WHO WROTE COPPER KETTLE?
A Study In Disputed Authorship
Sometime during Prohibition—which lasted from the passage of the 18th Amendment in 1920 to its repeal with the passage of the 21st Amendment in1933—Elliot Ness and his revenuers came to a Kentucky moonshiner’s cabin in the Appalachian Mountains and knocked on the door. A young boy answered and Ness asked him if his pa was home.
INTERVIEWS AT NAMM 2017
Every year, NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) holds its' annual convention in Anaheim. Here are a few video interviews from the "acoustic" room.
RICK TURNER, HANDMADE?:“YES, NO, MAYBE AND ALWAYS”
Interview with the legendary guitar luthier at NAMM 2017
This year at NAMM I decided to focus on seeking out an instrument maker (luthier) that was more than a production line. With imports of instruments in mass numbers, and varying degrees of quality, I believe from a luthier’s wife perspective that it’s also important to retain handcrafted skills.
One such luthier is Rick Turner of Rick Turner Guitars. His remarkable story started from a small town in Massachusetts and ended up influencing the sound of many musicians / bands that are intertwined with a part of America’s musical history. He’s also a collector of Howe-Orme instruments that were coincidentally made in MA (1897-1910).
How Did You Celebrate Martin Luther King’s Birthday?
Lisa Finnie Broadcasting Live From “The Curvaceous Slopes of California”
On The Dylan Hour and Masters of Song, 11:00am—1:00pm KCSN 88.5 FM
87 years after the most important moral leader of 20th Century America was born on January 15, 1929, his I Have a Dream speech from the 1963 March on Washington was played in its magnificent entirety by host Lisa Finnie to open her January 15 Dylan Hour radio broadcast on Martin Luther King’s birthday. Well, as poet e.e. cummings once wrote, “albutnotquitemost.”
(Special to FolkWorks)
The $500 Guitar with the $24,500 Story:
You Won’t Find It at Norm’s
My favorite lefty political story goes like this: A fellow walks into an antique store and finally is attracted to a brass rat, which he takes up to the counter and asks, “How much?” The dealer says, “Well the rat costs 10 bucks, but if you want the story that goes with it it’s a thousand extra.” “Thanks,” says the guy, “But I’ll just take the rat.” The dealer wraps it up and the guy walks out of the store with his new purchase.
ARTFUL SLACKER MUSIC
JIM “KIMO” WEST AND KEN EMERSON – RECORDED AND LIVE
The opening selection on Slackers in Paradise: Slack and Steel Guitar Duets conjures up the bliss of kicking back on a hammock near surf-washed sands, caressed and refreshed by island trade winds. The recently-released CD by Jim “Kimo” West and Ken Emerson ushers you into an unhurried world free of traffic jams and family frenzy. With West on slack-key guitar and Emerson on acoustic steel guitar, the slow pieces are dreamy and tantalizing while even the fast-paced numbers evoke a time when life seemed simpler.
FolkWorks Standing Ovation Awardee
At FolkWorks first Folk/Roots Festival, we wanted to honor individuals who have contributed to our folk community. For our first award, the selection was so easy and obvious. The person who came to mind immediately was our own esteemed FolkWorks writer, and Los Angeles institution, Ross Altman.
Ross has been writing his column How Can I Keep From Talking since January 2003 when FolkWorks had a hard copy newspaper.
Trans-Atlantic Bulgarian band
Bulgarika is a unique trans-Atlantic Bulgarian band playing the Thracian style of the legendary "Trakiiska Troika" from the 1960s and 1970s. Nikolay Kolev and Donka Koleva have invited two extraordinary musicians from Bulgaria to join them for the 2016 tour: kaval player Temelko Ivanov and tambura player Nikolay Kodzhabashev.
THE DARK SIDE OF THE ROAD: DYLAN’S NOBEL PRIZE
“I guess I was never one of those rock and roll singers who was going to win any Nobel Prize—is that what you call it, the Nobel Prize?” Bob Dylan in an old interview opening Lisa Finnie’s The Dylan Hour, Sunday, October 16, 2016: “Dylan Lit 101: Poetics, Lyrics and Prose,” KCSN 88.5 FM, 11:00 AM-1:00pm—a special two-hour broadcast—the definitive radio tribute to America’s poet.
WHY DOES DONOVAN NEED A POLICE ESCORT?
DONOVAN IN CONCERT AT THE ROSE & THE SABAN THEATRES
Not all white men are angry. With songs like Mellow Yellow, Sunshine Superman and Wear Your Love Like Heaven Scottish folk-rock singer Donovan became the 1960s harbinger for the gentle singer-songwriter movement of the 1970s. Never having been a British Angry Young Man he didn’t have to mellow; he transformed his Zen-like nirvana into songs that have stood the test of time.
BEST OF TRADITION AND INNOVATION MEET
The 22nd Annual Harvest Festival of Dulcimers is this Saturday, October 1, in Costa Mesa (full details below). After a day of workshops, the evening concert presents a pair of performances featuring the very best of folk innovation and deep folk roots: Robert Force, pre-eminent west coast fretted dulcimer innovator of over 40 years, AND Cathy Barton and David Para, likewise seasoned professionals, from the heartlands of Missouri, on hammered dulcimer, banjo, guitar… and leaf. Yes, the leaf! Must be seen and heard to be believed!
Boots of Spanish Leather: Germán López in Concert
Raitt Recital Hall, Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA
Part 1 – Germán López in concert at Pepperdine University
The Spanish Civil War began eighty years ago last July 17, so Spain has been much on my mind this year. The Abraham Lincoln Brigade volunteers who sacrificed their lives to save the Spanish Republic from fascism made it an American war; 3,000 went to Spain and only 1500 came home—the bravest of the brave, Pete Seeger called them. The Lincoln Brigade’s last surviving veteran—Delmer Berg—passed away this year in Modesto, California at the age of 100—Modesto’s only white member of the NAACP. Picasso created the mural Guernica–the greatest painting of the 20th Century—in response to the bombing of the Basque village of Guernica.
