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Why Tom Paxton Deserves the Grammy.

December 22, 2003

Looking for the Moon is new for the prolific Tom Paxton. Few performers have the ability to stop your heart as this legend has for decades. In The Same River Twice he describes a couple who promise to return yearly to a mountain retreat. The sadness is overwhelming when you realize that only one of them will be back next year. The song of wanderlust, Looking for the Moon, is the album's title. The lead character is on a train, but his mind is elsewhere. Paxton's poetry is such that we become the person on the train, as we recall our own missed opportunities. There are bright moments too. Life in the Key of C is a road song about friends who travel the country with music connecting each destination. It becomes easy to remember your favorite festival and your best journey. By the way, a mandolin is just the right sized instrument for the passenger to play while the driver sings along. Paxton is up for a Grammy for 2003 for this CD. He's going against Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris, and the late Warren Zevon among others, so his chances are slim, but in this reviewer's opinion, he's already won.

Posted by Jim Blum at 1:22 PM | Comments (4)

Tish Hinojosa Release a Bi-lingual Christmas

December 19, 2003

Texas Music Group has released From Texas for a Christmas Night from Tish Hinojosa. The Texas native has included songs in a variety of genres, in English and Spanish. Hinojosa recently joined Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, and others on the bill of a fundraising concert to be held on Jan. 3 in Austin, TX for Dem. presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 3:53 PM

Bruce Cockburn Debuts...AGAIN!

Bruce Cockburn's lofty and insightful poetry helped jumpstart his career in the early 70's. Now, thanks to Rounder Records, three of his earliest recordings have been reissued on CD. The best of these was Highwinds White Sky. Along with his well known song of homecoming, One Day I'll Walk, are a dozen moments of introspection, including the touching Love Song. He offers a compliment that any lover would be honored to receive: " my place of wonder, that's where I find you." Other notable songs are Golden Serpent Blues, which features Cockburn on the piano, though he is not credited for playing it. Another is the bonus song It's an Elephant's World, which is his earliest known recording. Taped on to a cassette at The Bitter Grounds Coffee House in Kingston, Ontario in 1970, it's not perfect, but it is classic. In this song, and in one other from this session, we get a hint of what was to come from Cockburn the humanist, and more importantly, from Cockburn the activist. I don't think it's a stretch to recommend Highwinds White Sky as a must have.

Posted by Jim Blum at 1:01 PM | Comments (5)

T Bone Burnett Returns with Cold Mountain

December 18, 2003

Producer T Bone Burnett has returned with another tradition-based soundtrack album. The man behind the blockbuster soundtrack for the film O Brother, Where Art Thou has brought together more stellar work for Miramax's Cold Mountain, the Civil War epic starring Nicole Kidman and Jude Law. Featured artists include Alison Krauss, Stuart Duncan, Dirk Powell, Tim O'Brien, film composer Gabriel Yared, and Jack White of the White Stripes. The Cold Mountain soundtrack was released Tues., Dec. 16 on the Columbia/Sony label.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 3:53 PM

Fiddler Johnny Cunningham Dies

December 17, 2003

Scottish fiddler Johnny Cunningham died Mon. evening of a massive heart attack. He was 46 years-old. Cunningham helped found Silly Wizard and was a member of Nightnoise and, with his brother Phil, of the Celtic "supergroup" Relativity. He also enjoyed success as an award-winning producer and cross-over artist, most notably with his band Raindogs, and as a theatrical composer and lyricist for the NY-based Mabou Mines. At the time of his death, Cunningham was touring with Susan McKeown and Aidan Brennan on the Winter Talisman Tour.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 2:15 PM

Dave Matthews goes acoustic

December 16, 2003

The long awaited Some Devil from Dave Matthews contains a surprise bonus disc. Along with the in-studio produced disc comes a second EP with 6 acoustic tracks recorded live from various college campuses. Matthews is joined by long-time partner Tim Reynolds. Stay or Leave is a bittersweet lament which remembers good times while recommending finality. The singer wants the relationship to stick, but after close examination he is forced to agree with his own abandonment. By far the most poetic number is Grey Street. Dave adopts the third person and describes a downtrodden woman who still has the strength to wish for colorful moments. The trouble is that, when all the colors are mixed, the result is grey. This song is deep, but is crafted so well that you begin to recognize the character as someone you know, or perhaps as yourself. There are other songs with merit, but these two provide the best fit for Folk Alley.

