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On a Totally Different Subject - Who's Heard the New Dylan?

August 29, 2006

Bob Dylan's new album, Modern Times, came out today. Rolling Stone gave it five stars, but I want to know what you think about it. Folkie, Rocked out, somewhere in the middle? Zak (one of our young graphic designers) drove out to Best Buy and bought it first thing this morning. He hasn't had a chance to listen yet (something about going to class and a dead iPod battery). Have you?

Dylan's not the only one releasing new music this week. Also out in the U.S. as of Aug. 29: Pete Yorn - Nightcrawler, Ray LaMontagne - Till the Sun Turns Black, The Kingston Trio - The Essential Kingston Trio, Teada - Inne Amarach, Sam Hinton - Whoever Shall Have Some Good Peanuts, The Grascals - Long List of Heartaches, Catie Curtis - Long Night Moon. All reviews welcome.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 4:18 PM | Comments (27)

What to do...what to do..?

August 28, 2006

Folks,
We have a hypothetical question that maybe you can help us with…(okay maybe it isn’t quite so hypothetical, but let’s pretend for a minute, shall we...)

Let’s just say IF the Folk Alley staff had been watching, quietly and behind the scenes, an individual abuse the Open Mic feature to benefit a friend whose songs are posted. And, let’s say the things this person was doing to help their ‘artist friend’ wasn’t just a one-time, isolated incident, but was rather an on-going pattern for well over a month, maybe even two.

Would you agree that this individual was abusing and taking advantage of the system? And would you think that this person was showing a total lack of respect for the Open Mic community? Finally - What do you think we should do about this? Condone it? Publicly expose this person in the Blog? Along with his ‘artist friend’ too? Suspend him for a period of time from the site? Public flogging? Tar and feather? Lock them in a room and blast “Spaced Out: The Best of Leonard Nemoy & William Shatner” for 72 hours solid? Any ideas? Help us out…we want Open Mic to be for YOU not ambitious “gamers.” Thanks!

Posted by Linda Fahey at 11:49 AM | Comments (186)

Free and Unecessary Thought

August 26, 2006

Recently, I saw a news blurb from one supposedly newly freed country, half way around the world. A well dressed, well educated, well spoken man confirmed, to the astonishment of the interviewer, that he'd been warning his students from having too much "free and unnecessary thought". At first I thought that this man was joking, that this was surely some sort of comedy routine. As I listened, I kept waiting for the punch line, but it never came. I was shocked and dismayed to find that this man is a University Professor! Old idiologies die slowly, it seems, even in "free" societies. Come to think on it, this isn't too far from where we are today in other parts of the so-called 'free' world. Is freedom such a relative thing?

One thing that I value more than just about anything learned growing up, was something my folks and long time mentors to our church youth group had insisted upon our understanding above all else - to think for ourselves That meant not to believe by wrote what someone attempted to pass off to us just because they said it was so (tradition), but to consider a thing well before settling on the matter. This meant that we were to seek wise counsel and weigh things carefully before saying, "This is what I believe to be true, and this is what I'm going to do about it." It meant that we were going to have to develope critical thinking skills. It meant that we were going to have to look at all sides of an issue. It meant that we were going to have to develope courage. It also meant that we were going to have to become responsible; quite a challenge for teenagers growing up in an era of a between-a-rock-and-a-hard- place no-win, war torn society. They taught us not WHAT to think..but, simply, how to........THINK. That's a touch stone (true wisdom) which has gotten me out of a few tight spots over the years, and has kept me from following the lemmings of our time blindly over that proverbial ledge and into the sea. And for this valuable lesson, I am eternally grateful.

It has been my pleasure (and sometimes pain) to discover many good songs here on Folk Alley protesting a variety of unethical and unsavory practices and policies against humanity and of it's stewardship over this earth and it's inhabitants. Many songs encourage calls to action, reinforcing unity of purpose. These songs are not only really good listens, but also challenge me to reconsider some of my former attitudes about things. It's songs like these which cause me to stop and think before I leap, blindly, to support a cause or idiology, or even to settle comfortably into one without a thought.

Instead of imbedding links to the many individual songs here, I will simply provide a link to Ann VerWiebe's recent blog, "Where Have All the Protest Songs Gone?" and encourage you to participate in the conversation. Feel free, as well, to post active links to good protest songs down below in this thread.

We can be grateful (glad) that we have the priviledge to express thoughts...ANY thoughts, even those difficult thoughts which are deemed by some (yes, even right here in the good ol' U.S.of A.) to be 'free and unnecessary'. Thank goodness for those daring teachers and professors and mentors who are willing to encourage free and critical thinking, and for forums, such as Folk Alley where we can have collective class "sit ins" and "stand ups", not "drop outs". I'm hearing things here which would encourage me to consider a matter, thoughtfully, before running my mouth about it, before wearing a really cool looking tee-shirt or button to promote a cause, or even before casting my vote on an issue. I want to be able to really believe in a thing for which I stand or am promoting. In order for me to be able to do that, I must first carefully consider all viewpoints.