PLANTING SEEDS FOR A NEW CROP OF CAJUN CULTURE
Appearing on the West Coast for the very first time at the Long Beach Bayou Festival on Saturday, June 18, 2016, La Recolte Cajun Band is bringing the state of Louisiana with them- the state of mind, body, heart and soul of Acadiana and the state of authentic, traditional Cajun music.
Don’t Look Back?: Bob Dylan: Photographs by Daniel Kramer
The Grammy Museum Exhibit - February 29, 2016—May 15, 2016
A small Paris bistro, a chess board on the table, and Bob Dylan contemplating his next move—that’s all it took for Daniel Kramer to create an iconic image of the folk singer about to turn rock star in an iconic series of portraits of America’s greatest songwriter in 1964 and 1965—over 50 of which now adorn the LA Grammy Museum 2nd Floor Exhibit of Kramer Does Dylan which will be up through May 15.
RAMBLIN’ JACK ELLIOTT
HEADLINING SANTA CLARITA COWBOY FESTIVAL
Friday April 22, 2016
A cowboy who sings real cowboy songs—not the cardboard cookie cutter silver screen substitutes so popular at “cowboy” festivals these days; a folk singer who sings real folk songs—not their own “original” singer-songwriter pale imitations so popular at “folk” festivals these days; a raconteur who tells amazing epic tales of rambling round your cities and towns for the past fifty years with the likes of Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly and Billy Faier, a master acoustic guitarist who headlines New Orleans Jazz festivals
THE KRUGER BROTHERS
The Kruger Brothers are making a rare West Coast appearance at the Broad Theater in Santa Monica on Sunday, February 14, 2016 at 7:30pm.
If you are not familiar with this trio (Jens on banjo, brother Uwe on guitar and Joel Landsberg on bass), get ready for an amazing evening. Sometimes referred to as “new traditional American music,”
ON VALENTINE’S DAY
AT THE ROSE IN PASADENA - FEBRUARY 14, 2016
If you’re looking for something special to do on Valentine’s Day you’ve come to the right place. A new concert venue is coming to Pasadena, sister club to the enormously successful Canyon Club in Agoura and the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills. East Side, West Side, All Around the Town—The Rose at Paseo Colorado, 300 E. Colorado Blvd # 101, Pasadena, CA 91101.
A DAY AT NAMM 2016 WITH ANNETTE & NOWELL
(Ed. Annette and Nowell Siegel run Living Tree Music which specializes in fretted instruments. Nowell is a luthier.)
NAMM 2016 was filled with all the usual glamour and glitz; enough noise to make your ears split (literally). A couple of exhibitors caught our eye.
NAMM Media Preview Day
Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016
We’re excited to attend another NAMM Show as media representatives for FolkWorks. The National Association of Music Merchants annual 4-day trade show at the Anaheim Convention Center is a giant kaleidoscope of sights and sounds, with something for everyone. This year we thought we’d attend their Media Preview Day – maybe the lines for ID badges would be shorter!
A PALER SHADE OF WHITE AT THE OSCARS
CELEBRATE BLACK HISTORY MONTH
A Martin Luther King Day Commentary
Sunday evening February 28—the highlight of Black History Month—America will be glued to their TV sets watching the Academy Awards—for which not one single black actor or actress or director has been nominated. If it weren’t so typical—the rule rather than the exception—it would hardly be noticed. But for some reason it has been noticed, even by the LA Times which published a stunning group photo of all the nominees on their front page Oscar issue—A Whiter Shade of Pale if there ever was one.
WEAVING THROUGH THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS:
THE WEAVERS AT CARNEGIE HALL—DECEMBER 24, 1955
‘Twas the night before Christmas, December 24, 1955: sixty years ago to the day this coming Christmas Eve. The Weavers, America’s consummate folk quartet, had been blacklisted since their chart-busting Number 1 hit Goodnight Irene in August of 1950—when Red Channels fingered them as a communist threat to the country and put them out of business—and two years’ worth of bookings were cancelled overnight.
MERLE HAGGARD AND KRIS KRISTOFFERSON AT THE SABAN THEATRE:
THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES RIDE AGAIN - FEBRUARY 11, 2016
Last year I celebrated my birthday with Merle Haggard at the Canyon Club in Agoura. Looks like it’s getting to be a habit; the Hag is going to help me make it through December this time around too; with a little help from Kris Kristofferson, former Rhodes Scholar and perhaps the most literate writer ever to lay claim to being a country singer. Between Merle and Kris there won’t be many country staples left untouched: drinking (Tonight the Bottle Let me Down, and Sunday Morning Coming Down); sad love affairs (Me and Bobbi McGee, Help Me Make It Through the Night); prison (Mama Tried); Hard Times (Workingman’s Blues and Here Comes That Rainbow Again); Patriotism (The Fightin’ Side of Me); and Jesus (They Killed Him)—between them a veritable glossary of country music.
DANCE WITH WHO BRUNG YOU
THE HIGH LIFE CAJUN BAND AT
GOLDEN SAILS HOTEL PCH CLUB IN LONG BEACH - OCTOBER 25, 2015
In Memoriam Joel Okida
Il Miglior Fabbro
What is the sound of one heart breaking? A Hank Williams song, of course, though not the one you may be thinking of. That slightly modified Zen Koan came to mind after a Fais Do-Do (Cajun Zydeco dance party) at the Golden Sails Hotel PCH Club (their bar) in Long Beach last Sunday. I don’t usually frequent such places (just approaching my 3rd year of sobriety in a well-known twelve-step program) but Jill invited me, so I went. Two non-alcoholic mineral waters got me through the evening, and as I listened to the music and watched the couples dancing I fell in love.
IS DYLAN MURAL WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS?
HERE THEY ARE
On the side of a five-story office building in downtown Minneapolis is a new mural of Bob Dylan called The Times, They Are A-Changing—painted by Brazilian street artist and public muralist Eduardo Kabro and a team of five assistants—two of them from Minneapolis—and completed September 8, 2015. It’s an enormous homage to American’s greatest songwriter—as described by Kabro—“one of the most important figures in 20th Century music.”
