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Singing Out: An Oral History of America's Folk Music Revivals

August 22, 2011

By David King Dunaway & Molly Beer

Forward By Pete Seeger

Singing Out.jpgLook closely at the title. This is an oral history of America's folk music revivals with an s--three revivals in fact, according to authors David King Dunaway and Molly Beer. The first revival took place in the early part of the 20th century and featured the likes of John and Alan Lomax, Cecil Sharp, Carl Sandburg--a revival fueled by researchers and collectors. Revival number two blew breath into the printed song because of performers like Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, The Seeger family and others, culminating in those last years of the fifties and those early years of the sixties as folk music climbed up the pop charts. The third revival might be a little harder to recognize because it's happening now--and it's happening in a swirl of social media, digital connectivity and live concerts and festivals all over the world.

Just click through the dozens and dozens of photographs and concerts clips here on Folk Alley alone and marvel at the young folks with banjos, guitars, jaw bones etc...carrying on old musical traditions and inventing new ones. It wouldn't be hard to make the case that folk music is more alive and more interesting today than in any other time in history.

The authors of Singing Out: An Oral History of America's Folk Music Revivals make that case by collecting and presenting oral histories from a diverse group of folk music stake-holders. You will find history in the words of performers like Ry Cooder, Judy Collins, Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and Bernice Johnson-Reagon. Other contributors include, Folkways Records founder, Moses Asch, Folklorist, Archie Green, grass roots organizer, Myles Horton, and Sing Out! Magazine editor, Mark Moss. These thoughtful and sometimes lively musings on the music we love cover all three revivals plus some inspiring exploration of the power of song. The authors put the interviews in context with insightful essays and explanations making it a must-read for anyone with even a little more than a passing interest in the folk music being made today.

Posted by Matt Watroba at 4:16 PM | Comments (2)

New Adds for August

August 17, 2011

New Music for August

One of the best things about taking the Folk Alley mobile on the road is having the chance to interact with artists in a more informal setting (it helps to have air conditioning and cold water in the fridge). I was so happy to meet the Good Lovlies at Blissfest that I might have been a little overexcited. The three ladies were indeed lovely and I was able to tell them how much I enjoy their old-time, upbeat harmonies face-to-face. I even got a hug! Their latest CD is Let the Rain Fall.

Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three also seem like their producing music for another time - Pokey even looks yanked from the '30s on the CD cover of their new release, Middle of Everywhere. Listen to their "hot club," jangly sound and see if you don't imagine him in front of an old fashioned stand microphone. Folk Alley recorded the band on the Harbor Stage as part of our extensive coverage with the NPR Music team at the Newport Folk Festival. 

Pharis and Jason Romero play old-time music of the stringband sort. With songs that are deceptively simple, their voices blend in harmony and hover in the air before taking up permanent residence with the listener. Veterans of Outlaw Social and Haints Old Time Stringband, they moved to the woods of Horsefly, British Columbia, where they create beautiful music - and Jason crafts stunning banjos. The duo is out with their first full CD of original music: A Passing Glimpse

Bob Childs is an instrument maker, too. His violins and violas take centerstage in Childsplay, a two-decade-old ensemble that takes on almost every musical genre that includes strings. Imagine a giant fiddle orchestra with guitar, bass, Irish harp and flute thrown in for good measure. The talented team is made up of two-dozen performers, including Folk Alley friends Mollie O'Brien, Lissa Schneckenburger and Shannon Heaton. Waiting for the Dawn captures the spirited exhilaration that Childsplay brings to its performances.   

CDs featuring Old Time and New Time and everything in between:

Harry Manx & Kevin Breit - "Strictly Whatever"
Ollabelle - "Neon Blue Bird"
Eilen Jewell - "Queen of the Minor Key"
Dehlia Low - "Ravens and Crows"
Donna Ulisse - "An Easy Climb"
Beth Wood - "The Weather Inside"
Jim Lauderdale - "Reason and Rhyme"
Amina Alaoui - "Arco Iris"
John Reischman & the Jaybirds - "Vintage & Unique"
Red June - "Remember Me Well"
The Dardanelles - "The Dardanelles"
Brother Sun - "Brother Sun"
Long Time Courting - "Alternate Routes"
Kris Delmhorst - "Cars"
The 23 Stringband - "Catch 23"
Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 4:47 PM

Review: Malcomb Holcombe ~ To Drink the Rain

August 11, 2011

Malcomb Holcombe - To Drink the Rain.jpgBy Jim Blum,

Malcomb Holcombe
To Drink the Rain

Despite his gravelly voice and tough exterior Malcolm Holcombe can touch your heart. He may poke you in the ribs to get there, but he will get there. This new album, To Drink the Rain is as spunky as it is thoughtful.