One thing's for sure, I'm supporting Folk Alley if for no other reason than to encourage free and open expression in a free-thinking challenged world. Leave it to Folk, yet again, to pave the way for open discussion and dialogue!

What are some of the songs or comments you've heard here on Folk Alley and from around the world which have challenged your sense of what you THOUGHT you knew to be correct thinking, and how have they affected your attitudes toward change?
Share if you dare!

Now, does everyone have his assignment? Good.
Class dismissed!

Posted by JoLynn Braswell at 5:14 PM | Comments (107)

Vote Now for Open Mic!

Voting for the overall Open Mic winner closes down at noon ET (GMT -5) on this Monday, Aug. 28. If you haven't voted (or haven't officially "locked" your vote), please do so now. You can play all of the songs in a row (or scroll through the list more easily) by clicking "Launch the Open Mic Player with all songs" at the bottom of the page. Remember: You may only vote once, finding ways to vote more than once are most likely tracked and may get that song eliminated. Also, you must lock in the song you are voting for for the vote to be official. If you do not see the current voting totals, you have not locked in your vote! Artists, now is the time to E-mail your fans and have them step up to the plate. The final winner will be selected using your votes, the votes and comments of a blue ribbon panel of industry professionals, and the votes of the Folk Alley staff.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 4:49 PM | Comments (3)

Where Have the Protest Songs Gone?

August 22, 2006

We got an E-mail to Letters@FolkAlley.com this week that intrigued us. It was from a singer/songwriter who was promoting the fact that he had a song on Neil Young's new Living With War site. There are more than 300 songs on the Songs of the Times page - music written in response to the fact that the U.S. is battling endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, moving troops into Lebanon and embroiling the fighting forces of nations who used to think highly of us.

And, Linda asked me, "Is this all there is? Why isn't every songwriter producing protest songs - like they did in the '60s?" Which raises several questions: are they out there, but we're not hearing them?; were there really tons of protest songs being written in the '60s?; are we afraid of controversy because we've been programmed to be uber politically correct?; have we all gotten weak with acceptance over the situation in the Middle East? I don't have the answers. I was a kid in the '60s. I listened to the Beatles and learned all the words to "These Boots are Made for Walking." Pete Seeger I knew, but only because he recorded children's music. So, tell us, what happened then and what's happening now?

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 11:24 AM | Comments (275)

The Conclusion of 'A Prairie Home Companion' Cruise

August 21, 2006

Donna Fox's coverage of Garrison Keillor's annual fan cruise concludes. Next year, Norway!

July 20 Victoria, British Columbia

We spend the day at sea, arriving in Victoria, B. C. at 8:00PM.

In the morning we listened to Garrison, Robin and Linda singing old tunes. Later we ran into Robin who told us that they did not have any time to rehearse. At times one of them would say that they couldn't remember the lyrics. We are still in awe of how many songs they do know.

The afternoon's main stage show was the Talent Show. The passengers' talent had wowed us during the auditions we did see but we were still amazed by what we hadn't heard. Garrison introduces the four judges and announces that he will not be a judge this year. However, after every performance he tries to sway the panel by pointing out the positive aspects. In the early show the fiddler Leslie Gregory of the band Equinox from Saginaw, MI and the tenor from Lyric Opera of Chicago whose name we can't remember ended up tied for first place so they had a play-off with Leslie winning.

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I was able to take in both Talent Shows by waiting until the late dinner seating folks had all arrived and then sitting in the back. The first show was by far the superior one. The main reason I wanted to see the second is to tape "The Bear Song," as we came to call it. Everyone will get to hear it when they perform on the show being held at a winery near Seattle and that will be broadcast on July 29. When you hear it, remember that almost all the lyrics were verbatim from a park brochure on how to deal with bears! We were in hysterics.

I decided to forego dinner in the dining room to listen to Jearlyn and Billy Steele in the Ocean Bar. Garrison had made a comment during one of the shows about the irony of singing gospel in a bar. Besides gospel, Jearlyn sang many other types of music. When the time allotted for the show was coming to an end, she asked what type of music she should end on. Being my usual shy retiring self, I yelled out, "Rock it out." And did she! Aretha would have been proud of Jearlyn's rendition of "Respect". Jearlyn is a gifted singer but also the consummate entertainer. She is so warm, gracious, and humble. It is no surprise that Garrison invited her on the cruise. And her brother, Billy, is no slouch either! Winner of three Grammys, he mesmerized us with his organ and piano playing.

