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Now I know why Dylan struggles to talk

September 29, 2005

A few months back Bob Dylan was interviewed by Ed Bradley on 60 Minutes. I wondered, as you might have, why this literate, fluent, prolific poet had such trouble verbalizing in a conversation. I thought he either didn't care to talk or he was a bit snobbish. After watching the Dylan documentary "No Direction Home" I now realize how wrong I was.

Dylan in the film, recorded 40 years ago, behaved much in the same manner.
Now that I think of it, when I've seen him in concert, he's also been a bit awkward between songs. You can notice it on his live CDs as well. So, what's up?

Let's take a look at ourselves. I'll bet you're pretty good at doing something.
It might be your work, a hobby; maybe you excel with children or pets. I'll also bet that you struggle with other things. Things that come easy for many people. Bob Dylan is gifted with poetry and melody. He does not have the same natural talents as a speaker. It's not stage fright, because he's also a bit shy in normal conversation. Dylan is who is he is. We marvel at phrase after phrase in many songs - at times our heads spin trying to follow him. When he talks it's so different, that it's ironic. A friend of mine thought he might have been drunk or doped up. I don't think so. Singing comes easy for him. He works hard, but poetry flows out of him. Talking about himself is the hardest thing for him to do.

Ever seen John Gorka? When he belts out that rich baritone using just the right words and no extras, it's easy to become impressed. When Gorka talks he's shy, awkward, and appears confused. That's just John. I'm tickled with the gifts we've received from both, and countless other artists. I've also lost my expectations and even my requirements that all singers should be as eloquent as Judy Collins, Nanci Griffith, or Bruce Cockburn.

There was a scene in the final hour of "No Direction Home" where Bob is backstage with his band following a concert in England. They are discussing reviews and wondering why the press doesn't understand him. Dylan was bewildered that one writer had exaggerated by saying that "EVERYBODY had walked out." He tried to joke with the rest of the gang about it, but he was clearly wiping his eyes. To see him cry after all that he has given to us made me feel ashamed. I don't know about you, but I no longer care if Bob Dylan stumbles in conversation. In fact I'm going to work a little harder to be less judgmental about anyone.

Posted by Jim Blum at 1:28 PM | Comments (32)

Folk Alley’s Fall Anniversary Fund Drive

September 28, 2005

It’s been 6 months since I started working at Folk Alley and I’ve been overwhelmed with the enthusiastic letters of support that we receive each day from our listeners – literally from all over the world. Personally, I learned about Folk Alley about a year ago, and I was immediately struck by what an amazing service Folk Alley provided me, a folk music junky. Finally, an opportunity to listen to folk music radio anytime I want, for as long as I want. Wow. Thank you, Internet!

Perhaps you had a similar reaction when you discovered Folk Alley?

Folk Alley is filling a niche for me, you and 10’s of 1000’s of other folk music lovers all over the world - allowing us on-demand access to a mix of music barely heard on the radio these days. We are a non-commercial service, so you’ll notice you don’t hear those annoying interruptions in the stream after every three songs. We don’t charge you a subscription fee before we allow you to listen either.

So how DO we pay for it? We’ve decided to make the service free and accessible to everyone, but we are relying on our listeners to chip in with a financial contribution so we can keep this service coming. That’s why we have periodic fund drives such as this Fall Anniversary Fund Drive. We have to pay our bills. It’s that simple.

We’re asking you to stop and consider the value that 24/7, on-demand folk music has for you and to donate what you can to keep the music streaming around the globe. What does Folk Alley bring to you each day? Is it worth a dollar a day? $5 a week? 2 or 3 bucks a week? Only you can answer that question, but we’re asking you to join the others who have already done their part and please donate what you can today. Thanks.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 2:53 PM | Comments (4)

Great beat. . .

. . . easy to dance to.

Remember those words on American Bandstand when Dick Clark asked a couple of lucky guests to rate tunes? For what it's worth, nothing has ever been easy for me to dance to.

I like the Folk Alley feature which allows us to rate the music played but I sometimes struggle with the relationship between the number of stars and the descriptive adjective. As you probably know, we can give each song a star rating ranging from a high of five stars (outstanding) to a low of one star (bad). In between, we have four stars (great), three stars (good), and two stars (fair),

Do you take the opportunity to rate the songs? I do but have to confess that when a song is played which I enjoy, I hesitate to give it fewer than five stars even though I think most artists would be happy to hear any of their songs described as 'great' (which to me has a more enduring quality than 'outstanding').

The star system is good (great? outstanding?); we understand it viscerally and intuitively. When you rate the songs here, are you considering the desciptive words provided? Would you suggest others? Or does it make folk music competitive in a way it was never meant to be?