COMING VERY SOON: UNUSUAL PAIRS OF HAWAIIAN DELIGHTS
GEORGE KAHUMOKU JR. WITH JERoMe KOKo AND HAPA WITH ACADEMY OF HAWAIIAN ARTS
Two pairs of Hawaiian guitarists, veterans of their genres, have injected their shows with fresh elements that should draw audiences to Little Tokyo’s Aratani Theater on Saturday, October 4 and to the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center on Saturday, October 10. Experience George Kahumoku Jr. and Jerome Koko together on the first Saturday followed by the duo Hapa together with the Academy of Hawaiian Arts on the second. Here’s why.
A Folk Hero and a Bluegrass celebration
Pitt Kinsolving, a man with a most distinguished name, is known for organizing folk music events, as well as getting musicians together to make music. While engineering sound for recordings, performances, and other live programs has been his profession, he has been an important force in bringing folk music to Southern California through his volunteer efforts in planning and promoting concerts and festivals, and in his active participation in hoots.
L.A. CELEBRATES “MIGHTY UKE”
I can’t lay claim to the nomenclature. It comes from the title of an enchanting and informative 2010 documentary titled Mighty Uke: The Amazing Comeback of a Musical Underdog produced by Tony Coleman (no relation) and Margaret Meagher. The words beautifully capture the feistiness of those who have embraced the instrument since its adoption by Hawaiians and westerners living in the islands a little over a hundred years ago.
THE WOODY GUTHRIE PRIZE:
WHAT IS IT AND HOW DO YOU GET IT?
A FOLKWORKS COMMENTARY
I had no problem with the first recipient of the “Woody Guthrie Prize,” which was awarded to Pete Seeger last year. With Pete’s name on it you could count on a little press.
Unfortunately, between the time the prize was announced, and the time Pete was to receive it at an event in New York City co-sponsored by the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma and the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles—and for which Arlo was to serenade Pete as the highlight of the ceremony—Pete—whose timing was usually impeccable—passed away. Kind of took the wind out of the Clearwater’s sails. Nonetheless, they went ahead with the ceremony and it became one of hundreds of memorials for America’s Tuning Fork, albeit with a lot more cachet due to Arlo. But all in all it was not an auspicious beginning for the “Woody Guthrie Prize” to be bestowed upon a dead man. If it was to amount to anything they would have to be very careful on whom they bestowed it the second time around.
JC MEETS JC: GOOD NEWS AND THE FOLSOM PRISON BLUES
THE JOHNNY CASH TRIBUTE ROAD SHOW REVIVAL:
AT MISSION PARK IN DOWNTOWN VENTURA - JUNE 27-28 2015
If you wonder what’s missing from the Topanga Banjo-Fiddle Contest and Claremont Folk Festival, you should come out to Ventura next weekend for The Johnny Cash Tribute Road Show Revival. For starters, how about pin-up girls, hot rods, bikers, classic cars, Jesus and Johnny Cash—all of whom were there in abundance last year. Produced by Ross Emery Entertainment and Johnny’s other daughter, Cindy Cash, the show has all the ingredients of an old school revival meeting, minus Billy Graham and the Man in Black himself, but with many impersonators to create a general impression of what he sounded like. This June 27-28th will be their 7th annual Road Show.
LAISSEZ LES BON TEMPS ROULIER!
SIMI CAJUN & BLUES FESTIVAL
Forget the beach, the mountains, and Las Vegas. Camping? Who cares? Southern California's 26th Annual Simi Cajun & Blues Festival is the only place to be for Memorial weekend. With the most spectacular lineup of Blues, Cajun and Zydeco music in its 26 year history, there's no better option for entertainment for this All-American holiday. The festival is held on Saturday and Sunday, May 23 and May 24. Hours are 12:00pm-7:30pm both days.
A PLEASURE & A TREASURE
Folk dances are ethnic dances from countries around the world, and they are danced in many different venues with different emphasis. There are recreational groups, performing groups, and ethnic groups that dance their own country’s dances. Dances are from Israel, Scandinavia, Armenia, Greece, Turkey, the Balkans, the Mideast, South America, the South Pacif ic, Africa, Scotland, England, the U.S.A. and many more. Some dances are ancient, even from countries that no longer exist, and some are more recent creations. Some dance groups also include a few contradances and line dances in their international folk dance repertoire.
NO LONGER YOUR MOTHER'S "MAYIM MAYIM"
Israeli "folk" dancing is not just a form of dance. Of the relatively familiar circle dances, a friend recently observed, "it's kind of like a (circular) group exercise class." Israeli folk dancing is now comprised of line and partner dancing, too. It is no longer your grandmother's "mayim mayim" or "hora," which can still be frequently seen and heard at synagogues on Friday nights. It is a symbolic manifestation of the Jewish spirit and mind.
ELEGANCE & STYLE
ENGLISH COUNTRY DANCING
You say you’ve never heard of English country dancing? You’re in good company, since many people are unfamiliar with it. But if you’ve watched Pride and Prejudice on TV or seen Sense and Sensibility or Emma at the movies, you have indeed seen it. But fear not – English country dancing is not the obscure relic you might think it to be! This traditional form of dance has been around for several hundred years, and it’s still thriving today. There are dances all over the United States.
O.K., I admit it, I’m a NAMM junkie. It’s one of three or four annual events that I plan my year around. I turn down gigs; I miss people’s birthday parties; I take two days off of work so that I can be there all four days. After years of trying to find some way to get in, I managed it in 1994, and I’ve been to every one since then. For four days every year, the Anaheim Convention Center turns into the biggest playground/candystore in the world, and I can’t stay away.
Last weekend, the candystore was open. Both of the Morris dance groups I play for attended a day of dance in the Bay Area, and both of them had to find alternate musos. It was no contest, for a bunch of reasons.
