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The needle-drop test

March 28, 2006

Okay kids, here's a new challenge: in the very old days of vinyl and turntables, I tended to evaluate albums in terms of how often I'd feel compelled to get up from the couch and skip a song/track I really didn't want to hear. I also rated records very highly if a random drop of the needle anywhere on the LP's surface would land on something I enjoyed. The all-time worst offender for me was 'Voices of Old People' from Simon and Garfunkel's Bookends album. I even tried to scratch the record in such a way that the stylus would move from 'Overs' to 'Old Friends'. I ultimately paid for this: my friend Ted learned to mimic the 'Voices' track perfectly, complete with groans and lamentations and would entertain me with it anytime he felt like it (usually not more than once or twice a day).

Nowadays, with CDs and other modern media, it's not such a great problem but I still prize recordings which are consistent enough throughout that I can enjoy each cut.

So, Folk Alley Cats and Kittens: which recordings in your collection would survive the random needle drop--not a weak track on the album?

Let's leave out greatest hits packages and compilations.

Nominations are open.

Posted by Stephen Ferron at 3:11 AM | Comments (55)

Finding Yourself Through Theme Music

March 27, 2006

For awhile, I've been trying to choose personal theme music - just in case a band ever needs background to play me out to center stage (Bob Hope had "Thanks for the Memories," Redd Foxx had the theme to "Sanford and Son," that kind of thing). Even if I never make it to the David Letterman show or the Oscars, there must be something that I can play in my head when making an entrance. Good theme music can really help a person look confident and self-assured (the only thing I hear consistantly in my head - besides the wind - is the Johnny Carson theme and "Sunrise, Sunset" from "Fiddler on the Roof," I don't know why). JL Braswell said down the column a bit that "There is this one instrumental:'She's Late But She's Timely' - by Alan Ried and Battlefield Band. It's kind of become my theme song." And that brought up my whole issue of being sans theme song. So, what should I pick? What would you say is your personal theme song?

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 5:11 PM | Comments (33)

Friends & Relations

March 24, 2006

It has been my pleasure to find bloggers listing related links in their contributions to the Folk Alley Blog spot. Often times the sites prove to be helpful resourses for discovery of new music or info. related to the subject at hand.

The more we share these resourses of the community-at-large with one another, the tighter and more interconnected our community becomes. I especially enjoy coming upon a link to a site from across the world, from a place I might not have had the oportunity to know about otherwise, due to language differences. And if you have gone to one of those sites and have figured out how to navigate it, then throw us a hint!

I would encourage you to include an address/link for a related website in your blog contributions (or in this one) if you find that it might enhance our search and discovery for knowledge of all things Folk.

Here's one to get us started: for all things Scandinavian Folk. NorthSide includes information on Nordic Roots music, featuring artists such as Hedningarna, Garmarna, Vasen, Wimme, JPP, Frigg, Rosenberg 7, Boot, Frifot, and even Hoven Droven (for those of you who would join me in the deep end!).

Posted by JoLynn Braswell at 10:18 AM | Comments (31)

Folk Music as Heritage in New Film

March 20, 2006

Over the weekend, I went up to Cleveland for the 30th Cleveland International Film Festival. I love the CIFF (which this year is showing 127 feature films and around 100 short subjects) because I can block out a day and see 4 or 5 movies that I would never have seen otherwise. This year, we sponsored a film called Homemade Hillbilly Jam about Mark Bilyeu and his band Big Smith. Big Smith is an old-school jugband that plays traditional songs from the Ozarks along with originals that sound like they're old. What's great is that this is a group of youngish guys who have decided to play the music of their parents, and their parents' parents. In fact, Bilyeu's parents actually play with the band a couple of times in the film. It's the story of a man that came from Ireland in the 19th century and passed down songs and the concept that music should be played in the home. There are some great scenes where multiple generations are sitting around the livingroom playing and singing - just because they want to. Message from the movie? There's nothing wrong with being a hillbilly and holding onto the music of your ancestors is as important as keeping a hold on your land.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 12:59 PM | Comments (7)

Mothers of Invention

March 17, 2006

Recently, I heard Jim Blum's comment about Louise Taylor's "Call My Name" (Velvet Town), where he had been fooled by her improvised kalimba/thumb piano sound-alike. Not seeing the thumb piano listed on the album credits, he then ferreted out the information that she had slid a piece of paper between the strings of another instrument (guitar?) to emulate this sound.

HERE's MY QUERY: What improvisations have other musicians made, as mothers of invention would have it, to create altered sounds for their musical performances (if they don't mind giving up their secrets, that is!)?

Personally, my sister and I would experiment, as kids, with waxed paper or typing paper on piano strings for that tell-tale harpsichord sound, for one. We'd do the same with guitar. Also, we'd place a rose petal, a leaf, or slender blade of grass across our tongue, the way my Dad had taught us, and the way his Alabama Dad had taught him, to get that kazoo sound. (I never mastered that sweet singing sound my Dad could make with it though!)

And on a slightly different bent, I would form a sheet of typing paper in to a cone shape, add a very large straight pin to the tip and gently let it ride the groove of some brittle old war-time records my Dad let us play and Voila! - an old gramophone sound. Recording this onto a reel to reel tape added that old-timey feel to some more contemporary overlays, which was really fun in my later teen years with a short-lived band I was in as keyboardist/vocalist.

After dinners with our musical next door neighbors, we'd tune up the crystal goblets and play various chord progressions and make music that way. Goblets filled at different levels with water or tea, Dad or "Uncle" Ewell would dip a finger tip in the liquid and run a finger lightly 'round the thin rim of the glass, and the sounds were haunting. We'd all join in and it was great, satisfying fun.(You know, when shopping around for goblets myself, I chose the ones I did with this in mind!)

