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Anita Kerr - revisited

March 31, 2005

With all of this talk of singing and reunion concerts - Collector's Choice has just rereleased From Nashville... the Hit Sound from the Anita Kerr Singers - which first hit shelves in 1962. Anita Kerr and her singers were well-known - and often-used - backup artists on many of Nashville's finest in the early '60s. Kerr was a protege of Chet Atkins at RCA Records, having a hand in establishing the "Nashville Sound." She went on to win Grammys and work with orchestras and other genres.

But I know Kerr for her work arranging choral music that I sang as part of a vocal jazz ensemble in high school. Our high school had an annual jazz festival and Anita Kerr was the guest of honor one year. We got to meet her and I had the extra pleasure of completely losing my timing during God Bless the Child and coming in a full beat too early (It was broadcast live as well, so the whole city could hear). In my defense, I'm terrified of singing in public and I'm very short, so I'm always way out front (I never messed up in rehearsal either - but I'll stop there). Anyway, Miss Kerr was very nice and I wished I would have been more in touch with who she was and all that she had accomplished at the time.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 4:17 PM | Comments (1)

Randy Sparks and the Minstrels reunite in Arizona

March 30, 2005

Our good friends at Acoustic Music Arizona are presenting a landmark concert this weekend featuring Randy Sparks (who wrote the monster folk hit Today), Dolan Ellis and four other of the original 10 members of the New Christy Minstrels this weekend at the Queen Creek Performing Arts Center in Queen Creek (which is sort of near Phoenix). The six original members will be joined on stage by current Minstrels for two performances - Saturday, April 2 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, April 3 at 3 p.m. Along with winning a Grammy in 1962 for Presenting The New Christy Minstrels, founder Sparks' group was at the choral folk vanguard, creating a new sound in the early '60s, featuring the collected voices of a selected group of talented artists. Folk Alley host Jim Blum is flying out to Arizona to emcee the shindig (and to escape some really bad spring weather). If you see this man, make sure and say "howdy!" Jim Pipkin said he was taking Blum out into the desert, but he promised to bring him back.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 9:01 AM | Comments (3)

Leon Redbone has Laryngitis

March 25, 2005

Well, so much for that. Redbone will still be on Jim's show tonight beginning at 9 p.m. EST (you can listen to WKSU's stream at, but I don't know how much he's going to be able to say. The song stylist has cancelled his appearance tomorrow night at the Kent Stage (it's been rescheduled for May 1). Jim says Redbone feels terrible about canceling and when he comes back in a month or so, he's promised to sit down and give us a right fine interview (so, the questions folks sent in will still see the light of day) for the Folk Alley Extras page. In the meantime, add Leon Redbone to the list of people that have been felled by the winter of 2005. Personally, I feel like there's an elephant on my chest - and not in a good way.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 6:13 PM | Comments (3)

Ask Leon Redbone a Question

March 24, 2005

Or, ask Jim Blum to ask Leon Redbone a question for you. Friday night (3/25) sometime between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m., on Jim Blum's radio show on WKSU, the mustachioed music iconoclast will be live in the studio. Jim wants to ask him some questions that might be a little off-the-wall, so if you have ideas, post them below. Jim and Joe will collect the on-air broadcast, as well as random moments captured while the music airs, and offer it as a Folk Alley Extra as soon as it's cleaned up and made purdy for the public.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 4:12 PM | Comments (13)

Songs About Growing Up

March 22, 2005

Emily, a student at West Virginia University asks:

Our 20-member class of first-year psychology graduate students is putting together a CD as a momento of the first year (downloading songs from iTunes). We're each to pick a song that is meaningful to us relative to the experience, e.g., growing up themes, being a 20-something, etc. A version of "Country Roads" has already been thought of. ;)

I'm having trouble deciding on a title to contribute, so I thought I'd ask you if you have any in mind that stand out?

Gotta a folk song to suggest to Emily that centers around the theme of growing up? Comment here:

Posted by at 3:52 PM | Comments (45)

It's SXSW time in Austin

March 18, 2005

Wednesday kicked off the music portion of the massive SXSW (or South by Southwest for the uninitiated) conference in Austin, TX, which continues through Sunday. With all of the alt-country and singer/songwriters represented, I was really wishing that Folk Alley could be there. But after looking at the list and envisioning what it would be like to compete for floor space with the 7500 attendees, I'm not so sure. The people at Folk Alliance who typically attend both events said that SXSW has become a big party and that work is the last thing on many folks' minds (sort of like Sundance). Any Folk Alley fans on the streets of Austin this week? Should we hold an extra bake sale and march around handing out stickers and pins next year? Tell me the truth, I'm sure I can handle it!