Posted by Stephen Ferron at 7:07 AM | Comments (13)

Random Acts of Kindness

September 26, 2005

Rhoda Anderson Habedank, a Folk Alley listener from Twin Valley, MN, sent me this letter last week, and I wanted to pass it along to you. It's a wonderful example of why she (and a lot of us) are drawn to folk music and to the people who create it. ~ Linda Fahey

Last evening we were privileged to go to a Natalie MacMaster concert at the Fargo Theatre (in Fargo, North Dakota). She was endearing, enthusiastic and after the concert, so encouraging.

First off, the concert was candy for the eyes and ears – talented musicians giving the audience such pure fun and real entertainment.

Our friend, who hails from Nova Scotia - Natalie's homeland - wanted to go to the concert but was laid up in the hospital 2 blocks away dealing with cancer. When approached after the concert if she could do a favor for our friend, she was selfless in her response. Natalie, fiddle master, MacMaster sat in the lobby and chatted on the phone with our friend, Harry, for nearly 10 minutes. This was huge for him. We went to see him after the phone call and he was simply beaming. What joy and hope she instilled in someone with a single act of kindness.

Natalie is 7 months pregnant, and just finished over 2 hours of playing and dancing on stage after getting off a plane from New York at 2 p.m. After this concert she had a 4 hour bus ride to Sioux Falls looking her in the face. The fact that she took a moment out of her schedule - to give another person her time to help make their life a little easier and add a little fun - in a way, speaks to one of the reasons why I am attracted to folk music and the people who make the music.

This is an event that, I suppose, could go without mention, but as a parent and a lover of real music, I want these heroes and genuinely kind people to be set out as a vision of hope of what we all can be on this earth.

Thanks for your time.

Rhoda Anderson Habedank
Twin Valley, Minnesota

Posted by Linda Fahey at 2:10 PM | Comments (6)

Folk Alley's New Online Concert Series Debuts!

September 14, 2005

Hosted by our very own Jim Blum, Live from Folk Alley presents Red House Records recording artist Eliza Gilkyson on Tuesday, September 20th at 9:00pm Eastern Daylight Savings Time. For our kick off show - of what will become a regular online LIVE concert series - we’ll be webcasting from Cleveland’s home for folk and roots music the Beachland Ballroom.

On the heels of her 2004 standout release, the Grammy-nominated Land of Milk & Honey, Eliza is presently touring in support of her follow-up release, Paradise Hotel. Eliza Gilkyson is a rare artist who finds the universality of the human condition and wraps it in mature insight that can only come from a lifetime of experience, poetry and melody like few do.

Set your alarm for next Tuesday and join us! (Don't forget to do the math for your time zone.) Listen LIVE on-demand right here on Folk Alley, and let us know what you think!

Posted by Linda Fahey at 7:41 PM | Comments (15)

Home, home on the road!

I am destined to see Robin and Linda Williams in strange environments. This time it was a concert in Basel in cavernous room in a converted factory. The PA system was not quite up to the task but Robin and Linda (and Their Fine Group) added everyone in the hall to their dedicated fan base. It was their first performance in Switzerland and in spite of the fact that many in the audience couldn't quite grasp the nuances of the humor, they laughed in most of the right places (one listener said in German that "one simply knows that they are funny." He was right).

The audience DID understand the music. How do R & L keep getting better? Jim Watson (bass, mandolin, vocals, and good vibes) and Jimmy Gadreau (mandolin and more good vibes) were, not surprisingly, superb. The lines at the CD table were long and lots of Swiss francs (still a pretty stable currency) changed hands.

Folk music generally travels well but it winds up in some odd neighborhoods. What are some of the stranger venues where you've seen/played concerts? I'd love to hear some stories of how music overcame circumstance (although the old comedic formula of tragedy + time = humor could also play a role here).

Posted by Stephen Ferron at 6:36 AM | Comments (8)

Happy Birthday Folk Alley!

September 8, 2005

Also known as, cake baking day, Sept. 8 marks two years since FolkAlley.com went live to the web. And what a long, strange trip it's been. As you are probably noticing as you look at this, we celebrated our birthday by pulling a few late (and for some, very late - or very early depending on your perspective) nights in order to present a site redesign for our very special day. We hope you like it, feel free to shower praise (ok, we'll take well-meaning criticism as well). And, we're always happy to accept gifts.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 6:57 PM | Comments (20)

Folk Music Hall of Fame

September 4, 2005

Rock and country music are represented by their respective halls of fame in Cleveland and Nashville. Wouldn't you love to pack up the car and take the family to the Folk Music Hall of Fame? Although the institution hasn't been founded yet (to the best of my knowledge), Folk Alley listeners are certain to have ideas about where it might be located. Criteria for membership? Who would you nominate for the inaugural induction class?

