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Kerrville Kicks-off

May 28, 2004

With last night's opening concert, the Kerrville Folk Festival launched into 2 1/2 weeks of celebrating the songwriter on a Texas ranch. Everything from traditional folk and personal ballad styles to blues and rock-a-billy is offered, along with special programs, jam sessions, workshops, songwriters school and more. Festival performers include Peter, Paul & Mary, Ruthie Foster & Cyd Cassone, Tom Prasada-Rao, Slaid Cleaves, Carrie Newcomer, Chuck Brodsky, Michael McNevin, Eliza Gilkyson, Mary Gauthier, Tish Hinojosa and many others.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 2:04 PM | Comments (1)

Phish Breaks Up... Again

May 27, 2004

Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio announced Tuesday that the classic jam band would cease to be after their Coventry concerts in VT this August. Unlike the last time the band separated, the 2000-2001 "hiatus," Anastasio says this time it's for real. Phish is fried. Along with Anastasio, band members Jon Fishman, Page McConnell and Michael Gordon have been interested in pursuing other projects (Fishman has numerous dates lined up with Jamie Masefield's Jazz Mandolin Project) and, after a band meeting on Friday, the group decided to part as friends. What will most likely be Phish's final studio album, Undermind, will be released on the Elektra label on June 15. Phish hooked up in 1983, inheriting the jamband crown and fan caravan of the Grateful Dead after Jerry Garcia's death in 1995.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 4:03 PM | Comments (2)

New Songwriting team born: Lauderdale & Hunter

May 26, 2004

Have you ever worked with someone and found that everything just clicked? Ideas are flushed out faster, and each of you has an instant editor. Jim Lauderdale and Robert Hunter co-wrote every song on Jim's new CD: Headed for the Hills. This is an impressive collection and here's why:

The stories are captivating
A man considers deserting both sides during the civil war (Sandy Ford). An Alley cat eavesdrops on broken dreams and reflects (Trashcan Tomcat). Two characters on the run choose the merits of a small town as a hideaway (Crazy Peg & Darby Doyle). A man hikes in the high country to escape, only to find his feelings of emptiness solidified (High Timberline).

The lyrics stand on their own
"This might just be our kind of town, big enough to turn around, small enough to step from side to side...
Peg, you know you got a way of sayin' what I meant to say, before I found out what is myself." (Crazy Peg & Darby Doyle)

"Even madness has it season, well you know it's difficult....
Never ask to know the reason, you can judge by the result." (Trashcan Tomcat)

The delivery is passionate and confident
Jim Lauderdale's voice has always been unique. Like Jimmy Dale Gilmore, he sounds like he was an old time country singer from 50 years ago, yet like Gilmore, he doesn't just sing old-fashioned themes about heartbreak. With Hunter's writing craft in support, now Lauderdale has even more to say, and because of the strong writing, he's a more compelling singer.

The guest musicians make the songs exciting
Look who's here: Darrell Scott, Tim O'Brien, Bryan Sutton and Buddy Miller. Emmylou Harris joins him for the album's first song High Timberline. Allison Moorer joins him on Leaving Mobile Both singers force Lauderdale to be at his best.

Not ever song is a winner, but those that are (mentioned above) give us that special gift that keeps on giving. You listen once and you nod, and when you listen 10 more times, you grasp a deeper understanding as to why you nodded in the first place. In fact, I'm no longer nodding - I'm cheering. Let me know which ones grab you.

Posted by Jim Blum at 3:52 PM | Comments (0)

Mother Maybelle's Guitar For Sale

May 25, 2004

A Gibson L-5 that was the primary instrument of "Mother Maybelle" Carter is up for sale. Carter, one-third of the legendary Carter Family, purchased the guitar in the late '20s. The instrument is being sold by Nashville's Gruhn Guitars and is expected to collect over half a million dollars. It would have sold originally for $275 and was Gibson's highest priced model at the time. From their first recordings in 1927 to the band's final separation in 1943, the original Carter Family - Mother Maybelle, cousin/sister-in-law Sara, and brother-in-law A.P. - were responsible for creating the bedrock of American country music with their introductions of Appalachian/Old World folk songs including their signature song Keep on the Sunny Side, Wildwood Flower, Wabash Cannonball, and Will the Circle Be Unbroken. After the band's break-up, Carter continued to perform with her daughters Helen, Anita, and June - who would establish herself as a solo artist and later working with her third husband Johnny Cash.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 4:46 PM | Comments (1)

Livingston Taylor Wants You!