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 1:24 PM | Comments (8)

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

March 17, 2005

Today in the U.S., everybody's Irish. With parades and special food (including the insidious green beer), I'm willing to celebrate the emerald isle - even though I only have a tiny bit of Irish blood in my body. Listen today as Jim Blum plays some of his favorite Irish music, and read below for another take on March 17 from Joshua in Ireland.

"Hello Ann, and greetings from Ireland.

Allow me to make offer some insight to St. Patrick's Day from this side of the pond.

Over here we enjoy a good celebration just as much as then next person, but St. Patrick's Day is usually not the party-hardy festive occasion that's perceived in America.

But we do enjoy the tourists, dressing ridiculous, and behaving equally outlandish. We're curious about the fascination you have with green beer. It should be mentioned the traditional Irish dinner of corned beef and cabbage is "very American." Cabbage yes, but it's a different variety than the cabbage you're familiar with, and it's bacon, we eat with this meal and not corned beef, although it is available. The bacon is what you call "back bacon" or Canadian bacon. The strips of bacon that is American is called "streaky" bacon here.

So kiss me I'm Irish, and have a good time on St. Patrick's Day.

Joshua Brande.
Co. Clare, Ireland"

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 9:31 AM | Comments (7)

Winners of Winn Dixie contest

March 16, 2005

The competition was fierce! The dog people were rooting for the dog stories, the cat people liked the kittie tales. And we couldn't ignore the goats, horses, birds, etc. Stories ranged from funny to touching, either making us laugh out loud or burst into tears. The complete collection of stories will be posted on Folk Alley by the end of the week.

Meanwhile, here are the three winners of Because of Winn Dixie prize packages with the soundtrack CD from Nettwerk America, a copy of the book and a Winn Dixie plush toy. Ten runners-up will receive copies of the soundtrack CD.

Mary King
Dave Cook
Tom Burk

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 12:53 PM | Comments (2)

Reborn in Montreal - FOLK ALLIANCE - One Boy's Journey: DAY 2

March 15, 2005

Pete Morton and I had something else in common (other than sharing a cab) - "jet lag." Now you might find that amusing - Pete did - since he flew across the ocean and my flight was 1 hr and 9 minutes... Now that I think about it, I guess that is amusing. Oh well, I finally slept and I was ready to go.

Folk Alliance events were in several locations - I was off to the Conference
Center - Palais des Congres - to meet Ann and Abbe from the Folk Alley team at the Exhibit Hall. It was 10 degrees Farenheit and I ran through Chinatown to get there. I later learned of underground tunnels with shopping malls, but I still prefer sunshine and the air was fresh.

The place was huge. I found the registration booth, checked in, and entered the Hall. Under the high ceiling were rows of folk record label reps, (Rounder & Red House) instrument makers (Martin, Taylor, and Guild) along with agencies, musicians, publicists, and periodicals. I couldn't walk 10 feet without seeing someone I knew or someone I wanted to know. Suddenly there were faces and voices behind the e-mails. Poor Ann couldn't leave the booth to get lunch and I couldn't get through the conversations to reach her. It was like going to 47 different Christmas parties at once. And everone had candy: brochures, CDs, magazines, showcase schedules, and yes, candy. My tote bag was being stuffed as I walked - my backpack was filling up too. I finally broke through to fetch Ann a sandwich, and I was off again. I had another deadline - the Lifetime Achievement awards were at 1:00 PM.

Two of the great benefits of a conference like this are the gifts of unity and strength. Normally during the year each of us attending work alone. Following the luncheon is the one time where the greatest group of us are in one place. Looking across the room I began to realize that I'm not alone. I see the potential we can have as a group.

Being honored are The Newport Folk Festival, the late Stan Rogers, and Odetta.
It was insightful to learn that Newport failed at first, but the artists of that generation rallied to continue without pay and today the event thrives.
Stan Rogers died so young - he was only 33. The subject matter of his songs gained him instant respect and it continues today. Check out Northwest Passage, Barrett's Privateers and The Field Behind the Plow. Stan's son surprised the crowd by singing Northwest passage. We joined him. I don't think I've ever seen Odetta speechless. She was truly moved by being honored and we all stood and cheered.

Returning to the exhibit hall I ran into Jessica from the Duhks. It would be the first of 11 times that we would cross paths that weekend - all over the city. From Indian restaurants to hidden elevators we kept making the same choices. How odd.

