RON SARFATY - SONGWRITERS’ VIDEOGRAPHER
The community supports a friend in time of need
Ron Sarfaty was 33 years old when he suffered his first heart attack, then 2 years later he suffered another one. He continued working as an engineer, raising his family, and doing the things people do. He was at Disneyland the day before Father’s Day in 2004, when he had a massive stroke. Life changed. Ron has been in a wheelchair since, but he is a fiercely independent soul. He drives himself where he needs to be in his wheelchair adapted van; that is until March 23, 2013, when his van was totaled! He is devastated by the loss of independence in not being able to get himself where he needs to be. The community is raising funds to help Ron replace his van, with the modifications necessary to drive from his electric wheelchair.
Ron refers to himself as “the guy in the wheel chair” who video tapes the singer-songwriters all over Los Angeles and the Western United States. Ron has been a major asset to the singer-songwriter community for more than 15 years. He started out digitally recording audio for performers at house concerts. He would take the recording, mix it, edit it, and then give the recording to the artist(s) at no cost. 11 years ago he shifted into videography, video-taping the performers at their gigs and editing the videos for them. His donated work includes taping 100+ performers, and editing at least 500 separate videos from their performances. He has also produced multiple music videos and DVDs, all out of pocket.
MUSIC AND HEALING: AMERICAN FOLK MUSIC FEST
April 28th, Leonis Adobe Museum
According to the American Cancer Society, “Scientific studies have shown the value of music therapy on the body, mind, and spirit of children and adults. Researchers have found that music therapy, when used with anti-nausea drugs for patients receiving high-dose chemotherapy, can help ease painful symptoms. A number of clinical trials have shown the benefit of music therapy for short-term pain, including pain from cancer. Some studies have suggested that music may help decrease the overall intensity of the patient’s experience of pain when used with pain-relieving drugs. Music therapy can also result in a decreased need for pain medicine in some patients.”
There is a wonderful PBS video that explains how music therapy helps cancer patients as well as ones with brain injuries, MS and more. It can be viewed online.
The Jennifer Diamond Foundation provides free cancer support programs and activities as well as a cancer information Library to educate the general public. These programs educate, empower and inspire hundreds of people with cancer, giving them a better quality of life. They include: Gentle Yoga, Pilates, Massage Therapy, Relaxation & Guided Imagery, Group Support, Water Color classes, Collage, Qigong, T’ai chi, Needle Arts, Line Dancing, Jewelry Making, Lectures, Health seminars, Cooking for Health and Mahjong, New programs are being added – including music - and you can help support them!
On Sunday, April 28th, 2013 from 11:30am to 6pm the Foundation is presenting American Folk Music Fest, a day of great American music at the beautiful and historic Leonis Adobe Museum. The museum features his authentically furnished two-story Monterrey-style adobe with original buildings over 150-years old, period livestock, gardens and a vineyard.
In Defense of Michelle Shocked
[Ed. The opinions are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of FolkWorks]
I am shocked, shocked that there is gambling in Casablanca. And I am shocked, shocked that Michelle Shocked actually said something shocking. Apparently others were too, since she has suddenly found herself the target of cancelled bookings in the wake of her shocking comments on the right of gays and lesbians to marry. Newsflash: Michelle Shocked has been trading on the shock value of her opinions, persona and once in a while her music ever since she brought out her first album with a photo of herself being arrested at an antiwar demonstration.
It is precisely her ability to shock that got her those bookings in the first place, and now that she has lived up to her name by invoking the catchphrase of the most notoriously bigoted homophobes in the country—Westboro Baptist Church in Westboro, Kansas, she is being effectively blacklisted in reverse—having already scheduled concerts cancelled by promoters who no longer want to be associated with her—and that includes McCabe’s Guitar Shop, whose web site for this Saturday now reads:
SAT MAR 23 / CANCELED
Bob Dylan Elected to American Academy of Arts and Letters
“A category mistake” is what philosophers call it: judging something that belongs in one category by the standards of another—for example, putting a rock musician into the pantheon of poets, artists and musicians who belong to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, such as Mark Twain, Robert Frost, Edmund Wilson, Arthur Miller, Ernest Hemingway, E.L. Doctorow, Malcolm Cowley and Kenneth Burke.
Well, the times, they are a-changing, because Bob Dylan, the Huck Finn cap-wearing Chaplinesque original vagabond from Hibbing, Minnesota just crashed the most exclusive party in American culture. My question is: what took them so long?
Tempest, his 35th studio album, released 50 years after his first eponymous album in 1962, was completely ignored by Grammy voters—not nominated in Folk, Americana or Rock categories—and seemed to sink as completely as the Titanic, subject of the title song. But even though the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences was Dylan’s iceberg, Tempest clearly caught the ears of a far more elite group of listeners—voting members of The American Academy of Arts and Letters—the American version (founded in 1904) of L'Académie Française, created by Cardinal Richelieu in 1635 as the guardian of the French language.
BATTLEFIELD BAND’S NORTH AMERICAN TOUR
Scotland’s venerable Battlefield Band has been playing great Scottish and Irish music since their formation in 1970, and they are just embarking on their latest tour of North America. Unlike some Rock and Roll bands who have become sad caricatures of themselves, they have stayed to the forefront of traditional music. They have pretty much seamlessly pulled it off with the timely changing of personnel, not always an easy or satisfying feat to accomplish.
I first saw them in the early nineteen eighties at the home of Clark and Elaine Weissman in Tarzana, who in my estimation did more to promote this kind of music in Southern California than did all the Scottish and Irish cultural organizations put together at the time. The Weissman’s also hosted Silly Wizard, Ossian, and the Tannahill Weavers, among others. To say that I was blown away, is a serious understatement, as I really thought that I had died and gone to musical Heaven! I subsequently saw then at McCabe’s in Santa Monica, the Barn at U.C. Riverside and Cal Tech in Pasadena and always enjoyed them.
Why Is There No Grammy for Folk Music?
Classical cellist Yo Yo Ma won the Grammy for “Folk” this year, for a recording released on “Sony Classical.”
Hello? Who were Ry Cooder and the Carolina Chocolate Drops competing with—perhaps the Berlin Chamber Ensemble too? Banjoist Stephen Wade—who wrote his own liner notes for Banjo Diary—lost out to a jazz scholar who wrote the liner notes for Ray Charles complete ABC recordings.
Why not just eliminate the “Folk” category and be done with it. Woody Guthrie—safely dead and gone—would not stand a chance to win the Grammy for the boxed set that Smithsonian Folkways won were he still alive.
The National Academy for Recording Arts and Sciences should be ashamed of itself: they love to put halos around the heads of dead legends, but God forbid some living folk singer like Ry Cooder or Stephen Wade should dare to enter the competition.
2012 GRAMMY NOMINEES AND WINNERS
OF INTEREST TO FOLKWORKS READERS
winners MARKED IN RED
TOP TEN CDs of 2012
It’s not often any artist will make my top spot more than once, let alone twice within three years; there are plenty that impressed me enormously at first and then didn’t develop beyond their one good idea (see: Sons, Mumford &). The CCDs are not only starting from a very rich tradition, but have already established their ability to look outside it as well. They still apply it to contemporary songs, only this time the title track is from the workers song tradition rather than an R&B or Tom Waits cover, but there’s just as much from the African-American string band tradition, as well as vocals both brassy and sweet and sharp instrumentalism. Three-peat? It wouldn’t surprise me.
THE WORLD THROUGH MUSICAL HUMOR
An Interview with Roy Zimmerman
[Note: Roy Zimmerman will be appearing at Coffee Gallery Backstage, Wednesday, January 23rd, 8pm]
With all of the voices that come out of our television, computers and radios demanding our attention to buy their point of view, whether that is “spin,” distortion or blatant lies, it's easy to feel the need to just turn the radio off, shut down the computer or blow up your TV (in the words of John Prine.
But a song can make all the difference. A single voice in the wilderness, comedian singer-songwriter, Roy Zimmerman, asks us to take a fresh look at the state of the world through music. He offers insight, songs that are finely crafted and topical, and he gives us plenty to laugh about along the way. Make no mistake, Zimmerman's boat leans to the left. But, where the Left offers someone like Roy, whose show is ultimately affirming to everyone in attendance (conservatives have been spotted enjoying his shows), it seems the best the Right can do is Rush Limbaugh. In a past interview when asked why the Right has failed to produce a truly funny entertainer, he replied, 'it's hard to make fear funny.'
Reaching Out For Kindred Spirits
A talk with Carrie Newcomer
“You should never journey farther in a day than your soul can travel.” - A Native American saying
On what has become an annual phone conversation with singer-songwriter, Carrie Newcomer, she sighed and laughed when asked what one song from her new Rounder Records Anthology, Kindred Spirits, best represented her work over the past 20 years. It’s not a fair question to pose to any artist, but especially one as prolific as Newcomer. However, Kindred Spirits has so many gems on it; it seems to invite such a question. As a songwriter, Newcomer has long demonstrated the lyrical ability to reach into something as ordinary as a rock and find some universal treasures. It’s a gift carried with accountability and skill. She is to the American song what Annie Dillard (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek) and Anne Lamott (Traveling Mercies) are to storytelling.
Kindred Spirits could not come at a more critical time. Although she has previously released an anthology on Rounder Records, 2004s Betty’s Dinner, her work since has deepened and grown more integrated and in-tune with her spirit and the times.
Confessions of the Mandolin obsessed
Restorative Mandolin Fever
It all started back in January of 2011. Trying to stave off the after Christmas/Holiday blues I felt compelled to look inside the little mandolin case my husband had around the shop for many years. There was a cute little “bowl back” mandolin called a Giuseppe Pettine Special made by Vega that I thought of as a “she.” So very cute and such a beautiful sound…the only argument, her bowl back was difficult to keep on my lap. It got me thinking about adding a different voice to the music I was playing. So I dived into the Internet world looking for and discovering other mandolins. I found out that these round backs were called “tater bugs” have a European heritage and are generally more suited to classical playing. Also found out about the golden age of mandolin building/making in the early 1900s here in the US. Gibson was at the forefront of this, bringing the “F” shape to the mandolin that most people would recognize today, especially if you’ve attended a bluegrass festival or seen the latest Geico commercial. There is also an “A” shape that is round, but not the “bowl back.”
STEVE AND LEDA SHAPIRO
- Crooked Jades - Soundtrack for Bright Land with Kate Weare Company (CD); Live September 7 at The Echoplex.
We’ve heard the Crooked Jades over the years with different band configurations and the current one really works. The little we’ve seen of their collaboration with the Kate Weare dance company is amazing. We hope that they can bring the show out west in 2013.
- Jen Hajj - I of the Storm (CD)
We met Jen at the FAR-West conference in Irvine this past October. Her 2011 CD was a standout and we look forward to her upcoming release.
- Lunasa - Live November 17 at Caltech Public Events (Beckman).
Although we’ve heard them before and have enjoyed their CDs for years, the balance of the sets of the group and as individual players was superb. Perhaps because we were sitting in the balcony but this was the first time that we thought the sound at Beckman was great.
- Rose Room – Rose Room (Artist, CD & Live Gig)
Swing jazz with a dash of western swing. A new band made up of seasoned professionals. Their first CD is a winner, and their live gigs are supercharged with energy that has the audience dancing in their seats.
- Nick Keir – The Edge of Night (CD)
If you told me I could keep only one of the CDs I’ve acquired during 2012, this would be the one.
- Blackwaterside - Blythe and Merry (CD)
recorded live in a concert presented by San Diego Folk Heritage. Their arrangements breathe new life into familiar songs and tunes.
- Woody at 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection – (CD)(Smithsonian Folkways)
[2X Grammy Nominee]
- Bob Dylan Tempest – (CD)(Columbia Records)
- Stephen Wade Banjo Diary - (CD)(Smithsonian Folkways) [Grammy Nominee]
- Evie Ladin - Evie Ladin Band
- Ernest Troost – Live at McCabes & Concert at McCabes Guitar Shop, Jan. 6, 2012
- The Crooked Jades – Bright Land
- Punch Brothers – Who’s Feeling Young Now
I wonder how long it will take for people to realize just how genius this group is. PB's latest effort is both progressive and innovative yet derivative of several historic genres. I go deeper down the rabbit hole with every listen (listen to "Moonshiner" from their latest EP Ahoy! if there's still a doubt in your mind....).
- John Fullbright – From the Ground Up
This Oklahoma native is the real deal. Honestly had to pull the car over the first time I heard his music on NPR's Fresh Air.
- Black Prairie – A Tear in the Eye is a Wound in the Heart
Excellent bluegrass/old time side project from the members of the Decemberists. The record is incredibly atmospheric, haunting and beautiful.
- Andrew Bird – Break It Yourself (CD) (Mom & Pop Music)
The hard-to-pigeonhole Bird has been flitting around the edge of my personal playlist for years, but with this wonderful album, he finally got my complete attention. Drop-dead neo-old-timey gorgeous Danse Caribe and plucky trans-Atlantic fiddle confab Orpheo Looks Back are among the tasty morsels on this sonic buffet.
