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Don't Call It A Comeback

April 30, 2004

I am absolutely head over heels in love with the new Loretta Lynn album, entitled Van Lear Rose.

It is fascinating for several reasons. First, it is interesting to hear how hipster minimalist Jack White (of The White Stripes--you may remember him from the film Cold Mountain) handles a full band (and a country band at that).

Secondly, Loretta Lynn is amazing (and sounds even better), especially considering that she just turned 70.

Lastly, I think it is interesting that an artist that has released more than 70 albums and has never taken a break in her career is, in the eyes of the press, staging a "come back." It's ridiculous.

Let's face it. The only reason Jack White produced this album, the only reason it is being released by Interscope, the only reason it will win a slew of awards, and the only reason it will sell zillions of copies is because Loretta Lynn has been tapped as this year's "re-discovery"--the same territory plowed over the past few years by Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Ralph Stanley, and at least four times by Bob Dylan. However, she deserves teh praise, so it's hard to be too upset about it.

Loretta is the backwoods O.G., and unapologetically so. The work is simple, much less polished than she'd like to think it is, and endearing. She has always been the insider's outsider. In that regard, this album doesn't change a thing.

However, it rocks. Totally rocks.

Posted by at 6:59 AM

What was Julio doing?

April 26, 2004

One of Paul Simon's first hits after his split from Art Garfunkel was the uptempo song "Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard." Almost everyone is familiar with the tune and it's been recorded by ten different artists (and appeared on 28 different albums).

But have you ever stopped to wonder what the protagonist and Julio were actually doing down by the schoolyard? Everyone has always assumed that "What momma saw" was a drug deal.

However, that long-held theory has recently been debunked, by Paul Simon himself, in a recent issue of Rolling Stone magazine. "I have no idea what it is," said Simon. "Something sexual is what I imagine, but when I say 'something,' I never bothered to figure out what it was. Didn't make any difference to me."

It's the eternal "Catch-22" of music lyrics. Some artists pain over the nuance and message of their sung words, others just stick words and phrases together because they sound good. Regardless, every song ends up being interpreted by individual listeners.

Who's to say who's right or wrong?

Posted by at 1:45 PM | Comments (5)

Jim Blum's GORP recipe

April 23, 2004

Folk Alley host Jim Blum is a guy on the go (so much so that he couldn't even type this himself!). Just because Jim is busy doesn't mean he isn't concerned about what he eats. As a gesture of love and friendship with the Folk Alley community, Jim has agreed to share the recipe for his world-class GORP (well, in Jim's mind anyway):

  • Dried apricots (cut in half)
  • Soy nuts (non-hydrogenated)
  • Hot pumpkin seeds
  • Cashews
  • Dry roasted peanuts
  • Raisins (sometimes)
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Dried cranberries
  • Dried cherries
  • Can of mixed nuts (for good measure, "Just to fill things out" as Jim says).

Actually, I snuck a taste (Jim carries his GORP everywhere). It's pretty good--it's the hot pumpkin seeds that make it unique (I can still taste them).

Have your own recipe of special ingredient for GORP? Hit the "Comment" button below and share the secret.

Posted by at 11:44 AM | Comments (8)

Folk Alley Discount for Slaid Cleaves

April 22, 2004

Austin-based singer/songwriter Slaid Cleaves is on the road in support of his newest release, Wishbones. Catch his concert at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland tomorrow (4/23) at 8 p.m. and receive a Folk Alley discount on your ticket. Mention when purchasing tix at the box office and get $3 off.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 6:18 PM

Speak your mind about the upcoming election

April 21, 2004

Just received this in an email from the publisher of Performing Songwriter. Regardless of who you chose to support this election, this seems like an important opportunity. --Eric Nuzum

To all members of the music community:

Lately, with national and world events becoming more and more magnified and urgent, I've been thinking about what my role is as the publisher and editor of Performing Songwriter - a magazine I started 11 years ago with a mission statement to provide a sense of community for artists, songwriters and musicians as a whole, and to give that community a platform from which to be heard.

