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It's Folk Fest weekend in Ann Arbor

January 28, 2005

This weekend (1/28 & 29), The Ark in Ann Arbor, MI presents the 28th Annual Ann Arbor Folk Festival. If you are anywhere near and have any time at all this weekend, it looks to be two fantastic shows. Susan Werner is emceeing with appearances by Scottish fiddle champ Jeremy Kittel, Steppin' In It, Glengarry Bhoys, the brilliant Vienna Teng, Martyn Joseph, multiple Grammy nominees the Blind Boys of Alabama, and the masterful Indigo Girls on Friday (tonight!). Saturday hear Richard Shindell (whom I love), Kruger Brothers, David Jones, Lynn Miles, IMBA Emerging Artist of the Year King Wilkie, George Bedard & the Kingpins, Whit Hill & The Postcards, the legendary Richard Thompson, and genius Keb' Mo'. For all of that, tickets are very reasonable and The Ark is a great club in a great town. Let the North American Folk Fest season begin!

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 12:10 PM | Comments (3)

Calling all New Yorkers!

January 26, 2005

Not to sound like a country bumpkin (although my hometown was recently named dumbest in America and a song satirized I-69, which runs right past town, just ran on Folk Alley - so I'm not feeling all that sophisticated), but I received this E-mail today and had no answers. How about y'all? Give a girl a hand won't you?

I am a new listener in the uk. I am coming to New York in February for the dog show ... Westminster. But, I am trying to find folk venues where something may be on ... say Feb 10th or 11th to the 16th when I go home. Is there something on in the Manhattan area? Can you suggest anything ... concerts, pubs, singarounds ... or a plain old fashioned folk club!

Hope to hear back from you,

Vince Hogan."

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 10:01 AM | Comments (22)

Looking forward to Montreal

January 25, 2005

A month from now I'll be in the thick of the Folk Alliance conference in Montreal, Quebec Canada and I'm already getting antsy! It's all I can do to stop myself from packing. Last year's conference was so inspiring - so many people all with one goal: to further the reach of folk music and dance throughout North America.

There's going to be three of us - me, Jim and Abbe (our newly minted fundraising chief). We're planning our display to spread the word and I'm ordering some new shirts from the Folk Alley Store. I don't know Montreal well enough to properly plan a Folk Alley outing, but if one of you does, post it in Jim's blog below and we'll try and pull something together. I'm driving (too much stuff to fly - plus I need a stamp on my passport), but I don't want to go too far a field from the hotel. I might never find my way back. [Here's where I wanted to say "see you later" in French, but I can't remember how - good luck to me in French Canada!]

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 4:09 PM | Comments (18)

Who really deserves a Grammy?

January 21, 2005

With the Grammy Award ceremony less than a month away (Feb. 13 for luck), my question is: Are the right people nominated? After last year's weird win for Warren Zevon as Best Contemporary Folk (aka - best acoustic modern rock from a legend dying of cancer) Album, at least the nominees in this year's race make more sense. But it's still kind of a mishmash. With 107 categories, you would think the Academy could spare more than 4 for Folk (with two being dedicated to Hawaiian and Native American music) to fine tune the genre's offerings. Among the nominees for contemporary Folk (which includes singer/songwriters Ani DiFranco, Steve Earle, Eliza Gilkyson and Patty Griffin), John Carter Cash showed up with the tribute album he produced of music from the original Carter Family. So, how is the Carter Family contemporary and BeauSoleil traditional? Even Amazon pairs The Unbroken Circle with Beautiful Dreamer, the Stephen Foster tribute album. So what should be the true criteria - traditional versus contemporary?

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 10:53 AM | Comments (24)

What happened to the Western in country & western?

