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Folk Music and You

January 31, 2006

How did you find folk music? I bet my introduction to this music about 10 years ago is different from most folkies—but I could be wrong. It seems to me a large amount of folk music fans grew up in a folk music family where jam sessions were regular occurrences on the weekends with the uncles, cousins, grandkids, and friends. Or perhaps you found it in college—during the heyday of the folk revival in the 60s. Or maybe your story is like mine—I didn’t even know folk music existed until one person played me one band—that’s all it took to turn a heavy metal teenage rocker into a folkie. So………what’s your story?

Posted by Chris Boros at 5:29 PM | Comments (34)

Southbound

January 30, 2006

They say that the most unproductive day of the year is actually the day before you go on vacation. I have to admit, I've been a victim of that stat on this Monday. I'm headed to Tampa tomorrow for a few days of sun before returning to Ohio to see the Steelers get pounded by the Seahawks (well, we'll see what happens).

As I check the tally Folk Alley is just inches from hitting the 50,000 mark and we're excited about getting there this week, probably before the Superbowl. Hitting a high mark is always something to celebrate. I see that our friend Roger McGuinn is celebrating his 10-year anniversary of the "Folk Den" with a new compilation of 100 of his songs. If you haven't checked out the site I would recommend it for any fan I think you'll enjoy the site and appreciate what Roger's accomplishments. The release is a 4 CD box set and Roger will be out on the road promoting the release.

I've been listening to the Byrds (Untitled/Unissued) CD. I've had the LP for years but I wore it out and the CD has a number of additional tracks. I love the live version of "Lover of the Bayou." Clarence White and Roger had a wonderful chemistry together and this tune is a demonstration of great musicianship.

So here I am trying to finish the day hoping all is well with all of our listeners and as our friend Elvis proclaimed, "50,000 fans can't be wrong." I'm glad you found Folk Alley, always spread the word.

All the Best! Happy Listening!

Al Bartholet

Posted by Al Bartholet at 11:01 PM | Comments (0)

The Wiyos: How Can Brand New Be Really Old?

Hmmm. Interesting name... Original and inviting promotional materials, smartly written and amusing descriptions about the band... It worked. Among 50 submissions last week I launched into the "Wiyos." They were not what I expected. (Of course now I'm wondering what I was expecting...)

The Wiyos are a new band out of New York City specializing in music nearly 100 years old. When's the last time you heard a group whose expert soloists choose washboard, harmonica, and kazoo? Recently our music has seen its contemporary participants looking back toward an older sound, but not this old.

What's more, the Wiyos are not a novelty. The songs are well rehearsed, well documented and performed with skill and gusto. Like their traveling vaudeville predecessors, they toured and tightened their act for years before recording everything in one room in one take. In fact, to capture the original sound they even used an old ribbon mike.

You may have read about Fats Waller or the Hoosier Hotshots; now you can see and hear the Wiyos. Joseph Dejarnette, Michael Farkas, and Parrish Ellis have played in country towns, cities, and circuses all over the world. They are fast, funky, and fun. Their songs have been around, but they are just getting started.

They are also a perfect addition to Folk Alley. It's my aim to spark old memories or to turn your head with something different. Here's a band that does both. Listen for them in the stream and on Fresh Cuts and let me know what you think.

Jim Blum

Posted by Jim Blum at 10:44 AM | Comments (0)

What 5 Songs Are Necessary to Your Life?

January 27, 2006

On last week's episode of my new favorite show, Love Monkey, Tom (played by ubber-cutie Tom Cavanagh) asks a new co-worker that he may be interested in romantically what 5 songs she couldn't live without. Her #3 was something from the Essential Dylan (not something you would automatically think of, which is probably why I'm drawing a blank) and he is instantly smitten (he had earlier used the 2-CD set as a baby shower gift, contributing to his single state) - until she adds Starship's We Built This City. What would be your 5 seminal songs? I tried and tried, but I could only narrow the field to 6. It's harder the older I get, there's just too much to choose from. Click below to see my top 6 and add your 2 cents (and 5 songs)!