- Carolina Chocolate Drops - Leaving Eden (CD ) (Nonesuch); Live April 6 UCLA Royce Hall
Rhiannon Giddens’ beguiling force o’ nature vocals would have been enough to satisfy this happy camper, but the ensemble playing and individual virtuosity begat fuller enjoyment, in a concert both entertaining and educational. Their 21st-century rendering of the African-American string-band tradition lives strong on stage and on their latest—and now Grammy-nominated—album.
- I See Hawks in L.A. - New Kind of Lonely (CD)(Western Seeds)
L.A. hometown heroes knock one out of the park on group’s first full-length foray into (im)pure American acousticism. Their eccentric-smart songwriting chops (sense of place, yo!), comradely harmonies, and mind-meld chops flow in full effect throughout, with Bohemian Highway,Your Love Is Going to Kill Me, and Highland Park Serenade among the storytelling gems. (Full disclosure: I’m sort of an assistant executive producer on this, as I contributed to the group’s Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign.)
SONGS OF HOPE & LOVE
Interview With Noel Paul Stookey
If anyone has taken the title of Dylan's classic song, Forever Young to heart, it's Noel Paul Stookey. For the last 50 years he has been best known as Paul of the popular folk trio, Peter, Paul & Mary. In a recent phone conversation, his enthusiasm, articulate and original insights and vision suggest the energy of a man half his age.
Although Peter, Paul & Mary's days of hit songs, including Puff the Magic Dragon and Leaving on a Jet Plane have long since passed, they continued as a concert draw over the last 40 years. With the untimely passing of Mary Travers in 2009, the trio, as an active touring act, came to an end. However, Stookey continues to pursue a solo career. With the recent release of his new album, the GRAMMY-worthy, One & Many, Stookey has added this new release to an already considerable legacy of music since his 1971 debut solo album, Paul And, which includes the classic that has defined Stookey's legacy, The Wedding Song. Composed in 1969, he wrote it as a wedding gift for his friend and co-member of Peter, Paul & Mary, Peter Yarrow. Before he wrote it he prayed for a song that would bring a divine presence to Yarrow's wedding.
FIBER ARTS FESTIVAL
Lost arts? Folk Arts? Ancient arts? These terms have been used synonymously to include all kinds of crafts, arts and activities surrounding what used to be everyday functions for centuries ranging from weaving to furniture building. Are these activities truly lost? Are they being used daily somewhere on this planet? Let’s examine some of these and where one can learn such things.
Speaking from a personal view, I grew up on a very small goat farm in Kansas with a hillbilly father and a loving hillbilly extended family. Crocheting, knitting, embroidery, furniture restoration, sewing, butter making, bread making, quilting, canning, preserving, down home instruments such as the juice harp, mouth harp, kazoo, with the mandolin, pump organ, banjo, fiddle were all an integral part of my growing up. We were not in the Appalachians - we were just outside the city limits of Kansas City, Kansas. So, my view is that these activities are not lost but perhaps not widely known or used. “Lost arts” is now the buzz word for such things and is emerging as the “way” to describe them.
Ry Cooder and Bocephus Face Off On the Election:
A Musical Debate
Welcome to Left, Right and Center, the civilized alternative to the screaming talking heads that dominate the airwaves today; I’m your guest moderator Ross Altman in the center, sitting in for Matt Miller; sitting in for Robert Scheer on the left is Ry Cooder; and sitting in for David Frum on the right is Hank Williams, Jr.
Ry Cooder’s new album Election Special (Nonesuch Records) arrives just in time to take on the biggest mouth in country music, Hank Williams, Jr., whose Old School, New Rules (Bocephus Records) was released last month before he appeared in concert in Iowa—the launching pad for the primaries that put Mitt Romney front and center in the face off with President Obama this November.
Beyond Genres: Music of Luciana Souza
Luciana Souza is an unshakably honest singer blessed with an instrument of gorgeous timbre. The voice is distinctive yet unaffected. At times it has a transparent, sparkling quality. But it can also caress a phrase, intensifying the intimacy of a song. The terms bossa nova, jazz, world and classical music somehow feel constricting when one attempts to describe the different dimensions of her music. Appearing at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica on Saturday evening, September 1, the Brazilian vocalist defies categorization.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY WOODY
Woodrow Wilson "Woody" Guthrie (July 14, 1912 – October 3, 1967)
On Saturday, less than a mile from where Woody Guthrie once lived, a crowd gathered at El Centro del Pueblo in Echo Park to celebrate what would have been the troubadour’s 100th birthday.
The day-long event featured local bluegrass, folk, blues, jazz, and hip-hop performers and was presented by the Trailer Trash Project, which operates out of a vintage trailer to bring free concerts, plays, and exhibits to neighborhoods around Los Angeles.
Guthrie’s musical legacy extends well beyond This Land Is Your Land. His more than 3,000 songs include The Ballad of Tom Joad, inspired by John Steinbeck’s novel “The Grapes of Wrath.” When Steinbeck heard the song, he wrote to Guthrie, saying, “You’re a real bastard. What it took me an entire novel to do, you wrote in one song.”
LOCALS CELEBRATNG WOODY'S BIRTHDAY
Blues guitarist S.S. Jones, co-founder
of the Skid Row Musicians Network.
|Guitarist, songwriter and author Darryl Holter.|
Singer-songwriter, guitarist Walter Spencer
Unknown banjo player
Bayou Music, Country and Cajun Country Revival
Jesse Lége (Cajun Music Hall of Famer) Tells The Story
It may seem hard to believe there was a time, not so long ago, when a small local town depended more on the live music of a weekly dance hall show than computers, radios or television for their entertainment. Somewhere in the earth and wind of Southwest Louisiana, legendary accordionist and Cajun Music Hall of Famer, Jesse Lége, must have absorbed the dance hall music of his times the way others drink water. It was his main form of entertainment for many years in the same way that iTunes now provides exposure to new music for so many young people. If he had been born around the turn of the 20th century his story wouldn't be that unusual. Musicians around that time came to be legendary and enigmatically great directly through first-hand contact with other musicians and pure exposure to the traditions of song from their regions. Lége, born well after the turn of the century in 1951, grew up much like the country and Cajun music legends he later came to admire. His family didn't have electricity until he was 14. He heard his native Cajun music from his brother's transistor radio or from trips to enjoy the modern conveniences at his grandfather's house-who did have electricity.
An Intimate Look at Inti-illimani
My heart was in Humahuaca, a village in northwestern Argentina, where, last January, I had encountered a musician/folklorist steeped in Andean traditions. I was all set to write about Fortunato, when I learned that the Chilean ensemble Inti-Illimani was going to be performing at Caltech on Saturday, April 21 at 8pm. Too tantalizing! If you haven't attended a concert or heard a recording by this groundbreaking, legendary group, let me fill you in.
These eight men, who will be playing on more than 30 wind, string, and percussion instruments at Caltech's Beckman Auditorium, take their inspiration from the intoxicating rhythms and bittersweet melodies of the indigenous peoples of Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Argentina. Their performances feature traditional South American instruments such as the siku (panpipes) and tiple (usually 12-stringed instrument of the guitar family) and melodies that originated in pueblos of centuries past. But while delving into this musical heritage, the musicians have composed music of stunning beauty. In the group's 45 year history, they have created over 400 such compositions.
Woody Guthrie’s Home Town Lynching
A Bridge Over Troubled Water
Okemah, Oklahoma was the town that Woody Guthrie described as, “one of the singingest, square dancingest, drinkingest, yellingest, preachingest, walkingest, talkingest, laughingest, cryingest, shootingest, fist fightingest, bleedingest, gamblingest, gun, club, and razor carryingest of our ranch and farm towns, because it blossoms out into one of our first Oil Boom Towns.” He left out one small detail. It was also one of the lynchingest—the town that the year before he was born hosted one of the more horrific lynching parties that had ever made its way north of the Mason-Dixon line. Captured in a news photo of the time forever and for all to see, “our town” seemed to have nothing to hide—not a flicker of shame colored the glowing faces of the frenzied lynch mob of onlookers and supporters.
DELIVERANCE IS IN THE MUSIC
Actor/Singer-Songwriter RONNY COX
If you spend even a few minutes talking with actor and singer-songwriter, Ronny Cox, you may see a subtle but distinct light shine from his eyes. If you spend a little more time listening to his new album, Ronny, Rad & Karen, or going to one of his shows, you may experience that same light as warmth. It comes from a life well lived in pursuit of songs and stories while keeping his own fires burning close to home. You may even recognize him. He’s one of those character actors who often remain nameless but familiar to the general public. His debut role in the 40 year-old classic movie, Deliverance, which also starred Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds and Ned Beatty, was distinguished by his friendly guitar-picking character, Drew Ballinger, who was the moral center point for the dilemma the characters face in the story.
Katy Rydell: Storyteller on Wheels
Few opportunities come nowadays to bask in the artistic and storytelling genius of Katy Rydell, since she vacated these shores for Portland, Maine two years ago. For thirty years Katy Rydell has been at the heart of the storytelling community both in Los Angeles and nationally. She edited Stories, their flagship journal, for 15 years, and wrote half of it herself. She has taught at UCLA in the Folklore and Mythology Dept., where she earned her MA, and lectured and performed widely from Hawaii to San Diego to Maine.
A FEW QUESTIONS FOR.... THE MILK CARTON KIDS
I can't forget the first time I heard the Milk Carton Kids. A friend had sent me a sampling of songs from their 2011 album Prologue (which you can still download in its entirety for free via their website), and from the haunting opening chords of Michigan I was hooked. Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan's intricately woven harmonies and sweet and lilting tunes play out like a soundtrack to a life.
Recently, The Milk Carton Kids returned to their native Los Angeles with a sold-out at show at Largo at the Coronet. Before their show, Joey was gracious enough to answer a few questions for BluegrassLA...
AR: What are your musical backgrounds?
JR: Kenneth grew up studying cello and I the clarinet. How much that classical training influences what we do now is questionable, though I'd venture to guess that Kenneth's history has been much more beneficial to him than mine has to me. When it comes to our current duo, the background comes from the tradition of players and writers that we've admired, as we're both largely self-taught on both the guitar and vocal instruments.
Border Radio Rubs Shoulders
with the Sundance Festival 2012
Many months ago we applied for a showcase opportunity that would take place during the Sundance Film Festival 2012 in Park City, Utah. Access Film Music, an independent organization that puts musicians in front of film and television executives, hoping for connection, hosts the showcases. We found out in late November that we had been selected, and started figuring out how we were going to get there!
Two of us flew, the other two drove, with all our gear. That solved the instrument transportation problem. We stayed in a condo and cooked most of our meals, which cut down on the expense.
We knew Park City would have snow – it is a ski resort -- but we didn’t count on two feet of it falling all in one day. Our first day. Enough snow to make us flatlanders a little jittery. Other people with worthy vehicles were sliding off the road. But we managed.
Richie Furay of Buffalo Springfield fame
Returns to Southern California
There are some days in this life that are simply golden. Contacting veteran country rocker, Richie Furay, for an interview in 2007, led to a series of articles chronicling his continuing legacy over the last ten years. For this writer, being a witness to what followed has been like days of gold.
During a 2010 interview with Richie for a feature article in No Depression, he spoke with a hint of disappointment that old friends Neil Young and Stephen Stills, co-founders of the iconic Buffalo Springfield, hadn’t returned recent calls to request to open for their respective solo shows with his own Richie Furay Band. But, a few months later, in the fall of the same year, his legacy began to shine a bit brighter when he received a now famous text from Neil Young which simply read, “Call me.”
ACOUSTIC NAMM, WINTER 2012
Fourth In A Series Of Annual Reports Exclusive To Folkworks
By the end of the Winter 2012 NAMM show, 95,709 registered attendees had toured 1,441 exhibitors in the 110th edition of what continues to be by far the largest and longest running music merchandise show in the United States. The 4-day show took place from January 19th through the 22nd and was again held at the Anaheim Convention Center. This mid-sized city of music makers grows larger each year with this year seeing a 6 percent increase over last year, and 231 new exhibitors.
NAMM stands for the National Association of Music Merchants. The two large trade shows it produces are not open to the public (other than a public day at their July, Summer Show in Nashville), however, the press is welcomed. This is my fourth report for FolkWorks on acoustic music at NAMM and despite the increased attendance, your reporter was able to attend the press-only preview day on January 18th, as well as arrive early before the crowds on the weekend days while it still seemed there were more ukuleles at NAMM than people and surveying what was being presented at the show was somewhat more relaxed. None-the-less, even with that early bird advantage, it was still difficult to see, let alone report on, all that was there.
Politicized Maria: Tango in San Pedro
The tango has come a long way. Born in the turn-of-the century slums of Buenos Aires, where it was danced by pimps and prostitutes, by 1968, it had ascended to that most elite of the arts, opera. In that year, Astor Piazzolla, who had been infusing tango with contemporary classical and jazz elements that shocked diehard tango fans, premiered what he termed his tango operito (little tango opera) Maria de Buenos Aires.
Combining opera, spoken word, and dance, this haunting piece of theater, with its sizzling libretto by Horacio Ferrer, has been staged in different ways by companies from Brisbane to Pittsburgh. I can safely say that it will be worthwhile to see the upcoming production by Long Beach Opera on January 29 or February 4, 2012 at the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro.
By the way, this has nothing to do with the fact that I recently spent three weeks in Argentina.