I've watched and listened as so many of you have taken stands and made passionate pleas for change in this administration and the way events and policies that affect all of our lives are being handled. And then I decided: The July/August issue is going to be dedicated to the music community's stance on the importance of this year's presidential election.

Carole King is our cover feature, and she provides a very rare interview where she talks about her work with John Kerry as well as the environmental issues that she is involved with. We also have artists writing about the censorship issue, the FCC's continued deregulation of radio and other media and what it means to the music community, and the importance of being fearless and speaking out; an article on grassroots political organizations within the music community that have sprung up; the personal thoughts of artists, musicians and songwriters; and much more.

I have two goals for this issue:

1. To provide a vehicle for your voice to be heard; and
2. To print as large a quantity of this issue as is financially possible in order to get it into the hands of the general public by giving it out to organizations and conventions, showing this country the work your music community is doing and the passion with which you're doing it.

So I'm sending this e-mail out to ask two things of you:

First, if you would forward this e-mail to any songwriters, musicians or leaders in the music business who might be interested in sending in a few sentences addressing why they feel this election is so important, we can make sure more and more of your voices are heard. And your voices are so important, particularly now, so please speak out because we're listening. Send a few sentences (please keep it short and concise so we don't have to edit for space purposes), and your name, city and state in which you live to my personal e-mail address:
Please note: We need to receive your e-mail by May 7 for it to be included.

And second, Performing Songwriter will commit to covering the cost of the additional pages for this issue for our regular distribution - this issue is absolutely going to happen, and I think be one of the most important ones we've ever published. But we need to ask your help in getting as many copies out and into the hands of the public as possible. If you could forward this e-mail to any person, company or organization that might want to advertise-showing their support and message through the ad-the money generated from those ads will go directly toward printing more copies of this issue to be given out everywhere possible. In other words, the more ads bought in support of this specific issue, the more people we'll be able to get your message to. For information on advertising in this issue e-mail We'll need to have your ad reservation by May 14.

Also, if anyone wants to pre-order this issue at a discount rate of $5, you can do so until May 14 (when we determine our print order) by going to the special page set up at

I'm always so moved by this wonderful community of songwriters, and the passion with which you approach everything you do. I made a commitment many years ago to support you in any way that I could because your art has made such a difference in my own life, much less the lives of everyone else. Just so you know, Performing Songwriter remains completely independent, with no corporate or investment ties. There's no one to say I can't do something, say something or support what I believe in. And that means YOU have a place where you can say and support whatever you believe in and BE HEARD.

Thank you for all that you do, and all that you give us.

Lydia Hutchinson
Publisher and Editor
Performing Songwriter magazine

Posted by at 11:50 AM | Comments (3)

Looking for America - Again

April 20, 2004

Simon & Garfunkel's extremely successful "Old Friends" reunion tour has spawned a sequel. New dates announced at begin on June 10 and continue through July 3. Stops along the tour include Albany, Uncasville, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas. There will be a pre-sale option for tickets on the web site. On a side note, my mother (who claims not to be a folkie despite owning the entire catalogs of Peter, Paul & Mary and the Clancy Bros.) expressed an interest in attending the Simon & Garfunkel concert in Cleveland with me, but it was too late to pull it off.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 5:09 PM | Comments (1)

Free Loudon Wainwright Download

April 19, 2004

Loundon Wainwright III is offering an MP3 file of his latest timely satire, President's Day, free for downloading off of his web site. The song was recorded live last month in California. In the continuing discussion on Eric's entry Is folk music "manly"?, poster Mike Smith says that John McCutcheon describes these as "short shelf life songs." Although Wainwright has always been highly critical of those who download music from the web, according to his web site, he felt the nature of the song warranted the quickest dissemination route possible.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 5:34 PM | Comments (3)

More Old Settler's Festival

April 16, 2004

Even though the 17th annual Old Settler's Music Festival is officially underway, there are still plenty of performances left to enjoy before it closes on Sunday. Along with jam sessions and workshops, artists scheduled to kick it up at the yearly bluegrass fest include Tim O'Brien, the Del McCoury Band, Leftover Salmon, Alison Brown, Natalie MacMaster, David Grisman and Peter Rowan.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 5:10 PM

