IN HER LIFE
When thinking of the music of Judy Collins, there is an inevitable identification with the period when, what was called folk music, enjoyed its greatest universal popularity. Collins may have started out as a classically-trained pianist rather than a guitar-toting troubadour, but who else is so inextricably linked to both the early 1960s acoustic movement as well as the 1970s singer/songwriter era? She is also decidedly more than a footnote in the careers of such other icons as Leonard Cohen, Roger McGuinn, Joni Mitchell, and even Bob Dylan himself, whose songs she was covering practically from the very beginning of his career.
Hi and welcome back to my column. Some of you may have noticed, it's been a while since I've written one. After the last one I promised editors Steve and Leda, who've been very patient, that I'd eventually get back to it. So here it is. I hope to become more frequent with it again.
A few things have happened since we last talked. I've gotten married, for one. I've been writing songs and playing lots of music, sometimes with my good pal Keith Wolf at the Unurban Coffee House in Santa Monica- come by and say hello sometime- and even doing an occasional gig with Craicmore, the Celtic band for which I was the bass player for ten years.
FOLK IS A FOUR-LETTER WORD
Being that I’m writing for a publication by the name of FolkWorks, some might make an assumption that I am a fan of a majority of the music covered here. And if asked if I’m a fan of folk music, I will certainly answer in the affirmative. Rephrase the question only slightly, however, and ask if I’d define myself as a “folkie,” and you’ll get a much different answer. In fact the words “hell no,” if not something stronger, will likely be uttered.
Willner Times Three
Philadelphia-born producer/music director Hal Willner is certainly not what anyone would call a folkie, though in the last few years he's had a large hand in bringing lots of great songs to a wider audience. Willner is well-known for producing tribute concerts to composers and songwriters he admires, which he's been specializing in for the last twenty years, along with his regular gig as music director of the TV show Saturday Night Live. Though he primarily presents the work of jazz and film composers, the three most recently released projects that have his name on them, all from 2006, are of interest to Folkworks readers. While most of the performers are jazz, rock or avant-garde musicians who tend to lend idiosyncratic readings to the songs, they often inhabit them in a fresh way. Of course it also continues the "but is it folk music" discussion that's been obsessing me of late. Discussion is never bad.
Amidst the first few days of 2007, I’m finding myself again (as is my wont) thinking about the state of music these days. With Tower Records now defunct, the album era is officially over. Young people now overwhelmingly hear new music via downloads and ringtones. Listening to the radio to hear new music is even seen by many as a quaint affectation. But the biggest difference I note between now and, say, ten years ago, is that there’s so much more independent music these days. This should be good news for the folk scene, which has always flourished by word of mouth and networking. Now all the things record companies used to do- setting up the entire recording, mixing, mastering and promoting process- almost anyone can do from their basement.
Writing for a magazine called Folkworks, of course the question of what should be covered here is a question never far from my mind. Likewise, when discussing the music I like with my friends and fellow musicians, the “what is folk music
Folk and acoustic music and how it relates with technology has been a much-debated topic in these pages for quite a while, and it's been occupying my thoughts lately as well. Now that the best-known singer-songwriter in the world, Bob Dylan, has a new record (I still call them that) called Modern Times [Columbia] (!!); it might lead one to think that the old guard is finally getting with the program.