I did see some spectacular tango dancing in Buenos Aires, and, frankly, it would be hard to find that level of performance in a production such as this, where the dancers are not specialists in tango. But at the preview program on Sunday, January 15, held at the Museum of Latin American Art, LBO artistic director Andreas Mitisek conveyed a deep understanding of Piazzolla's and Ferrer’s main character. Maria was, as the libretto tells us, “born on a day when God was drunk…born with an insult in her voice.” I had to leave 45 minutes before the end of the two and a half-hour preview program (longer than the opera!), so I can't say for sure whether the dancers performed a tango or two from the production. We can only hope that choreographer Nannette Brodie does justice to Piazzolla's nuevo tango score.
NAMM SHOW 2012
Folk Uke's L.A. Premiere
Will It Comfort the Disturbed or Disturb the Comfortable?
If you're a fan of folk, country or Americana, you probably know their famous dads, legendary country singer, Willie Nelson and humorist storytelling folk singer, Arlo Guthrie. But, Amy Nelson and Cathy Guthrie found in the midst of their friendship they could write some funny attention-grabbing songs while playing ukulele and singing some sweet country harmonies together. Over the last few years they've written and recorded such classics as Shit Makes The Flowers Grow, and Knock Me Up. With tongue planted firmly in cheek and fingers strumming along on their ukes, they have just released their latest toe-tapping opus, Reincarnation, which, while it doesn't have nearly enough swearing for their loyal fans, it is a consistent batch of songs that will entertain and could even send you to thinking, if you don't think too hard. Most notably the song, I Miss My Boyfriend, tackles the issue of domestic violence in their own unique satirical way with dramatic help from Shooter Jennings on narration.
Bellydance in Los Angeles
A Brief History
In the beginning, there was The Dance.
Pretty much everyone can get behind that. It's a good bet that our Paleolithic ancestors cut a groove under the stars. Dig that funky new beat! Ooga's calling it "rock" music!
OK, that's just silly. The truth is we haven't got the slightest idea what dance the first humans did. We don't even know what sorts of dances were done within great civilizations, like Ancient Egypt, that we know for a fact employed dancers at special events. Archaeologists, historians, artists, and dancers throughout the ages have tried to imagine what the dances of our ancient forebears may have looked like.
Enter the bellydancer.
A staple at weddings, births, and other life-affirming celebrations, the art form commonly known as bellydance goes by many other names, including Oriental Dance, Baladi, and Raqs Sharqi. The term most westerners use to describe the archetypal image of a mysterious Gypsy or harem dancer actually encompasses a multitude of folk dance traditions that have migrated and evolved over time. Today there is scarcely any country where some form of this dance is not performed, whether in public or private, by women and men of all ages, and children, as well.
Josh White Jr.
A Rare Interview with the Son of a Folk Music Legend
The American dream is not always obvious in the way it comes true. Sometimes it comes true through nightmares. And from the nightmares dreams come true that serve to change the world. Josh White Jr.'s father was seven years old when, in 1921, he saw his father murdered. But, instead of embracing hatred, Josh White Sr. embraced music by learning the depths of the street country-Piedmont blues from blind folk singers. He turned the poison of racism into music that eventually gained him the attention of Chicago ethnic record producers. He crossed over and became the toast of Greenwich Village's first integrated night club, Cafe-Society in the 1940s. He wrote his own songs and eventually was even heard by President Roosevelt when his song, Uncle Sam Says, about racism in the American military, caught the president's attention. Josh admitted to Roosevelt that he wrote it to him. The two became fast friends.
Gordon Lightfoot: Banned In the USA?
Live at Royce Hall
Tuesday, November 8, 8:00pm
Canada’s highest civilian award—the Order of Merit—doesn’t grow on trees; it has been bestowed on only three musicians, and one of them will be at Royce Hall on Tuesday evening, November 8 at 8:00pm—Canada’s Folk Laureate, Gordon Lightfoot. He once lived in Los Angeles, way back in 1958, when he was just 20 years old. He stayed here for two years, already determined to be a singer/songwriter, when like the hero of a great French-Canadian folk song, Un Canadien Errant he got homesick. In the folk song he tells his friends, If you see my homeland, tell my friends I will always remember them.
The line is so famous it is engraved on their license plates, in French of course: “Que Je Me Souviens D’eux.” Lightfoot went him one better, and returned home to Canada. Though he has never lived here since, his music has made a new home south of the border, where he is one of Canada’s most enduringly popular artists. He has recorded 20 albums and toured extensively for five decades. His songs are covered by artists all over the world, and include some of Canada’s and America’s own major songwriters. But that’s not why I am recommending you go see and hear him.
Two months back, the southland was graced by the first So Cal performance by Stockton's award-winning Snap Jackson and the Knock on Wood Players. Snap (whose real name is Antonio--the Snap part comes after being a photojournalism major in college) just returned from the International Bluegrass Music Association's World of Bluegrass conference in Nashville, Tennessee, where he and the band were highlighted in several artist showcases. Prior to their trip east, Snap caught up with me about his musical roots and a few of his favorite things....
AR: Can you describe your roots in bluegrass music?
SNAP: I was raised in a R&B and soul household on my mom's side, while my dad raised me with singer songwriter stuff. I got into bluegrass before I really knew what it was... when I was 11 years old, my best friend Alex introduced me to the Grateful Dead. That was the beginning of my education with 1960s psych rock. I totally dove in to the Dead eventually segued into Jerry's side stuff. According to Alex, the first time he played me a tune with Jerry on banjo I told him "I'm going to do that."
POOR MAN'S POEM:
DAVID SERBY BRINGS
THE PAST TO THE PRESENT
In a few months, when looking over what were the best releases in Americana music during the year 2011 it will be hard to avoid David Serby's fourth independent release, Poor Man's Poem. In what is shaping up to be a fine year with new albums from Jim Lauderdale, Gillian Welch, Sarah Jaroz, Booker T and Levon Helm, this album stands in their company. Like the best of American folk songs over the last 150 years, this collection of songs and stories of the old west are pleasant, engaging tunes with lyrics as dark as forgotten gold mines. There's also a kinship to sea shanties and bluegrass songs that bring a melodic feeling of cheer while singing about death, betrayal, revenge and some occasional redemption. The nuance that has been added to this album is craftily weaving subtexts of current events into the ballads making them reverberate with a feeling of allegory that seems both urgent and timeless. What makes each song breathe with life is the conviction of the artist to convey both story and message. The songs can be experienced simply as they are written or as a commentary of the social, political and economic woes of the 21st century. At times, what the artist has accomplished is comparable to a short story by Larry McMurtry or Cormac McCarthy translated into the medium of song.
Series: Mercury Theatre
Show: Dueling Banjos
DateLINE: Oct 30 2011
REPORTING FROM ROSWELL, NEW MEXICO
For FolkWorks of the World
An unusual amount of static has been detected at a radio switch station above Roswell, New Mexico, where an unmarked aircraft has just set down reputed to be carrying bluegrass banjo legend Earl Scruggs. He was said to be laying over at a local farmhouse en route to Los Angeles for a concert at UCLA’s Royce Hall on Saturday, November 5.
We interrupt this story…our keyboard has just been seized…breakup…breakup…alt…control…delete…permanent error…blue screen of d…
Banjo Players on High Alert in Los Angeles:
Rapture Predicted for November 5 at Royce Hall
This is Orson Welles speaking from Grover’s Mill, New Jersey; Memo to Department of Homeland Security: we have received credible intelligence that Los Angeles banjo players are concerned for their safety as November 5 approaches. A recent discovery in Princeton, New Jersey of Nostradamus’ last prophecy proves that the world is about to end in a Martian attack to rid the city of five-string banjoists, based on the high probability that they will all be convened in one target area on that specific evening at UCLA’s Royce Hall. The medieval French scientist even pinpointed the time as 8:00pm sharp, when a high value target—Bluegrass pioneer Earl Scruggs—is scheduled to arrive on stage for a “concert.”
REMEMBERING SEPTEMBER 11
The first new song to come out of the horrific events of September 11, 2001 was Neil Young’s Let’s Roll, named for United Flight 93’s hero Todd Beamer’s last words to his fellow passengers, as they rolled down the aisle to subdue the hijackers and crash their plane into a Pennsylvania farm field rather than let them bring down the White House.
Neil Young broke the ice for his fellow songwriters, as one by one they followed suit, from Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising, to Alan Jackson’s Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning? to Tom Paxton’s fine tribute to the firefighters, The Bravest.
There was also no shortage of songs that struck a more strident note, Toby Keith’s Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (the Angry American) foremost among them..
As Ken Graydon Lay DyingForgive me, Ol’ Pard, but I want to get this one in for you before your great heart stops beating. Something in me rebels against the thought of writing in the past tense of a man who is larger than life, “a genial bear of a man” who has inspired as many songs as he has written, who represents the last of the dying west, and perhaps the last of the just, and proves every day that as long as the sun sets in the west, there will be a cowboy to watch it go down.
You have been that cowboy for me. Oh, I know you tried to fool us modern sodbusters and “Death Valley 49ers” by writing songs of the sea too, like your classic Whaler’s Tale, and even train songs like your Coyote Special, but we both know where your heart came from—the days when your father was a working cowboy in Seligman, Arizona in the 1920s, from whom you inherited your love of horses, boots and saddles. So humor me, Ken, and let me hold off on the sails and rails for a few minutes. You were a man who wore many hats, but your cowboy hat fit best. I hope
doesn’t mind, either.
Ken and Phee (Ken Graydon and Phee Sherline) are rarely seen apart; they appear almost like one musician with two instruments—she plays the hammer dulcimer and he plays a big twelve string guitar—matching his booming bass voice with its powerful bass runs. Ken doesn’t play anything “fancy on a stick,” as Woody Guthrie once described his own playing, just the right chord and the right strum at the right time, always keeping the song and its story front and center.
The Irish Enigma of
Kíla's Rónán Ó Snodaigh
Kíla's the kind of band that's lived on the edge of musical scenes their whole lives. They're Irish and they can play the hell out of Irish trad music, but their albums have spun off into Afro-pop explorations, or Chinese literature inspirations, or world-beat ministrations, or compositional meditations. To call their music experimental might be going a bit far, though some of their more eclectic compositions push far enough beyond the boundaries of what we'd come to expect from the band that they could be termed experiments. Really, it seems that Kíla simply has a roving mind. Their minds rove as they travel and as they experience and are influenced by sounds and ideas from around the globe. They're a truly global Irish band, at once rooted in their traditions, composing in Gaelic and involving traditional instruments like the Uilleann pipes, but looking forward to collaborations with other global musicians of like minds.
Ribbon of Highway
Jimmy LaFave's Woody Guthrie Tribute
at L.A. Acoustic MUSIC Festival
Oral traditions have long been the way we've handed down our stories, our characters, the dreams we've dreamed and our tragedies. Even in the end, with technology being what it is, it still may come down to one person talking to others with something urgent to tell them, some lesson learned, some human comedy. I think it'll always be that way, no matter how many phones, networks and computers preoccupy us. Jimmy LaFave's near decade run with the staged presentation of the words and music of Woody Guthrie, Ribbon of Highway, certainly embodies this tradition. With an ever rotating roster of artists who even included Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Sarah Lee Guthrie and Odetta, and with access to the Woody Guthrie Archives thanks to Nora Guthrie, the show has developed into the ever deepening portrait of America's most legendary troubadour.
Mark Twain with a Guitar
Arlo’s Coming To Town
I don’t know what the Kennedy Center is waiting for. Thirteen years into awarding the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, they have yet to land on America’s greatest living storyteller—now that Utah Phillips is gone—that would be Arlo Guthrie, who might best be described as Mark Twain with a guitar. Since crafting Alice’s Restaurant in 1967—his classic 18’34” Thanksgiving perennial antiwar satire, Arlo has kept Woody Guthrie’s flame alive and then some, by being a constant voice for the voiceless, and the inheritor and greatest practitioner of a vein of humor that traces its roots back to Mark Twain, through Will Rogers, Woody Guthrie, Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, Dick Gregory and U. Utah Phillips, the Golden Voice of the Great Southwest.
Some Words on Woody Guthrie
Woody Guthrie was born on July 14, 1912 in the town of Okemah, Oklahoma.
Okemah is a small town just off Interstate 40, about 70 miles east of Oklahoma City where I-40 splits off from Route 66, also known as the Will Rogers Highway. They call it the Will Rogers Highway because Will Rogers was so famous, and as an American populist he was certainly one of Woody’s important Oklahoma influences. In fact, Will Rogers is the most famous Oklahoman in the whole country and Woody Guthrie is the most famous Oklahoman in the whole wide world.
Lots of folks know that Woody wrote This Land Is Your Land, because they learned it in elementary school, and it has long been considered an unofficial national anthem. What many people don’t know is that he wrote the original lyric as a kind of response to the song God Bless America, as he looked around and saw the suffering of America’s common people. I’ve always thought he wanted to claim this land and the country for himself and you and me. There are some more rarely heard verses to the song that talk about no trespassing signs, poor folks lined up at the relief office, and about not being stopped by anything or anyone as he walked down the “freedom” highway.