OLD-TIME SQUARE DANCING: OLD-TIME MUSIC, OLD-TIME FUN
“Promenade around the ring, while the roosters crow and the birdies sing…”
Old-time square dancing – lively dances to old-time, southern-Appalachian-style string band music, open to all comers – have been revived in the Los Angeles area largely through the efforts of the trio who call themselves “Triple Chicken Foot”, and dance caller Susan Michaels. Monthly on third Saturdays, the sound of fast-paced southern reels played on fiddle (Ben Guzman), banjo (Mike Heinle), and rhythm guitar (Kelly Marie Martin), with Susan’s light-hearted guidance, propels a smiling and whooping crowd of dancers. The average age of the crowd is thirty-ish, and can range from elementary schoolers through retirees.
The piano sets the groove. The mandolin adds its frenetic energy. The fiddle soars above it all. All around, the hall is a blur of movement and smiles.
The band reaches its peak, the dancers whirl with excitement — and it’s over. Time to find a new partner and start it all over again.
People are having these joyous experiences more and more often these days. Contradance has spread throughout the nation and beyond from its New England origins. In Southern California, there are as many as seven dances, with approximately 350 attendees, in any given weekend.
HOT DANCING FROM SOUTHWEST LOUISIANA
Cajun/Zydeco music and dance from the prairies and bayous of Southwest Louisiana and East Texas is one of the most exciting and enduring folk/roots dance scenes in California. Largely supported by expatriates from the Southwest Louisiana and East Texas regions, this music and dance can be found at regular monthly dances, “church dances,”, and clubs like the House of Blues.
The Cajun/Zydeco scene in California owes its roots to a considerable number of Louisiana and East Texas natives that immigrated to California during and after WWII. Today the Bay Area, the Sacramento/San Joaquin Valley and Southern California are home to large numbers of these Louisiana expatriates now into their third generation. For this reason, Cajun/Zydeco is strongly linked to Southwest Louisiana and their cultural identity includes the French language, the Catholic Church, and a world famous cuisine—as well as the music and dancing.
NAMM SHOW 2015
NAMM is the National Association of Music Merchants which is a not-for-profit association “that promotes the pleasures and benefits of making music and strengthens the $17 billion global music products industry. Our association—and our trade shows—serve as a hub for people wanting to seek out the newest innovations in musical products, recording technology, sound and lighting.
A DAY AT NAMM 2015 WITH ANNETTE & NOWELL
(Ed. Annette and Nowell Siegel run Living Tree Music which specializes in fretted instruments. Nowell is a luthier.)
Our NAMM day started at one of our favorite exhibit halls “E”. The acoustics instruments tend to be in clusters here and the volume is usually a bit more tolerable. Nowell and I always like to check in with Bruce & Mary Weber even though they've sold their biz to the Two Old Hippies brand, they’re still involved with the instruments and continue to occupy the “old Schoolhouse” factory where Bruce used to make them in Montana. Weber instruments are now made in Bend, Oregon with their son (Bruce Weber, Jr.) overseeing the production end of things. Weber still offers quite a wide range of mandolins, mandolas, and octave mandolin types.
YODOQUINSI: THE VOICES OF MOTHER EARTH
Yodoquinsi is the voice of the earth,
It’s the voice of the wind,
It’s the voice of water,
It’s the voice of fire,
It’s sound flowing in fibers of color….
With this invocation, recited by the group within their Day of the Dead performances, we are welcomed into the ritual space of Yodoquinsi. Yodoquinsi are four sound wizards from Oaxaca, Mexico, employing only pre-Columbian instruments to create their sonic universe. The dream begins as deer antlers strike rhythms across tortoise shells, quartz hammers dance over hand-chipped obsidian rocks, diminutive “sphere within a sphere” wind whistles blow up to the squall of a hurricane, and a giant snake-shaped rain stick shakes the water free. The elements have come alive in the hands of Yodoquinsi.
JOHN STEWART AND THE PHOENIX CONCERTS
A DREAMER ON THE RISE
This Saturday, November 29th, there will be two intimate concerts honoring singer-songwriter, John Stewart’s landmark The Phoenix Concerts live album. The original bassist, Arnie Moore will appear along with Tim Dismang and The Chad Watson band and special guest Duane Thorin. The shows will be at The Coffee Gallery Backstage in Altadena, California at 3:00 and 7:00pm.
In the spring and summer of 1974, singer-songwriter, John Stewart was, in the words of one his best loved songs, a dreamer on the rise and much more. He was a phoenix ready to fly.
A GREAT DAY IN UTAH
NOVEMBER 19, 1915—NOVEMBER 19, 2014
Ninety-nine years ago today the great state of Utah executed labor’s troubadour Wobbly songwriter Joe Hill by firing squad. The author of such labor song classics as Rebel Girl, There Is Power in a Union, Pie In the Sky (The Preacher and the Slave) and Casey Jones, the Union Scab went to his death with his head held high. His last known words were addressed to fellow Wobbly Big Bill Haywood: “Don’t Mourn for me, Bill; Organize.”
BOB STANE AND THE COFFEE GALLERY BACKSTAGE
I WANT A STAR ON THE HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME!
Bob Stane says.....Be impressed. I started these guys as teen agers in high school. This is what I do and I want my star on The Hollywood Walk Of Fame. Use photos as you please. Please label the one as....The Fork In The Road....the iconic Pasadena street art of Bob Stane and The Coffee Gallery Backstage bringing Christmas to all who need a giant fork of their own and for others who just want a nice meal. The Coffee Gallery Backstage has gathered about 10 tons of food for the hungry over the last 5 years. Maybe a lot more. We "do" all the charities it seems from animals, to hungry folks to Meals On Wheels. And we would, also, like to give away a lot more and support even more charities. All they have to do is ask.
Bob Stane says: Sometimes I get bitter. I have been starting the stars of the future for a half century. The Coffee Gallery Backstage is the best kept entertainment secret in Los Angeles. I want The Coffee Gallery Backstage to start being known for what it is. Just because we are not on Sunset and do not sell liquor does not mean we do not "get it done."
