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The best thing about an outdoor music festival may not be the music.

July 24, 2005

After spending a weekend at Magnolia Fest Midwest, the first ever venture north from Florida for the Magnolia folks, I came to a different realization as to why I keep coming to Bluegrass festivals. The music is always better than expected. Young bands are thrilled to play on Bill Monroe’s stage and show their stuff to the audience and the bluegrass gods who surely must be watching. But there’s a whole different reason why these events are special, and music is just the start.

It’s more like a going to a big outdoor party, yet you don’t go home for three days. You come with friends, and you leave with more. You can walk up to Bela Fleck and say thanks. You can play frisbee with someone across the field who you’ve never met. You don’t have to drive at the end of the night and strangers give you hugs. A stage is a place where music begins and daylight at a campsite is a place where it finally ends – for a few hours anyway.

What’s the best thing about going to a weekend music festival? The music? Sure, that’s part of it, but after you’ve been to one you come to this realization:

The music is what convinces you to go to a festival, but it’s the utopia atmosphere that you walk away with, as you realize you can’t stop smiling. If all the evil despots of the world would just come to Bean Blossom just think how things could change. They would see Peter Rowan jump up and play with all the young bands as the hippie twirlers pranced through the grass under the moonlight. I’d nudge them to make sure they notice the smiles on the young faces of the Hot Buttered Rum Band realizing they are playing with their hero and a legend. I’d remind them how special this moment is and how agendas are suddenly irrelevant. Then on the way to an all night jam, I’d buy each one a mircrobrew or some ice cream. Their choice. Are you in?

You’ve heard from me. Now, tell me what you like about festivals

Posted by Jim Blum at 2:28 PM | Comments (30)

Magnolia Meets Bill Monroe's Friendly Ghost at Bean Blossom

July 23, 2005

We're here. I've read about this historic place in two biographies of Bill Monroe. After a quarter century of attending festivals, and after hearing about this legendary park so often, I have never been here until now. Bean Blossom Music Park, Indiana.

When Bluegrass Festivals evolved in the '60s, Bill Monroe decided to have his location north of Kentucky. Today it's both heartwarming and a little eerie, believe it or not, to be here without Bill. To see the different areas of the park dedicated to heroes like Ralph Stanley, Curley Ray Cline, and Arnold Shultz is both satisfying and sad. It's so hard to believe some of them are gone. It's also hard to believe that as deeply involved as I've been with the music and its pioneers that when I finally get here their final sets are over. There's a message there...

The inspiration, however, of all these legends is VERY much alive. We know that Bela Fleck, Tony Rice, and Peter Rowan began careers because of Bill. What is especially rewarding is hearing all the younger bands who are here who simply wouldn't be if not for Monroe. Take Hot Buttered Rum, for example. Five young guys in their 20s who play mandolin, banjo, and twin fiddles with the same rhythm and drive as the Bluegrass Boys. They've added to the sound by including accordion and flutes and unexpected time changes. As you listen, however, you realize that even their young fans digging the contemporary approach recognize that the foundation is Monroe's.

The same can be said of The Duhks, Uncle Earl, Shawn Camp, and Drew Emmit. Bill's music may not sound exactly like it did, but it’s all perspective. When Monroe combined country, gospel and blues with the arrangement of jazz, he was considered an upstart, even a renegade. Today, he is considered a patriarch.

The moral of story is that all of the best things in life came from people who had an idea and took a risk. Perhaps in small way the chances that Folk Alley are taking will pay off for all of us.

Posted by Jim Blum at 12:51 PM | Comments (2)

Donovan - Back in Action

July 22, 2005

This week, EMI released two remastered Donovan albums, Mellow Yellow (1967) and Sunshine Superman (1966), on CD. Mellow Yellow (recut from the original studio tapes) comes with 10 bonus tracks. Sunshine Superman has 7 added tracks (including demos and previously unreleased tracks). A new Sony box set is due out in September, as is his autobiography, The Hurdy Gurdy Man.