Posted by Stephen Ferron at 6:13 PM | Comments (61)

A Prairie Home Companion at Sea

September 3, 2005

Donna Fox & Loren Smith - dedicated Folk Alley listeners/supporters - just got back from a week-long A Prairie Home Companion Cruise that sailed from Boston to Prince Edward Island and ports in between. Read their blog from a week at sea with humorist Garrison Keillor, the Royal Academy of Radio Actors, the Guy's All-Star Shoe Band, and special guests - BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet, Robin & Linda Williams, Spider John Koerner, Gordon Bok, and more.


August 20, 2005 Boston

Perhaps you have dreamed of listening to Prairie Home Companion more than once a week. We are living that dream.

We left Boston harbor at 7:00PM on the Maasdam for a week cruise with Garrison Keillor and the cast of PHC plus many talented musicians. What a blast!

We have dinner and then it is off to the theater to watch the show. As all of you who have seen Garrison (yep, we are on a first name basis at his request) in person knows, he has a rather mobile face. Half the fun is watching him while other performers are on.

On Saturday evening there were auditions for Thursday night�s talent show. Folk singers, crooners, guitar, banjo, autoharp, and harmonica players performed for Garrison ala American idol. He not only critiqued their performances but also suggested clothing that would improve their acts. We have some amazing talent among the passengers. It was as much fun for the audience as it was for the hopefuls. This showcased Garrison�s great mind. His ad-libbing was insightful and funny.

Each day�s schedule is so jam-packed that we are constantly torn between events such as a writing workshop with Garrison, a radio play with Sue Scott and Tim Russell, and a workshop on improving your voice with Fred Newman.

Nighttime finds us trying to fit in BeauSoleil, Robin and Linda Williams, the Guys� All-Star Shoe Band, Butch Thompson, Gordon Bok, and so many others.

August 21, 2005 Bar Harbor

We went ashore to visit two gardens: Thuya Garden and Lodge and the Asticou Azalea Garden. One was filled with lovely flower gardens; the other a serene green space this time of year.

After dinner another installment of PHC. Garrison continues to astound us with his quick mind. It is fascinating watching him challenging Fred Newman to provide the sound effect for the scene he is describing. Again Robin and Linda were fanatastic.

Later in the evening we were unable to even get into the Crow�s Nest where Garrison and BeauSoleil were performing.


August 22, 2005 At sea

We attended a writing workshop with Sharon Doucet, a children�s author who has just published a novel for adults. Oh, and the wife of Michael Doucet.

�Hate Mail�, a radio play with Sue Scott and Tim Russell was a hoot. When we spoke to them afterwards, they expressed amazement that there was an audience. They thought that no one would be interested. Au contraire, there wasn�t an empty seat in a theater that seats 600.

The after-dinner show was Gordon Bok whom we had not heard before. What a delightful surprise! He worked on ships for many years and is a singer-songwriter.


August 23, 2005 Prince Edward island

What a beautiful place! Probably best known as the setting for �Anne of Green Gables�. We did the excursion to the farm which has been restored and furnished to fit the descriptions in the books. We also had time to take a stroll through the woods.

After dinner it was time for another concert by BeauSoleil. Michael Doucet entertained us, not only with music, but the history of the expulsion of the Acadians from the Maritime provinces. He adheres to the theory that �Cajun� is a corruption of �Acadian�.

After BeauSoleil played their last song of the evening, a large woman in a sequined dress, blonde hair and heels appeared on stage. She explained that Fred Newman would not be speaking about voices and sounds of animation because he had taken ill after eating some shrimp and was unable to leave his room. She advised the audience members who had eaten shrimp to stay close to their rooms. Most of the audience realized that it was Fred in drag. After asking his daughter to help him out of the dress which was heavily padded, he said, �You guys are really weird. There is music all over the ship and here you sit.� He then proceeded to entertain us for over an hour.

August 24, 2005 Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

We are in the land of Buddy and Natalie MacMaster and so many more fine musicians. We plan to return some October for the Celtic Colours Festival.

The dock is graced with an enormous fiddle that is about 30 feet high with a 40 foot bow. As Loren walked up to it, one of Natalie�s tunes began to play.

The local people were amazed that we knew who Natalie, Buddy, and the Leahys are. (Thanks to Jim Blum!) Donna was told that Natalie is pregnant but will continue to tour after the baby is born. We certainly hope so!

The after-dinner show tonight was a sing-along with Garrison, Robin, and Linda. It was great fun. We overheard someone behind us asking her husband how everyone knows these songs. He explained that all school children in the US learned them. Obviously, we are a rather diverse yet not group. Included were songs such as My Country Tis of Thee, America the Beautiful, and I�ve Been Working on the Railroad.