THE MAGIC OF MILTON
Milton Nascimento and the Música Popular Brasileina
I first encountered the magic of Milton Nascimento some 15 years ago. My jazz buff husband had just put on a CD he had bought of saxophonist Wayne Shorter. It opened with a full and strong yet child-like voice singing a cappella in the upper register. Suddenly the music had me riveted. I didn’t understand the Portuguese but I felt uplifted by both the melody and the quality of the sound. Several bars later, Shorter and his ensemble eased in, the saxophone melding perfectly with these opening vocals. I had not experienced such a strong reaction to a voice since my first time hearing a recording of Billie Holiday. The CD was a digital remaster of Native Dancer, first recorded in 1974 and prominently featuring not only the voice but the compositions of a musician already acclaimed in his native Brazil. The opening selection, Ponta de Areia, was by Milton Nascimento as were four other songs.
On Friday evening, November 28, Milton Nascimento will perform at Royce Hall as part of a world tour celebrating his 50 years of music-making. Born in 1942, this artist deserves the attention of anyone attracted by Latin American or world music and this concert is an opportunity to hear his unique voice in an excellent acoustic space.
A TALE OF MANY TALES
TELLABRATION EVENTS IN NOVEMBER
Music, dance and storytelling have been the three branches of the performing folk arts since mankind first learned to talk and sing. Weirdly, though, some folks tend to view them as totally separate things, even though there are many marvelous performers who are involved with two or more of the three. The connection between music and dance is easier to perceive, but the connection of storytelling is just as strong. Consider how much storytelling took place in performances by Woody Guthrie, Utah Phillips or Pete Seeger, or how much there is nowadays in the concerts by artists like John McCutcheon. Or, listen to Prairie Home Companion sometime and listen to how much spoken word performance there is going along with their wonderful music.
This year’s Folk Alliance Region West [FAR-West] conference in Oakland was a wake-up call for people who had forgotten the connections between folk music and storytelling. There was a panel discussion on the ways that music and storytelling are used together, and the finale event of the conference was a storytelling concert, featuring tellers from up and down the California coast.
It’s only right that this happen in the fall, because it’s story season. People think of stories at Halloween, but in fact as the days grow shorter, there have traditionally been stories told all through the fall and winter, in places where they actually have seasons.
Here in southern California, we still don’t have fall weather as such this year, but we do have the season of the story. The biggest share of it is coming in November, with an event called Tellabration. For over two decades, storytellers around the world have put on shows on the 3rd or 4th Saturday of November. While the concept started in New England, Tellabration spread around the world, with events held on every continent except Antarctica so far.
ONE UKE AT A TIME
BENEFIT CONCERT NOV. 2
Of all instruments to use to try to change the world, ukuleles might not be your first choice. For Laurie Kallevig, though, it had the advantage of being smaller, more affordable and easier to learn than most folk instruments. That’s an advantage when you’re working with folks who have no education, no money, and almost no hope.
After learning of the horrifying way that young girls [and boys, in some cases] in Nepal and India are sold into the sex trade, she wanted to do something, but didn’t know just what. Once she learned that some children are basically raised to be sold by their families, as if they were prize pigs in a county fair, she needed to do something. Ukuleles provided an answer, and a way to let people know about the problem.
Now, every year Ms. Kallevig takes ukes to India, sets herself up at one of the unfortunately many centers on the Indian subcontinent that takes in survivors of these child brothels, and gives them something. In some cases, the music classes she teaches are the first formal education that these young people have ever had. In many cases, it’s the first time that anyone has given them positive attention for anything they’ve learned, or done.
The Redemption Road Not Taken:
WILL TOM PAXTON’S NEW ALBUM STAND UP TO THE ORIGINAL?
One of the bright lights of Austin, Texas—home of Austin City Limits—is L.A. born folk singer-songwriter Eliza Gilkyson, who tours all over the Midwest and has created more than a dozen albums of original songs since 1997, when she released her fourth album Redemption Road. The title song is track 12 and though the lyric insert sheet can be hard to read with the fine print, there is no problem reading the lyrics to the title song—they are plastered in large print all over the CD label itself—where most artists would put a flattering photograph of themselves. Not Eliza; she thought enough of her title track to make sure you couldn’t miss the lyrics; so here they are:
STOCKHOLM LISTENS TO FOLKWORKS: AND FINALLY GETS IT RIGHT!! (THIS FROM 2014):
NOBEL WHO? YOU DON’T NEED A WEATHERMAN
TO KNOW WHICH WAY THE PRIZE GOES
Another wasted Nobel Prize for Literature goes to someone you’ll never hear of again, while the writer whose Collected Lyrics are responsible for more quotable quotes than any book this side of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations is passed over again. What were they thinking in Stockholm, I wonder, to make yet another award for extra-literary reasons—in this case the literary remembrance of the Nazi Occupation of France—rather than for literature itself, a body of work that truly represents what Victorian poet/critic Matthew Arnold called “the best that has been thought and said.”
I refer of course to the collected works of the Poet Laureate of Rock and Roll, Bob Dylan, America’s weathervane in spite of himself—the artist whose every utterance is likely to find itself in newspaper headlines whenever the editor wants to hook a reader on a story. The vapidity of the Literature Prize has become all too predictable; no one can tell without a Google Search who won after it stopped being given to writers you had to have heard of before they won the award.
ANGEL LUÍS FIGUEROA: THE MUSIC OF SANTERÍA
Shuffling 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.
A TALE OF TWO DYLANS
“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.”
GORDON LIGHTFOOT: A TRUE KNIGHT UPON THE ROAD
A PREVIEW OF THE SABAN THEATRE CONCERT - SEPTEMBER 27, 2014
Gordon Lightfoot almost lost his life in 2002 when his abdominal artery burst and he was in a coma for six weeks following the surgery that saved his life. When he finally and almost miraculously woke up he could barely play the guitar and his vocal chords were so constricted his golden voice was no more. That’s when a lifetime work ethic kicked in and literally pulled him back from the dead. Talk about a ribbon of darkness over me—this was the true crossroads and test of artistic character that he passed with flying colors.
