• URGENT

    REGARDING COVID-19 VIRUS

    Concerts, dances and festivals have all been cancelled in order to contain the spread of the covid-19 virus.
    Stay at home! Watch the numerous postings on social media of folk/traditional artists.
    If you find something you find exceptional that we haven't shared, please let us know and we will spread the word.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The FolkWorks CALENDAR of EVENTS and the RECURRING EVENTS)
    have been suspended until the stay at home orders have been lifted.

    International Songwriting Competition

    WHAT IS THE INTERNATIONAL SONGWRITING COMPETITION?

    The International Songwriting Competition (ISC) is an annual song contest whose mission is to provide the opportunity for both aspiring and established songwriters to have their songs heard in a professional, international arena. ISC is designed to nurture the musical talent of songwriters on all levels and promote excellence in the art of songwriting. Amateur and professional songwriters and musicians are invited to participate. ISC has the most prestigious panel of judges of all the songwriting and music contests in the world, offering exposure and the opportunity to have your songs heard by the most influential decision-makers in the music industry.

    Read more: International Songwriting Competition

    PASSINGS

    RIP: DAN AUERBACH

    (12/4/1940-6/17/20)

    Dan AuerbachDan Auerbach was an accomplished musician who played 14 different instruments, mainly mandolin family, banjo, guitar, pennywhistle, and Irish frame drum. He loved music and loved playing music with others, always encouraging them to express themselves and increase their own abilities. He consistently contributed to the music scene wherever he was located. In the last 36 years, living in Thousand Oaks, he played in sessions, composed, taught music. He set up and maintained his website The Tune Spectrum, which features transcriptions of over 1,000 tunes of a variety of genres, each tune with MIDI file and many having links to exceptional YouTube performances.

    Read more: RIP: DAN AUERBACH

    COLUMN OF THE WEEK

    July-August 2020

    Stay At Home Series – Part 2

    Tiki Parlour Magic Lantern Music Show (Vol.2)

    Bruce Molsky & Molsky's Mountain Drifters

    By David Bragger

    Magic Lantern V 2The first episode of the Magic Lantern Music Show was a smashing success, thanks to readers and viewers such as yourselves! These half hour music shows are designed to share the wonderful traditional music of America with admirers of folk music and musicians who practice the art. The Stefaninis and The Thompsons were featured in our kick-off episode. Our second episode features the musical genius of Bruce Molsky and his stringband Molsky's Mountain Drifters.

    Read more: STAY AT HOME SERIES – PART 2

    FEATURE ARTICLES

    TEARING DOWN MOUNT RUSHMORE

    Special to FolkWorks

    [EDITORS NOTE: This article addresses a controversial subject and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editors. We welcome your opinions.]

    By Ross Altman, PhD

    Mt. RushmoreCary Grant and Eve Marie Saint climbed all over Mt. Rushmore in North by Northwest—before they wound up on Lincoln’s nose. British director Alfred Hitchcock knew what it symbolized—America herself—and the foreign spy (portrayed by James Mason) who was trying to destroy her. He couldn’t have picked a better symbol to represent the ideals of our democracy—“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—“ “Of the people, by the people and for the people.” And now, one by one, we are seeing every one of our sacred symbols toppled and trashed.

    Read more: TEARING DOWN MOUNT RUSHMORE

    TOPANGA BANJO-FIDDLE

    TBFC

    VIRTUAL PERFORMANCE CONTEST

    Gimme Shelter (in place) Winners

    Read more: TOPANGA BANJO-FIDDLE VIRTUAL PERFORMANCE CONTEST WINNERS

    EXTENDED LENGTH VIDEOS

    CD REVIEW

    ARTIST: Bob Dylan

    TITLE: Rough and Rowdy Ways

    LABEL: Columbia Records

    RELEASE: June 19, 2020

    Masters of War

    By Ross Altman, PhD

    rough and rowdy ways

    Sing of Sherman, Montgomery and Scott
    And of Zhukov, and Patton, and the battles they fought
    Who cleared the path for Presley to sing
    Who carved the path for Martin Luther King
    Who did what they did and they went on their way
    Man, I could tell their stories all day (Mother of Muses)

    Things have changed all over again for our Nobel Prize Winner in Literature—the antiwar champion of “Masters of War” has finally “outlived his life” (his words, not mine) and has some new heroes to celebrate in his brand new and 39th studio album—Rough and Rowdy Ways.