Here they are, in no particular order:

R.E.M. - Superman
Warren Zevon - Accidentally Like a Martyr
The Beatles - Revolution
Billy Joel - Scenes from an Italian Restaurant
Barenaked Ladies - Alternative Girlfriend
Richard Shindell - Transit

My deal breaker? Anything from The Who's Quadrophenia period. It's too minor keyish.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 6:36 PM | Comments (79)

How do you clean CDs?

January 26, 2006

In addition to many of my other cleaning duties around here, I often come across Compact Discs that are left out of their cases in the Folkalley studios.

Now I've heard that some people think it's cool to use CDs as drink coasters, but I think those people are using CDs they don't intend to listen to or play on Folkalley. (I think Jim Blum might even use some old CDs as frisbees for his dogs.)

Anyway, when CDs were first introduced, they were touted as being indestructable, but we all know that's not the case. When somebody's peanut butter drips out of their sandwhich and onto the business side of a CD, it really messes things up.

I've tried using the commercial scratch repair kits, and some people have recommended toothpaste, furniture polish and even car polish. (We don't Simoniz the Folkalley van, so there isn't any car polish around.)

So when you've had a big party and find a CD that ended up on the carpet with the cigarette butts, beer, chips and who knows what else, how do YOU clean your CDs?

Posted by Norman (the janitor) at 4:45 PM | Comments (16)

The Debut Album

January 24, 2006

The debut album from a band or artist can make or break them. It’s usually at this time when a band is at its hungriest—when they’re young with nothing to loose. Why does it seem so many “older” bands are unable to deliver the energy and power of their earlier records? I certainly don’t want to name names, but let’s face it, can you name an older band that has released an album of higher quality than their classics? I can name a few—but not too many. What is your favorite debut record from an artist? I like to point to Jonathan Edwards’ first album—there’s not a cut I don’t like—it’s strong from moment to moment. English progressive rockers Caravan also released a debut record in the late 60’s that I think is their best and may be one of the finest first albums from any band. Any other records jump out at you?

Then there are some groups that release a great first album—but are either never heard from again, or their subsequent records are so bad, they fall off the face of the planet. I think there are many in that group…"one hit wonders.” Or what about a band that released a horrible debut record but followed it up with a gem?

So—what’s your favorite debut record? What band is still making vital and relevant material decade’s after their first release? And can you think of any bands that screwed up so badly after their debut that they died right afterwards? It seems to me that most band’s first release is their best---it’s all downhill after that. Of course—there are exceptions to every rule.........

Posted by Chris Boros at 4:58 PM | Comments (13)

They Could Sing the Phonebook

January 23, 2006

I was driving over the weekend listening to two of my favorite CDs - Dave Alvin's King of California and Blackjack David. These two CDs have some of the best song writing you'll ever hear IMHO, but more than that -- I realized it didn't matter. Dave could be singing the phonebook and I'd LOVE it. He's got One of Those Voices. I started thinking about other singers who do this for me too. My short list - Greg Brown for sure, and also Kate Wolf and Iris DeMent. How about you? Who would be on your list?

{btw, I hear Dave's coming out with a new CD very soon on Yep Roc. I can't wait!}


Posted by Linda Fahey at 12:43 PM | Comments (37)

Getting closer everyday day

January 22, 2006

Soon, Folk Alley will reach 50,000 registered listeners and the moment that happens, nothing will really change - except that the Folk Alley crew will celebrate another milepost along the way. I just want to say thank you for listening and I hope that we have created a service that you have found to be a nice space for you to get your folk music.

When Folk Alley launched on Sept. 8, 2003, it was a true leap of faith - to build this service with extra work from all of our WKSU staff and virtually no budget except for some seed money from CPB. My thanks to all of you who have listened, commented on our blog, told a friend or passed along your suggestions, stories and pictures from all corners of the globe. We have some great plans but we can't make the next milepost without you, so please tell your friends, spread the word, and let's make this a musical oasis together.

The Folk Alley crew will be on the road in February some at the Folk Alliance convention in Austin, and others at the Integrated Media conference in Seattle later in the month. Look for some new features, another live webcast, and more for you to enjoy as we look towards 50,000 and the future of Folk Alley.