Lightfoot started to practice guitar again like there was no tomorrow—which there almost was not—until he even surpassed his previous skill-level on the instrument that defined his sound from the early 1960s on—when he helped to create the folk revival on the entire North American continent—both his native Canada and his adopted homeland America. When others who cherished his work and recorded his imperishable songs—including Bob Dylan, Ian and Sylvia, Judy Collins and fellow Canadian Neil Young—drifted into folk rock or country rock, Gordon Lightfoot stayed true to his folk roots and never put his finger into the wind to find out what the marketplace wanted to hear. That personal certitude of an inner vision and voice is what has endeared him to fans around the world for more than fifty years. It is what has kept his music timeless as the ancient ballads and current as today’s newspaper.
PROMOTING THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA
A WORKSHOP WITH MOTHER HEN (JEANETTE LUNDGREN)
Sunday March 16 1-3:00pm in Sherman Oaks
Whether you are a musician, venue owner, musician’s rep or concert promoter are looking to understand or enhance your skills regarding the new world of social media, then you need to spend a few hours with Mother Hen, Jeanette Lundgren. She is visiting L.A. and we, FolkWorks, have the pleasure of hosting a workshop with her.
We urge you to look at her website, Mother Hen Promotions, and see what she has to offer. Learn more in depth about Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, ReverbNation, blogging and other technologies available to musicians to help get the word out and build your audience.
The workshop in Sunday, March 16 at 1:00-3:00pm at a private house in Sherman Oaks.
Tickets are $20. Purchase tickets in advance: Click here OR tickets may be available at the door, depending on availability.
Directions will be provided upon receiving your reservation.
ANYONE FOR YIDDISH TANGO?
Put the two words “Yiddish” and “tango” together, and some might respond, “You’re joking?” But history bears out a strong connection between the two. These will be evident in the upcoming performance of Yiddish Tango Club at the Skirball Cultural Center on Thursday evening, August 21. Having investigated Vietnamese tango in my June column, this gives me yet another opportunity to dig for treasures in music history.
But first here’s the scoop on the show. Virtuoso klezmer clarinetist Gustavo Bulgach, who launched the Yiddish Tango Club project in 2012, will lead his ensemble in accompanying tangos with lyrics written in Yiddish as well as Argentine tango instrumentals from the early days of the genre and the innovative tangos of Astor Piazzolla. They also will be performing pieces from the klezmer repertoire, freilachs (happy, fast-paced numbers) and nigunim (improvised vocal numbers with roots in religious and particularly Hasidic texts and music).
JOINING A MARIACHI BAND
To begin this essay, let me give you a brief introduction. I am Ella Lehavi, professional middle school student. I specialize at transposition, sketching, writing novels, reading novels, playing instruments, math, and watching TV. However, being around people is NOT a special skill of mine, unless I absolutely must. I’m a big fan of music, both listening and making. I’ve played piano since I was around 8, and began cello in fifth grade. I have a good ear, and often figure out songs in my free time. I also like composing and writing my own songs. I prefer instruments with lower tones, like the Cello, bass, and guitaron. Instruments like those don’t often have the melody, but play an important role when it comes to rhythm. The sort of resemble me. When it comes to Hale’s (Hale Charter Academy Middle School) social structure, I’m not exactly popular or playing the melody, but it is still essential to have people like me making the rhythm.
Waist Deep In the Big Muddy:
How One Song Broke the Blacklist,
Ended the War and Changed America
Waist Deep In the Big Muddy is the Mona Lisa of protest songs, not because it is the greatest antiwar song ever written—though it surely is that—but because it occupies a historical place that will never be duplicated. It is the song Pete Seeger wrote and sang that fully restored his place in the American pantheon and public media after 17 years of being blacklisted from network television. In 1950 The Weavers—the folk quartet he, with Lee Hays, Fred Hellerman and Ronnie Gilbert, founded in 1949 and shot to the top of the Hit Parade with Leadbelly’s theme song Goodnight Irene—were cited by the entertainment industry’s blacklist Red Channels—which in turn gave rise to a book that specifically targeted folk singers called Marxist Minstrels. The Weavers were effectively destroyed just as they were really getting started and saw two years of nightclub and concert bookings cancelled overnight.
Pete Seeger, the only one of them capable of pursuing a solo performing career, never appeared on a network television show until 1967 despite hit songs like Turn, Turn, Turn (the Byrds), If I Had a Hammer (Peter, Paul & Mary), Where Have All the Flowers Gone (The Kingston Trio), Kisses Sweeter Than Wine (Jimmie Rodgers), Guantanamera (The Sandpipers), Wimoweh (recorded under the title The Lion Sleeps Tonight by the Tokens), Tzena, Tzena, Tzena (the Weavers), Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land and So Long, It’s Been Good to Know You (the Weavers), Leadbelly’s Goodnight Irene (the Weavers) and his own hit recording of Malvina Reynolds song Little Boxes. That’s a dozen hit songs—enough for a Greatest Hits album, which Pete eventually had on Columbia Records—the same label that recorded Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.
LETTER TO FOLKWORKS RE: YUVAL RON ENSEMBLE CONCERT
When I got the flyer about FolkWorks presenting the Yuval Ron ensemble on May 31, 2014, in Santa Monica, I immediately wanted to go. Thanks to the generosity of Steve and Leda Shapiro donating tickets to KPFK and the wonderful synchronistic symmetry of ‘me’ calling in at just the right time to 'win' them, I got to share the experience with a friend. Despite traffic being clogged by an accident on the way, we got to Santa Monica from the 'Eastside' in good time.
A MEDLEY FOR PETE
Your music was a long time passing; where
has it gone? I know the lyrics by heart but I need
a guitar and a vibrant tenor to lead my life's
sing-a-long, help me overcome my fear of singing out.
With you playing harmony I shall not be moved.
No, I'll stay in this land till it truly is yours and mine,
as it was meant to be. Your music made the land
sweeter than wine so I rambled its ribbons of highway,
then found myself waist deep in the Big Muddy
during the season of war. I turned turned turned
toward the season of peace and swore it was not too late.
Your banjo was my hammer of justice, your voice
the bell that freed me; the song you sang all over this land
was my anthem. These days, when I'm feeling
old and alone, I shine my little light on your graveyard
and listen to the music that is still playing there.
