• UPCOMING CONCERT

    FolkWorks Logo Presents

    SYNCOPATHS

    The Syncopaths bring a fresh, contemporary spin
    to music and songs rooted in the
    Scottish, Irish, and American folk traditions.

    At the heart of the band's sound are the twin engines of  Ryan McKasson's dynamic, Scottish-based fiddling and the understated-but-monster picking of mandolinist Ashley Broder.

    Jeff Spero provides wonderfully inventive and surprising piano accompaniment,anchored by the driving power of Christa Burch's non-traditional bodhrán.

    The Syncopaths are equally at home with pulsing, high-energy dance tunes and beautiful, contemplative songs.They ably stretch melodic boundaries while keeping a steady, compelling, danceable beat.

    Saturday, October 25th 8:00pm 

    doors open at 7:00pm (food will be available)

    newly renovated Talking Stick Cafe

    1411 Lincoln Blvd., Venice, CA 90291

    Tickets

    General Admission: $18

    FolkWorks members (Friend and above) – reserved seating: $16

    Online:      Syncopaths Concert Tickets                   

    Read more: For Tickets, Venues, Videos and more


    CONCERT REVIEW

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JOHN PRINE:

    PRINE TIME AT THE GREEK - OCTOBER 5, 2014

    By Ross Altman

    John PrineJohn Prine beat cancer—twice—so it was especially meaningful to hear when halfway through his sold-out show at the Greek Theatre last Sunday night a fan screamed out “Happy Birthday, John!!!” He piped back, “Not quite yet, but thanks.” John Prine was born October 10, 1946, just two months less a day before me in fact—and judging from his two bouts with cancer—squamous cell cancer in 1998 that cost him a part of his neck, cheek bone and some high notes—and an unrelated lung cancer last year—that cost him some cancelled bookings—he must feel lucky to be celebrating his 68th birthday at all.

    You’d never know it, however, from the powerful, high energy folk blues tunes he worked in between his signature laconic Midwest story songs of ordinary people caught between hope and history—the poetry of everyday life’s unsung heroes he has chronicled with more insight and empathy than any American songwriter of the past forty years.

    Read more: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JOHN PRINE


    FEATURE ARTICLES

    ANGEL LUÍS FIGUEROA: THE MUSIC OF SANTERÍA

    By Jonathan Shifflett

    SanteroShuffling through a record bin last month, an LP titled Santero from the famed Cuban label Panart caught my attention. The cover is beautiful but a little strange. Set against a fiery background, a conga player is frozen mid strike while a wraith of a beautiful woman billows like smoke from the drum, poised as if waking from a long sleep. In the liner notes, the writer claims it to be the first ever commercially recorded Afro-Cuban “cult music.” The strange track titles – Changó, Babalú Aye, Yemayá, Ochún, Obatalá, Eleggua - I recognized as the names of Santerían deities.

    It was not the kind of record I would have expected to resurface in a new-age vinyl shop, but I was pleased to find it having taken a semester of percussion lessons. My teacher was the renowned Afro-Cuban percussionist, Angel Luís Figueroa, who has for the past decade, endeavored to make the music and philosophy of Santería accessible to all.

    Read more: ANGEL LUÍS FIGUEROA: THE MUSIC OF SANTERÍA


    A TALE OF TWO DYLANS

    By Ross Altman, PhD

    Bob Dylan“I did more for Dylan Thomas than he ever did for me,” replied Bob Dylan to an inquisitive journalist asking him for the umpteenth time about his relationship with the Welsh poet born October 27, 1914 whose centennial we celebrate this year. Bob Dylan changed his last name from Zimmerman to honor one of the major poets of the 20th Century when he launched his career as a folk singer in NYC in 1961 just 8 years after his namesake Dylan Thomas had died in NYCs Bellevue Hospital of a “massive insult to the brain” from consuming 18 straight whiskeys at his favorite drinking hole The White Horse Tavern on November 9, 1953. However, like many aspects of his constantly changing biography Dylan (Bob) often shied away from the obvious truth and hid behind a barrage of obscurantist tall tales, such as that he had taken his name from an uncle in Hibbing, Minnesota—yes, one of the many middle-class Jewish “Dylans” in the North Country—or had named himself after Matt Dillon of Gunsmoke fame before some reporter misspelled it in a story and it became “Dylan.”