Keaton Simons: Singer-Songwriter
An Unstoppable Talent
There's something special about the music of singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Keaton Simons. Perhaps it's in the warmth he projects. The only word that comes to mind is embracing. The songs, his voice, the instrumentation and the simple soul of the production simply embraces you, invites the listener into the warmth of the story in song, the sometimes painful and sometimes joyful observations. A recent song featured on his website and on YouTube, Beautiful Pain, speaks to this. But, from his debut album the song, Unstoppable is a revelation.
Keaton was recently featured on VH1's Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew as a family member of actor and film star, Eric Roberts. During the course of the season, we watch as Eric grieves about the 16 year chasm between himself and his step-son, Keaton. After a physical altercation they had parted ways when Keaton was 15. In a moment both vulnerable and authentic, they are brought together and embrace each other for the first time in a decade and a half. It is among the most touching moments I've witnessed on television in a very long time. After they reconcile, Keaton sings his song, Unstoppable and words like "When I think of you my love I know that anything is possible; when you're back in my arms again, I know that we will be unstoppable," poignantly summarize the feelings of returning home-father to son and friend to friend.
YONDER MOUNTAIN STRING BAND:
A LITTLE BLUEGRASS BAND IS MAKING HISTORY
With bullet-train speed Yonder Mountain String Band comes on at so many levels with such a vast soundscape it’s hard to find metaphors that can illustrate the energy and inspiration of their latest album (2009) The Show as well as their live performances. But, okay, I’ll try. This music, with rapid fire precision and pitch perfect inspiration, comes across as though Bluegrass legend Bill Monroe had been bred with Pink Floyd and midwife'd by The Grateful Dead. One listen to the first few tracks of this firebrand recording and it becomes clear we’re operating in the rare artistically seasoned land of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper. Before you cry ‘over-the-hyperbolic-top’ let me say this comparison is without any delusion that this or any record of the last 40 years stands a chance of approaching the influential iconic status of Pepper, but if a record and band can be captured at the peak of their potential and powers in studio production, arrangement, song craft, performance and concept, Yonder Mountain String Band has demonstrated this on The Show and during concerts over the last several years.
A Small Circle of Friends
A Celebration of Phil Ochs 70th Birthday
Phil Ochs took his life 35 years ago in 1976, during the Bicentennial, at the age of 35. Composer of the patriotic anthem Power and the Glory—second only to This Land Is Your Land in its melding of the American landscape with a profound identification with its people, including the downtrodden and imprisoned—Ochs raised the modern protest song to a high art; it has since been recorded by singers as diverse as Pete Seeger and (we kid you not) Anita Bryant. With such classics as I Ain’t Marching Anymore, Draft Dodger Rag and There But for Fortune he became the voice of the antiwar movement; and with such classics as Here’s To the State of Mississippi, What’s That I Hear and Too Many Martyrs (for Medgar Evers) he became a voice (along with Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Len Chandler) of the civil rights movement.
CATHY FINK AND MARCY MARXER
CELEBRATING 25 YEARS OF MAKING MUSIC FOR KIDS AND ADULTS
This Sunday, November 7th at 11:00am, McCabe's Guitar Store, will be celebrating 25 years of making music for children.
One of the challenges of enduring and endearing music for children is to create music that appeals to parents as well as kids. I am speaking from the experience of a parent who banned Barney from his home back in the 90's. Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer are a duo who have long excelled at this. In a recent interview with Cathy Fink it's striking how diverse and busy she and Marcy Marxer have been since they first met 35 years ago. As a duo they have produced a series of children's albums introducing kids to instruments like the dulcimer, ukulele, mandolin and the clawhammer banjo along with original songs filled with wit and charm for audiences of all ages.
Traditional Irish musicians turn out
to help raise money for relief efforts
Trócaire (pronounced tráwk-er-uh) is an Irish word that means compassion. It is also the name of an Irish NGO (non-governmental organization) that was founded in 1973.
Many years ago I met the man who is now regional manager for Trócaire in Asia. After reading about his work and the tragedy of the flooding in Pakistan I was moved to action. I went to the Trócaire website and made a donation. On the site I read about a fund raising effort they had in Ireland during the last week September called Trad for Trócaire. Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh (fiddle player in the band Altan) made a video encouraging musicians and venues all around Ireland "to host a session, play a session or support a session in aid of Trócaire."
Did I Say That?
A Talmudic Commentary On Who Wrote Dylan
You know you are reaching the end of the road as a writer when the best you can come up with is a commentary on your own previous work, but I happen to have a rabbi-and when your rabbi asks you to do something, you don't ask questions, you do it. My rabbi addressed the following letter to me after reading my column, Who Wrote Dylan:
A clever rejoinder and fun to read. However, I wonder whether you might do some musing on the darker issue, here, which is: what gives?? There is a time honored tradition of artists changing their names (both music, stage, film and rock). Why is Dylan singled out by her? And the stage persona vs. actual personality?
ERIC ANDERSEN'S RIVER OF BLUE
FLOWS WITH A LEGACY OF SONG
Eric Andersen was there at the birth of the singer-songwriter movement of the 1960s. But, his story is not bound in time. While his contemporaries include Tim Hardin and Fred Neil, his is a distinct voice. He's a blues enthusiast who reads the Beats; He's a rocker who leans deep into his own poetry distinct from Dylan or Cohen. At times his music calls to mind a gentle blue river while at other times you may find yourself knee-deep in the rivers of the delta on a full moon night with screaming slide guitars calling in the distance. There is no stronger example of this than his 2007 live album, Blue Rain. If you explore the legacy of his recorded work over the last 40 years, you'll hear him trading off lyrical licks with Lou Reed, harmonizing with The Band's Rick Danko, co-writing with Townes Van Zandt or singing a tribute to Jack Kerouac.
MUSIC IN THE MOUNTAINS
TALK ABOUT HARMONY!
About a year ago, I was really missing acoustic folk music- BAD.
I was embarking upon a self imposed break from music education, in order to refresh myself as a musician and explore some different paths to take. One of the first things on my task list of ‘things to do to re-energize the musician within,' was to see if I could reconnect with some kind of folk music scene here in Los Angeles. I had recently realized how much I missed having this genre of music heavily in my life, as it had been during my teen years when I was teaching myself guitar, writing songs, and hanging out at local coffeehouses in Cambridge to play and listen to others play. At first, I was not terribly optimistic to find a real ‘scene' of folk music in what I considered to be this slightly music-cynical, ‘folksily challenged' Los Angeles we live in. But I was determined that if such a community existed, I would find it if it took me weeks to do so. Interestingly enough, it only took me about a day!!
Song of the South:
Morris Dees and Guy Carawan
The Birth of We Shall Overcome
Morris Dees is co-founder with Joe Levin of The Southern Poverty Law Center, the chief tracker and prosecutor of hate crimes in the United States. They started 39 years ago and somehow have survived decades of death threats from those they have brought law suits against, including members of the Ku Klux Klan, the American Nazi Party, and Aryan Nation skinheads like California's Tom Metzger.
They typically follow criminal trials in which the criminal justice system fails to bring justice to families of murdered victims by pursuing perpetrators in civil prosecutions to put the masterminds behind these crimes-against black people, gays and lesbians, Latinos, Jews and any other targeted minority-out of business. They have literally shut down the offices of the KKK in a number of states, after all-white juries have acquitted them on criminal charges, by gaining multi-million dollar verdicts against the leaders of such hate groups and then forcing them to sell off all of their assets to pay the judgments.
LANGUAGE OF THE HEART
DAVID WILCOX COMES TO THOUSAND OAKS
David Wilcox will be appearing at Thousand Oaks Library presented by Bodie House Music Inc on September 10, 2010. Click here for more information.
In the classic short story, A River Runs Through It, Norman Maclean wrote that in his family there was little difference between religion and fly fishing. This kind of comparison would resonate with singer-songwriter, David Wilcox. In fact, during the following interview, he draws a similar comparison between music and golf. In his view, there is a little difference between things done well with great love. In the world of David Wilcox, all things really do come together as one...and a song runs through it. His latest album, Open Hands, was recorded without the aid of digital technology, mostly for the honesty of it. In the following interview, Wilcox provides insight into the craft and inspiration of his songwriting. His new album, Reverie, will be released soon.
TOM SAUBER: THE OLD TIME WAY
Reprinted with permission from Banjo Newsletter
Tom Sauber, a native of Los Angeles and a more than 50 year veteran of many styles of traditional music, is a familiar figure to most West Coast old-time and bluegrass musicians and to others around the country lucky enough to run into him at music workshops, camps and festivals. He is a multi-talented guitar, banjo, fiddle and mandolin player, singer and teacher. Fans of traditional music know him best from recordings with old-time music icons like Earl Collins and Eddie Lowe and, more recently, with Dirk Powell, Mark Graham and John Herrmann. He has performed with an impressive array of bluegrass players including Byron Berline, John Hickman, and Alan Munde. And, to add to his notable resume, he has performed with cowboy and Cajun musicians, appeared in movies and on television and hosted a Los Angeles radio program for many years. Because he continues to be extremely busy performing, recording and teaching, it wasn't easy to pin him down for an interview. We finally talked with him as he was recovering from back surgery.
HARMONIKIDS TO HAITI
I am a professional Blues musician and the founding director of Harmonikids, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides music therapy to special needs children through shiny new harmonicas and gentle, entertaining music lessons - often in the most devastating time of their life. For 25 years Harmonikids has effectively aided thousands of children worldwide including those traumatized by natural disasters such as the tsunami in Indonesia and Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana.
WITH A CASE OF THE BLUES
Peter Case , fully recovered from open heart surgery, begins a U.S. tour with a solo performance at Claremont's Folk Music Center this Saturday, June 26, followed by an already sold-out show(a second show has been added) at McCabe's on July 9th. His new record, Wig, on Yep Roc Records will hit the streets on June 29th.
In his first interview since his surgery in 2009 Peter Case talked with a sense of urgency and irony. He talked like a man aware of the precious nature of his own life. He learned his lessons well as a street singer in San Francisco during the 1970s: When in doubt, when the pressure comes on, get back to basics. Lean on the streets. Who says you can't go home? If his hometown is a fresh and raw blues-rock Peter Case has done so with a vengeance with this new record. Recorded in three days live in the studio with guitarist and songwriter Ron Franklin and X drummer, DJ Bonebrake, there were no computers in sight and only minimal overdubs. At times it harkens back to the spirit of Dylan's classic Highway 61 Revisited. In the following interview, Peter talks about the making of the record, his life after surgery and his desire, as he said, ‘to just keep rockin.' And after all, that's what he's always done best.
SINGER SONGWRITER'S DEBUT ALBUM
BRINGS DOWN THE MOON
In his 19 years on the planet, Midwestern, singer-songwriter, Chase Coy has accomplished much. While it has become difficult in the music industry for original songwriters to break in, the Internet and home studios have allowed artists like Chase to emerge with a spontaneous creativity. Without hooks or clever arrangements and overly adorned production, Chase has released a debut album, Picturesque, of personal, intimate yet universal love songs. t an early age.
A CHANTEUSE ON THE LOOSE
JESSICA FICHOT AND THE PATH SHE FOLLOWS
Los Angeles-based singer and songwriter, Jessica Fichot sings passionately about passion. Love in bloom, love in all its achingly twisted turns, love in dreams, love devoted and love plain and simple. If one understands French, one would nod and sway knowingly to the songs: a musette here, a waltz there, and in the cabaret-like atmosphere that her recording, Le Chemin (The Path), creates, you would close your eyes and be there, be in love, and not want to leave. Then again, even without being bilingual, the songs breathe a plea, a promise, a passion, that transcends the lyrics, and the intoxication is a result of the music and the musicians bonding to forge an unmistakable effect. There is no possibility that she's singing about a dropped croissant or missing a taxi along the Champs-Élysées. One non-original song choice is from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, the Michel Legrand/Norman Gimbel classic song of undying devotion, I Will Wait for You, which is sung with convincing clarity, not unlike the bright colors that framed the film, but also with a warmer timbre and without the tearful pathos of the film version.
Somewhere Over the Rainbow Lagoon
Saturday June 26 - 11:30am - 9:00pm
Sunday June 27, 2010 - 11:30am-8:00pm
Rainbow Lagoon Park, Long Beach
Okay, it's that time again. No, not the warmth of another season of Southern California summer weather, but the warmth of Southern California summer weather and the joy of outdoor festivals!
IT'S ABOUT THE SONG
'PEACEFUL, EASY FEELING'
How many songs from the last 50 years can be recognized with a few remembered lyrics? Surprisingly, I've found, not many. Then, there's Peaceful, Easy Feeling. The mention of the title inevitably brings a look of pleasant recognition to the faces of many people.
Memo to China: Not to Worry-
We've Been Trying to Get Bob to Talk for Years
In the wake of Bob Dylan being banned in China and having to cancel the East Asian leg of his Never-Ending Tour, many commentators have pointed out that Bob is no longer quite the threatening protest singer of days gone by, having become so respectable at 68 that he even released his first Christmas album last year. The concern that Dylan would seize on his opportunity to break into the Chinese market to embarrass the regime as currently controversial Swedish singer Bjork did a few years ago by shouting "Tibet! Tibet!" from the stage is thus undoubtedly misplaced.
But my take on the situation is a bit different. When is the last time you have heard Bob say anything from the stage between songs? I thought so. Nada. Never. Ain't gonna happen. Whatever he has to say he put into his songs; he barely even introduces the band.