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Although torn between an excursion to Butchart Gardens and listening to Rich Dworsky in the Piano Bar, Loren and I disembark to meet the tour bus for the ride to the gardens. We were lucky to have a gifted bus driver/tour guide with a golden radio-voice who pointed out the highlights as we drove through Victoria and the 14 miles into the countryside and entertained us with anecdotes about cougars crashing into homes and businesses and almost killing his dog.

As we enter the gardens, we hear big band music, one of Loren's favorite genres. The gardens were a feast for many senses. To stand and look at what was once a limestone quarry and is now an incredible sunken garden definitely eased the loss of missing Rich's performance. Our gratitude to Jennie Butchart who saw the potential in the exhausted quarry in the early 1900s. The tons of topsoil, that line the bottom of the quarry, were brought in from neighboring farmland by horse and cart. The three other gardens, rose, Japanese, and Italian, were equally astounding although the sunken garden has a special place in my heart. One of the plaques details Mrs. Butchart hanging in a bosun's chair planting ivy on the walls of the quarry! And the incredible Ross Fountain with its multiple jets and various colored lights seemingly never repeats a pattern.

When we saw Fred and his family at the gardens, Loren asked him if he was going to make the sound effect of flowers growing. He said that he would have to think about it because he had never done it before.

We return to the ship, tired but filled with the beauty of a special place. Wishing that we had the time and energy to both pack and take in the show in the Crow's Nest, we fall into bed knowing that a marvelous experience is coming to an end. Morning will find us in Seattle.


July 21 Seattle

When Loren went to have coffee in the Neptune Lounge, he sat next to Garrison. Loren told him about the conversation he had with Fred at Butchart Gardens last evening. Garrison mused that he had never asked Fred to do vegetation. Wonder if he will in the future?

When I arrive for breakfast, Garrison is sitting at a table rewriting the script for the show later today at a winery near Seattle. We have opted not to go, feeling that it would be a letdown after the intimacy of the shows on board. Since Seattle is in the grip of a heat wave, we are pretty smug about our decision. Interestingly the six of us had come to this decision independently.

When Garrison stands to leave, we ask if we could have a picture taken with him as we did last year. Of course, he magnanimously agrees. And of course, the picture is out of focus again! I think that we will always make sure that the concierge doesn't know how to operate digital cameras since it would break tradition to have one in focus!

When we arrive at the hotel, we get the last room that is ready. Everyone else camps out in the lobby. When we return to the lobby to get on the Net, it looks like an Apple convention. Rich Dworsky, Robin Williams, and other APHC staff members are bent over their laptops. I mention this to Rich and he says that there had been even more a little earlier. Robin had told us at the beginning of the week that he had upgraded from his old iBook so he wouldn't have the problems he did last year.

*****
Further reflections from Donna:

As I did last year, I purchased plenty of Internet access on board so I could actually send the daily blog. Let's see. Sending the blog or taking in entertainment? So I resigned myself to knowing that you wouldn't be reading this until after we returned home which was delayed by five days due to a visit to Loren's mother in California.

The delay does give us the opportunity to have some space and time for reflection. Again it is truly astounding to be on a ship with these talented performers for a week. They never disappoint and they are all so approachable. "Gee shucks" comes to mind as their reaction when we express out enthusiastic appreciation one-to-one.

This year the natural beauty of Alaska did trump the lesser-known performers' shows. We actually did not hear Kate Brislin and Jody Stecher. I only caught the Klezmer band and Redd and Cindy on Wednesday's APHC show. Last year we gave a standing ovation to the cast during the APHC show on the last night at sea. This year's schedule had the last show on Wednesday and the Talent Show on Thursday afternoon. I don't think that it dawned on us that Wednesday was the last time we would see the whole cast together.

I spoke with Fred on the stairs one day and complimented him on the previous night's show. He asked which show I saw. When I told him the one for early dinner seating guests, he said that was the better one. He said that he told Garrison it was because we were "lickered up". I wondered aloud if it was because the first show was more like a rehearsal; he agreed. Ah, the advantages of eating dinner earlier than we do at home!

One of my most memorable experiences involves getting the cast members to sign my APHC movie poster that I had picked up at Shaker Square Cinema. Garrison was the first to sign. It was the first time he had seen a copy. He approved of it since the first one was so different. He commented, "The first one had a farmhouse on it. That has nothing to do with the movie." Andy Stein asked if I had gotten the poster on the ship. When I told him, that I brought it from Ohio. He launched into a story about how Martin Mull was from Ohio and then a hysterical bit from one of his movies. When I stopped after the show with Sue, Fred and Tim to get their autographs, Fred said, "You don't want mine. I wasn't in the movie. I'm not bitter." Through my laughter, I said that I did want his. Then he revealed that he had actually written one line that made it into the movie: "It's moving like monkeys." I encountered Jearlyn with her mother on the dock of Ketchikan on Wednesday morning and asked if she would sign my poster later. She was so gracious that I asked if I could give her a hug, she reached out and enveloped me in a bear hug! Then she introduced us to her mother. All the musicians appeared surprised and pleased that I had the poster for them to sign. What a memento of our trip!