Posted by Jim Blum at 3:44 PM | Comments (2)

Rhonda Vincent Re-releases One Step Ahead

Rhonda Vincent's album One Step Ahead, a Grammy double-nominee (including for Best Bluegrass Album) is being released again with the addition of her new single If Heartache Had Wings. The song is also available as a single from Rounder Records. This year, Vincent was named Female Vocalist of the Year for the fourth year running by the International Bluegrass Music Association.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 3:43 PM

Garcia Rises Again

December 12, 2003

Spring will see the release of another collection of recordings from David Grisman and the late Jerry Garcia. Tentatively called Been All Around This World, the album will bring together cover tunes captured during sessions in the '90s featuring Dawg on mandolin and Dead man Garcia on vocals and guitar. Grisman's Acoustic Disc label has released 5 Grisman/Garcia CDs, including 2000's The Pizza Tapes with Tony Rice, which reached the market place 5 years after Garcia's death.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 4:25 PM

Singer/Songwriters Get GLAAD Noms

December 11, 2003

Singer/songwriters lead the nominations in the Outstanding Music Artist category of the 15th Annual GLAAD (The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) Media Awards. Rufus Wainwright, Meshell Ndegeocello, and Bitch & Animal will compete against rocker Peaches and techno-dance band Junior Senior. Wainwright, nominated for the album Want One, is the son of Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle. The GLAAD Media Awards recognize and honor the media for their presentation of fair, accurate and inclusive representatives of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 4:07 PM

Natalie Looks Back

"Going back to your roots" is an expression which veteran followers of folk music often preach. Don't copy off a copy - go to the source. Roger McGuinn is so adamant about saving old songs that he seldom writes new ones anymore. Now it's Natalie Merchant's turn. The House Carpenter's Daughter is a testament to tradition. Some of the songs are well known - The Wayfaring Stranger and The House Carpenter, for example. Some aren't. Weeping Pilgrim is an 18th century Protestant hymn. Natalie found it in a tattered old hymnal; otherwise it might never have been heard again. Owensboro describes how poorly transient mine workers were treated in rural Kentucky. Fiddler Judy Hyman and old time banjoist Richie Stearns (both of The Horse Flies) help paint the scenes. Outside of Merchant's poor diction (it's hard to understand the words unless you're following along) this is a refreshing collection of traditional song in a classy package - the song descriptions and the old photographs provide a thoughtful touch.

Posted by Jim Blum at 3:22 PM | Comments (3)

ASCAP Names Top 25 Holiday Songs

December 10, 2003

ASCAP - the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers - has produced a list of the 25 most-performed winter holiday songs of the 21st century. The list is led by one of the oldest songs, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, written by J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie in 1934. The "newest" song on the list is Paul McCartney's Having a Wonderful Christmastime, which made its debut in 1979. The #2 song on the list, Mel Torme's The Christmas Song, is number one in Jim Blum's Ornaments and Icing series, featuring versions by Dee Carstensen, Livingston Taylor, and Josh White, Jr. Find more information on Ornaments and Icing: Songs and Stories of the Holidays through the links at the top of this page.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 3:54 PM

Ani DiFranco Nominated for Grammy

December 9, 2003

It's not a performance category, but singer/songwriter Ani DiFranco still scored with a Grammy nomination on Thursday. Along with Brian Grunert, she is recognized for art direction in the Best Recording Package category for her album Evolve (Righteous Babe Records). The team will compete with art directors for albums from the Fisk Jubilee Singers, Adrienne Young, the Cathy Richardson Band, and Sigur Ros. Grammy Awards will be presented on Feb. 8 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 5:15 PM