Al Bartholet

Posted by Al Bartholet at 4:49 PM | Comments (7)

Loudon Wainwright Surprised By The Man Who Discovered Him

Everyone who went to the Kent Stage Friday night knew Loudon Wainwright's name. (Of course they did; they bought a ticket to see him.) They didn't know the name Steve Popovich until Loudon mentioned him on stage toward the end of his set. Before the show Popovich surprised Loudon and they went out to dinner. Why is this significant? It was Steve Popovich, president of Polygram Records, who gave Loudon his first break almost 40 years ago.

Of all the songs Loudon would go on to write, Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road fascinated Popovich and he tested the song in Little Rock, Arkansas. He personally convinced programmers at various stations to play it, and made sure the album was in every record store. If the song did well in one market, felt Steve, then the rest of the country would follow suit. The song was a hit and Loudon had a career. Loudon told us: "I remind Rufus (his son) that I was #1 in Little Rock Arkansas for 5 weeks!"

Loudon was captivating on stage and I was thrilled to introduce him. I told him that our audience recognized him more for songs like The Picture. When he sings that song about seeing a photo with his sister in their childhood, he captures brother-sister relationships for all of us. The room falls silent, as it did once again, and the crowd was suddenly eager to hear everything. He played several songs off his new album Here Comes the Choppers, including one about each of his grandparents. Perhaps the best of all was Leaving You, where he openly criticizes selfish people who give up on their families. Loudon notices a bad trait in the song's main character early on, which carries over into adulthood. The song is disturbing, and unfortunately all too real for many of us.

These are examples of songs that ought to make history. To be fair, however,
without the early success of Dead Skunk we may not have ever heard them.

We can thank Steve Popovich for that.

It was so much fun to listen to Steve after the show. He told me how Columbia let Johnny Cash go years back, thinking that Cash needed to be replaced by 'new country': "That was crazy. Someone like Johnny Cash would never be finished. I signed him the next day." Popovich also took Frankie Yankovich, the polka hero, to Youngstown to record his first album, also a hit. Musical styles didn't matter. What Steve saw was potential. He also uncovered the rock star Meat Loaf.

What a treat. I met Loudon and the man who brought him to the attention of the world. After the concert and all the CD signings, the last person left and it was just the three of us. I felt like a fly on the wall. Some of the stories I can't share here, but I will tell you this. The first thing Steve said to me that night was this: "You're the guy with Folk Alley aren't you? Tell me about it."

Heck, maybe we're next...

Jim Blum

Posted by Jim Blum at 12:55 PM | Comments (2)

Greetings from the Producer

January 20, 2006

Hi FolkAlley People,

Joe Gunderman here, senior producer for FolkAlley.com and WKSU. I produced the Ann Rabson / Guy Davis concert you can now check out on this site. (And, of course, as the producer, I am intimately familiar with every flaw in the recording. Perfectionists never think anything is finished.) What a fun night that was!

I have an interest in a myriad of musical styles,…

…having been a young kid in the 60s, and the Kingston Trio and Peter Paul and Mary being the “acceptable” music in my intolerant-of-rock house (ah, but the parents weren’t always home, now were they?). My mother listened to nothing but classical music. That along with Warner Brothers cartoons cemented an appreciation for orchestral music. I came through late adolescence in the blooming funk scene (there’s a Big Difference between funk and disco), and that whole time the singer/songwriter phenomenon of Cat Stevens, James Taylor, Carly Simon, etc. was going on. One of the groups I discovered on my own was Seals and Crofts. For those who paid attention, not only were C&S interesting songwriters (ever look at their sheet music?), they could play.

The whole time, simmering in the background, was the blues. When it finally emerged into my consciousness, and when a friend described to me that what I’d written was 12-bar-blues, which I had done by pure instinct, I finally identified a style of music that I’ve loved ever since. I’ve been to the Chicago Blues Festival several times, and it never gets old.

So an evening of folk blues with Ann and Guy was not a hard assignment for me. It is easy to play in the blues “form,” but hard play with real soul. Give Mr. Davis’ performance an ear and you’ll hear what I mean. I hope I did it justice.