    Read more: A TALE OF TWO DYLANS


    BLOG

    If you're not already familiar with www.folkstreams.net, click on over and lose a couple hours.

    The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)  has a great article on Folkstreams....check it out.

    Here's a brief excerpt:

    "An account of the blues experience through the recollections and performances of NEA National Heritage Fellow B.B. King, Son Thomas, inmates from Parchman prison, a barber from Clarkesdale, a salesman from Beale Street, and others. Give My Poor Heart Ease (1974) is one of a series of films made in Mississippi in the mid 1970s by William Ferris and the Center for Southern Folklore and produced in association with Howard Sayre Weaver. View the entire film here." 


    OCTOBER 18, 2014

    buddy macmasterHAPPY BIRTHDAY

    Buddy MacMaster  (October 18, 1924-August 20, 2014)

    One of the most renowned artists in the tradition of Cape Breton fiddle music.

    For more information, surf over to his wiki page.

    Read more: THE FOLKWORKS BLOG



    CD REVIEWS

    TITLE: LAUGHTER OUT OF TEARS

    ARTIST: MOIRA SMILEY & VOCO

    LABEL: WHIM RECORDS

    RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 15, 2014

    By Jackie Morris

    Laughter Out of TearsHaunting, ethereal, and totally mesmerizing, Moira Smiley & VOCO bring an almost mystical quality to both original and traditional folk music. Drawing from a deep well of influence, their fourth album, Laughter Out of Tears, moves effortlessly from Appalachian roots to Balkan polyphony to Scandinavian folksongs; and then transcends tradition on five tracks by introducing the innovative “Choir of YOU,” a technology-empowered “chorus” of 200 voices from around the English-speaking world.

    The result is a kind of magic that is both subliminal and sublime, characterized by rich, complex harmonies, other-worldly polyphonic singing and sparse instrumentation. The 8 women who contributed to this VOCO release all sing (divinely, I should add) and play most of the instruments – a minimalist banjo and accordion (by Smiley), a tender cello (by April Guthrie), and plenty of body percussion. Single tracks are also punctuated by fiddle and uke, with guest artists on guitar, trumpet and percussion.

    Read more: LAUGHTER OUT OF TEARS - MOIRA SMILEY & VOCO


    TITLE: YOU GOT THIS

    ARTIST: HAAS KOWERT TICE

    LABEL: NONE

    RELEASE DATE: JULY 2014

    By Jonathan Shifflett

    Haas Kowert Tice - You Got ThisBrittany Haas, Paul Kowert and Jordan Tice are friends who, after meeting at various string band festivals in their youth, represent a new wave within the American string community. Bursting with their combined influences, You Got This is less like newgrass music and more reminiscent of works for a contemporary music ensemble. Released in July of 2014, the nine original compositions are densely packed with contrapuntal exchanges, changing meters and extended harmonies. The result: fiddle, guitar and bass at their most innovative. 

    Read more: HAAS KOWERT TICE - YOU GOT THIS


CARRIE NEWCOMER
HER LEGACY OF PEACE
THROUGH MUSIC

AN INTERVIEW

By Terry Roland

CARRIE_NEWCOMER.jpg
Photo by Jim McGuire

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.

CARRIE NEWCOMER
HER LEGACY OF PEACE THROUGH MUSIC

AN INTERVIEW

By Terry Roland

Carrie Newcomer plays at McCabe's on Friday, March 12 at 8:00pm  

CARRIE_NEWCOMER.jpg
Photo by Bill McGuire

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.

TERRY: How did you get started with the music as a career?

CARRIE: I started early on. I didn't come from a musical family. There was a music/arts program in the public school where I was raised. I became a part of wave of musicians and artists during my teenage years. I fell in love with poetry as I learned to pick guitar. I wrote some awful songs, but I was always drawn to the stories in the music. I went for visual arts in college. I got a degree to go along with it. I didn't start out in music even though it was my first love. But, then I began playing at schools, in coffee houses, and bowling alleys.