Dolly a Living Legend

April 14, 2004

The Library of Congress presents singer/songwriter Dolly Parton with the Living Legend Award in Washington, DC this evening (4/14). Parton, who recorded her first album in 1963, got her big break singing alongside Porter Wagoner on his tv show in the late '60s. From there, Parton built a career that not only featured her work as a singer, but also as a Grammy Award-winning songwriter, actress, entrepreneur, and humanitarian. The Living Legend Award recognizes those who embody the quintessential American ideals of individual creativity, conviction, dedication and exuberance. The ceremony will be presented some time in May on GAC - Great American Country. Learn more about Parton from I Hear America Singing, a special online feature from the Library of Congress.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 3:30 PM | Comments (2)

What makes a folk festival sing?

April 13, 2004

Summer is on the way (or so I hear) and that means, for the Northern Hemisphere at least, a new season of folk festivals. This blooming of musical riches prompts a question: what makes a particular folk festival stand out? What are your favorites? Indoor or outdoor? Multi-day or one long marathon day of folk? Are big names important, or would you rather spend a nostalgic evening with local favorites? "Super Fests" like MerleFest and Bonnaroo seem exciting, yet exhausting, to me. Sometimes, a beautiful star-filled evening with an acoustic melody drifting through the breeze is all I really need. What about you?

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 6:34 PM | Comments (10)

Enter to Win Sam Bush

April 12, 2004

Sam Bush's King of My World, his first studio solo work in 5 years, officially hits the "shelves" tomorrow. To mark the occasion, Sugar Hill Records and JamBase are offering a chance to win a Rockygrass Flyaway Package of airfare and tickets to the RockyGrass Bluegrass Festival in Lyons, CO, a three-night stay for the winner and a friend, and an autographed copy of Bush's new disc. Along with Bush and his band, other acts appearing at RockyGrass on July 23-25 include Mountain Heart, Nickel Creek, Jerry Douglas, the Alison Brown Quartet, Mark O'Connor and the Hot Swing Trio, and Hot Rize.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 4:18 PM | Comments (2)

JUNO for A Duck in New York City

April 9, 2004

Canadian singer/songwriter Connie Kaldor has been recognized with a 2004 JUNO Award for Children's Album of the Year for A Duck in New York City. The CD is packaged with a book of the same name that tells the story of a duck from Saskatchewan and his Manhattan adventure. Lyrics from the songs are presented in both English and French.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 2:35 PM

Is folk music "manly"?

April 8, 2004

An unusual question, I admit...but hear me out.

Folk music has had a long track record with documenting many social concerns--to many people that's one of folk music's defining characteristics. One of those issues--again with a long history--is folk music focusing on feminist and women's issues. Songs examining the female side of concerns like gender equality, workplace issues (pay, opportunity, harassment), sexual orientation, and relationship/family issues are not unusual in the repertoire of many folk musicians--male and female.

Arguably, "women's issues" are societal issues, therefore everyone's concern and problem. But does/has folk music ever filled the same role for men? Outside of relationship and family issues you don't hear a lot of folk songs by men singing about being a man.

Shouldn't there be some more? Does it matter?

It just strikes me as odd. Am I off base on this? Feel free to click on the "Comments" button below and throw in your thoughts on the issue.

Posted by at 11:41 AM | Comments (8)

Free Dylan

Victoria's Secret will be offering a new Bob Dylan CD, Love Sick, free with any purchase now through Saturday, April 10 in stores and online. The collection of love songs offers 9 cuts, including a new remix of the title song. Dylan is also featured in ads for the lingerie retailer's Angels line.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 11:28 AM | Comments (9)

Trey Anastasio Releases Seis de Mayo

April 7, 2004

Phish bandmate Trey Anastasio has released Seis de Mayo on the Elektra Records label. The all-instrumental collection offers seven tracks of material that reimagines earlier works by Anastasio with performances by a variety of ensembles ranging from string quartets to full orchestras. Anastasio will make a pair of live appearances at Bonnaroo in July.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 6:53 PM | Comments (1)

Folk Alley Chat for April in Your Mailbox

April 6, 2004

The Folk Alley Chat,'s monthly e-newsletter was mailed yesterday. Featured stories include our recent celebration over Folk Alley's 10,000th registered user, a new survey and Jim Blum's adds to the playlist. If you did not receive this month's Chat, please check your Spam filter and add to your white list. Good reading!