May 24, 2004

Singer/songwriter Livingston Taylor is heading the hunt for the folk music star of tomorrow. The 2nd Annual Apple & Eve Newport Folk Festival Talent Search gives an unknown folk singer/songwriter the opportunity to perform at one of the world's largest and most recognized folk festivals. Five finalists will be selected from all entries with Taylor hosting a "sing-off" in Newport on Aug. 5, the day before the Newport Folk Festival begins. The winner will appear onstage at the festival, sharing a line-up with some of today's greatest artists. Now through July 2, hopefuls should submit a VHS or DVD of a live performance of one or two original songs along with an official entry form.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 5:34 PM | Comments (0)

Johnny and June Go on the Block

May 21, 2004

Sotheby's auction house announced a sale of personal items from the estates of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash to be held in New York City on Sept. 14 & 15. The auction will feature more than 650 lots that include instruments, clothing, gold and platinum records, handwritten documents, personal household items and art, Grammy Awards, and Johnny's 2002 black Ford F-150 pickup. The auction catalogue is available now through Sotheby's.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 4:26 PM | Comments (0)

Phish Fest Tix on Sale

May 20, 2004

Tickets for Coventry, a two-day festival featuring jam-band Phish, are on sale now through the Phish web site. Tix go on sale tomorrow through Ticketmaster for the event, which will take place on Aug. 14 & 15 in Coventry, VT. Coventry will offer multiple daily Phish sets, on-site camping, and art installations in a festive atmosphere. Undermine, the first Phish studio release in two years, is due on shelves on June 15. Purchase early and get a free DVD chronicling the band's recording process.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 4:25 PM | Comments (0)

Wanna Play a Fayre?

May 19, 2004

The Wessex Fayres are looking for musicians interested in performing at the 1st of four planned annual summer fairs at the end of July. The Sun and Moon Fayre in Cannington, Somerset on July 31 will bring together workshops, dance, drama, food and drink and stalls featuring crafts and original goods. If you are interesting in playing the Fayres, call Jonathon at 01278 732829.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 4:01 PM | Comments (0)

ParkinSong: Something to Inspire Just About Everyone

May 18, 2004

Inspired by their mother who had triumphed over from Parkinson's Disease for 10 years, the children of retired English teacher Selma Litowitz approached Lawrence High School in Lawrence, New Jersey (the school where she had taught for 20 years) with the idea of a benefit concert to raise money for Parkinson's research. After two sold-out concerts in successive years, the ParkinSong Foundation was created and Selma's son Rob then began the work to assemble a CD.

The result is ParkinSong: 38 Songs of Hope, Volume One, recently released by Ryko Distribution. Bonnie Raitt, Lucy Kaplansky, Greg Brown, Alejandro Escovedo, Dar Williams, Eliza Gilkyson, Kelly Willis, Sara Hickman , Dave Alvin , Hot Club of Cowtown, and Jonatha Brooke are among the extraordinary group of singer/songwriters who have contributed a song to this two-disc set, which covers a broad range of styles and voices.

Proceeds from the purchase of this CD will benefit the New Jersey-based ParkinSong Foundation, a non-profit that uses music to raise awareness and money to research new and innovative therapies for the treatment of Parkinson's Disease. The foundation intends to stage higher profile concerts on the east and west coasts later this year, and will begin assembling tracks for volume two of ParkinSong.