TERRY: Your songs carry a literary feel to them. Also, there are spiritual overtones.

CARRIE: I am a big reader. I love to read books. I love ideas. I love beautifully written language. I always leaned into language and stories. My dad was an educator. For me, reading has really made a difference. Spiritually, I've been a life long seeker. I don't think there are a lot of easy answers. There are really good questions. But, it's the questions that sustain me. Good questions are at the heart of my life. You know, it's the realm of the poets, theologians and mystics. That's how I approach songwriting.

TERRY: Tell me about the new album, Before & After.

CARRIE: It's about finding something extraordinary in an ordinary day. About paying attention. The idea of being in the moment. We live such busy lives. Someone once said we don't remember days, we remember moments. We remember songs.

TERRY: In one song you refer to religious cornflakes. What is that?

CARRIE: (Laughs) It's a metaphor for the packaged religion of today. The superficial. You know, it's like fast-food. It doesn't sustain you for very long. I have a spiritual current running through my work. But it's not exclusive, it's inclusive. I don't want to put the Sacred in a box.

TERRY: You identify yourself as Quaker.

CARRIE: I didn't grow up Quaker. I discovered it later. What drew me in was the silence. I've been attending a silent meeting for over 20 years. It's funny because people will say, ‘you're a woman whose life is in sound!' But, it's a balance. Some of my best language comes out of silence. It is actually really understandable.

TERRY: The silence-meditative place inspires music?

CARRIE: Yes. Taking time to be quiet, to reflect. Being a writer is a very solitary profession. You're alone a lot. You're committed to sitting down and showing up for work. You really have to sit down and be with the practice of writing. It's been said, writers get to live their lives twice. You live it, then you write it. There's a song on the album, I Meant To Do My Work Today. It's about that idea. We're so busy and there are all of these things we need to do. But, there are times when we're called to do nothing. We're a busy culture. Doing is everything. You know, I'm a proponent of doing. I love engaging. But there's a balance between being engaged and being quiet.

TERRY: Some of this sounds a bit like Zen.

CARRIE: I've heard Quakers called Zen-Christians. Some Quakers don't call themselves Christians. But, I've heard the term and it makes sense. There's a place for the contemplative, for the practice of meditation on the simplicity of the moment. You know, the Dali Lama always stops in our little town in southern Indiana. He has a brother who lives there. It's funny to read his itinerary....New York, Chicago, Bloomington, Indiana...(we both laugh). But there's a vibrant Buddhist community in the area.

TERRY: Do you take your songs beyond the spiritual, philosophical themes?

CARRIE: As a student of philosophy and religion there's a lot in the songs about my own exploration. I find wonderful truth there. The songs then become inclusive, compelling. It's a tricky thing to have universal themes. You can't write about world peace all the time. It's just too big to get your arms around. But, you can write about things that happen everyday. I can tell a story with particular human details.

TERRY: That's illustrated in the song, I Do Not Know Its Name, the story about meeting the man on the airport shuttle.

CARRIE: It's a true story. The title comes from the saying....'the name that can be named is not the Tao.' We just experience these moments of transcendence, these moments when we feel larger than ourselves. Maybe it can be found in some formal spiritual practice. But it's there in the little moments. I was on this shuttle early when this wonderful man just started singing and he told me he sang in a gospel choir. He finished the song, the doors opened and I never saw him again. I never forgot it. These are the moments we remember. Life is a series of these moments.

TERRY: How do you deal with conversation with the larger ‘Christian' community?

CARRIE: We talk in metaphor. As soon as you start to talk this way and people take it for something literal, it stops being a metaphor. People take it for something solid. This puts the Sacred into a very small container. I think it's interesting now. There's a spiritual movement everywhere. There's a rumble out there. People are really interested in spiritual conversation. They're not looking for easy answers, but authentic spiritual conversation. They sometimes find their way to my work. Putting ideas into action, making a difference. You know, the greatest law is love, but what does that mean? I had a conversation about this with author, Parker Palmer. He's a Mennonite. I love his work. It was this idea that we may not see the fruit of the seeds we plant but it's no less important to drop the seeds. Like the ripple in water from a small stone. But, this is not always encouraged in our culture. This is in the song, Stones in the River.