So, what are some of your "mothers of invention", and how have you used them?

Posted by JoLynn Braswell at 1:09 PM | Comments (37)

Solas Special for St. Patrick's Day

March 16, 2006

To celebrate St. Patrick's Day--Folk Alley.Com will be airing a special hour long version of the Solas concert we webcast live last night. Soon, the entire concert will be available to download. Tune in Friday, March 17, St. Patrick's Day, for a special "Live From Folk Alley" Concert with Solas.

Airing at 4:00AM, NOON, and 8:00PM EST.

Posted by Chris Boros at 4:49 PM | Comments (3)

Super Stoked for Solas

March 15, 2006

To say I’m excited for the Solas concert tonight would be an understatement. When Linda Fahey and I met Ann Kingston at the Folk Alliance Conference—we started talking about the possibility of webcasting Solas’ Cleveland concert live. Luckily, with just about a month to prepare, we looked over our equipment needs, polished off the extra mixing boards, and finally washed the Folk Alley Van to make tonight’s live on-demand concert a reality. I’d like to throw an extra special thanks to producer Joe Gunderman who somehow managed to squeeze all our recording gear in the van—I just hope they can somehow get heat in there—it’s gonna be a cold night.

About ten years ago, I jumped at the opportunity to direct the 30th Kent State Folk Festival. That year, we brought in acts like Tim O’Brien, Tish Hinojosa, James Keelaghan, and Sam Bush. At that time, this brand new Celtic band was on the scene called Solas. They had only released one record but after the first few seconds of that album, I knew I found the perfect band to close out Friday’s music at the festival. There was this power and energy in that first record—a sound unlike anything I had heard for a Celtic band. I just knew they were going to be something special. Even with member changes throughout the years, Solas has maintained their unique brand of Celtic music by not compromising their sound for anyone. They continue to make different records each time they go into the studio and their live shows have certainly not lost the energy and excitement from their early years. Plus—Seamus Egan and the gang are such nice people—it makes it hard not to fall in love with this band. In April, Compass records is releasing “Reunion” from Solas—a live recording done last year featuring every single past and present member of the band. You can bet we’ll be playing it on Folk Alley. So tonight, at 8:00 PM Eastern Time, don’t forget to click on the special link that will take you live to the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland, Ohio, with Solas—an early St. Patrick’s Day present from Folk Alley.

Posted by Chris Boros at 12:27 PM | Comments (1)

Wearing Your Heart on Your CD

March 13, 2006

Cheryl Wheeler is coming to town next week and I'm really looking forward to the concert. She is a great song crafter and mixes her sets so that both personal and funny songs are represented. Her latest CD, Defying Gravity, is one of my favorites, but it does include a lot of break-up songs. The last time I saw her, she was singing more "happy in the relationship" songs, so I think something may have taken a turn for the worse. Since so many songwriters use personal situations for the basis of their music, does it ruin the enjoyment of listening to the happy albums when you know the sad songs are to come? Not that I require all songwriters to be happy all of the time, but it's a bummer. Like when Sylvia and Ian Tyson and Richard and Linda Thompson broke-up. Marriage over, no new music.

So, is knowing a lot of personal information about a singer from their songs a good thing or a bad thing? Is it really anybody's business if the lyrics are about true events or just fiction? Does it make it harder or easier for an audience to relate to music if they think the singer wrote it from life?

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 3:08 PM | Comments (46)

Issues of Funding

March 7, 2006

Well, here we go again. Some of our listeners who live in the states may recall a public broadcasting crisis with the threats of federal funding cutbacks last year. The President's budget for '07 again calls for a major cutback in federal funding for public broadcasting. In all it looks like 90 million out of a 430 million request. How does that affect Folk Alley? Our ability to sustain Folk Alley is possible because of the health of WKSU, our host station. Folk Alley is not yet self sustaining, and without the support of WKSU, Folk Alley would not be possible.

How can you help? Well the obvious method is to financially support Folk Alley and also write to your Representative or Senator and call for the support of public broadcasting.

We at WKSU have enormous faith in you and we will continue to try and grow this service to the point where it is totally supported by you, while extending our efforts to seek funding from sponsors and the foundation community.

You already know what a great service Folk Alley is and we here at the Folk Alley camp also know what Folk Alley can become with hard work and time. We want to continue to provide you with Folk Music that you can't find anywhere in the world here on the internet.

Thanks for listening and thanks for the kind e-mails and financial support. We can make this a success if we work together.

Al Bartholet

Posted by Al Bartholet at 10:03 PM | Comments (7)

How Long is Long Enough?

March 3, 2006

"This is one of my tender spots regarding folk CDs: 'What is a respectable length in time for a premium priced CD?' What finally broke my back was Kate Mackenzie's Age of Innocence, which I bought after hearing one of her songs from this album, sight unseen. The CD is 38 min. if you discount the outrageous space at the end of 2 of the songs. I personally am not a musician, but this borders on ripping people off in my opinion. So my solution is to go to iPods. Which I did and I went from buying an average of a CD a month, to 1 or 2 CDs in a year, and never without seeing the actual CD if it is folkie. The other advice I have is to buy classical music or jazz. Now that I have your stream online, I doubt I will buy another folk album again in this lifetime. I just wonder if, since you see more CDs in a year than I see in a lifetime if you think 38 min. is a rip?
Regards from Japan. What do others think?

Thomas Asada-Grant"

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 3:59 PM | Comments (31)

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