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 2:32 PM | Comments (1)

A Prairie Home Companion at Sea - Day 6

August 18, 2006

More of Donna Fox's adventures at sea with public radio's most beloved host.

July 19 Ketchikan, Alaska

Our last stop in Alaska, can it be over so soon? We have about three hours to go ashore. We opt not to do an excursion today and find ourselves watching a man fishing from a bridge in the center of town lose his large Alaska King salmon to a harbor seal.

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Then we get a tip from a couple who has been on all the other excursions we have taken to go see Dolly's House on Creek Street. It seems that Dolly, 5'9" and about 200 pounds, "entertained" gentlemen from 1919 until 1954 when the brothels were shut down by the city. She lived in this house until the last year and a half of her life. It has been restored to what it looked like before she went into a nursing home. Supposedly all the furnishings and clothing belonged to her. A fascinating step back into the wild years of Alaskan history.

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The afternoon found me sitting in the Crow's Nest at the Songwriters' Show. Try to imagine sitting 12 feet from Pat Donahue, Rich Dworsky, Dan Newton, and Robin and Linda Williams listening to them perform their own songs. Pat had us in stitches with his "Would You Like to Play the Guitar?" to the tune of "Swinging on a Star". Click here for the lyrics of "Would You Like to Play the Guitar?" Robin and Linda's "Traffic Light" struck a responsive chord. Here are the lyrics: Click here for lyrics of "Traffic Light". Dan entertained us with his amazing playing and lyrics. What can I say that I haven't already about Rich Dworsky? He is so gifted. The five of them did a round robin for an hour and a half.

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Tonight's show was the last APHC for the cruise. How bittersweet it is to know that tomorrow is our last day together. The audience gathers about 45 minutes before show time and begins to sing, using the songbook put together by APHC. About a half hour later Garrison appears in his tux and takes a seat among the audience to sing along. When it is show time, he opens by remarking on the fact that we had sat there for 45 minutes singing and entertaining ourselves.

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One of the best parts of watching APHC live is watching Garrison throw out lines that require sound effects. Fred was busy being birds, whales, seals, walruses, boats, helicopters, floatplanes, the ship's commodes (a very distinctive sound), and so many more. He did throw up his hands when Garrison called for a sperm whale! It was neat that Loren's suggestion to Fred that he do the two different sounds that the Maasdam and Zaandam commodes made were written into the script.

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The klezmer band, Kosher Red Hots, rocked the place. Such energy! Redd Volkaert Band with Cindy Cashdollar wowed us with their playing.

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And of course, we were highly entertained by all the cast and the regular spots such as Powdermilk Biscuits and The Ketchup Advisory Board.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 10:08 AM | Comments (0)

Prairie Home at Sea - Day 5

August 16, 2006

The fun with Garrison and company on a cruise to Alaska continues.

July 18 Sitka, Alaska

This morning we awake docked in the beautiful bay of Sitka, the site of the formal transfer of Alaska from Russia to the United States. We certainly got a deal for $7.2 million.

The natural beauty of this spot includes forested mountains coming down to the sea, a dormant volcano, and a chain of islands that protects the bay from ocean swells. The tiny town is the home of St. Michael's, a Russian Orthodox church, established in 1848. As in all of Alaska there is a story. When the ship carrying the icons, chalices, and the doors for the altar encountered a storm, some of them were lost at sea. A month later the crate with the icon of St. Michael washed ashore unscathed! In 1966 the original structure burnt to the ground. The story is that it took one man to remove the chandelier from the ceiling during the fire and six men to carry it into the new building.

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We disembark to take a catamaran on a quest for sea otters and other wildlife. They promise a "raft" of 10-12 sea otters but nothing else. What a trip we had! First, we spotted bald eagles (they are everywhere!), stellar sea lions, and various gulls. Then the captain whispers over the mike that there is a large raft coming up on our starboard side. It is a raft of over 70 sea otters! Most were old and grizzled and content to float on their backs wrapped in kelp. The younger ones were on the outside of the raft, rolling and tumbling. They are so accustomed to the catamarans that as long as we were quiet and did not make sudden movements, they made no attempt to get away. I noticed that they are much larger than the ones I see off the central coast of California. The guide explained that they are the same species but the abalone is much richer in Sitka Bay. Since I have had a love affair with otters since I was a child, I certainly was more than satisfied. But there were more delights just outside the bay. Since it was an incredibly calm day with blue skies, the captain said that we were going out into the ocean to see if we can find some whales he had seen earlier. We spot the blow and sail closer. Soon we realize that there are at least three humpbacks. We are in absolute awe that we are looking down into their blowholes! As they swim alongside us, we are all hoping to see flukes. Ah, the magnificence of those creatures obligingly showing us their tails! We stayed with them until it was obvious that other boats wanted to move in closer so we left them to astonish more tourists. This was a profound experience.