And, on Nov. 19, Donovan comes to Kent (literally yards from where I now sit) as the closing night headliner for the 39th Kent State Folk Festival. Last year, I got to drive Sam Bush to Cleveland and back. Maybe I'll get lucky this year as well. Tickets won't be on sale for a couple of months, but you can sign up for the KSFF newsletter on their web page and you'll be the first to know when to call.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 9:48 AM | Comments (2)

Willie Gets No Leaf

July 15, 2005

Willie Nelson's newest release Countryman (which came out on Tuesday on the Lost Highway label) is a mix of honky-tonk and ganja as Nelson adds his touch to reggae songs and adds a little of the islands to some country favorites. The result is getting mixed reviews, with All Music Guide calling it "woefully out of whack." The CD design is causing controversy of its own. Lost Highway (part of the Universal Music Group Nashville stable) got cold feet after seeing Countryman's original cover spiked with pot leaves and has released a second version to Wal-Mart stores with palm trees instead (no comment on the influence actual weed may have had on the creation of the album).

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 3:33 PM | Comments (45)

Folk Alley's Online Open Mic

July 12, 2005

As the summer zips along, all of us at Folk Alley are working diligently at planning the redesign for the Folk Alley website. A new look and new features are on the way. One in particular that we’re planning is an Online Open Mic. Think of ‘open mic night,’ but heard through your computer. The intent is to provide a place for developing and ‘undiscovered’ artists a place to share their music with other folk music fans. There will be a contest element to this, with fabulous prizes, TBD. We're in the process of hammering out the guidelines and other details. Since this new feature is intended for YOU, I’d love to hear your thoughts, ideas and any feedback you’d like share on this. Feel free to comment here, or email me directly at Linda at folkalley dot com. Thanks!

Posted by Linda Fahey at 9:31 PM | Comments (32)

Links for "New Music Hits the Stream" in the July Chat

July 6, 2005

Here are links for the artists and albums mentioned in the new music section of the July Folk Alley Chat (distributed 7/6):

David Olney - Migration
Adrienne Young & Little Sadie - The Art of Virtue
Terence Martin - Lost Hills
Adam Carroll - Far Away Blues
Girlyman - Little Star
Indigo Girls - Rarities
Chris Hillman - The Other Side
Blue Highway - Marbletown
The Greencards - Weather & Water
Shooglenifty - Radical Mestizo
Grada - Endeavour

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 3:14 PM | Comments (2)

Sing Out: A Concert Celebration of Pete Seeger

July 2, 2005

Hi Folks, I just got through listening to an outstanding 2-hour ‘web extra’ radio special found on the NPR website. It’s called Sing Out: A Concert Celebration of Pete Seeger, produced by NPR & Philadelphia’s WXPN. I’m sure you’ll want to know about it too. The special, hosted by Scott Simon, includes interviews and concert performances by the legendary American folk icon and many he has influenced: Holly Near, Bernice Johnson Reagon, Bruce Cockburn, Janis Ian, Natalie Merchant, Judy Collins, and more. The concert was originally recorded at the Keswick Theatre in Philadelphia. You can find this on-demand special on NPR’s website, and I understand it will be broadcast on Monday, July 4th from 6-8pm in the Philadelphia area on WXPN.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 12:59 PM | Comments (8)

Folky Funky

July 1, 2005

While plowing through a backlog of Sunday papers I came across a Funky Winkerbean strip that indirectly added it's voice in praise of the singer/songwriter. The scene is a double wedding with an inset of someone pressing the button for Patty Griffin's When it Don't Come Easy (off of Impossible Dream) on a jukebox. The song's refrain is seen over the scene. The song fits the situation perfectly (if you need to hear the history of Funky, I'll be happy to go into it), plus Patty Griffin is great. I think we all should go to our favorite establishments and ask for folk songs to be added to the jukebox. Meanwhile, I'm on a mission to see what's already out there. Folk music everywhere!

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 10:21 AM | Comments (5)

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