And irony struck the week of this concert. For a couple decades, I’ve had, in my closet in a crate, the double album “The Real Thing” by Taj Mahal from back in 1971. I still play my vinyl albums. This past week, right after working the concert, I found the CD of “The Real Thing.” I didn’t know it had ever been issued. Turns out it was issued in 2000. It is roots blues as Taj does it, with a branching out by adding horns (4 tubas!) and percussion. When I brought it to work and put on its most famous cut, “Ain’t Gwine To Whistle Dixie (Any Mo’)” a few people ambled over to my office with smiles on their faces, saying, “It’s been a long time…” It has caught Jim Blum’s attention as well. You know what that might mean.

So it’s been a blues couple of weeks. Ain’t it sweet. Enjoy the concert.

And if you never did, check out my interview with Eric Bibb in the Extras section. More blues with real sweet soul.

Posted by Joe Gunderman at 5:33 PM | Comments (2)

Is Acoustic the New Electric?

I read this week that Aimee Mann (Voices Carry) is taking her tour acoustic. This news comes on the heels of Cyndi Lauper's release of acoustic versions of many of her top hits, Barenaked Ladies (and Kevin Hearn's) acoustic recordings, and Bruce Springsteen's Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Folk Album. Springsteen at least started his career as a folkie (before he realized that rock musicians were much better paid).

So, what is the deal? In the '60s, when musicians wanted to be daring, they strapped on a Fender Stratocaster. By the '90s, the shoe was on the other foot when lots of artists went on MTV's unplugged (making piles of green selling the resulting albums). Still, when push comes to shove, they're back in bed with their amps and drum kits. Why is it cool, and a concert draw, for rock musicians to lose the juice, but equally good musicians who live an honest acoustic live are passing the hat?

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 3:28 PM | Comments (10)

Norman goes to Vegas

January 19, 2006

So I saved up my money and went to Vegas for the long weekend. You can get cheap rooms and packages in January because it rains and the pools are either closed or cold, so the hotels assume you’ll spend more time in the casinos. I lost money at Roulette and Blackjack, but didn’t play Craps because I don’t understand the rules. When I lose my money I like to know why.

Anyway, with all my money going to the dealers I sure didn’t want to spend any more money to see Celine Dion or Barry Manilow… (Imagine paying over $100 to see the guy who wrote the famous jingle for McDonald’s?)…and apparently I didn’t lose enough for any of those guys in the jackets to come over and give me free tickets so I’d keep playing. I think I’d probably enjoy the Rat Pack show, but I saw Frank when he was alive and it just wouldn’t seem right.

So I wandered around looking for free entertainment, and stumbled across an Irish Pub called Nine Fine Irishmen in New York, New York. The house band there is called Ri Ra (Gaelic for “chaos”), and they played a great mix if jigs, rebel songs, drinking songs and traditional Irish tunes. (Although they could have sounded more angry when they sang “Come Out Ye Black and Tans”!)

Alana Musselman is the world class fiddler for the trio, and it turns out she’s from Cleveland and used to play with Tap the Bow. With her pierced nose and short hair, she seems much more authentic than those pretty girls from the Corrs.

I made another discovery in Vegas that I hope to bring back to Folkalley. I went to Wynn Las Vegas to see what all the hype is about. It’s nice, but in the restroom I was amazed. They have lined their urinals with absorbent anti-splash pads. That’s brilliant! They look like little automobile carpet squares and seemed very absorbent. That must make keeping the restrooms clean a breeze! I’d never seen them before but they make perfect sense. I’m not sure if they’re laundered or disposable and the lady at the front desk was no help with information. She kept asking me if I was a guest of the hotel or something.

Anyway…Viva Las Vegas.

Posted by Norman (the janitor) at 2:28 PM

What the wild folkies do. . .