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Back on shore I watched Garrison interacting with passengers. He is unfailingly polite and is tireless in posing for pictures and signing autographs.

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Tonight's main theater show stars Jearlyn and Billy Steele, Butch Thompson, and poet Louis Jenkins. None disappoint but we have come to expect this. Butch announced that he has a website now but that he couldn't remember what it was. He fumbles around in his wallet while talking about it and finally, pulls out a business card and announces, "Oh, yeah. It's butchthompson.com!"

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Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 5:14 PM | Comments (0)

Falling Back

August 15, 2006

I remember when I was a teenager saying to my folks I wanted to be a musician. I didn't use the words "folk singer" or “rock & roll star" or anything, but I might have said, "performer." Not being the most supportive of people and they said that I "should have something to fall back on."

In an old interview with Tom Petty, if I remember correctly (this is always iffy), he said his parents said the same thing and his retort was, "well, I don't plan on falling back." I hope I got that quote right.

Now I'm listening to the kids of performers I've grown up with. Some have been influences, some just another record on the turntable. But I wonder if following in footsteps came naturally, was expected, or somehow discussed within family circles. Did Bob tell Jakob, he needs something to fall back on? Did Arlo or Louden say the same to their kids?

What are you telling your kids? Are you letting them follow their heart's desire or do they need to have something to fall back on?

Joshua Brande

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 11:48 AM | Comments (41)

More Prairie Home on Vacation - day 4

Donna Fox's journey continues.

July 17 Glacier Bay National Park

Today the performers took a back seat to Mother Nature in all her glory. No photograph or video can capture the magic of being among the glaciers. I will certainly not try to capture it in words! I urge everyone, who can possibly go, to see Alaska before the glaciers recede any further!

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For an hour this afternoon passengers had an opportunity to tell Garrison stories. It was a study in a great storyteller teaching people how to improve the telling of their stories. The one that absolutely cracked up Garrison and the audience involved a dog, some mice, and a two-passenger airplane. If anyone is interested, I will retell it. It is long!

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Then I was off to "A Conversation with Tim, Fred and Sue". The mutual respect was heartening. The format was each reacting to photos of their careers. In doing so we learned a lot about them and APHC. The most amazing one was of Garrison leaning over Tim and rewriting the script as it was being performed. Sometimes they receive the script on Thursday; others they receive it at the read-through on Friday. Even when they do receive it on Thursday, there will be re-writes for Friday. Then on Saturday they will see yet more changes. Sue said that they have learned to save all the versions because Garrison might go back to an earlier one. During the show there is a lot of miming to get everyone on the right page of the right version.

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Sue related a hysterical story of filming a TV spot for an insurance company on donkeys! First the donkeys wouldn't cross the white crosswalk markings so they were all taped over. They couldn't get the donkeys to move until someone pointed out that there was a lead donkey; Sue was on it. Once it was in the lead, it was off to the races! It took nine hours to tape a minute spot. Sue threw away her stockings since she couldn't get the hair off.

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Tonight's show was Garrison and the Guys All-Star Shoe Band, an amazingly talented and humble group of musicians. One day we were on deck watching the process of the ship leaving port when we heard a ship's horn but it wasn't loud enough for the Zaandam. Loren and I rushed over to the starboard side to find Andy Stein preparing a new reed for his sax. As we chatted with him, we said something about whales and he simulated whale songs on his sax.

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Richard Dworsky...what superlative is good enough to describe his directorship of the band and his mastery of the piano? And then there is his songwriting. We are utterly in awe. And he is the most bashful musician we have ever met. The only time he was more at ease was the day Loren noticed that Rick was wearing a Morro Bay hat. He said that it is his favorite beach town because it is so unspoiled. We wholeheartedly agreed and told him that we are headed there after the cruise to visit Loren's mother. Hey, maybe we can invite him to visit some day!

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 11:25 AM | Comments (0)

A Prairie Home Companion Cruise - Part 3

August 14, 2006

Part three of Donna Fox's 7-part series on her recent tour to Alaska with Garrison Keillor and the crew from A Prairie Home Companion.

July 16 Juneau, Alaska

When we docked at noon, we saw Jearlyn Steele waiting on the dock. We waved enthusiastically and she told us later it made her feel so welcomed. She had been honest when filling out the pre-embarkation health questionnaire in Seattle and was not permitted on the ship. At last night's APHC show I had remarked that I bet Jearlyn was supposed to sing "Frankie and Johnny". I could hear her belting it out.

