In Defense of Michelle Shocked

By Ross Altman

[Ed. The opinions are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of FolkWorks]

michelle_shockedI 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:



Read more: In Defense of Michelle Shocked

Bob Dylan Elected to American Academy of Arts and Letters

By Ross Altman

Dylan_with_Obama“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.

Read more: Bob Dylan -American Academy of Arts and Letters


By Ron Young

Battlefield_BandScotland’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.