About halfway through my first listen to It’s a Pleasure to Know You, a compilation of performances from various Bethesda–Chevy Chase YMCA youth folk concerts over the last eight years, I started to hallucinate that I was 10 years old again, Sunday-driving with my parents through New England’s autumnal countryside. The music in the car then—and on this new CD—was wispy, acoustic, folky easy listening, with sugary-rich vocals that always kind of gave me the creeps, maybe because I had to go to school the next day and Mr. Gerkin was teaching square dancing in gym. I pleaded with my parents, who were undoubtedly droning on about “the splendid foliage,” that missing Casey Casem would set me way back at school, that I’d become an outcast, a freak, but they were strong-willed and insisted on that little station at the far end of the dial, 88-point-something, pumping out endless Denver, Collins, and Ian. Sadly, I regained consciousness from my trip down memory lane too soon, right before Dad would lovingly say to his intestinally vocal only child, “Cork that thing up now, dammit, or you’re riding in the trunk!” Nevertheless, I appreciated Pleasure’s ability to take me back, and while brushing your teeth might be a good idea after listening to this feel-good fare, its intentions as a benefit album are admirable.
“This is really a sponsored CD,” says Michael Ward, director of Bethesda Youth Services (BYS), part of the YMCA’s community service program. “All of the various production aspects were donated from different businesses: artwork, design, even stamping out the CDs.” The youth folk concerts, also heavily sponsored by the local business community, have turned into major fundraisers for BYS: In 1989, the first performance raised between $500 and $600; the most recent show, between ticket sales and donations, brought in more than $12,000. All proceeds from the sale of Pleasure go to BYS, which focuses on supporting family strength and reducing the incidence of substance abuse, teen suicide, unwanted pregnancies, and other adolescent crises. If the majority of the 17 cuts are any indication, the area is alive with talented folk musicians. Walt Michael and his hammer dulcimer take a pretty good shot at “Si bheag a’s si mhor,” a traditional Irish fairy tale. Grace Griffith shows impressive range on Dylan’s “Forever Young,” a song covered way too frequently, but handled nicely here. And Pleasure’s executive producer, Rob Guttenberg, who also works at BYS, wrote and performs two songs for the disc, “One Too Many Things to Do Blues” and “When Love Comes Rushing In.” Pleasure won’t be hitting area stores for a few weeks; however, the album can be purchased (CD: $15, cassette: $10) by calling the YMCA at (301) 530-3725.—Sean Daly