TERRY: Are there any other themes running through Before and After?

CARRIE: The title song is about moments that have changed me. They could be large or they could be very small moments. Once a friend read me a Mary Oliver poem over breakfast. I was never the same. Sometimes, it's just a friend who sits down with you. And I think, ‘how did she know what I needed most was someone to sit down and say it'll be okay?' The song Before and After is also about forgiveness, which begins with self-forgiveness. We have to give up all hope that we can ever change the past. Nothing can change what has happened. You get this loop in your head, how things might have turned out different. It takes forgiveness to step beyond that. I forgive myself, then I can forgive others. So, the songs on this album are universal themes written in a personal way.

TERRY: One of the most engaging songs on the album is Do No Harm.

CARRIE: It was inspired by a story by Scott Russell Sanders. It's from a collection of short stories, Wilderness Plots: Tales About the Settlement of the American Land taken from stories and incidents he encountered. It's funny, tragic, bewildering. This particular story was called Savages. He had read about this part of the country that was being settled by a man from the east. He was establishing a Utopian society where native Americans and white settlers could live and work together. It worked for ten years. Eventually, others came and it ended. But, the song is about trying to hold the balance with the best of our human nature. We've seen the worst, but we're quite capable of the best. We can achieve this. There is a violent side to human nature and those who don't get the idea of the greatest law, love. Look what happened in this story. We hold the tension between the worst and the very best of our nature.

TERRY: Tell me about your influences.

CARRIE: I have to say I was inspired early on by the singing poets with beautiful, interesting lyrics and poetry. Early on it was Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen. That vein of songwriter and they still come out with amazing writing. Also, high on my influences list is a local songwriting group in Bloomington. There are five of us. We bring songs to the group. We give each other challenges. We push our edges. I've been part of this group for 8 years now. It's really a wonderful experience. One of the members is Krista Detor. She's so good. A good writer and singer. She sings harmony on Do No Harm. She has this beautiful low voice in the tenor range. Like Mary Chapin. It's so fun to sing with her. You don't usually hear two women with low voices. Singing together, we strike this sound. It works quite well.

TERRY: Who influences the ideas that come out of your songs?

CARRIE: Authors like Russell Sanders. I've worked with Barbara Kingsolver. Also Philip Gulley. I've really admired their work. It all works together.

TERRY: I heard you called If Not Now your first real folk song.

CARRIE: (laughs) Well, it's my first sing-along. It's a group song in the spirit of We Shall Overcome. It was written for a specific purpose. But, I hope it wouldn't be for just one thing but would reach across to all kinds of issues that need our attention, like health care. When do we start taking care of the least of these. When do we give our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters full legal rights? It can be used in a variety of ways. It's a song of hope.

TERRY: From the album, you have some really fine musicians featured.

CARRIE: Yes. There's Gary Walters on piano. He's worked with me for five or six years now. He's a wonderful pianist. He's with me on the album tour. I occasionally work with a band. A cellist and violinist. I love the musicians on this new album. They are a great combination of musicians. They're elegant players. Everyone on this album is masters of their instruments. It's not about how many notes they play, but that the right notes are placed perfectly, uncluttered. It's all about the song. That's what makes this work.

TERRY: There's a phrase which seems to sum up a lot of your philosophy. It's on the album, something about the center.

CARRIE: Yes. If holy is a sphere that cannot be rendered, / There is no middle place because all of it is center. It's inspired by a concept in physics.

TERRY: It strikes me as the inclusive/universal theme you've emphasized on Before and After and much of your previous work. I look forward to hearing the songs live. See you at McCabe's on March 12!

Terry Roland is an English teacher, freelance writer, occasional poet, songwriter and folk and country enthusiast. The music has been in his blood since being raised in Texas. He came to California where he was taught to say ‘dude' at an early age.