Parkinson's Diease is a terminal affliction with no cure, a devastating illness --I know this from personal experience with someone in my own family. So the cause is good. And with more than two hours of music, it's a great sampler of many of the singer/songwriters that we play on Folk Alley. To learn more about Parkinson's Disease or to purchase this CD, go to the ParkinSong Foundation.

Posted by at 6:58 PM | Comments (0)

Lisa and Liz Sing for the Kids

May 17, 2004

Singer/songwriters Lisa Loeb and Elizabeth Mitchell have released Catch the Moon, an acoustic collection geared towards children on the Artemis Label. Loeb, best known for the single Stay from the Reality Bites soundtrack, and Mitchell met and began singing together while roommates at Brown in the late '80s. The album offers interpretations of traditional numbers and new songs from Loeb, Mitchell and Mitchell's husband (and bandmate in the modern rock Ida) Daniel Littleton. The CD comes with a companion board book with text by Brown pal Erin Courtney and illustrations from Mitchell's mom Bonnie Brooke Mitchell.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 5:00 PM | Comments (2)

Christine Kane: Get Down To Get Up

May 13, 2004

At the International Folk Alliance Conference in San Diego in February, Christine Kane was selected among hundreds for an official showcase. It's easy to see why. She's at ease on stage, likely because of years of experience. Right Outta Nowhere is her fifth album (I don't know how I missed her until now). Her songs are poetically engaging yet not too dispirit that you can't sing along. Several songs express the possibility that big changes CAN be made in our lives, despite hearing the opposite, even from ourselves (Right Outta Nowhere, Now That You Know, & Whole Other World). Since this is a prevailing theme on the album, it makes you wonder what she may have recently gone through.

In the song Falling in Love with the Wind, Christine challenges you to do more than just talk: How will you go the long journey if you're always about to begin? How will you know you're home if you keep falling in love with the wind? I'd be curious to hear what you think about the ultimatum presented in the comical Four Legs Good. Two Legs Bad. Since I've taken in 13 abandoned or abused dogs and cats it's easy to see which character in the song I admire. What about you?

The album closes with a bonus (but not hidden) live track about a young Catholic girl's obsession with Lent: Mary Catherine's Ash Wednesday Journal Entry. This one's a lot of fun, Catholic or not. Right Outta Nowhere is one of those albums that grabs you the first time through, but doesn't wear out after frequent play. If Christine Kane comes to a small club in your town, don't pass on the experience, because the next time through she'll be on a bigger stage and you might be sitting in the back.

Posted by Jim Blum at 4:50 PM | Comments (0)

Maura O'Connell Releases 'Don't I Know'

May 12, 2004

Irish chanteuse Maura O'Connell has release Don't I Know on the Sugar Hill label. The CD, O'Connell's first full-length recording since 2001's Walls and Windows, contributes the singer's rich vocals to songs by Tim O'Brien, Mindy Smith, Jim Lauderdale, Patty Griffin and others. The album features the work of Jerry Douglas, both as producer and as Lord of the Dobro. Other guest musicians include Bryan Sutton, Edgar Meyer, and Viktor Krauss.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 5:27 PM | Comments (2)

Brodsky Searching for Instruments

May 11, 2004

Singer/songwriter Chuck Brodsky returned to the US last week only to discover that his home had been burgled. The thief apparently knew what he was there to steal. Five instruments were taken while everything else in the house was left intact. Stolen were: a hand-hammered Larry Pogreba resonator guitar, a rare Steve Wise long neck dulcimer and case, an Ovation "Elite" acoustic guitar, a banjolin, and a Madeira acoustic guitar. Brodsky's newest album is Color Came One Day, produced in Cape Breton.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 5:19 PM | Comments (2)