"A Mighty Wind" vs. Eminem and Jack Black

December 8, 2003

The soundtrack for the folk music spoof A Mighty Wind has been nominated for two Grammy Awards. The song A Mighty Wind - written by actors Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy and Michael McKean and featuring fictitious artists The Folksmen, Mitch & Mickey, and The New Main Street Singers - is up against Act A Fool from 2 Fast 2 Furious, The Hands That Built America (U2) from Gangs of New York, I Move On from Chicago, and Eminem's Lose Yourself from 8 Mile. The soundtrack album competes with compilations from Chicago, Gangs of New York, Kill Bill - Vol. 1, and the Jack Black vehicle School of Rock.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 3:11 PM

Ricky Skaggs Racks Up 5 Grammy Noms

December 5, 2003

Ricky Skaggs has earned five Grammy nominations from the Recording Academy in their 46th contest. Skaggs already has 8 Grammys on his shelf, dating back to 1983 when he won as part of the New South. Even if he wins in every category he is nominated in, Skaggs can only pick up 4 statues since he is up against himself for Best Country Instrumental Performance, for Pick Along with Earl Scruggs and Doc Watson, and for Get Up John with his own band, Kentucky Thunder. Both songs appear on Grammy-nominated albums, Best Traditional Folk Album The Three Pickers and Best Bluegrass Album Live at the Charleston Music Hall. Skaggs final nomination - in Best Country Performance - is for A Simple Life with Kentucky Thunder, also on Live at the Charleston Music Hall.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 2:45 PM

Gift Ideas: Choose Music not Malls.

If you like what you're hearing on Folk Alley, likely so will your friends. Here are several CDs that won't disappoint. *NOTE: THESE ARE NOT IN ORDER; YOU SHOULD BUY THEM ALL:

1) Tim O'Brien's Traveler (Sugar Hill) -- A true concept album, all the songs relate, but each is stylistically diferent - very philosphical. Each song is a wake up call.
2) Beautiful: A Tribute to Gordon Lightfoot (Borealis) -- Fifteen different Canadian artists honor their comrade. It's respectful, but each song sounds new as well.
3) Natalie MacMaster - Blueprint (Rounder) -- Cape Breton fiddling with a twist - provided by Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, & Sam Bush.
4) Spain in My Heart: Songs of the Spanish Civil War (Appleseed) -- Pete Seeger, Laurie Lewis, and many world artists remember history through song.
5) Kris Delmhorst's Songs for a Hurricane (Signature Sounds) -- She'll grow on you or whoever you give this to. Lots of variety and style.
6) Ian Anderson's Rupi's Dance (Fuel) -- Yes, he's the voice of Jethro Tull, but this doesn't rock - it sings. It's all acoustic, wry, and lively.
7) Dave Mallet's Artist in Me (North Road) -- If you want to share peace and comfort don't hesitate to share Dave Mallet. It's his best in years.
8) Robinella & the CC Stringband - Buy any CD you can find - They have 2 on their own label (Big Gulley) and one on the bigs (Columbia). It's country roots and arranged jazz; Robinella is like Blossom Dearie and Iris Dement combined.
9) Solas - Another Day (Shanachie) -- Contemporary Celtic music. If you know someone that thinks they don't like Irish music - insist that they listen to this. No cliches here, and this CD is far more inviting than the last one.
10) SEEDS - The Songs of Pete Seeger Vol. 3 (Appleseed) -- Pete sings on CD 1; CD 2 features Janis Ian, John McCutcheon, Natalie Merchant, and others.
11) Guy Davis - Chocolate to the Bone (Red House) -- Acoustic blues with power and with messages - no trite complaining about heartaches here.
12) John Gorka's Old Futures Gone (Red House) -- Give this man time to think and you'll completely re-think your own life after hearing this.
13) Rodney Crowell's Fate's Right Hand (DMZ/Epic) -- From a remarkable experience gained trying to feed the homeless to a message about suicide, this album is serious, but far from glum. In fact, it's joyful in its contemplation.
14) Greg Brown, Garnet Rogers, Karen Savoca - Live at the Black Sheep (Alcove) -- One night at a pub in a small town in Quebec. Three different lead singers who enjoy each other and it shows.