So while Bob may organize his set lists occasionally to respond to local conditions (such as mentioning New Orleans in a song when he is playing the New Orleans Jazz Festival (it happened!), he is not someone who has mastered the art of between songs patter.
It would destroy the mystery, which as we all know is Bob's stock-in-trade.
ACTOR, MUSICIAN, SONGWRITER
- AN ARTIST IN HIS PRIME
Bill Mumy is all about the music. He is a prolific musician, singer-songwriter, and a knowledgeable folk music enthusiast who hosts a themed radio hour twice weekly, Wednesdays and Fridays at 7 pm on www.ksav.org. Many of us will associate him with his days as a child actor, particularly that space-trapped kid who had the pet robot that uttered the famous phrase, Danger Will Robinson. And he has the right to be quite proud of a film and television career which included the series Lost In Space, two classic episodes of the Twilight Zone, co-starring with James Stewart in Dear Bridget and the underrated film from the 1970s, Bless The Beasts and the Children.
Reckons as the Zeitgeist Beckons
Vagabond Opera plays the Edison on Tuesday, February 23, 8pm. Dress appropriately!
As the traveling ensemble, Vagabond Opera, makes its way up and down the west coast, they will soon park here and bring an entertainment to our fine, but fickle and financially-strapped city; an evening which promises to be filled with tongue-in-cheekiness, cheery chicanery, and perhaps a skosh of the scoundrel. Performing selections from the their last recording, The Zeitgeist Beckons, as well as offerings from two previous CDs, the staunchly acoustic Vagabond Opera brings thrills and chills in their "opera in four acts, maybe even five." A tantalizing tango, a tarantella tarriance, a wandering waltz, and who knows, maybe even a triple-measured mazurka will be performed with full operatic interpretation and expert instrumental-attended accompaniment.
Damsel With a Dulcimer
Her Kentucky mountain ballad voice stilled by a major stroke last December 4, Jean Ritchie is no longer able to communicate. But her inestimable recorded legacy of traditional and original songs will continue to sing and speak for her for as long as time will allow.
When the soundtrack album for the film O Brother, Where Art Thou? became a hit the movie's music producer T. Bone Burnett seized the moment to record a follow-up studio album with the same musicians. It was entitled, Down From the Mountain and became a hit as well. But despite Ralph Stanley's welcome presence I kept looking at its roster of contemporary musical talent, and despite their earnest efforts to sound traditional, I kept asking myself the same question: Where is Jean Ritchie?
Sam Hinton: The Road Not Taken
Sixty years ago San Diego folk singer and marine biologist Sam Hinton had something quite astonishing for a traveling medicine show performer (Major Bowes Vaudeville Show)-a certified hit song. It was written by LA newspaperman (and co-founder of the Newspaper Guild in Southern California) Vern Partlow, in the wake of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Talking Ol' Man Atom, or The Talking Atomic Blues. It was that song in which Partlow came up with a closing couplet worthy of Alexander Pope:
Listen, folks; here is my thesis:
Peace in the world, or the world in pieces.
Lake Charles, Louisiana:
Land of festivals
Getting out of town for a real
Mardi Gras celebration!
We used to drive
Thru Lafayette and Baton Rouge
In a yellow Camino
Listening to Howling Wolf
He liked to stop in Lake Charles
Cause that's the place that he loved
Did you run about as far as you could go
Down the Louisiana highway
Across Lake Ponchartrain
Now your soul is in Lake Charles
No matter what they say...
Iris Dement Still Sings
In Her Mama's Opry
With a woman it's all one flow, like a stream, little eddies, little waterfalls, but the river it goes right on. A woman looks at it like that. -Ma Joad in John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath
Who can say just how songs and the love of music are passed along from generation to generation? This may be a rhetorical question, but the answer just may be found in the persevering flow of the spirit of the mothers, daughters, sisters, friends, and lovers in all of our lives for generations. In the earliest time of Americana culture stories and songs were as much a part of the family as Sunday dinner and church gatherings. When the modern era came along, we lost such traditions to radio, the long playing record, and celebrity culture. Often, in the past, it was the role of mother to keep this tradition alive and in so doing, she kept her own spirit alive as well. Tin Pan Alley and the Hit Parade ended this important part of an American and, in many ways, an ancient tradition.
My Brother, Mike Seeger:
Peggy Seeger Talks to FolkWorks
The first time ever I saw her face I shoved a tape cassette into it-and she jumped up and hugged me. But more about that later.
When I proposed an email "interview" with Peggy Seeger to talk about her late brother Mike, I got an earful. "I absolutely don't do email interviews," she retorted; "I don't read anything online-not newspapers, not magazines, and not books. If I want to read I go to a nice café and find a quiet corner and bring something between two covers. I'm sorry, but that is still reading to me."
So needless to say, she had not read my tribute to Mike Seeger on FolkWorks web site, nor Peter Feldman's excellent obituary either."
So... What's with the Bells?
Have you ever found yourself at a local festival and heard some lively folk tune accompanied by...what was that... jingle bells? Curious, you may have felt compelled to follow the sound so you could investigate for yourself.
Eventually you would have found some musician(s) playing solo or in concert with others on fiddle, melodeon, piano accordion, maybe even a recorder or whistle, but bells? Nope. Hmmm...you'd then have to notice that these musicians weren't playing for their or your own fancy, but were actually accompanying a small but energetic group of dancers; all wearing matching costumes, and weaving around each other in patterns while waving handkerchiefs or sticks which would be clashed together on varying beats of music. Cool. Then, as you looked at their legs you'd find the source of the jingling. Each dancer would be wearing leather squares tied around the front of their calves, adorned with rows of jingle bells and as they danced, they would be shaking said belled calves to the beat of the music. Really cool! "But," you may ask, "what's it all about?"
CHIP TAYLOR: AMERICANA AT ITS FINEST
I am coining a new phrase: The 50-year-old Line of Musical Experience. People 50 and over usually have a pretty good knowledge of popular music from the 60s on. You go too far below the age 50 and this period becomes musical history. Common songs of the 60s era are unfamiliar Blowin' in the Whaaa? Prior to doing this interview, I asked people if they had ever heard of Wild Thing. The results were about 99.9% on both sides of the age-50 divide. The song crosses generations and even cultures. But few know the man who wrote the song, Chip Taylor. Even fewer know that he is a folk and country singer-songwriter who was once on staff of April Blackwood Music in New York City, just a few blocks down from the legendary Brill Building where such luminaries as Carole King and Neil Sedaka got their start. The circle of knowledge grows smaller after this. Did you know that he was responsible for such pop classics as Angel of the Morning, and Janis Joplin's Try Just A Little Bit Longer? You are among the privileged few.
FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME
AN INTERVIEW WITH BOB STANE
There are many unsung heroes in the music business. Some may go unnoticed by the general public for 50 years or more. These days, it's hard not to notice Bob Stane. If you talk with any of the folk, blues and country veterans of the L.A. area music scene of the 50s, 60s and 70s, they mention Bob and The Ice House. You may read Steve Martin's recent biography, Still Standing and see him mention Bob and The Ice House as though everyone should know this name. The truth is for the last 50 years, Bob Stane has helped introduce, nurture, support and grow such folk and country greats as The Dillards, The Association, John Stewart, Chris Hillman, Herb Pedersen and David Lindley. Today, if you travel north far enough up Lake Avenue in Altadena, you'll find him casually introducing a new generation of folk, blues, country, world and classical musicians. If you hang around long enough, you may find yourself bump into some of the classic folks from the days of times past, as I did last year when sat with Peter Tork at a Barry McGuire show or with Van Dyke Parks or Spanky McFarland at other shows. Bob now seems as though he's the wise and kindly grandfather you never had, willing to join generations together in our common celebration of the music we love...and as he puts it in this interview held at The Coffee Gallery Backstage last month, all for the love of the game.
The Troubadour Jester of Reggae, Oud and Polyester
During this interview with David Lindley he described the great violin player, Sugar Cane Harris as a 'force of nature.' This could easily be said of Lindley as well. With a recording session list as long and legendary as anyone could possibly imagine, he remains a person with no sense of his own celebrity. While he is known for his love of polyester on stage, playing a modern day cosmic court jester, his music is diverse. He plays with love for the tradition of each instrument, such as the oud, a love for the song, and especially his audience. His latest releases, Big Twang and The Cooder/Lindley Family Live at the Vienna Opera House, will be available at the L.A. Acoustic Music Festival on June 6 and 7 in Santa Monica. They are also available on line at www.davidlindley.com.
A Troubadour for All Ages
A Renaissance troubadour with blues and roots rock influences...and a Celtic musical vision with a leaning toward William Blake thrown in. This unique mix would define one artist: Richard Thompson. His successful career dates back to his earliest days with the innovative, original post-British invasion folk, jazz and rock influenced, Fairport Convention. After leaving the band he went on to produce Shoot Out The Lights, one of the strongest albums of the singer-songwriter movement of the early 70s. For the last few decades he has forged a solo career that has been as prolific as it has been rich in the musical textures of Celtic, Blues, Rock and Roll, Jazz, and British &American folk influences. He has been named by Rolling Stone as one of the top 200 guitarist of all time. For good reason. Listening to him play live defies logic: it is hard to tell if this is one man or an entire band. He draws on influences like Django Reinhardt and Les Paul on his instrument, while his songwriting and vocal approach seem to come from no blueprint but his own.
The Bite is Back
No more ‘alligator' tears,
and the rise of Southwest Louisiana
At a celebration in Los Angeles a few months ago, the day before the Grammys, an invited audience bore witness to both a celebration and proclamation about the state of a state. A state called Louisiana. After a score of years where the words hurricanes, devastation, and disaster area were synonymous with the bayou state, a group of musicians, business people, and travel representatives, showcasing all things Louisiana, were in town to assure the rest of us that they are back.
In the music world, we are all in debt to this region that has been the birthplace or the nurturing nest for many genres of music that are considered true slices of Americana. If America, as a whole, is one of the great melting pots of diverse peoples, then Louisiana is the cauldron whereby the disparate natives discovered or mixed the ingredients for jazz, blues, soul, Cajun, zydeco, a little country and all things in between
Brings His Slice O Life To L.A. Acoustic Music Festival
Bruce Cockburn may be one of Canada's best kept secrets. In 1966, while his career was in its infancy, other Canadian musicians were making the trek across the border to find fame and fortune in United States. Names like Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, Ian Tyson and Leonard Cohen have come to rest in the American psyche as though they belong to us. Even the quintessential Americana band, Dylan's backing musicians, The Band, consisted of four Canadians and one American.
Takes the Gravel Road Less Traveled
Ian Tyson is the real deal. What others have imagined, Ian has lived. From a rodeo-riding youth to a broken-hearted gentleman and a prairie poet. He is a cowboy historian, a northern-sky storyteller and although he was born and raised in Canada, he's as American as a buffalo. He's a romantic and a realist, a rancher and a true singing cowboy, riding out on what he calls a fenceless plain; he's the one Gene Autry only wished he could have been. Tyson's songs are strewn with story, lore, and legends. In some ways he personifies the quietly disappearing prairie wind-song. Still, he takes daily walks along his own personal gravel road to his cabin at the end of a box canyon. There he continues to write his songs about lovers, wolf packs, wild horses, rodeo children, adventures on a Navajo rug, and the joys of Canadian whiskey.
As we talked in a recent phone interview, a significant word kept coming into our conversation: space. In 1909, his Welsh immigrant father first stepped on to Canadian soil and experienced the reality of that western prairie wide-open space. It's easy to forget that there was a time when the untamed frontier was considered another planet to the uninitiated city-dweller. Tyson's father was this kind of person. But he stayed and the blood and yearning for the wilderness was passed on to him. He described it as the unfenced West, the place where wild horses roam free - the now disappearing wild land where man and beast dwelled in harmony. These are the topics of Tyson's finest songs.
FISHTANK ENSEMBLE ON THE LINE
Onstage, the six figures casually go to their marks and arm themselves with their respective instruments. The lights dim briefly and soon the allusion to armament becomes clear. Fishtank Ensemble fires away and attacks their music with fervor and demonstrative spirit. Although violinist Fabrice Martinez remains, for the most part, cool and calm, and wife, Ursula Knudson, can be sultry or smooth, when they line up with flamenco-style guitarist Doug "El Douje" Smolens and double bass-slapping Serb Djordje Stijepovic, together they bring the heat, intense and fiery Romani, Balkan, gypsy-jazz and cross-bred original tunes. Two new additions to the band appear in the form of the brothers Joshan and Justin Petrovic, also known as the Petrovic Blasting Company.
THE WORLD OF WORLD CITY:
NEXT STOP - QUEBEC
The Quebec-based band Le Vent du Nord will perform at Disney Hall on Saturday, April 18 as part of the Music Center's global arts and culture series, World City.
As I cruised down Grand Avenue one Saturday morning last month, it wasn't hard to find the ticket give-away spot outside Disney Hall. Two clowns on stilts were waving towards a windblown young man below who was handing out tickets to a fast-growing line of adults with children. My long love of marionettes and puppetry had drawn me downtown to see the Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theater, one of 12 performances presented as part of the Music Center's season of monthly dance, music, song, and storytelling known as World City.