At 4:30 The Folk DJ reception took place. I'm always fascinated to see who else does what I do, and how they do it. I always make a point to listen to Rich Warren from Chicago, Gene Shay from Philadelphia, Mary Cliff from Washington, and the folks at WUMB in Boston. I also met Jason Bouchard from Ottawa who has hosted a program for years. We ended up staying in the same hotel and shared a few breakfasts. I worry that I see too many talented veterans and not enough young broadcasters to eventually carry the load.
The event also allows aspiring musicians to have at us. We are clear targets for 90 minutes, but that's OK - there ought to be a time where we are readily available. If I was in their shoes and I had made an investment to come here I would expect that opportunity. Luckily My tote bag had been emptied back at my hotel.

We had to meet and greet quickly because I had a dinner date. (No, not with Rachael Davis or Sandra Luna) The Folk Alley crew was being treated by Bob Zucker and his wife from Amaz Records in Arizona. What a couple - so encouraging and so exited by the music. Joining us were Kyle their recording engineer, Jim Pipkin, a songwriter from Arizona, and Caji a young and gifted singer and guitarist from Brazil. In Early April I'll travel to Arizona with Al Bartholet, Folk Alley's GM, to see how folk music gets along in the American Southwest.

The night was young. The best way to take in the Folk alliance at night is to study the program guides and make a solid plan - a "race card" if you will - that wil carry you through to 3 AM. Then, like a any good trip, be prepared to go with the flow and change that plan at a moment's notice. There are SO many heroes to cherish and new artists to discover. Since our conference is being paired with the world music conference (Strictly Mundial) many of these singers and groups are from all over the planet.

Over the course of this night I would see songwriters Lori McKenna, Tracy Grammer and Jim Henry, Mark Erelli, the only performance by Redbird, and my new friend, Pete Morton. I caught two of the young roots bands - The Mammels and The Duhks (Jessica and I cross paths again). Kate and Anna McGarrigle received a Lifetime achievement award and Ann Ver Wiebe told she thought she saw Emmylou Harris in the elevator. There was more French Canadian music in Club medley, and an 8 piece Armenian band in Gesu. Club Soda had Majorstuen from Norway. They feature SIX fiddles!

When I finally returned to my hotel room after 3:30 AM I noticed something in the elevator - something I hadn't seen in months. The elevator was lined with mirrors and their was man grinning like a Cheshire cat in each one of them.

(Shortly Jim will fill you in on the next two days of the Folk Alliance.)

Posted by Jim Blum at 3:56 PM | Comments (2)

Who are your favorite local folk acts?

From listener Ken Connors:

"As one who had relocated from Pittsburgh to Jacksonville about eight years ago, I arrived in Florida with no 'folk connections' but with my eyes wide open. I've since discovered a vast number of top-notch touring folkies, and we've been hosting house concerts for the last five years or so (thanks to our friend Anne Feeney who introduced us to the concept during her first tour with Chandler.) As we all travel and look for quality 'regional' acts in clubs or in festivals, the following question could provide guidance to Folk Alley supporters…

Where are you from, and who are the folk acts I couldn't afford to miss when I'm in your part of the country?

There are some fantastic acts in the southeast, and I'd love to get the word out about them."

Tell us about your favorite local folk acts below.

Posted by at 12:04 PM | Comments (18)

Pollution is in the eye of the beholder

March 14, 2005

Yesterday, as part of the city's annual St. Patrick's Day celebration, Chicago poured green coloring in the Chicago River, turning the waterway, which feeds directly into Lake Michigan, a bright chartreuse. Ironically, last Wednesday, a driver for the Dave Matthews Band pleaded guilty to polluting the Chicago River in an August incident. In the city's defense, instead of food coloring, Stefan Wohl dumped human waste into the river (and onto a very unfortunate tour boat). Wohl was fined and given probation and community service. The DMB has already donated $100,000 to non-profit groups who maintain the health of the river in penance for their driver's sad drive-by.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 1:17 PM | Comments (21)

New Releases This Week

March 9, 2005

This week 's new releases include live albums from some old favorites, and some interesting stuff from newer folks:

Deana Carter: The Story of My Life (Vanguard)
Country singer-songwriter - now on a new label - gets complete creative control for the first time. Carter wrote or co-wrote every track and produced the disc as well.

Clannad: Live In Concert (Koch)
Songs originally released in their simplest acoustic form are performed here with brand new full band arrangements, and some traditional Irish songs are recreated with arrangements that fuse together the traditional folk and jazz influences.