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We quickly disembarked to meet our floatplane to Taku Lodge, an old hunting lodge built in 1923 locate on the Taku River about a 25-minute flight up the river from Juneau.

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As Loren and I waited, we debated the advantages of having an old pilot versus a younger one. I was all for the younger one with the better reflexes. As luck would have it, we not only had the youngest pilot but also the smallest plane, a six-passenger Dehaviland Beaver. The takeoffs and landings were undetectable. As we left the dock, Pat told us that we needed to stay on the water until the engine was warm enough for takeoff. We glided along for a few minutes and then we were gently lifting into the air. Looking down into the glaciers and seeing the incredible blue ice was breathtaking. The landing was equally smooth.

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Taku Lodge, known as Twin Glacier Lodge then, was given to a young nurse, Mary Joyce, by her employer in 1934. In December 1935 at age 27, Mary made a 1000-mile journey on her wooden sled pulled by her five sled dogs. During the three months she mostly traveled alone in temperatures down to 50 below. The sled is in the rafters of the lodge.

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As we entered the lodge, we were offered cold and hot drinks. The incredibly clear ice was from the glacier across the river from the lodge. We watched a young man grill salmon over an open alder wood fire. As we queued up for the buffet, I noticed that there appeared to be a white fish also. Little did I suspect that I would be introduced to white Alaskan King salmon and that I would fall in love with it. First, I had to get over the notion that salmon is orange. Once that was accomplished, I quickly became a convert. Apparently, the white has become highly sought after for restaurants. It just happens that there is a higher incidence of them in the Taku River. What a delightful surprise.

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As we were eating, someone yelled, "There's a bear!" We looked out the large picture window to see a rather large black bear cleaning the grill. After each cookout, the bears appear to eat the sand that has caught the drippings. The trail guide told us that this spring he has seen two mother bears showing their cubs the grill. The mother bear picked the cub up and dropped him into the grill!

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After lunch we took a short hike through the forest, gazing across the river at one of the glaciers. Then back into our six-passenger Dehaviland floatplane with our intrepid pilot Pat.

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Back on shore we decided to walk around town and stumbled upon a bronze of a English bull terrier. Patsy Ann knew when a boat was coming in before anyone. She would arrive on the dock to greet each one. Legend has it that one time she came down and people began to gather. Suddenly she got up and trotted over to another dock. Yep, that is where the boat docked.

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Back on ship, we went to the Lido deck to see the presentation by the Juneau Raptor Center. There was a peregrine falcon and a hawk on board. The naturalist was fascinated by my story of the Cleveland peregrine falcons and the fight to the death over downtown streets all in the name of love! Clearpath, a younger female, arrived in town and set her cap for the handsome Buckeye. She vanquished Zenith who had been a resident of the ledge on the skyscraper for eight years.

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Again there were shows in every venue this evening. Finally, Jearlyn Steele and her brother Billy performed their magic.

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Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 2:11 PM | Comments (0)

Ride a Little Pony

August 13, 2006

I've been sleeping a lot lately. Not when I'm supposed to, mind you, but soundly, when I can get it. Nothing seems to be able to put me to sleep at the appointed hour, however, when I'm worried about something or someone (mostly someone...things aren't worth the bother).
It might be nice to have the luxury of a lullaby to help me to drift. Frank Dieter's "Fireflies in a Jar" comes closest, so far. I'm constantly in search of others.

Jim Blum introduced us to Dandling Songs - The kind of songs your mother might chant as she bounced you in rhythm upon her knee.
One such example is the lovely "Deandi, Deandi" - Aine Minogue (The Twilight Realm/Little Mil.)

One on which I was raised is a variation of "Ride a Little Pony", and it was a delight:
Ride a little pony (bounce baby on your knee)
Ride to town (continue bouncing)
Ride a little pony (throw baby's arms outward)
DON'T fall down! (lower baby backward, dropping your knee)
In the Middle East a similar ditty has the child riding the ankle on extended leg; riding a camel in slow, galumphing rhythm on pilgrimage to Mecca. I think that's a charming variation, albeit more difficult to do, depending upon the size of the child!

One English speaking woman related to me that, as a young child, her European Spanish Nanny held her in her arms and sang to her traditional Spanish lullabys in rhythm native to that land. As a result, this child, now grown, felt more intimately bonded to the Nanny than to her own kin, and the Nanny's culture became her own culture, down deep, where her soul lives. At the time, she didn't understand the language, but that mattered little; music and closeness has language of it's own.

What are some of your Dandling songs and Lullabys, and in what languages were they sung to you, and by whom?
Have you passed them on, or perhaps created new ones of your own?

Posted by JoLynn Braswell at 6:22 PM | Comments (39)

Open Mic Finals Here

The results of the monthly Open Mic contests are in! Now, the three winners and six runners-up will battle it out with three additional wildcard entries for an invitation to perform at the 40th Kent State Folk Festival in November. Please take a moment, listen to the final 12 (I like to pop the list into an auto playlist that will play them all in a row) and pick your favorite.