    Read more: BOB DYLAN - ROUGH AND ROWDY WAYS

     

    FULL CALENDAR

    MUSIC       DANCE


    REGARDING COVID-19 VIRUS

    Concerts, dances and festivals have all been cancelled in order to contain the spread of the covid-19 virus.
    Stay at home! Watch the numerous postings on social media of folk/traditional artists.
    If you find something you find exceptional that we haven't shared, please let us know and we will spread the word.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The FolkWorks CALENDAR of EVENTS and the RECURRING EVENTS)
    have been suspended until the stay at home orders have been lifted.


    SHORT TAKE VIDEOS

    Referred to by Dave Leddel

    Referred to by Eileen Ivers in her Caltech Online concert...
    Stefani Rosenberg looked this up and found the YouTube and lyrics

    Click to read the lyrics

    Read more: Irish Black Bottom - Louis Armstrong & His Hot Five (1926)

    recomended by Colin Quigley

    recomended by Milt Rosenberg

November-December 2010

JUDY COLLINS:
IN HER LIFE

By Dave Soyars

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.

And yet, upon careful listening, that's not what stands out. While she is in some ways the quintessential folkie - her early records indeed focus largely on traditional material with light acoustic backing - the experimentation and desire to look beyond the world of hootenannies and coffee houses started almost from the very beginning. By her third album, she's already trying out songs and arrangements that vary from the norm with the help of, among others, future Byrds leader McGuinn and jazz bassist Bill Lee (also Spike's dad). By the time we get to the first of these CDs, [originally released on Elektra, but reissued earlier this year by Collector's Choice], she's already become a diverse, interesting and above all musical artist, and one not easily categorized.

Judy Collins' Fifth Album (RATING: !) [orig. release 1965]

There's still more than a touch of "old guard" to this, with two traditional songs and a series of (mostly fairly straight ahead) covers from popular songwriters of the day. Certainly compared to what Dylan and the like were working up to at the time, it's pretty tame. But there's also a palpable sense that she's already looking beyond the easy or expected. The arrangements are diverse and unpredictable, though still acoustic based. The songwriters are a talented group, from the ever dependable "Trad. Arr." to the three Dylan songs (two of which had been yet to be recorded by Dylan). But the musical highlight is the dulcimer playing of good friend Richard Farina on Farina's own Pack Up Your Sorrows. Farina, as part of a duo with wife Mimi, had already put his stamp on the era, using dulcimer as a primary rhythm instrument rather than the usual guitar, setting the stage for performers to find new and unexpected ways to express themselves. Collins would show she was up for it soon enough.

In My Life (RATING: !!!) [1966]

This is the one, the real deal, the highlight of these reissues and almost certainly the finest record of Collins' long career. Of course by then there was already a thriving folk/rock scene- led by, among others, some folks that had played on Collins' previous recordings- so stubborn traditionalists, should they still want to stick with the "old guard," had clearly already lost the battle. Yet rather than follow the trends, Collins finds another way to stand out from the- by then rather massive - crowd. Feeling no need to artificially uphold a tradition that had clearly been stretched to the limit by the age, or to "go electric" in a attempt to stay with the times, she looked to young keyboardist/arranger Joshua Rifkin, the arranger and the producer of the Baroque Beatles Book, a striking resetting of several Lennon/McCartney songs. Collins had been impressed enough to make his orchestral arrangement of a particularly sentimental Lennon/McCartney song the title track, though it's her pure soprano which imbues the song with quiet intensity. Other tracks in this decidedly non-folkie mix include a few bits of musical theater- one from the then-popular Marat Sade and the Brecht/Weill Pirate Jenny, a likely blueprint for Steeleye Span's rendering of the same song a decade later. What she does had no precedent, and for that matter antecedent that I can think of. Most of all, she gives each song the reading it needs. Where she manages to do so most strikingly is on the first recorded appearance of songs by Leonard Cohen. Her Suzanne may be not have the edge Cohen's own version would have a scant few years later, but she draws every bit of sarcasm, barbed wit and bitterness out of his Dress Rehearsal Rag. She had long ago proven she could "sing pretty" when called for, this is where she proves she had the range and intelligence to do the opposite as well. Rifkin's arrangements, be they orchestral or featuring his own piano or harpsichord playing, also avoid fussiness while not going for easy shock value either. There were dozens of ways for this recording to go wrong, but it's to Collins' and Rifkin's credit that they found the one way for it to go right. Almost half a century later, it's still a staggering achievement, and has dated about as well as anything from the era.