MerleFest Breaks Records

May 10, 2004

The 17th MerleFest surpassed previous attendance records, welcoming more than 82,500 to the festival site in Wilkesboro, NC from April 29 to May 2. Originally conceived as a memorial to the late Merle Watson, son of legendary Doc Watson, MerleFest has grown from a small festival playing to around 4,000 guests to one of the most respected and well-attended acoustic music events in North America. Artists at the 2004 MerleFest included veterans like Doc, Rosanne Cash, Sam Bush, Vince Gill, Bela Fleck & Edgar Meyer, and the Indigo Girls performing alongside relative newcomers Bering Strait, Mindy Smith, the Waifs, and Zoe Speaks. Click here to see pics from this year's fest from listener John Russell. All responses to his smart-alecky commentary should go to him.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 5:11 PM | Comments (1)

Gone Too Soon

May 7, 2004

Last night, a young man named Steve Caynon died. He was only 24. Steve worked with us while he was a student at Kent State University and was smart and funny and clever and (really important for a student worker) reliable. When he first got sick a couple of years ago, it caught us all off guard but I think we all believed that he would eventually recover. He did go into remission, only to lose ground again. Steve was an artist and a musician, along with being a great guy. He will be missed.

Steve's death reminded me of a couple of folk musicians who left this earth too early. Eva Cassidy was a beautiful singer who was on the brink of leaving her "day job" and devoting her complete attention to her music when she died in 1996 at 33 of melanoma. Guitarist Jeff Buckley literally got sucked away while swimming in the Wolf River outside of Memphis. At 31, he too was right on the edge of "making it." What does all of this mean? I don't think anyone can build a career faster than it wants to be built, but if you have a dream, don't waste time, live life with a full vigor. There are no guarantees.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 5:31 PM | Comments (5)

The Lowell Folk Festival Announces Line-up

May 6, 2004

The 2004 Lowell Folk Festival in Lowell, MA offers a diverse collection of performances including everything from reggae and calypso to Tuvan throat singers and polka, along with an assortment of traditional American musical forms. The largest free folk fest in the country combines music and dance with crafts, parades, and ethnic food - July 23 through July 25. The Lowell Folk Festival is co-produced by the National Council for the Traditional Arts.

Featured acts: The Abyssinians (reggae), the Cana Ramblers (Appalachian), Dale Hawkins (rockabilly), Gilles Roy and the Stepping Ambassadors (Franco-Canadian step dance), Huun Huur Tu (Tuvan throat singers), JD Crowe and the New South (bluegrass), Kevin Burke (Irish fiddler), Mark Halata and Texavia (Texas-Czech polka), the Mighty Sparrow (cajun gyspy swing), Sensacion Vallenata con Gustavo Nieto (Columbian Vallenato), and Warner Williams and Jay Summerour (Piedmont blues).

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 4:53 PM | Comments (1)

Martie Maguire Hatches Twin Chicks

May 5, 2004

Dixie Chick Martie Maguire and her husband Garth added twin daughters to their family unit on April 27. The girls (Eva Ruth and Kathleen Emilie) are the couple's first children and join the growing brood of Chick offspring: including the sons of Maguire's sister and fellow Chick Emily Robinson and Natalie Maines, who is due any time now with her second child with actor Adrian Pasdar. The Dixie Chicks have currently put their tour bus up on blocks and have not announced a studio follow-up to 2002's Home.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 6:22 PM | Comments (0)

The Ungars - Today's Top Folk Family?

May 4, 2004

Rock That Babe, the new CD from the Mammals, hit the stores officially this week leading me to ask the question: If you add together all of Ruth Ungar's solo and band work with that of her dad Jay (with step-mom Molly Mason), and mom Lyn Hardy, do you get a chunk of music big enough to make them the most active family in folk today (not working together in the same band)? Along with the Mammals (which also spews family units - Michael Merenda tours with his brother Chris and Tao Rodriguez-Seeger has his granddad Pete appear on the new album), Ruth also sings with The Wayfaring Strangers and with Jay Ungar & Molly Mason.

Whew! Maybe this is just the most recent manifestation of the tradition of passing folk songs between the generations. Play on, family units!

BTW, I saw Jay and Molly play two weeks ago in Kent and it was beautiful. I was catching, as they say, "a train for the coast" the next day and it was worth the effort.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 6:22 PM | Comments (1)

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