Posted by Jim Blum at 10:26 AM | Comments (7)

Grammy Nominations Announced

December 4, 2003

Nominations for the 46th Annual GRAMMY Awards were announced in Beverly Hills today by the Recording Academy.

The nominations for Best Contemporary Folk Album (vocal or instrumental) are: Rules Of Travel by Rosanne Cash, Stumble Into Grace by Emmylou Harris, Looking For The Moon by Tom Paxton, World Without Tears by Lucinda Williams, and The Wind by Warren Zevon. The late Zevon is also nominated in two other categories: Best Rock Performance (duo or group) for Disorder in the House with Bruce Springsteen, and Song of the Year with Jorge Calderón for I’m With You. Ms. Williams is also nominated in the category of Best Rock Female Vocal Performance for Righteously from her “World Without Tears” album.

Winners will be announced at the 46th GRAMMY Awards on Sunday, February 8, 2004, at in Los Angeles and broadcast on CBS from 8-11:30 p.m. on the East and West Coasts.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 3:53 PM

Eugene Earle Donates 60,000 Records to Southern Folklife Collection

December 3, 2003

Eugene Earle, a retired electrical engineer who was part of the team that first recorded Doc Watson, has doubled the Southern Folklife Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a donation of 60,000 78-rpm records. The focus of the collection is works by artists from the '20s and '30s who were from or who sang about Appalachia. The collection will find a home alongside items from the late Australian collector John Edwards, which were purchased by UNC in 1983 from a foundation managed in part by Earle. The avid collector, who spent his childhood in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, purchased his first records for 25 cents apiece from a Sears catalog at 9 years old after hearing Gene Autry sing. Earle now lives in California.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 3:38 PM

Celebrate the Season with Folk Alley

December 2, 2003

Now through Christmas, enjoy the best in seasonal music by many of your favorites on Folk Alley. Along with music hosted by Jim Blum, also enjoy Ornaments and Icing: Songs and Stories of the Holiday, three two-hour programs created by Jim and producer Joe Gunderman for WKSU-FM. Holiday music will increase througout the month, culminating on Christmas. Other holidays honored in song include Chanukah, Solistice, and Kwanzaa.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 4:11 PM

It's Christmas on Folk Alley

Christmas music has become stale. We've been subjected to the same dozen songs from the same recordings every year. If we allow the music of the holiday to become mundane, then Christmas itself is in trouble. The artists of Folk Alley are up to the challenge. Throughout December, you'll be hearing those same 12 songs, but with inventive arrangements and differences in style. The songs become new again as the personality of each singer or player shine through them. And if you think all of the holiday songs have been written, keep listening. John McCutcheon, Dave Carter, Janis Ian, Laurie Lewis, and scores of undiscovered talents have written new songs, which will soon become memorable. Mostly, you'll be offered what is hard to find on the internet, on the radio, or during Christmas for that matter - SURPRISES. Don't accept less.

Posted by Jim Blum at 10:48 AM | Comments (7)

All the News That's Fit to Print

December 1, 2003

Today marks the launch of Folk Alley's new free E-mail newsletter, offering Folk Alley news, listener spotlights, music updates, and more. If you have registered, you will automatically receive a copy on the first Monday of each month. If you haven't registered, this is another reason - along with the auto-updating playlist and posting to Jim Blum's blog - to add your name to our growing list of folk music fans. Sign up today and help us name the newsletter. The person who comes up with the winning name will receive a gift pack that includes an autographed CD and a Folk Alley t-shirt (if more than one person suggests the same name, the winner will be chosen at random from those entries). Register today and join the fun!

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 3:59 PM

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