Remember - only one vote per registered user! We are aware that some folks think they're helping their favorites by finding ways to vote multiple times. Please don't! Cheating will only hurt the competitor and could cause their song to be disqualified. And nobody wants that! So, let's keep it clean out there and vote once. All of the finalists are well deserving and this should be fun. You have until Mon., Aug. 28 at 5 p.m. ET (GMT -5) to lock in your vote. Yahoo!

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 11:35 AM | Comments (5)

Prairie Home at Sea - 2

August 11, 2006

Part 2 of Donna Fox's tale of the recent A Prairie Home Companion cruise to Alaska.

July 15 At sea

The schedule is jam-packed with musicians in every venue on the ship. We have resigned ourselves to the fact that we cannot see everyone we want.

Today we contented ourselves with "True Confessions", a dialogue between Garrison and a young Lutheran minister from Minnesota. Garrison explained that he wanted to know if he had been wrong in how he depicted the minister's "people" since Garrison's "people" were evangelical Christians. The minister held his own with Garrison. We were shocked to see Garrison guffaw at some of the minister's observations.

The early afternoon found us watching the talent show auditions. Again half the fun is watching Garrison's reactions to the performers. We were in for a real treat when a singer from the lyric opera of Chicago sang. The fiddler from Michigan was a crowd favorite. But many of the amateurs are really talented. I think the hula dancer in her revealing outfit discomfited Garrison. Much like the kiss Meryl Streep gave him in the movie. I asked Sue about the kiss and she confirmed my suspicion that it was indeed unscripted.

Old-Timers-Reunion.JPG

Then at 3:00 I caught the "Old Timers Reunion". This was an hour show with the original cast of the show in the 1970s. Butch Thompson was at the piano; singers included Jody Stecher, Kate Brislin, and Robin and Linda Williams. Listening to Garrison reminisce about the old times was intriguing. How far he has come since then! And little did he suspect where his "little radio show" would take him.

Tonight was the first full-length APHC show. What a blast! Garrison fired a couple of salvos at the Republicans. Again there were a few people in front of us who did not react with whooping and applause as the rest of us did. The music was amazing. Watching and listening to Rich Dworsky playing the piano is worth the price of the cruise. What an amazing talent.

Immediately after APHC, the Hopeful Gospel Quartet and Rich Dworsky entertained us. We found out later from Rich that they don't have time to rehearse so we are seeing them perform the songs without much preparation. In fact, Garrison said that they had just discovered that they all knew a song but they hadn't sung it together before this evening. Later we were talking to Robin in the hallway and he said that no one loves singing more than Garrison.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 2:43 PM | Comments (2)

A Prairie Home Companion at Sea 2006

August 10, 2006

Our friend Donna Fox recently returned from a cruise headlined by Garrison Keillor that included plenty of folk music. This is the first in a 7-part series.

July 14 North to Alaska!

Here we go again! We are waiting to board the Zaandam for the Second Annual A Prairie Home Companion at Sea. This year we are sailing from Seattle to explore the Inside Passage of Alaska.

GK-welcome-aboard-show.jpg

Last evening at the reception at our hotel Garrison greeted us and then entertained us with a gem of a monologue. He spoke of how looking forward to this trip made it possible for him to get through the previous 11 months of work and Minnesota weather. My husband, Loren Smith, and I recognized parts from his column this week on Salon. It was fascinating to compare his delivery of it and what I had heard in my head as I was reading it just two days ago.

The Hopeful Gospel Quartet with Rich Dworsky at the piano led us in an enthusiastic rendition of "Chapel of Love" and "Goodnight Irene". It certainly pegged the demographics of the group since almost all of us knew the lyrics!

It was an auspicious beginning to the weeklong cruise.

We were reunited with four members from last year's table. All eight of us had kept in touch and some had visited each other. On opening day of "APHC Movie" we all went to see it and then called each other to share reactions. We miss our other two mates who couldn't make it this year. We were gratified when Robin and Linda Williams and Sue Scott and her husband Ron remembered Loren and me!

Garrison led us in singing on the aft deck as we sailed out of Seattle harbor. We sang as many sea-related songs as we could come up with. At one point he asked all the Republicans to sing. There was dead silence although I heard mutterings from a couple of them behind me.

From 4:30 PM to the wee hours of the morning every venue on the ship had entertainment by APHC cast members and others. How to choose? Rich Dworsky and Andy Stein? Butch Thompson? Pat Donahue, Dan Newton and Gary Raynor? Redd Volkaert with Cindy Cashdollar? Kosher Red Hots? Bill Hinkley and Judy Larson? Jody Stecher and Kate Brislin?