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 2:36 PM | Comments (4)

David Francey Wins Another JUNO

April 5, 2004

Singer/songwriter David Francey was honored with a JUNO Award from the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences for best Roots & Traditional Album of the Year: Solo for 2003's Skating Rink. Francey - whose specialty is personal, brilliantly crafted songs about everyday life - is backed on the album on most tracks by the gifted guitar work of Dave Clarke. His competition in the Canada-only contest included Bruce Cockburn, Susan Crowe, Natalie MacMaster and Oh Susanna. Le Vent du Nord (the North Wind) won the JUNO Award in the Roots & Traditional Album of the Year: Group for Maudite Moisson.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 3:14 PM | Comments (2)

Spankers Go Electric?

April 2, 2004

The Austin, TX-based Asylum Street Spankers may be even more out of control on their next concert tour. Like the Chicago Cubs and night lights, after years of avoiding the demon electricity, the Spankers will now perform with the aid of amplification. In a letter from band leaders Christina Marrs and Wammo, a need to serve audiences in increasingly larger halls that the Spankers now is cited as the main reason for the change. The Spankers take the bones of old-time, honky-tonk music - with instrumentation that includes ukulele and saw - and add a perspective that is fresh and funny (and often naughty) with songs like Beer, Wake and Bake, Trippin' Over You and the new Pussy Cat Song.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 3:46 PM | Comments (2)

It Pays to be A Zealot

Every once in a while I'll hand our beloved Folk Alley host Jim Blum a CD I'm excited about and demand that he listen to it. I listen to a lot of new music and folk is just one of the genres I enjoy--so I hit Jim with some pretty odd stuff on occasion. However, he always humors me and listens.

This past week, I stopped Jim, literally, at the door and told him he had to listen to the new CD by Iron and Wine entitled Our Endless Numbered Days. When I started to explain that Iron and Wine is actually just one fellow, a songwriter from Miami (not generally known to produce a lot of folk musicians) named Samuel Bean, who sounds like a combination of Nick Drake, John Martyn, and Tom Waits--and looks like a young Ted Kaczynski--I could tell Jim was getting skeptical.

I continued to press him--the CD is simply awe inspiringly good. Every time I saw Jim, I reminded him to listen. I figured if I couldn't build is interest, I'd try to wear down his resistance.

Well, today, Jim walked in and stopped me in the doorway, and thanked me for recommending the CD to him. He loves it too. We're planning to add five cuts to the Folk Alley rotation over the next few weeks.

We receive hundreds of CDs a month here at Folk Alley. It would be easy to get jaded about new music, but (thankfully) that never happens. We just love it too much.

Heard something recently that you'd like to evangelize about? Hit the "Comments" link below and let us know. I'll gather up the responses and follow Jim around the building reading your suggestions. ;)

Posted by at 11:32 AM | Comments (6)

The $64,000 Question: What is folk music?

April 1, 2004

The other day we were having an interesting discussion around the studios as to whether or not we should play The Flatlanders' new album Wheels of Fortune. Some said that while it is a great album--we should stay away from it because "it isn't folk music, it's country music."

Well, this led into a lengthy argument (excuse me--lengthy "discussion and open exchange of ideas") about what is folk music and what isn't.

It reminded me of a interview I read with Richard Thompson where he stated that Metallica was folk music. Richard reasoned that, to him, folk music was any music that is learned or passed on from person to person. He felt folk music is organic and unschooled, rather than something taught with rigor in an academic environment. The Jack Black movie School of Rock aside--under Richard's definition (and frankly, few others), Metallica would indeed qualify as folk music.

What do you think? What qualifies something as bonefide "folk music"? Click on the "Comments" link below and share your definition of folk music.

And in case you're interested, Jim and I won the Flatlanders argument--you'll hear two cuts from Wheels of Fortune on Folk Alley soon!

Posted by at 12:20 PM | Comments (21)

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