2009 GRAMMY FOLK RELATED WINNERS
READ MORE FOR ALL NOMINEES
Best Traditional Folk Album
(Vocal or Instrumental.)
- At 89
Best Contemporary Folk/Americana Album
(Vocal or Instrumental.)
- Raising Sand
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
Best Native American Music Album
(Vocal or Instrumental.)
- Come To Me Great Mystery - Native
American Healing Songs
Tom Wasinger, producer
[Silver Wave Records]
Best Hawaiian Music Album
(Vocal or Instrumental.)
Tia Carrere & Daniel Ho
[Daniel Ho Creations]
Best Zydeco Or Cajun Music Album
(Vocal or Instrumental.)
- Live At The 2008 New Orleans Jazz &
BeauSoleil & Michael Doucet
ANYBODY FOR ZARZUELA?
If you haven't experienced a zarzuela yet, treat yourself. No, zarzuela is not some tempting culinary concoction from south of the border. It is a delectable musical concoction with folk and operatic roots in Spain. And a sumptuous production of one of the most popular works of the genre, Luisa Fernanda, is gracing the stage of the Ricardo Montalban Theatre in Hollywood February 19-21.
Now for Zarzuela 101: The zarzuela (pronounced zar zway'la) is a form of musical theater involving opera singers (This is FolkWorks-relevant, I promise!), but which features virtually equal parts spoken dialogue and singing. In this respect, it is closer to the operetta or the Broadway musical than to opera. It said to have originated in the 1640s when actors performed for King Philip IV in Madrid's El Prado Park.
According to legend, the art form was named for the blackberry bushes (zarzas) that grew amply in the park. Although the Italian and French opera styles influenced them to some degree, the musical comedies and melodramas in the zarzuela repertoire retained their distinct Spanish personality. By the early 20th century, zarzuela productions had become a populist form of entertainment, distinct from the opera performances attended by the upper classes and nobility. They reached their height of popularity in the 1920s and 30s at a time when the political content embedded in the libretti made them a rallying point for the masses.
FolkWorks Top Ten 2008
There were great performances and recordings in 2008. Below are our lists of the top ten best from some of our writers, friends and publishers.
Top Ten 2008
(In No Particular Order)
Top Ten 2008
(In No Particular Order)
Top Ten 2008
Acoustic NAMM 2009
Exclusive to Folkworks
On January 15 - 18, 2009, the annual winter NAMM Show was presented to the music industry for 2009 at the Anaheim Convention Center. NAMM stands for "The National Association of Music Merchants" and each year it hosts by far the largest trade shows in the music industry.
There are two NAMM trade shows each year, a winter show in Anaheim, California, and a summer show in Nashville, Tennessee. The upcoming dates for 2009-10, are July 17-19, 2009, in Nashville, and January 14-17, 2010,
Terri Hendrix's Music
Finds Its Own Acre of Land
In folk music, blues, bluegrass, and Zen, there has been a long standing tradition of the teacher-student relationship. Imagine, if you will, ancient Zen students and masters playing mandolins and fiddles rather than discussing Koans and ringing bells. Or how about mystic hermits, living in caves for decades, studying the Travis pick and writing songs for high-lonesome singers. In those diamond-rare moments of folk music history picture Bob Dylan sitting in a living room with Woody Guthrie who is advising Bob on his songwriting. You could start about anywhere in music and spiritual history to find these puzzling but lasting relationships. Musicians, craftsmen, philosophers, and artists maintained these relationships, sometimes called mentoring, for centuries. The last century has shown a long lineage of these relationships: Son House to Robert Johnson, the mysterious Tee Tot who taught Hank Williams his blues, Woody Guthrie to Bob Dylan.
Slack Key Festival Hitting its Stride
You can tell from the bounce in his step that festival producer Mitch Chang enjoys what he's doing. Making final arrangements for the upcoming 2nd Annual Slack Key Guitar Festival at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, he is relishing the countdown to Sunday, January 18, 2009.
"I am expecting a full house," says 37 year-old Mitch, who filled about 1,100 of the RBPAC's 1,453 seats for last year's Festival. "Why? As I go around dropping off flyers, everyone keeps saying they'd heard about the last one from friends, co-workers, family, and wish they could've made it, and won't make that mistake again. Also, highest priced seats closest to the stage, which includes a pass to the reception the night before, are all sold out."
Kelly Joe Phelps:
The Phantom Monk of Folk-Blues
In 1995, I had the pleasure of spending an evening with Townes Van Zandt at McCabe's Guitar Store in Santa Monica. There was a certain magic that night, watching this old troubadour still hanging on to his life, singing off key, sometimes rambling, but always conjuring up the image of an old blues singer sitting on his front porch, sipping whiskey and telling stories in song. That same night a young, clean-cut musician from Portland, Oregon, ambled out and proceeded to do what so many young blues musicians do: he played his heart out.
SINGING THE SHEET MUSIC BLUES
Interview: Stephanie Rinaldo and Rick Starr
One of my favorite, regular stops on my way home from my job as music teacher for The Blind Children's Center, is a modest store in a strip mall on Sunset Boulevard. I greet the proprietors, Stephanie Rinaldo and Rick Starr, who have been behind the counters there forever, and then I buy piano instruction books, harmony and theory books, music paper, and always song sheets and songbooks not on my list but which I must have! I usually chat with Rick and Stephanie and do a lot of laughing, but today I am here for a very serious purpose. I try to ignore the frighteningly wild shirt that Rick is wearing as I prepare to talk with these two very dear people about the possible demise of their store. Hollywood Sheet Music, is a store which is precious not only to me, but to every musician, piano teacher and student, singer, performer, arranger, and composer in Los Angeles. Seated on a high stool with two familiar and now very serious faces close to my microphone, I start my recording.
UR: This is Uncle Ruthie Buell, and I am here at Hollywood Sheet Music and it suddenly occurs to me that I don't know everything I should know about this place. First of all, Stephanie, are you the original owner?
SR: I consider myself the third (I'm really the fourth) and I'm sure Dick and Don, the previous owners, would say that too. Because the second owner, was actually,-- I only know his first name-Van--- bought the store from the original owner which was Tony Stecheson.
An Authentic American Treasure
Imagine if, over the last century, all of the great American literature went undiscovered, floundering in obscurity. Imagine how America would be today without the insights of Steinbeck, O'Conner, Faulkner, or Hemingway to portray and describe its character and its realities? It may well be argued that this is exactly what has happened with the American singer-songwriter. With perhaps one exception (and his initials are BD) some of the greatest creative minds have gone unrecognized by all but the most faithful fans. Hopefully, in the future, some generation will discover the canon of John Stewart, Townes Van Zandt, Janis Ian, Guy Clark, John Prine, Iris Dement, and, most certainly, Tom Russell.
at the Un-urban Coffeehouse
Lost and Found
Mark Fosson's music got waylaid back in the 1970s by an unfortunate incident that slowed down a young man's climb up the industry fretboard. He lost his record and his contract when legendary guitarist, John Fahey, proprietor of Takoma records, who Fosson had signed with, was forced to sell the company to Chrysalis. But not with Fosson or his record. That event took him on a long roundabout way of getting back to those roots, but if his recent show on the Westside is any indication, the talent that Fahey noticed way back then, has never left him.
with guest vocalist, Eva Primack
Live at Boulevard Music
As the boundaries between some countries become more strictly enforced, the borderlines continue to blur between international music. What was once considered almost the outlaw music of the gypsies is now stealing its way overseas into the American music mix by way of the internet, amalgams of expatriates, and local musicians who have traveled the caravan routes. Maybe just being a musician today is to be a gypsy of sorts, and the cyber world allows for wandering freely across musical perimeters. Exposure to what was once obscure, esoteric, lost, or dying music is now available for the masses.
Folk Music and Human Rights
Blues giant Josh White had just finished his show at New York nightclub Café Society and was cooling off in the backstage dressing room when jazz legend Billie Holiday walked in and pulled a knife on him. What could he have done to provoke this response from his fellow artist? "Stop singing my song," said Holiday, and White suddenly realized she was not pleased that he had performed Strange Fruit, the anti-lynching song written for her by Abel Meeropol with which she often ended her concerts.
White had to do some quick thinking, since this was one of those times when it might be too late to tell oneself, "I wish I had said that." "Billie, why don't we both sing Strange Fruit until no one ever has to sing it again?" Josh White's appeal to the reason she sang the song prompted her to put the knife away.
Falsetto Festival Hits High Note
"Now that was a real folk festival!" I said to my husband Michael as we strolled out of the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center just past six o'clock on Sunday, July 13, 2008. We had just spent four hours listening to Hawaiian falsetto singers, some imported from the islands, some local. The Aloha Falsetto Festival proved that this special art of singing by both men and women is both alive and, judging from the enthusiastic, near-capacity crowd, much appreciated.
The program progressed from the locals and lesser-knowns to the headliners, ending with the supremely gifted Raietea Helm. At 23, the a two- time Grammy nominee and Na Hoku Hano Hano (Hawaiian Grammy) award-winner produced strong, crystal-clear high notes and goose bump-producing musical nuances
MIKE SEEGER - old-time musician
AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW
It was mid-afternoon in the modest green room of UCLA's Schoenberg Hall, where ethnomusicology students and aficionados of Southern traditional music had gathered to chat with musician-field researcher Mike Seeger. A soft-spoken man, who often pauses thoughtfully to find the precise word to express his meaning, he had just concluded a lecture on the history of the Southern guitar. This was part of a two-week stint in the Department of Ethnomusicology where students and faculty benefited from his breadth of knowledge of rural songs and of performance styles on instruments ranging from the banjo, fiddle, and mandolin to the less familiar lap dulcimer and quills (Southern pan pipes). Today's lecture also tied in with Seeger's most recent Smithsonian Folkways recording, Southern Guitar Sounds, which he is following with a two-DVD instructional program due for distribution next fall.
SUZY WILLIAMS AND HER SOLID SENDERS
performing at the Temple Bar throughout 2008
About a mile and a half from the boardwalk and just past the promenade of Third Street in Santa Monica, on a stage encompassed by shadow and red, a raven-tressed figure gyrates back and forth to the big beat of a sizzling band. The LA Weekly calls her, "L.A.'s Diva Deluxe," but perhaps a better monicker would be Suzy "the Doozy" Williams. Williams coaxes and cajoles her Solid Senders 8-piece rhythm section to reach for that something extra on the upbeat tunes and eyelashes them to caress those minor keys on the ballads. On any given night, the Solid Senders include: Kahlil Sabbagh (bandleader and vibes), Brad Kay (piano), Dave Jones (bass), Nick Scarmack (drums), Danny Moynahan (sax), Dan Heffernan (sax), Dave Weinstein (trombone and arrangements) and Corey Gemme (trumpet).
THIS BYRD HAS FLOWN:
JOHN YORK TRANSCENDS HIS MUSICAL PAST WITH INNOVATIVE ROOTS AND INTERNATIONAL MUSIC
John York is the last pure voice of the Silver Sixties to make it through… intact to the first decade of the 21st Century - Kim Fowley
John York is not a typical veteran of the 60s LA music scene. Number one, he's still alive. This may put him in a very small percentage of the veterans from those days. Number two, he's not holding on to the musical style and songs of the past. Rather,
SLACK KEY FESTIVAL IN SO CAL
Photo Jim Viets
On January 20, nine acclaimed slack key guitarists will grace the stage of the Redondo Performing Arts Center in the first Southern California Slack Key Guitar Festival. They include Cyril Pahinui, Dennis Kamakahi, George Kahumoku, Ozzie Kotani, Makana, Jeff Peterson, Owana Salazar, Steve Espaniola, and Jim “Kimo” West.
Slack key is the least known of the guitar traditions despite the rich history, refined aesthetic, and continued vitality that should give it equal status with flamenco, bluegrass, jazz and blues guitar. But recently slack key has been attracting attention on the mainland, in part because of its presence at the Grammy Awards. This year a compilation of live performances by slack key guitar luminaries, Treasures of Slack Key Guitar (Daniel Ho Creations), is competing for a Grammy in the Hawaiian Music Category. The 2006 and 2007 music awards went to similar compilations.
On first listen to Richie Furay's latest CD, Heartbeat of
Love, one may have a hard time hearing his folk influences.
The influence of folk music on Richie's music should come as
no surprise for those who know his story. He began playing Kingston Trio influenced
music in the early 60's in his hometown of
BOHEMIANS WHO RHAPSODIZE-
A NIGHT AT THE VAGABOND OPERA
If you like your Opera-Balkan-Arabic-Klezmer music with a touch of nostalgia, a jab of the bawdy, an uppercut of mystery, and a roundhouse punch of impassioned showmanship, and the thought of jumping in a hand-cranked time machine with a sextet of footloose ramblers appeals to you, then leap on board or more accurately, crowd into this medicine show. Like running away with the carnival, Vagabond Opera let's you peek under the tent flap, sip from their musical elixir, and then allows you to bump to their grind at the cabaret, leaving you a bit wide-eyed and short of breath. This is no sideshow which hints at the bigger things happening under the big top, but a finely tuned showboat that invites you to paddle away from that hum-drum life at the office, follow the siren call and dive into their world, if only for one night. They can be unabashedly absurd, droll and melodramatic, but always keep the art, heart and soul of the music cohesive and tight.