Devil In A Woodpile: In Your Lonesome Town (Bloodshot)
I've never heard of this alt-country outfit, but the web site for the insurgent country label Bloodshot Records says: "These vibrant songs will take you back to a place where men were hot for their women, women were hot for their men, where rickety run-down back porches were oh-so alive with spirit and song, good company, and ample quantities of BBQ and booze." Sounds OK by me.

Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion: Exploration (New West)
The daughter of Arlo and granddaughter of Woody, along with her partner since 1997 present 11 originals plus a previously unrecorded Pete Seeger tune. Produced by Gary Louris (of the Jayhawks) and Ed Ackerson. It features, among others, Louris and his bandmate Marc Perlman, Son Volt veterans Dave Boquist and Eric Heywood, Irion’s childhood friend Zeke Hutchins (who also drums for Tift Merritt) and Tao Rodriguez Seeger, who guests on his grandfather Pete’s “Dr. King.”

Rhonda Vincent & The Rage: Ragin' Live (Rounder)
Recorded before at The Sheldon Concert Hall in her native state of Missouri, Ragin' Live captures the Grammy nominated bluegrass favorite and her crack band at their best. The Ragin’ Live DVD also released this week includes bonus cut Orange Blossom Special, and Sally Mountain Memories - A documentary, Photo gallery, and Dolby ® 5.1 Surround Sound.

Posted by Bob Burford at 5:08 PM | Comments (4)

Reborn in Montreal - FOLK ALLIANCE - One boy's journey: Day 1

I have to admit I was scared - A different country, a different language, a big city. I was about to be surrounded by living versions of my CD library while staying in a French speaking city's Chinatown, walking down streets I couldn't pronounce. On top of that, the Conference Hotel just changed names so even the cabbies didn't know where they were going. I think I had good reason to be nervous. If you think about it, I spend most of my time by myself. I'm either in a timberframe cabin back in the woods or I'm in a small production studio. Yesterday - Ohio. Today the most European city in North America - a city of over 4 Million: Montreal.

Some of my anxiety went away, however, when I saw another out of place man at the airport. He was wearing a floppy hat with straps that hung down below his ears. It buttoned up in the front. I owned that same hat...when I was five. He was also carrying a guitar. It was Pete Morton from England. I so admire his songs Two Brothers, about Israel and Palestine, and The Shepard's Song about a peasant poet who walked across England 200 years ago.

I have a goal at conferences: don't wait to say hello to someone. Time flies by because every hour is filled with activities. Instead of waiting to possibly run into Pete again, I stopped him in his tracks to remind him how talented he was. He didn't seem to know it. The conversation relaxed both of us. We decided to share a cab to the newly named hotel, even though neither one of us were staying there. The cab driver was from Jamaica, which was one more language to sort through, so one destination seemed best. I had made the first of many new friends, and Pete Morton is....a hero! I thought to myself: "Montreal - I think I can do this." Now I needed a city map.

It turned out that I had planned well. My hotel was just a block from the Conference hotel, 2 blocks from "Club Soda" and 5 blocks from "Medley" (two nightclubs featuring music showcases). Plus, it was $40 cheaper and they joined the cause by adding performer showcases as well. I checked in, found a map, and developed a plan. It was too late to officially register at the conference headquarters, but not too late to take in the French Canadian Dance party at "Medley." Five bands were playing.

The stage was high with many colored lights and a dry ice fog was added for effect. Most of the groups featured accordion AND button box, and two fiddles. One of the fiddlers usually sat in a chair and wore oversized shoes, stamping his or her feet in a percussive rhythm. The player was essential playing fiddle, drums, and dancing all at the same time. The singers often sang "acadian mouth music," sort of an improvised "scat singing" as known in jazz. Halfway through each set a caller would lead half the audience in a group dance. I was amazed at how quickly a large group of strangers learned what to do. While the group would play, the caller would teach, and in minutes I was watching choreography. The rest of us roared with delight. I saw Lagaudriolefrom France, Vishten from The Prince Edward islands, and Monsieur Lambert & Compagniefrom Quebec. I needed a beer.

I tried to see what everyone else was ordering as all the choices were unfamiliar. I made my choice, but alas - the barkeep would not take a credit card. I had no Canadian currency, so I returned to my small table, alone, disappointed, and thirsty. Three minutes later a stranger walked by, placed the canceled beverage on my table, smiled, and kept walking. My mouth hung open. I began to like Montreal. And this was only day one.

The next time you log in Jim will report what happened on day two.