Fred-Newman.jpg

Then later in the evening we were welcomed aboard by Garrison, the Guys All-Star Shoe Band, Rich Dworsky, and Robin and Linda Williams. The cast was greeted with enthusiasm.

Garrison-challenging-Fred.jpg

Garrison told us that there would be gifts from APHC in our cabins. The nylon backpack contained a travel mug, nifty small binoculars, a six-foot fold-out map of the Inside Passage, and this year's song book, also a signed poem from Garrison that contains these lines:

Worth even more than gold to find this simple reward:
The company of kindred souls. Welcome aboard.

I think that this is one more reason that this cruise has become an annual event for us. To be among almost 1400 souls who share our love for the show and our politics is a delightful way to travel.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 12:47 PM | Comments (12)

Folk Songs for Wedding Videos

We had a question like this a few years back, and we had lots of responses. Any ideas to help out a fellow Folk Alley listener?

"I'm making a home video to show at my granddaughter's reception following her wedding. I'm looking for the "perfect" song to play during the videos/pics of she and her new husband, growing up from a baby to adult. I thought it should be two songs, but perhaps could be the same song????

Any ideas? All input appreciated.

Mark Taylor"

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 12:37 PM | Comments (26)

Thanks for getting all sweaty on me!

August 9, 2006

I attended a concert last Friday and the poor artist (Grant-Lee Phillips formerly of Grant-Lee Buffalo) was absolutely soaking wet with sweat by the end of the show. While I appreciated the effort, I felt really badly for him. Any tricks on dealing with a sweaty situation?

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 4:49 PM | Comments (7)

My 15 Minutes with Donovan and his bats.

August 7, 2006

Last November Donovan presented a rare solo acoustic concert at the Kent State Folk Festival. Earlier that afternoon during the informal workshops, an Irish gentleman stopped me. He suggested that If I get a chance to talk to Donovan that I should ask about his bats. Soon I realized we weren't discussing baseball. Apparently, he has bats living in his attic. This did sound like an icebreaker, but wait till you find out about what lives in his basement.

Let's fast forward to 15 minutes before showtime. I'm backstage alone with Donovan. I'm going over my introductory comments. He's enjoying a glass of red wine. I thought to myself: "When am I going to get 15 minutes alone with Donovan again?"

I asked him: "I understand you have bats in your attic."
He almost spilled the wine: "Why yes, How did you know that?"

The ice was definitely broken. He then went on to tell me that he thought there
were around 12 bats because that's all he ever saw. A naturalist went into his attic and informed him there were 127 of them. He only saw 12 at any one time, and thought they were always the same 12. They're actually quite harmless creatures and absolutely beneficial because of all the harmful insects they eat. He is thrilled to help them out.

We then proceeded to talk about music, the music business, and meditation. He loved April Verch who played right before him. He was fascinated by her stage presence, her fiddling, and her dancing. He was very curious about Folk Alley. I told him about the entire staff, and all the hours we put in, and all the risks. He took a particular interest in me. He spotted the workaholic in me and asked:

"Do you wake up and immediately make lists as to what you're going to do?"

"Yes," I said, "and the list is always longer that the number of hours in the day. And I keep seeing things to do beyond the list, so I find myself growing impatient.

Donovan looked almost right through me and said: "You need to meditate - daily. I'm not talking about drugs and a long haired guru. Its a skill that requires a little time. You need to learn how to do it. You'll learn to separate yourself from your stress, and your attitude will improve. You must do it Jim."

I thought only my mother has ever said those last 5 words. Mostly I felt embarrased that he was so concerned about me. We talked up until he had to go on and I had to introduce him.

Following his perfomance, the audience rushed the stage (at his urging, I might add). As they were courted off, he decided to do one more song if they would leave peacefully. I saw his road manager and asked him:
"Does this happen often?"
"Trust me bloke," he said, "this is a one-off."

That was English for "no." He then added: "Stick around, Donovan would like you to come on stage with him for his encore."

I froze. I wondered if I knew all the words to "Mellow Yellow." I think I could recite the "Summer Day Reflection Song" but it didn't matter, because I would not be asked to sing. Instead he wanted to acknowledge me to the crowd. I wasn't very comfortable about it, but I felt like an 'everyman' representing the whole crew of us who put the festival on, and who work to put Folk Alley on the air (or on the net...).

I will not soon forget my 15 minutes with a guy who was good friends with the Beatles. A guy who read me like a book (or a short story) in that amount of time.

Will I take his advice and meditate? I guess first I'll have to learn how. Any tips? Oh, and if you've been waiting - aside from bats in his belfry, he has rats in his basement. He didn't have time to tell me about them, except to say that they were welcome too. Suddenly my 6 cats and 3 dogs don't feel like a load after all...

Jim Blum

Posted by Jim Blum at 5:20 PM | Comments (78)

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