprised at how much I still liked it, some 20 years later.  A bit of studio wizardry has me playing two instruments at the same time on  few cuts.  "Lucky Lucky You" and "The Kitty Ditty" are two of the songs here I still get fans asking for.

My early albums before 1987 were for other record labels, released only in LP format and long out-of-print.  They sometimes come up on eBay or other used album sites. They were:

Fairies & Fools, American Celtic -- Flying Fish Records #296
Settin' The Woods on Fire -- Flying Fish Records #235
Grassroots -- Grand River Records #003 (see my mp3 pages)





© 2011 Joel Mabus
Last edited 01/14/22