A comment to a blog I posted a few weeks ago was made by JL Braswell and I think it's a worthy entry in its own right, likely to catch more eyes if it's repeated here:

"If you don't mind my asking in a politely nosey kind of way:
Speaking of day jobs, I'm kind of interested in what exactly all of you Folk musicians do for a living between gigs...have always been curious about that.
I guess I really want to know what kind of employer is amenable to the musician's on again/off again schedule. And if you're gonna be "from" somewhere and playing elsewhere, this must involve enough travel time away from the day job to make for an interesting scheduling challenge for any employer. I think they should be rewarded for their support of the genre (if they don't bitterly complain, that is!). What's you experience? Which places are the best to live & work days and still make regular away gigs?"

Interesting questions. . . the anwers will be of interest to all of us. Thanks, JL!

Posted by Stephen Ferron at 7:01 AM | Comments (13)

Anyone else miss vinyl?

January 17, 2006

I miss vinyl. I’m fairly young but not so young that I’ve forgotten about the days of records. I miss the gatefold album artwork which often included a poster or some other special goodie. I miss hearing the needle drop. I miss the scratchy and often outworn audio. I miss having to turn over the record to Side B. And I miss looking at the large artwork when listening. Anyone else feel this way? Why would I want to go back to lesser quality and older technology? CDs are cool, MP3s are neat, I-Pods are hip, but nothing beats an old, dusty, scratchy vinyl record. Anyone else agree? I’ve thought about putting together an “all vinyl” stream for Folk Alley—but would that really make any sense—hearing old vinyl through the internet—new technology streaming old? I think it might be kind of cool—or have I lost my marbles once again? Let’s hear it for the old turntable!

Posted by Chris Boros at 1:31 PM | Comments (35)

New Respect

January 16, 2006

Recently, I started taking guitar lessons once again (my last lesson was back in 1992, so it's been a while). I've continued to play but very sporadically, and, as my new teacher Kerry Kean would also add, without discipline. Now, after struggling with chord changes, music theory, and tab changes, I just can't pick things up as quickly as I would prefer. So, I have a new respect for all of you who perform and who know how to get a crowd excited by a performance.

If anyone knows a great song with a major scale chord change that qualifies as a guitar song for dummies, send it to me so I can have some instant gratification. Please, no Jimmy Buffet songs! If that's all I can play I'll quit now.

When you take lessons and even if you never learn anything that makes you a guitar player, you'll appreciate the great guitarist with a greater appreciation for their skills.

I thought I could tackle a few Roger McGuinn songs, but even those aren't as easy as I thought - Roger just makes it sound easy. I had the chance to meet Roger in our studios just warming up his fingers to "Eight Miles High," and my oldest son (who is now a musician and who plays in a heavy metal head banging band) thought Roger was amazing.

So next time your at a performace think about the hours of practice that it took before the performer had the courage to step on the stage.

Posted by Al Bartholet at 8:33 PM | Comments (9)

David Wilcox: Watching a songwriter become a sage

Back in the 80's the pot didn't spillith over with songwriters as it does today. Even then, however, David Wilcox stood out. He covered deeper subjects than many, expressed himself in poetic devises with ease, and used elaborate tunings. He still does this today and drew quite a crowd at the Kent Stage in Northeast Ohio Friday, January 13.

Ironically, David didn't play many familiar songs. He began with many new ones and covered other writers such as Peter Mayer and Cliff Eberhardt. No one objected because Wilcox is a consumate performer. He speaks naturally between and during songs, yet the presentation is very theatrical; he leads you like an actor in a play. Of course his songs and his singing hold up too - that's why people came.

Two things happened that I'll share that didn't take place on stage. I took my student assistants backstage beforehand to meet him. I asked him to consider being part of next years NPR Christmas special "Ornaments and Icing." He responding by breaking into a song in his dressing room for just the three of us.
Ashley and Sarah were thrilled, and so was I. Somehow I can't imagine Mick Jagger doing that. I think we have our first song for the 2006 show.

The other thing that happened took place at intermission as David sat on the front of the stage. Two people walked up and mentioned songs David had written that had been performed at their weddings. One was "Hold it Up to the Light." The writer seemed genuinely pleased. The next thing I said surprised him: "One of your songs helped explain my divorce."

His eyebrows raised.

I continued: "As my ex-wife was leaving she told me to turn to the song 'Break in the Cup' if I ever wanted to understand her feelings."