Posted by Jim Blum at 1:14 PM | Comments (11)

Jim's Playlist Picks for March

March 8, 2005

Here is a list of the artists and albums mentioned in the Jim's New Favorites section of the March Folk Alley Chat (distributed 3/8):

Rhonda Vincent - Ragin' Live
Solas - Waiting for an Echo
Harry Manx - West Eats Meet
Tracy Grammer - The Verdant Mile
Rachel Davis - Live in Bremen, Germany
Marie & Martin Reilly - Marie and Martin Reilly
Tom Russell - Hotwalker
Kris Delmhorst, Peter Mulvey & Jeffrey Foucault - Redbird
Larry Sparks - 40
Das Macht Show! - four legs good
Lissa Schneckenburger - Lissa Schneckenburger
The Greencards - Movin' On

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 12:59 PM | Comments (3)

Bret and his Science class

Read more about Bret and his class in the March issue of the Folk Alley Chat.

"Here is my homeroom: (back row) me, Wes (Netherlands), Ilya (Russia), Nick (Denmark) Mate (Hungary), Poon (Thailand), (middle row) Jiin (Korea), Mike (Belgium), Ido (Israel), Yo (Japan), (red shirt) Aljica (Poland), (front row) Norbi (Russia), Mary (U.S.), Gwen (U.S.).

We all love to listen to Folk Alley during labs and activities. Keep up the good work!

Bret Anderson
8th grade science teacher
American International School of Budapest"

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 12:49 PM | Comments (3)

MerleFest ticket discounts end March 18

March 7, 2005

If you're planning on heading out to Wilkesboro, NC for MerleFest 2005 on April 28 - May 1, you may want to buy your tickets now and save a few bucks. The annual celebration of bluegrass and tradition-based music began as a memorial to Doc Watson's late son and performing partner, Merle. Along with Doc, Bela Fleck, Alison Kraus & Union Station, Sam Bush, Vassar Clements, Earl Scruggs, Ricky Skaggs, Tim O'Brien, The Chieftains, Del McCoury, Buddy Miller and Loretta Lynn are just a few of the heavy hitters playing this year's fest. Up-and-coming performers include Donna the Buffalo, The Duhks, King Wilkie and Allison Moorer. They are still looking for volunteers and camping sites are available.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 12:35 PM

Alison Krauss is Hot (according to the ACM)!

March 4, 2005

The list of nominees for the 40th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards were released today and bluegrass artist Alison Krauss received five nods, one less than numbers leader Tim McGraw and tying her for second place with current media darling, Gretchen Wilson. Four of Krauss' nominations are for her duet with country singer Brad Paisley, but her bluegrass work was also recognized with a nomination for Krauss and her all-star band, Union Station, in the Top Vocal Group category. It is their first ACM nomination. Singer/songwriter Norah Jones also earned an ACM nomination - for Creepin' In, her duet with Dolly Parton off of her sophomore CD, Feels Like Home.

Awards will be presented in a ceremony from the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas on May 17. The event will be broadcast live in the U.S. on CBS-TV.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 2:25 PM | Comments (6)

New Release Tuesday

March 1, 2005

Some new releases that may be of interest - in stores (and online) today:

Jessie Alexander: Honeysuckle Sweet (Columbia)
Debut release from singer-songwriter with country and roots influences.

Altan: Local Ground (Narada)
The latest set fom one of Ireland's most successful ensembles. Their 10th album gathers 13 traditional and newly composed tunes.

Elvis Costello: The Delivery Man Deluxe Edition (Lost Highway)
Costello's latest release get the deluxe treatment. Includes a bonus video of "Bedlam" and 'The Clarksdale Sessions' bonus disc containing 7 songs -5 alternate recordings of songs from 'The Delivery Man' and 2 previously unreleased tracks, recorded live in Clarksdale, MS.

Kathleen Edwards: Back to Me (Zoe)
The follow-up to the critically acclaimed debut Failer album.

Jack Johnson: In Between Dreams (Universal)
The surfer singer-songwriter is back with another set of good chillin' tunes.

Tom Russell: Hot Walker: Charles Bukowski & A Ballad for Gone (Hightone)
Tom Russell's ambitious new CD is a portrait of a segment of American culture in a time gone by. Through original songs, narration, and the actual voices of literary and historical figures, Tom constructs a recollection of the outsider voices of American popular culture, literature and art of the 1960's.

Regina Spektor: Soviet Kitsch (with bonus DVD) (Sire)
Indie pianist and singer-songwriter's 2004 release issued with bonus DVD.

Posted by Bob Burford at 4:27 PM | Comments (7)

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