Then �Hate Mail� was performed again. It was absolutely fascinating to watch these radio players. Sue Scott is very animated as she reads her lines. Tim Russell is much more reserved. Of course, it is their voices that carry the show.


August 25, 2005 Halifax, Nova Scotia

During our shore excursion to Peggy�s Cove, a picturesque fishing village east of Halifax, we fell to chatting with our bus driver, Mac, about Natalie MacMaster. He rattled off names of other artists that we would like given that we think Natalie is so amazing. It appears that we left behind the brochure with all my scribblings. These are the names we remember: Alex Francis MacKay, Dave MacIsaac, and one of the Rankins. It could be Tara since she has played on the same bill as Natalie. We are attempting to contact the shore excursion company to see if Mac could give us the rest of the names.

Having enjoyed the company of Mac and Nicole, the tour guide, and their comedy routine, we return to the ship for a 7:00PM departure.

Tonight�s major show was the Talent Show. Those amazingly talented passengers who made the cut at the auditions entertained us.

We stay on in the theater to catch another hysterical performance/workshop by Fred Newman. He soon has us barking, whistling, and creating other sounds with our mouths.


August 26, 2005 At sea on our way to Boston

The morning was filled with hundreds of dolphins of various kinds and a few whales. With the puffins Donna saw off Cape Breton near Bird Island where bald eagles are every twelve feet and not beloved by the locals, the wildlife sightings surpassed our expectations.

Afternoon found Donna at Garrison�s writing workshop, one of three he conducted. Watching him respond to audience member�s questions was a study in a quick mind with a wry sense of humor.

Loren in his Folk Alley t-shirt ran into Robin Williams and had this picture taken. Both Robin and Linda are putting Folk Alley stickers on their guitar cases.

Then Donna was off to the Piano Bar to listen to Rich Dworsky who leads the Guys� All Star Shoe Band on PHC. His �Lullaby for Lila� was enchanting.

The evening show was the last installment of PHC at sea. Garrison was in fine form during an extended monologue of the News from Lake Wobegon. People were in tears from laughing so hard.

We hated that it was our last chance to give the cast another standing ovation.


August 27, 2005 Boston Harbor

We linger on the ship chatting with Garrison and our fellow Table 47 �family� until the final call for disembarkation at 10:00AM. We were loathe to leave the great new friends we made on board. On more than one occasion other passengers would stop at our table and say that they wanted to be seated with the eight of us. It was a week filled with laughter and shared confidences.


Final thoughts from Donna

To be able to interact with the cast of PHC, BeauSoleil, Robin and Linda Williams, John Koerner, Gordon Bok, and other talented musicians for a week was an experience that I will treasure forever.

Neither of us thought that a cruise vacation would appeal to us. But we absolutely loved it. Besides the obvious appeal of the talented cast of PHC and the musicians, the passengers really contributed to it exceeding our expectations.

To give you an idea of the makeup of the 1197 passengers, for the first time in the history of the Maasdam, bingo night was canceled, the casino was almost deserted, the art auction drew very few participants, and the wait staff in the theater served more ice water than alcohol. On the other hand the game room was crowded with Scrabble, Yahtzee, and other board game players. And, oh, by the way, next year�s cruise will be in July and we are going to be there!

It was also cool to see our fellow passengers wearing the Folk Alley pins. We asked Albert Webster, PHC stage manager and all round great guy, if we could put out the Folk Alley items. He said to tell the folks at the PHC desk in the main atrium that he had approved our placing them there. Within 2 days the pins, stickers, and magnets were gone!


Final thoughts from Loren

I was suprised at the approachability of the PHC folks and the musicians.

Robin and Linda Williams were great to talk with. He serenaded Donna with �Oh, Donna� in our passageway.

Gordon Bok was very humble about his work and was surprised greatly when I asked him to sign a CD of his. When I mentioned Folk Alley to him, he said he picked up a magnet at the front desk and was going to check out the website when he returns home.

I met Rich Dworsky on the pool deck and told him one of the highlights of PHC for me was his piano playing. Again, he was amazed and very grateful that I expressed my feelings about his music.

Fred Newman was getting a snack one afternoon at the buffet and I told him how much I enjoyed his act the night before. Both his son and daughter were on stage with him at some point during his act. I mentioned that they looked like talented and great kids. He thanked me profusely for expressing my enjoyment of his work.

Our fellow passengers were also very affable. Whether strolling the deck, sitting in the theater waiting for the show to start or riding the elevator, our fellow passengers soon started conversations related to what they had done that day, where they were from, etc.


From both of us:

This was an experience we will not forget. And we hope to be on board for next year�s cruise!

Posted by Linda Fahey at 10:43 AM | Comments (8)

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