Whales and Nightingales (RATING: !!) [1970]

After having hits with the songs of Joni Mitchell, Dylan and the like, Collins started the 1970s more regularly writing her own material, and what of it that's here is pretty good, though the songs don't quite measure up to the songwriters she'd been covering. No shame in that, of course, considering the high standards they'd set. Regardless, it's her ability to make songs her own that stands out here. Be it on Dominic Behan's The Patriot Game - which sharp-eared listeners will recognize as the melodic source for Dylan's With God on Our Side, - the somewhat obscure Time Passes Slowly by Dylan himself, or a couple of Jacques Brel Songs, she inhabits them all thoroughly. This is also an album that was recorded in a great variety of locations- from an empty Carnegie Hall to a crowded New York street to St. Paul's Chapel, site of her recording of Amazing Grace, one of the biggest pop hits of her career. But it's the beautiful performance of the traditional Farewell to Tarwathie featuring recordings of whale songs as accompaniment that explains the first word of the album title. It's once again an example of something that could have been a mere gimmick in the wrong hands. The second half of the title comes from an original two-part song, the first half of it baroquely arranged by old pal Rifkin.

True Stories and Other Dreams (RATING: !) [1973]

By this time, Collins has finally become the best songwriter on her own album. Probably not coincidentally, it's also the first time the majority of the songs are original. An angry (and electric- featuring some rather "heavy" guitar solos) version of Tom Paxton's The Hostage is great, though the other non-original songs don't fare as well as Song for Martin, a sensitive tribute to an old friend who'd committed suicide, or Che, of course about (now very trendy) revolutionary Guevara, refreshingly free of revolutionary rhetoric, and rich in historical narrative.

Also part of the same reissue program are Bread & Roses [1976], Running for My Life [1980], Times of Our Lives [1982], Home Again [1984] and Christmas at the Biltmore [1997]. Albums NOT part of it include are Judy Collins #3 [1963], prominently featuring a young Jim (later Roger) McGuinn (accompanying Collins on Turn Turn Turn, a hit for the Byrds two year later), Wildflowers [1967], which features her version of Joni Mitchell's Both Sides Now, still the biggest hit of her career and a song likely more identified with her than with its composer, and Who Knows Where the Time Goes [1968] which features a stellar backing band including Stephen Stills, master guitarist James Burton, and pedal steel player Buddy Emmons. These albums are all still in print on their original Elektra label, and all are highly recommended

Collins' history is so interesting because she spans so many different eras in so short a time, and she's an important figure in all of them. She also recorded both before and after the time it became expected for singer/songwriter types to write their own songs. While she was up to the task, when one looks at the songwriters she's best-known for covering- Cohen, Dylan, Joni Mitchell, even Lennon and McCartney- what they all have in common is that their songs have lasted. And that's what the legacy of Judy Collins is in the end, regardless of how the music is played or interpreted. Good songs, well sung- and played with an obvious purpose, which affects both singer and listener.

Rating scale:

[!!!]-Classic, sure to be looked back on as such for generations to come.

[!!]-Great, one of the year's finest. If you have even a vague interest in the artist, consider this my whole-hearted recommendation that you go out and purchase it immediately.

[!]-Very good, with considerable appeal for a fan of the artist(s). If you purchase it, you likely won't be disappointed.

[--]-Good/solid, what you would expect.

[X]-Avoid. Either ill-conceived, or artistically inept in some way.

Dave Soyars is a guitarist, electric bass player, a singer/songwriter, and a print journalist with over fifteen years experience. His column features happenings on the folk and traditional music scene both locally and internationally, with commentary on recordings, as well as live shows, and occasionally films and books. Please feel free to e-mail him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  

All Columns by Dave Soyars