Sherman Pearl is a retired journalist and publicist who came to poetry in his senescence. Since then he has published four books (latest: The Poem in Time of War, Conflu:X Press, 2004) and is working on a fifth. He is among the founders of the Los Angeles Poetry Festival and a former co-director of the Valley Contemporary Poets.
2014 Pete Seeger Tribute Concerts Photos
PHOTOS BY JUDY NAHMAN-STOUFFER
PHOTOS BY KATHLEEN MASSER
Bob Dylan’s Goal-line Stand for Detroit
Once again my purist friends are out there screaming that the definitive protest singer from the sixties has sold out by doing not one but two Super Bowl commercials—one for Chobani Yogurt by licensing his original recording of I Want You to rev up your taste buds for their tangy, creamy product, and two by appearing in person on behalf of Fiat’s newly purchased car company from Detroit—the one that Dylan’s old confrere Tom Paxton brilliantly satirized back in 1980 with I’m Changing My Name to Chrysler.
As the soundtrack to Dylan’s voice over narration indicates (with his Oscar-winning song from 2000 film, The Wonder Boys) Things Have Changed.
LETTER TO PETE
FolkWorks Board Member remembers Pete Seeger
When I was growing up, I loved the Weavers and when they broke up I went to every local Pete Seeger concert. The first one was in an elementary school auditorium. We were sitting on the floor. When he came out, rolled up his sleeves, picked us his banjo and began to sing, it wasn’t long before we all joined in.
My love of folk music began very early in my childhood. We had Pete’s albums and also the Weavers, Paul Robeson, Odetta, and Woody Guthrie. Of course, we did not have them all. So, sometimes I went to my cousin Deborah’s house to listen to her albums. Even if no one was home, I would let myself in, pull out her albums and listen to the songs on them. I memorized Abiyoyo and the Cumberland Mountain Bear Chase. I imagined how funny the corner store must have looked in his song about a foolish frog. I pictured tails swishing out the windows, grass, cows, fences, farmers and children eating crackers and drinking soda pop.
BEFORE THE POP, CRACKLE AND HISS
ANNUAL FOLKWORKS PARTY
[Ed. Note: The FolkWorks Annual Party is presented for members and supporters of FolkWorks. Larry’s appreciation represents a small snippet of the evening’s happenings. It is also representative of the jam sessions that occur all over Southern California year round.]
I'm sitting in a music circle around a fire cauldron's gently dancing orange flames. Some will know what that portends before they read on, but for others who have never experienced music this way, allow me to explain.
This is the gods' own stereo. Orpheus would approve. The left channel -- my left ear -- is attuned to the fiddle of Michael Kelly of the band Sligo Rags. His band plays Disneyland. A lot.
My right ear is focused on Melanie Nolley of the string ensemble the Sweet Set, and her fine Irish fiddle.
Now the left channel has added the mandolin playing of Roland Sturm. On the right, another player is Steve O’Loughlin alternating on flute and Irish whistle.
TWO VOICES, ONE SOUL:
ROMA MUSIC OF HUNGARY AND ROMANIA
My recent book on the subject of Roma (Gypsy) music was the most difficult of the three I’ve written, the first examining Portuguese fado, and the next dealing with tango from Argentina and around the world. The scope of the first two musical forms are limited; fado by the size of the country and its culturally limited relationship to Portugal, tango by its musical form, i.e its unique rhythm and that of the dance that it frequently accompanies.
Roma, or ‘Gypsy’ music, however, has no such limitations. It transcends both musical and geographical borders. The people who produce it, about ten million in Europe alone, and millions elsewhere, have no homeland and, until about a hundred years ago, no written language with which to pass down their music, their lyrics and their history.
It is so vast a subject, that I felt the need to limit the book itself to Eastern Europe and to narrow it down in this article to examining the music of two Balkan countries with large Roma populations and with a very rich musical heritage.
The Romani tribes, originating in central India, some say Rajasthan, began migrating from there in successive waves, reaching Europe around nine hundred years ago and arriving in the Balkans around the fourteenth century.
They Don’t Use the F-word,
but Some of this Rock is Pretty Folky
Ya know, me'thinks the next generation did somehow pick up folk music influences. I'm not sure from where. Probably not a lot from the roots, more by way of some sixties music - which you have to admit is among the most scenic routes back there.
Nobody is calling it Folk-Rock, but mainstream, college and progressive hard-rock radio stations are awash in acoustic tracks. The recent number one record in America is the female a cappella harmonizing of just-17 Ella Maria Lani Yelich-O'Connor, aka Lorde, singing her song Royals. The New York Times rightly dubbed it “Dickensian” in noting its use as the city’s new mayor’s celebratory song. Other current much-played acoustic songs go on to include a number of good group chorus songs by groups like the Lumineers and Mumford and Sons. (Actually, Wikipedia does refer to these groups with the term “folk rock.”)
Voices, acoustic guitars and even banjos are ringing out! There’s an acoustic revival at hand! Did you know?!?
Stories of Loss and Triumph
If great art depends upon the reflection of the artist's soul in their work, then the act of songwriting can be a daunting, sometimes risky, and intimate experience. A painter, a poet or a writer can leave such reflections on the canvas or the printed page. The songwriter however, often finds her works full realization in performance before a live audience. Once a song is captured in the studio, in the hands of singer-songwriter, Mary Gauthier (who comes to town this Saturday at The Mint in Los Angeles) they continue to grow through her words and melodies' deeply personal yet universal stories. I spoke with her about her work during a recent phone interview.
A SAD FAREWELL TO ZOEY'S
Ventura's Best Music Venue
Zoey's Cafe, the beloved and landmark acoustic music venue that had often been named "Best Live Music Venue in Ventura," closed its doors for the final time following Saturday night's performance, October 19, 2013. Owners Steve and Polly Hoganson's friendly, intimate venue hosted national acts that usually played only large music halls, and it played a key role in launching many musicians to fame and world tours, most recently The Milk Carton Kids.The photo, taken not long ago, on September 6th, hints at why everyone loved Zoey's. On stage in a big jam are Old Man Markley, Versus The World, Danjo & The Silent Treatment and Amy Hedberg.