The album opens with a clear direction of Malcolm's intent - to share insight he has discovered, and to make sure you have fun hearing it. "I'm gonna put on my britches one leg at time..." We've heard that message before, but it's embellished here in the album's opener with an engaging backwoods philosophy similar to John Prine. "Behind the Number One" is a more serious message about power and freedom and the questionable distribution process for both. Malcolm seems to be implying a second message behind this song - that it is sad more of us DON'T question our lack of freedoms. Another highlight is the lighter "Reckon to the Wind."

The album's title song may be the most telling about the author: "To Drink the Rain." Holcombe is not hiding the fact that he had struggled with alcohol and anger. He is many years sober now, and much more cordial. Trying to relieve stress and disappointment can indeed be as difficult as trying "to drink the rain," but it's obvious as you listen that Malcolm decided to make the attempt. He also seems to be reaching out to us in case we might be dealing with the same struggle. This one is worth listening to several times.

Repeated listens are not hard either. The musicianship is solid and the band makes each song a romp. Luke Bulla plays fiddle and producer Jared Tyler plays Dobro. Guitarist Andrew Hardin (Tom Russell and Lucinda Williams) contributes the leads. Dave Roe (Johnny Cash) plays bass and said that he would buy his own plane ticket to record with Malcolm. Let's also give a shout out to Music Road Records, spearheaded by Jimmy LaFave and Kelcy Warren. Without these two we might not have this album.

Posted by Jim Blum at 12:00 PM | Comments (2)

Review: Blackie and the Rodeo Kings ~ Kings and Queens

August 2, 2011

Blackie picture.jpg by Matt Watroba,

Blackie and the Rodeo Kings
Kings and Queens

Distinguished Canadian roots music performers, Stephen Fearing, Colin Linden, and Tom Wilson combine to form the band, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings. Their high-energy, Alt-country/blues sound began as a collective appreciation project for the late songwriter Willie P. Bennett. Their name, in fact, was lifted from Bennett's 1978 release, "Blackie and the Rodeo King." Since forming in 1996, The Kings have released six studio recordings and have performed hundreds of live shows across North America, garnishing numerous awards. Their 2011 release, Kings and Queens, began as a chat in a rental van after a tour. The discussion wandered to the best female vocalists the trio had ever worked with. As you might expect, that list included the best of the best of folk, roots, country, jazz and rock female vocalists. The talk gave way to plans which gave way to the recording of 14 tracks--each highlighting some of the best female vocalists roots music has to offer.

So what names came up in that post-tour conversation? How about Rosanne Cash, Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams? Throw in Cassandra Wilson, Sara Watkins, Pam Tillis, Holly Cole...get the idea? The best of the best. Kings and Queens is a healthy mix of rooted Alt-country, rock and blues soaked ditties written, played, and sung with the highest caliber of craftsmanship. Most of the songs on Kings and Queens were written in collaboration with members of the band with the exception of Buddy and Julie Miller's "Shelter Me," featuring the voice of Patty Scialfa. Emmylou Harris is queen to the Kings version of Willie P. Bennett's "Step Away," by far the most pared-down, acoustic track on the CD. Other co-writers outside the court include Ron Sexsmith and Collin James among others including "My Town Has Moved Away," a song co-written and co-sung by Pam Tillis. Other highlights include the duet between Stephen Fearing and Sara Watkins, "Another Free Woman Gets To Walk Away," Queen Casandra Wilson singing with Fearing on "Golden Sorrows," and the soulful, "Brave" featuring Holly Cole.

With few exceptions, the Queen's role on Kings and Queens is that of duet or harmony singer. The Rodeo Kings take the lead on most tracks. The unique flavor each woman adds to their respective contribution is what makes this CD so interesting, and will most likely keep you coming back for more. Look for several of these tracks in the stream at

Posted by Matt Watroba at 3:42 PM

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