He responded: "I've never heard that song mentioned in that context before." "Well," I said, "I recently went back and re-read the lyrics, especially the first part about one person giving and giving and the other receiving but letting the gift spill out of an untended crack in the cup. Eventually the giver gets frustrated." (Of course the poetry gets into much more detail and complexity, but that's the gist of it.)

His responded like the smiling sage that he is: "You seem very happy."

You know something? He's right. I'm happy that I finally understand her feelings. I'm also just plain happy. (That may be because I have no one around to make unhappy) I'm not sure the two individuals with the marriage songs understood any of this, but David was thrilled that we all had reactions. That's the intent of any songwriter....or sage, for that matter.

Posted by Jim Blum at 1:07 PM | Comments (5)

Bob Feldman and Red House Records

January 13, 2006

I met Bob Feldman when I moved to St. Paul to work for Prairie Home Companion in the fall of 2000. Turned out he and his family lived right around the corner from the duplex I had just moved into, and I ran into him while walking my dog in the morning. The thing that immediately jumped out at me about Bob was how enthusiastic and passionate he was about the artists on his label. At the time, he was particularly excited about the new Eliza Gilkyson CD, “Hard Times In Babylon” that had just been released. Eliza was new to the label at the time, and this was her first release on Red House. Bob’s passion for Eliza and her music was unbridled. He was convinced that there were big things coming her way.

Later on, anytime I’d run into Bob, whether it was while walking the dog, or at a venue, or more likely when he was sneaking into the neighborhood coffee joint to bag a few chocolate chip cookies for the road, we’d blab about music…what Greg Brown was working on lately, what new releases were coming out, concerts we’ve been to, new and up-and-coming talent. It was obvious to me that he was in this business because he loved it wholeheartedly. He was doing what he loved, and who can’t admire that?

Eventually, I went to work for him. [He hired me even though I wasn’t an “Andy of Mayberry” fan, which I found out later was typically a pre-requisite to getting hired.] Even though Bob would often bemoan the state of the music business, it was obvious to me that his passion for the music and the artists were the things driving him. He poured his heart and soul into putting out great folk music and the world of folk music is a better place for it. Thanks Bob!

Posted by Linda Fahey at 8:58 AM | Comments (3)

Soundtracks - "Real" Albums or Expensive Mix Tapes?

January 12, 2006

I was home working last night and I realized that most of the music I had loaded up was actually on soundtrack discs (Because of Winn-Dixie, What Women Want and Austin Powers to be exact). I love soundtracks because it gives me a mix of music that wouldn't be available in other formats (some of these producers have really random tastes, and that's ok by me), but how does that compare with CDs that have been put together by artists with specific intent (Tim O'Brien's Traveler and ELO's Eldorado come to mind)? In an era increasingly influenced by the individual song download, are concept albums a thing of the past? And, if they are, does it matter? If Folk Alley throws a bunch of songs on a disc, are they of the same value as they were in their original line-up?

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 8:25 AM | Comments (9)

Next Live From Folk Alley

January 4, 2006

This Saturday, January 7th join us for our next Live From Folk Alley - on-demand, live webcast concerts - featuring a night of the blues with Guy Davis and Ann Rabson. This time we’re streaming from the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Happy Days Visitor Center in Peninsula, OH. The show begins at 8 p.m. EST (GMT -5). Join us!

Posted by Linda Fahey at 1:48 PM | Comments (4)

Working on a holiday

January 2, 2006

Well, it's the first Monday of the New Year and most of the people at Folkalley have the day off.

So, as I take a break from cleaning up after all the holiday parties (with apologies to Mr. Pipkin who prefers Christmas parties), I thought I'd take a moment to wish all my friends at Folkalley a Happy New Year! I'd also like to take a moment to thank those of you who wrote in support of my musical offerings during our holiday pledge appeal. They never did let me record an entire song but I'm working on new material for next year.

In the meantime, I hope everyone enjoys another year of great folk music ahead on Folkalley.com

Don't slip on the wet floor...

Norman (the janitor)

Posted by Norman (the janitor) at 9:15 AM | Comments (10)

Support Folk Alley During Our Spring Fund Drive!

 

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