RICKY SKAGGS and BRUCE HORNSBY
CHASE CLUCK OL’ HEN
As collaborations go Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby recent live album, Cluck Ol' Hen, and tour may seem unlikely. But, hearing them the first time together is a revelation. It would be hard to imagine two more diverse popular artists coming together, and while their common roots, may not be apparent, they do run deep. Both artists scored popular success during the same era of the 1980s, a time of transition when record labels were willing to take risks on performers who did not always seem to be ready-made for commercial success.
I recently had the pleasure of talking with both artists inseparateinterviews. The result reveals why the two men have such a great rapport. Both are artistic seekers, never playing the same song the same way twice. They are both energetic and restless instrumentalists who journey through songs with finesse and a level of skill that can provoke a dizzying kind of pace and easy-going passion.
THINKING ABOUT FIDDLE CAMP?
When you think of a YMCA camp, music or fiddling isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. More like boy scouts playing in the forest. But some of my most amazing summer experiences have been at a YMCA camp: Camp Campbell near Santa Cruz, where the annual Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddling School is held. Run by Alasdair Fraser, with regular instructors, faculty, 2 guest artists, and about 200 campers, Valley of the Moon (VOM) it is the preeminent Scottish fiddle camp in the world and has been the blueprint for other music camps, such as the Rocky Mountain Fiddle Camp.
Every year, Alasdair brings in two major guest fiddlers who represent a particular style of fiddling and a bunch of other instructors (guitar, cello, piano, dance, singing) who come to work and jam with the 200 campers. There are classes for everybody whether you play guitar or fiddle. No matter if you’re a total beginner or have been playing all your life (and there are many fantastic musicians among the students), Valley of the Moon has something new to teach you!
The Ash Grove: A Tiny Ripple of Hope
2013 “Best of The West” Award from FAR—West
Gives Long Overdue Recognition to Founder Ed Pearl
“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” Those were the words of Robert F. Kennedy, spoken at The University of Cape Town, South Africa to their national student union on behalf of the Declaration of Human Rights to embolden them to think they could end apartheid. It took place on June 6, 1966—6-6-66—two years before he was assassinated.
They speak to a lifelong commitment by FAR-West Best-of-the-West honoree Ed Pearl, whose mission through his legendary folk club The Ash Grove was precisely to bring forth the people’s music of all races and nationalities in a setting that framed each artist as part of a community that represented the highest ideals of—in RFK’s words—“individual integrity, human dignity, and the common humanity of man.” Over fifteen years, from 1958 to 1973, when the last of three arsonist fires left the Ash Grove in ashes, Ed brought Mance Lipscomb, Mississippi John Hurt, Reverend Gary Davis, Lightning Hopkins, Doc Watson, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Phil Ochs, The Greenbrier Boys, Ian and Sylvia, the New Lost City Ramblers, Ralph Stanley, Bill Monroe, Linda Ronstadt, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Pete Seeger, and hundreds of others to the most haloed stage in town—many of them for the first time out west. He made 16-year-old local boy Ry Cooder a star.
The Revolting Stone Cover:
How the Boston Bomber Became a Rock Star
“That stupid sonofabitch looks so much like Bob Dylan I want to shoot him,” said my girlfriend, the first time she saw the photo of the Boston Bomber suspect—three months before it wound up on the cover of Rolling Stone. It first appeared in the New York Times. That’s when I heard her comment and it struck me as so funny and profound I wrote it down in my notebook—thinking I might use it someday.
That day has come, with the appearance of the same self-posed cell phone photograph on the cover of the most influential cultural weathervane we have—Rolling Stone magazine.
Now others are commenting that it looks like Jim Morrison of the Doors, but the critic on Larry Mantle’s drive-by talk show on KPCC this morning confirmed my girlfriend’s assessment—he thought it looked more like an old RS cover of Bob Dylan, from which there are many to choose.
Defenders of the most controversial cover in the magazine’s history point out that Time Magazine has had Hitler on the cover—and stores did not boycott the issue—as both Walgreen’s and CVS are now doing to Rolling Stone.
John Hammond Blues Cruise
Sails Into McCabe’s
August 2, 2013 8:00 and 10:00pm
Heir to the Vanderbilt fortune, wealthy son of illustrious record producer John Hammond, raised in private schools and scion of privilege, no one could be less likely than John Hammond, Jr. to have met Robert Johnson at the Crossroads, where the famed King of the Delta Blues guitarist sold his soul to the devil. But there is more to his story than meets the eye: John Hammond, Jr. may have his illustrious father’s name, but he didn’t exactly grow up around the man who discovered Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. His parents were divorced and from a young age he saw his father only a few times a year.
For all practical purposes he fell in love with this proto-American art form on his own, when he happened to hear a record of blues-man Jimmy Reed at Carnegie Hall. That’s the album without the artist on the cover—just a bare stool, center stage, with a guitar leaning up against it to the side, and harmonica holder perched on top. It’s my favorite album cover of all time, and it must have sung to John Hammond, Jr. too, since he said it sealed his fate.
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
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.”
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
TEN YEARS OF FOLKWORKS
If you are an opera fan, you pretty much know who your friends are: devotees of Puccini, Mozart, Verdi, and if you are an American, George Gershwin. You also know who your favorite singers are: Pavarotti, Domingo, Carrera, Maria Calas, and if you’re an American, Kathleen Battle and Joan Sutherland; and you know where the great venues are: La Scala, The Met, and the LA Opera House.
But if you are a folk fan, you could live in a musical world uninhabitable by others who would also consider themselves folk music fans—with no interest in what you call “folk.” Singer/songwriters, for example, consider themselves to be playing folk; but old-time musicians can play for hours and never sing a song—nor would they refer to it as folk, but rather traditional music. Ask a folklorist what it is, though, and they will have no problem telling you it is “real folk music”—i.e., transmitted orally, passed down from generation to generation within well-defined communities, and found in many variants resulting from “the folk process.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.