January 18, 2005

Listener Michael Fulks writes us to say:

"Just heard the song Let's Put the Western Back in Country by Joni Harms. I can't say enough how I agree with the sentiment. When was the last time you heard a song, songwriter, singer/group that had any ties to the west on a commercial Country/Western Station? I think I am about the same age as Jim and grew up in Phoenix and remember the local CW station playing a good amount of material that was rooted in the west, sometimes with a little Mexican influence thrown in. We had "westerns" on TV and the silver screen. And then someone must have thought we all dropped off into the ocean. (I have met people who when they say "the west" they mean Ohio.) Now we rarely hear country music with our accents, sensibilities, coming from our lives or our history. They sure try to look like they belong in the saddle or on a ranch, with their cowboy hats and boots, but it quickly becomes apparent that it is only a facade. I would like to meet up with others who abandoned Country and Western because it lost the rich heritage of the west, ignored the superb talent available here, and marginalized us as listeners. Kudos to for playing some good 'ole western music once and while."

What about you? When I was living in Atlanta, we listened to a country station because they would play Patsy Cline right up against Randy Travis. But that was years ago and the music world is a mighty different place. Is it better or worse that C&W has morphed into "hot" country? If a more focused format draws higher numbers, isn't the music serving more people, even if the playlist is much less diversafied?

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 12:44 PM | Comments (37)

Does Folk Music HAVE to Make a Difference?

January 11, 2005

After I mailed the last Folk Alley Chat, I had a couple of listeners E-mail me to say that they felt, especially with everything that is happening in the world, that folk music should be more responsive and responsible. They cited artists like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger who built repertoires out of songs that represented the working poor and downtrodden. And then came Dylan's introspection, and folk music changed forever. So, what's the answer? More songs about war and the plight of the poor or music that touches a universal truth about who we all are deep inside? Should musicians be honor-bound to carry a torch for the less fortunate to be considered Folk?

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 11:39 AM | Comments (54)

Make it a Folky Wedding

January 6, 2005

From listener Ann Barnes:

"I am getting married and would like some suggestions of good folk love songs to be in our wedding and as our "first dance." I've got a couple of ideas but I wanted to get some suggestions that will get my head turning more because I don't want to overlook a song I once loved and have forgotten! I know there are a million, but that's why I need help! Alison Krauss "I Will" is already on the list... at the top."

Do you have any ideas for Ann? Comment below.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 11:17 AM | Comments (88)

Jim Blum's Top 15 Albums for 2004

January 4, 2005

We tried to get Jim to name his Top 10 favorites from the past year - but there were just too many good albums this year. So here is his Top 15 (in no particular order). Click on any link for more information on the artists and albums. Any CD purchased through a Folk Alley Amazon link benefits the service. Registered users should feel free to add their comments below. Listen to Folk Alley the week beginning Jan. 10 to hear Jim play excerpts from his list.

Mary Chapin Carpenter --- Between Here and Gone
Natalie MacMaster --- Blueprint
Patty Griffin --- Impossible Dream
Kieran Kane & Kevin Welch --- You Can't Save Everybody
Ruthie Foster --- Stages
Christine Kane --- Right Outta Nowhere
Mindy Smith --- One Moment More
Bob Dylan --- Live 1964
Crooked Still --- Hop High
Richard Shindell --- Vuelta
Stephen Foster tribute --- Beautiful Dreamer
Iron & Wine --- Our Endless Numbered Days
Sam Bush & David Grisman --- Hold On, We're Strummin'
Maggie & Suzzy Roche --- Why the Long Face
Eric Bibb, Rory Block & Maria Muldaur --- Sisters & Brothers

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 5:13 PM | Comments (10)

Embrace the New Year!

In today's (1/4) Folk Alley Chat I asked for suggestions for the web site. Please be constructive (and realistic), but we would like to know if you have a great idea. Although we are currently working on a lot of fun features - it's the Internet, there's always room for more.

And if you have a great New Year's resolution, this is the place to make it official (all the better to keep you honest in 2005). I resolve to listen to more new music (and to be neater - good luck).

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 5:00 PM | Comments (24)

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