Blowin’ in the Wind:
A Breath of Fresh Air at the Jammin’ Tree Didgeridoo Festival
The small, but mighty Jammin' Tree Didgeridoo Festival ( www.jtdidgefest.com ) located in a wisp of a town called North Fork, and under the shadow of Yosemite, is the kind of unique entertainment that runs below the radar of the giant music festivals in California. An acquired taste to be sure, the festival promotes the culture, music and art of the Aboriginal people. The intimate setting requires a mellow demeanor, but a curiosity for the unusual in terms of sound and art. The mood is low key, but friendly and the family atmosphere adds to the openness of the environment. The grounds of the festival are actually a local baseball field, but this grassy venue is surrounded by the wildness of its Sierra surroundings. A river and swimming hole a few steps from the vendor booths are much more inviting as the warm temperatures push the visitor to submerge in some relief. If you are lucky enough to reserve a camping spot adjacent to the water, you have the best of both worlds at opposite ends of your tent.
YIDDISH TANGO, ARGENTINEAN KLEZMER Y MAS...
A Yiddish tango! Sounds crazy, no? But in our global village of Los Angeles, that's what's in store for the audience at Redcat on the evening of October 20th.
Of course, if you're already steeped in Yiddish culture and history, then you know that the waves of immigration bringing East European Jews to North America at the turn of the 20th century and then again after the Second World War, also brought Yiddish speakers to Latin American countries. Thus, in the 1930s, while Irving Berlin and George Gershwin were making music for Tin Pan Alley, Anibal Troilo and Carlos Gardel were busy writing Yiddish lyrics for tangos performed in the clubs of Buenos Aires.
The Living Tradition Concert Series
In the land of folk music concert series, a year or two is a highly regarded history. However, the Living Tradition concert series held in the Anaheim Downtown Community Center has reached the 100 show mark. These concerts, held on the third Saturday of each month, have featured the best in all things folk, and helped to foster the Southern California folk scene in a myriad of ways.
New World Flamenco Festival
La Flor de la Vida, August 10-19
There are few folk dances that blend passion and precision, energy and elegance, as well as flamenco.
Its origins are only dimly known, and there is debate over the very word. The dance appeared first in the Andalusian region of Spain in the sixteenth century during what is known as the Reconquest and quickly spread. The unique mélange of native Andalusian, Islamic, Sephardic, and Gypsy cultures, gives the dance its themes of loss, persecution, pride, as well as its characteristic rite of sexual tension.
The word flamenco might mean gypsy or perhaps a reference to the Flemish, the legendary home of the gypsies. In either case, the origins are distinctly folk oriented, the dance developing from the poorer strata of society. Over the past 500 years it has been alternately derided as an uncouth regional dance and hailed as the pinnacle of Iberian soul.
Now we have a unique opportunity to appreciate the very best in flamenco dance with the New World Flamenco Festival August 10-19 at the Irvine Barclay Theatre. The festival is titled La Flor de la Vida, The Prime of Life, and premieres three companies of young flamenco dancers who are among the very best currently performing in Spain.
A Feast of Hawaiian Festivals
The pitch was mid-range, the tone full, yet somehow fragile. It reminded me of a Native American flute, yet the sound had a unique, delicate quality I couldn't define. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that the breath was coming from the player's nose.
Mike Kalikolani Wong, maker of Hawaiian nose flutes, was one of several workshop leaders demonstrating traditional Hawaiian arts at the annual E Hula Mau Competition held Labor Day weekend. Visiting the canopied "Hawaiian Village" on the mall of the Long Beach Convention Center, I came upon Kalikolani chiseling holes into a small, dried, hollowed-out gourd. Moments later, he picked it up in the palm of his right hand and pressed it to his right nostril while blocking the other nostril with his left index finger. Then he made this marvelous music. He spent over a half an hour showing me the rudiments of nose flute technique and made an instrument for me to take home.
Cultural workshops and demonstrations add an important dimension to E Hula Mau, There is an exciting difference between attending an event purely as a spectator, wandering among performance stages and craft booths and having opportunities for meaningful encounters with cultural practitioners such as Mike Kalikolani Wong. This gives an event the quality of a folk life festival, even if it doesn't bear that name.
Southern California has a lot of bluegrass fans, but not nearly enough great bluegrass festivals. The San Diego Bluegrass Society decided to do something to rectify that, and Summergrass will be celebrating their fifth year in 2007. The festival runs from Friday August 24 to Sunday August 26. This year's festival has a theme of "Saluting the Military" and the headlining stars include the US Navy's bluegrass band, Country Current. Also billed this year are Bluegrass Etc., Fragment, John Reischman & the Jaybirds, Lost Coast, the Brombies, Uglum & Sons, the BladeRunners, Lighthouse, Virtual Strangers and Soledad Mountain Band. As part of this year's theme honoring the folks in the military, there will be discount tickets to those in the armed forces.
INTI-ILLIMANI CELEBRATES 40TH ANNIVERSARY AT FORD
On the evening of July 13, the sweet melancholic yet life-affirming sounds of Andean panpipes and bamboo flutes will soar high above the Hollywood hills. Within two hours, these hallmarks of Latin American indigenous music will blend with over 20 other wind, string, and percussion instruments drawn from European, Native American, African, and Mestizo cultures. The occasion: the 40th anniversary concert of Inti-Illimani. The Ford Amphitheatre, an open-air, 1245-seat venue -- intimate compared to the neighboring Hollywood Bowl -- seems ideally suited to showcase the music of the acclaimed eight-member Chilean ensemble.
FORD STAGE TO SIZZLE, COLUMBIAN STYLE
Do you have plans yet for Sunday afternoon? How about an outdoor fiesta of Columbian music and dance? Slather on some sunscreen, bring your broad-brimmed straw hat, perhaps a fan to cool you down, and be ready to surrender to the hot rhythms of some of Columbia's most talented musicians. On August 5 at 3 p.m., the Ford Amphitheatre in Hollywood will host a Columbian Festival of Traditional, Contemporary, and Popular Music.
Topanga Banjo & Fiddle Contest
Since the first Topanga Fiddle Contest in 1961, numerous bluegrass, folk and old-time musicians have graced its stages, including Jackson Browne, David Lindley, Taj Mahal, John Hartford, Byron Berline, Dan Crary, Frank Hamilton, Eric Darling, John Hickman, Stuart Duncan, Phil Salazar, Pat Cloud, Larry McNeeley, Bill Knopf, Howard Yearwood, Tom Sauber and many more. Others who got their start as contestants became musical headliners. This year on Sunday, May 20th, the Topanga Festival will again present some of the finest bluegrass, old-time and folk musicians ever assembled in Southern California.
On the Main Stage, it's all-out, unadulterated bluegrass with PETER FELDMANN AND THE VERY LONESOME BOYS, which always includes high energy instrumentals and heartfelt singing. Peter Feldmann has been the pre-eminent bluegrass artist of the Santa Barbara area for decades. Tommy Marton has a great sense of finesse, blending several bluegrass, old-time and Western contest fiddle styles. David West is known as one of the founding members of the Cache Valley Drifters, and currently divides his time between performances and record production for Los Angeles-based CMH Records. Tom Lee is one of the West Coast's premier bass players in bluegrass, jazz, and blues circles. Guitarist Mike Nadolson is a great singer as well as a hot-picker and he also runs Tricopolis Records, a new venue for Western bluegrass bands.
Walking on Bilgewater
Eefing, bilabial fricatation, and the "strum" and "twang" of the Bilgewater Brothers
The act of grinning comes naturally when you hear the very tongue-in-cheek tune, Give It to Mary with Love. And when David Barlia resurrects the lost art known as "eefing," the grin becomes a chuckle. For those not in the know, eefing is the vocal ability to nasally impersonate a coronet, oddly named by uke old timer, Cliff "Ukulele Ike" Edwards. John chirps in with a melodic whistling solo and you know there's a spectacle of rare entertainment to be had. Over the course of an evening with the Bilgewater Brothers, you get a very lively variety show without having to change channels. Mostly you get uke strummer, David and plectrum banjo and National guitar wiz, John Reynolds, having a good time for your listening and viewing pleasure. They are often supported by other local musicians and surrounded by makeshift props which give a wink and an elbow of embellishment to whatever theme they are imbedded in. No matter how ragged the production may get, the music stays up front and engaging. It's an excuse to have a good time for what is really a madcap romp through vaudeville, burlesque, a backroom speakeasy, a squat in the parlor room and always a Keystone-Kop-run down tin pan alley.
Chicks Nix Hicks' Picks
After striking out in Nashville at the CMA awards, the Dixie Chicks hit a grand slam home run in Los Angeles at the Grammy's last February 11. They swept all three major awards: Song, Record and Album of the Year, on the way to winning all five categories in which they were nominated. They added insult to the injury of the red states' defeat in all the major contested elections last November, throwing control of the House and Senate into blue state Democratic hands for the first time in a generation.
Call it the last nail in the southern coffin. The bi-coastal cultural power centers New York and LA showed that they have no objection to country music - it was the politics they abhorred. Give us a country band not tied to Bush country, and we'll embrace it wholeheartedly, which we did.
It was also a great night for folk music, as Joan Baez - who was there to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award - looked resplendent as she introduced the Chicks to an international TV audience, as well as the Staples Center crowd. Joan drew abundant applause when she reminded us that over the years she too has been told many times to shut up and sing (the title of last year's documentary on the Dixie Chicks). She ended her brief but bravura performance by quoting Woody Guthrie: This Land Is Your Land. For one beautiful evening, it felt like it.
Ross Altman's Mailbag
Occasionally a column elicits some interesting differences of opinion that our readers might enjoy-so herewith are a few of the comments on Barry Manilow from three FolkWorks readers with an afterthought by columnist Ross Altman (How Can I Keep From Talking-Jan/Feb 2007 issue).
Hi Ross-I picked up a copy of FolkWorks' Jan-Feb issue at the Coffee Gallery Backstage last week and read your article.
I have no difference of opinion with you on the subject of the King of Pap; however, I do feel inclined to point out that your selection of The Greatest Songs of the Sixties bears some glaring omissions, notably Ohio and Joni Mitchell's Woodstock by CSNY and For What It's Worth by Buffalo Springfield.
I'm sure I could comb my memory to discover dozens more...these are just the first that came to mind. The point I would make is that there's a certain liability in labeling something "the greatest" (unless one floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee), and it would be best to title a collection the likes of which we speak "Great Songs of..." and let the superlatives lie.
Support Your Local Folk Festival
In the summer of 1927, Babe Ruth was on his way to hitting 60 home runs, Charles Lindbergh had just flown solo across the Atlantic, Ralph Peer discovered the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers, and the rhododendrons were blooming in Asheville, North Carolina.
The Asheville City Council decided to have a rhododendron festival to celebrate their favorite local attraction. Only it didn't turn out to be the flowers. They asked Asheville's old-time banjo player and folk song collector Bascom Lamar Lunsford - The Minstrel of the Appalachians - to invite a few of his musician friends to liven up the festival, and suddenly a new tradition was born: The Great American Folk Festival.
If the name Bascom Lamar Lunsford doesn't ring a bell, you have probably sung his songs. He wrote Good Old Mountain DewI Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground. and
So when you make your plans for May 5, the day of the 27th annual Claremont Folk Festival, and May 20, the 47th annual Topanga Banjo and Fiddle Contest and Folk Festival, and June 22-24, the 25th annual CTMS Summer Solstice Festival of Traditional Music, Dance and Storytelling, remember that you are doing more than supporting your local folk festival, you are participating in an American ritual that is now 80 years old.
The Nautical Trail of Pint and Dale
Call them folk singers or perhaps sea song gypsies. William Pint and Felicia Dale travel the country, singing seafaring songs at gigs such as the Renaissance Faire here in Southern California and the Mystic Seaport Festival in Connecticut. Their 2003 Dodge Sprinter is outfitted with camping gear for all weather. Their constant travel companion, parrot Ranzo, whose name appears in many a sea shanty, belts out "There's a good bird!" and imitates the sounds of cell phones to amuse them. Together 21 years now, Pint, 53 and Dale, 49, cross the salt seas regularly to perform in England and throughout Europe in pubs and folk clubs and at sea music festivals. In concert, they definitely seem touched by the maritime folk music muse - Pint with his stubbly beard and robust baritone, Dale cradling a hurdy-gurdy, her delicate features framed by flowing dark hair threaded with silver strands.
San Pedro Shanty Sing
On a warm spring evening, you're strolling down West Seventh Street in San Pedro, headed towards the Whale and Ale. Friends have recommended the traditional British restaurant-pub and you are looking forward to the beef Wellington and for dessert, that uniquely delectable "sticky toffee pudding." Approaching, you can see the Victoriana furnishings and oak paneled walls through the thick, green-paned picture window. Then you hear something between a song and a chant emanating from the open second story window.
Leader: Oh, poor old Reuben Ranzo!Chorus: Ranzo, boys, Ranzo!
Roundin’ Up the Music
National Festival of the West, March 15-18
The 17th annual festival has moved around, and this year it’s at a recreated western town near Phoenix, AZ. With five stages, music (artists being booked at press time), cowboy poetry, chuck wagons, a western film fest, mountain man rendezvous, square dancing, Buffalo Soldiers, and more, it’s very affordable, at $12/day. Info at http://www.festivalofthewest.com/.
Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival, April 25-29
This local festival has become one of the nation’s best annual western events. It delivers many of the stars of western and cowboy music, performing everything from traditional 19th century cowboy folk music to Bob Wills-flavored prairie swing and wonderful new songs. You’ll hear AWA and WMA award winners for top vocalists, best artists, best original songs and best groups among today’s top western singer-songwriters and bands, along with national award-winning cowboy and cowgirl poets.
Gig for a Musical Statesman
One month after a terrorist bomb ripped open the United Nations Headquarters in Bagdhad, killing 22 U.N. workers and injuring over 100 people, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan invoked the healing power of music to help colleagues and families of the fallen recover from the horror and loss. At a memorial service held in the Great Hall of the U.N. General Assembly on September 19, 2003, Annan introduced a musician who, he explained, “… can do justice to all the complex feelings we are experiencing today. Someone who can lift us all out of our sorrow. I can think of no one better suited to do this than Gilberto Gil, an artist with a conscience, an artist with a gift. Gilberto has given the world a kind of music that seeks to empower people as much as to move them.”
A Legacy of Sagebrush and Song
There are Cowboy Junkies, a Cowboy Nation, Cowboy Celtic, even Kahuna Cowboys, and all are bands on today’s music scene. There are the enduring images of frontier primogeniture, Sons of the Pioneers and Sons of the San Joaquin. There are Riders in the Sky and Riders of the Purple Sage, all riding decades before, and still in the saddle decades beyond, the life span of the rock-era’s New Riders of the Purple Sage. And there are all those rangers, including the Lost Canyon Rangers, the Steep Canyon Rangers, and the Americana band with the Celtic name of Kaedmon, and their song, Still the Lone Ranger.
All these and countless more conjure western images, and to varying degrees, perpetuate the legacy of western music.
Back By Spring: The Return Of Wendy Waldman
From 1973’s Love Has Got Me to 1978’s Strange Company, Wendy Waldman proved her talent justified her inclusion in the legendary Warners/Reprise brain trust, which included Bonnie Raitt, Van Morrison, Maria Muldaur, Captain Beefheart, Van Dyke Parks, Randy Newman, Ry Cooder, Miriam Makeba, Arlo Guthrie, John Hartford, Jesse Colin Young, and John Sebastian. In addition to her own performances, Waldman became a widely covered songwriter, with versions by Muldaur, Linda Ronstadt, Kim Carnes, Judy Collins, Melissa Manchester, Rita Coolidge, and Bette Midler released simultaneously with Wendy’s. By decade’s end, nearly all these legendary artists were dropped or forced to find greener pastures due to management changes and the arrival of punk rock.
A Beginner's Tale
On a recent trip to San Francisco my husband and I decided to include an Argentine tango lesson as an anniversary treat. So, on the Sunday we were in San Francisco, we took an early evening bus down Polk Street from our hotel, got off south of Market and walked a couple of blocks to Heron Street.
Heron is really an alley, as we had seen on the map, but when we arrived at dusk to find ourselves in a short cul-de-sac occupied by car repair shops and decorated with some vivid graffiti, we began to get nervous. And we couldn’t immediately find number 19, Studio Garcia. Curiosity won out, as we stuck our heads in an open doorway where we could see past a cluttered vestibule into a lime green
An Interview with Jorge Mijangos
Son Jarocho Musician and Luthier
Son - Literally a sound that is agreeable to the ear, it is a Mexican regional song/dance style, usually in 6/8 rhythm.
Jarocho - "of Veracruz" Applied to the people and music of Veracruz, the term originally meant "irreverent," but the jarocho people have turned it into an assertion of pride.Born and raised in Chiapas, México, Jorge Mijangos is a self-taught multi-instrumentalist and luthier. He began performing as a soloist in local theaters and radio stations at the age of five. During his formative years, he played guitar and sang in the traditional estudiantina. He has been in numerous groups, playing such varied musical styles as salsa, rock, Andean music, canto nuevo, and son jarocho, and has recorded and performed throughout Mexico and the US.
Supergrass Festival Offers World-Class Luthiery
Did you know that 80% of the guitars sold are in the lower-end of the market price range ($1,000 or less) and sold to beginners? And, of that 80%, half of those buyers never progress past the beginning stage of proficiency. So, in guitar sales, the biggest market share is for entry-level instruments.
Players beyond the beginner stage usually desire a higher quality instrument with better tonal resonance, ease of playing, and ornamentation. This 20% creates the market for the higher-end instruments.
Digeridoos and Don'ts
A Talkabout with Didgeridude Jay Atwood
The mysterious drones and grunts emanating from the didgeridoo bring to mind the sound one would get if it were possible to goose a humpback whale. Or perhaps the snorted mantra of a yak meditating. In reality, the variety of tones can’t really be described in a metaphor. This speaks to the mystical, native Australian origins of the long, tubular instrument called the didgeridoo. There are references, in some northern Aboriginal lore, to its tone being the cumulative sound the creatures in the animal kingdom would make if all were in chorus.
Recently, Jay Atwood, solo artist, and didgeridoo player for Celtic band, The Wicked Tinkers, came up for air, and we asked him about the story behind this unique instrument and to find out why being long-winded can be a good thing.
The Stairwell Sisters
Old-Time String Band Breaks Out
The Stairwell Sisters, from the San Francisco Bay Area, have been honing their traditional sound through six years and two widely acclaimed CDs, with a third on t he way soon. Since their appearance at the International Bluegrass Music Association, they have been touring nationally on the festival circuit. The Stairwells will make their Los Angeles debut on Saturday, September 9, at the Coffee Gallery Backstage and at the Peter Strauss Ranch on Sunday, September 10.
A Hawaiian Musical Treasure: Genoa Keawe
It was a few minutes before six on a tropical December evening in 2001 when Michael and I strolled on to the Moana Terrace of the Marriott Waikiki. We managed to claim one of the few remaining tables clustered near the performance platform. As we ordered our Mai Tai’s, I noticed a white-haired lady dressed in a floor-length pink and white flowered mumu, moving gracefully among the tables, greeting people. Two flower leis bedecked her shoulders and another floral cluster adorned her hair on one side, setting off a beaming smile and bright eyes. Michael grinned. “That’s her.”
On business trips to Honolulu, my husband had discovered Auntie Genoa’s Thursday night show. I was about to be initiated to a Waikiki institution.
The Inspirations of Ernest Troost
Ernest Troost’s music is a perverse and diverse celebration of American folk music. . It’s a vibrant festival of tragedy and comedy, a wind-blown crossroads of American culture where Piedmont blues meets modern literature in the darkest of themes.
Listening to his latest album, Live at McCabe’s (recently reviewed by Susie Glaze in FolkWorks) it’s not hard to imagine the Lovin’ Spoonful’s Sebastian front-porch harp-jamming with Steinbeck on mandolin while all of it is captured on canvas by Andrew Wyeth. With a voice reminiscent of Paul Simon, his characters and stories can be as dark as the prose of Cormac McCarthy or as inspiring as a Capra film as seen through the eyes of Woody Guthrie. He’s one of those rare songwriters who can gently seduce the listener into the pleasantries of his melodies while his subject matter subtly engages and disturbs with stories that tread closely to the dark-edge of the American dream revealing the nightmares of our hidden history.
She speaks in a voice which rings with generations of American folk music. If you listen to her youthful enthusiasm, you can hear the essence of her grandfather, Woody Guthrie's Dust Bowl days and train-riding songs and tales. You may hear her father, humorist, songwriter, philosopher, Arlo Guthrie with his tales of Woodstock, restaurants belonging to Alice and freight trains called The City of New Orleans. But, mostly, you'll hear the voice of Sarah Lee Guthrie. As she talks and sings, her voice conjures up a folksinger as American as those wheat fields waving Woody once wrote about in the well-loved patriotic anthem, This Land Is Your Land.
HER LEGACY OF PEACE
Carrie Newcomer is not so much a hit maker as she is a legacy-maker. And it's quite a legacy she's been creating; a flow of songs that stream down from her life as a writer, philosopher, peace activist, conservationist and a silence-practicing Quaker. 'Pay attention' she says, and so doing, miracles emerge in an abundance of small ways. Her peace-activism is not about the absence of war, but the presence of a grace everyone can experience each day by practicing what she refers to as 'the greatest law, love.'
Her current tour in support of her new album, Before & After, follows a good will mission to India where she shared her music and participated in the daily life of the people there. As she spoke on the phone from her Indiana home she elaborated on her philosophy and the influences behind her legacy of songs that serve to point her audience toward a deeper appreciation of their everyday lives.
FOR THE WRITER OF THE EAGLE'S CLASSIC, PEACEFUL, EASY FEELING, IT'S ALL ABOUT THE SONG
How many songs from the last 50 years are there that the general, baby boomer public can recognize just by name and even sing a bar or two with the words? Surprisingly, I've found, not many. Then, there's Peaceful, Easy Feeling. The mention of the title inevitably brings a look of pleasant recognition on the faces of many people. The song, like any great American pop song, crosses cultural, social, generational and even international boundaries. While talking with Jack Tempchin for an hour during our recent phone interview, Jack told stories of experiences and memories told to him of the song. I even interjected my stories about the song. It seems he may have a great basis for a book on the impact and experiences of this song alone. "A Chicken Soup for the Peaceful, Easy Feelin' Soul," if you will.
My Brother, Mike Seeger:
Peggy Seeger Talks to FolkWorks
ALTMAN: Peggy. This is Ross Altman. Are you home?
SEEGER: Yeah, it looks like it. You called home. You've called my home and I've answered. So I guess I'm home.
ALTMAN: Okay. Well, welcome back.
SEEGER: Thank you.
A Conversation with Bess Lomax Hawes, Part 2
July 10, 2003 (Reprinted from FolkWorks print edition V4N1)
[Correction from Part 1: It was Arthur Stern, not Lee Hays, who wrote the parody Woody Guthrie, the Great Hysterical Bum. This information comes from a new biography of Guthrie by Ed Cray, entitled Ramblin' Man, which I will review in the next issue of FolkWorks. Now, back to our conversation with Bess Lomax Hawes.]
FW: When did you feel that you became a folklorist? When did you settle in as...more than just coming from a folklore family, that it was something you wanted to do?
BLH: That's a very tricky question because I did a lot of things before that ever happened.
A Conversation with Bess Lomax Hawes, Part 3
July 10, 2003 (Reprinted from FolkWorks print edition V4N2)
[For those of you who would like to know more about Bess's work as a folklorist, there is a new DVD entitled, The Films of Bess Lomax Hawes, available for $24.95 plus $6.00 shipping from www.media-generation.com . You will discover that, even in this longish interview, looking back more than half a century, we have only scratched the surface].
FW: I know you've been asked this a thousand times and you can just tell me to bugger off. What is your definition of a folksong? With the emphasis on "your." I'm not asking you to recite the academic definitions in the American Heritage Dictionary, but as you see it.
BLH: I would probably come closer to that than to some of the more folky ones. I think that folksongs have to have a history, that they have to have some past. You can have a song that's probably going to be a folksong. You can bet on it.
A Conversation with Bess Lomax Hawes, Part 4
July 10, 2003 (Reprinted from FolkWorks print edition V4N3)
Welcome to the conversation This is the fourth and final segment of our conversation with folklorist Bess Lomax Hawes. If you are just joining us, we hope you will look back to catch up on the first three parts. Utah Phillips wrote a wonderful song called All Used Up. The last verse goes:
Sometimes in my dreams I sit by a tree
My life is a book of how things used to be
And kids gather round and they listen to me
And they don't think I'm all used up
And there's songs and there's laughter and things I can do
And all that I've learned I can give back to you
I'd give my last breath just to make it come true
No I'm not all used up.
A Conversation with Bess Lomax Hawes, Part 1
July 10, 2003 (Reprinted from FolkWorks print edition V3N6)
Bess Lomax Hawes is the daughter of famed folklorist JohnLomax and the sister of Alan Lomax. During her student days at Bryn MawrCollege she met many of the folk musicians then living in New York andperformed with them at informal gatherings. Out of this grew The AlmanacSingers that included among others, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Sis Cunningham,Bess and Butch Hawes, who she was later to marry. She co-wrote The M.T.A. Song which was made famous bythe Kingston Trio. She later in her career joined the faculty of San FernandoValley State College (later California State University Northridge) where shewas an instructor of anthropology. In 1975 Hawes started and helped produce theSmithsonian's Bicentennial Folklife Festival and then joined the NEA in 1977 asan administrator.
HE'S BEEN EVERYWHERE
Al Kooper hardly needs any introduction. He's been there with the biggest names in rock including the Beatles, Stones and Bob Dylan. His mercurial organ is a signutare sound on Dylan's Like A Rolling Stone. He helped to create jazz-rock, later picked up by Chicago. He founded Blood Sweat & Tears, but he left for a more experimental sound. His studio work has been constant. But, he also is fine songwriter with a distinct soul/R&B sound. When he comes around on a solo-acoustic tour, it's a rarity. His year old White Chocolate album is his effort to re-invent blue-eyed soul.