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Last Call for 2005

December 29, 2005

A reminder to anyone who meant to make a year-end, tax-deductible contribution to Folk Alley via credit card -- we'll need to hear from you by tomorrow (12/30) at 9:00AM EST/-5GMT in order for your pledge to be processed for 2005. Donations made after 9:00AM will be credited to 2006 -- and are equally welcomed!

If you prefer making your donation by check, simply send it by snail mail to: Folk Alley/WKSU, 1613 E. Summit Street, Kent, OH 44242. The envelope needs to be post-marked no later than December 31, 2005 in order for the donation to be tax-deductible in 2005.

Happy New Year Everybody,


Posted by Linda Fahey at 1:34 PM

Where the wild folkies dwell

December 28, 2005

My wife and I occasionally think about moving to the United States from Europe, where she is from and where I have spent the last (yikes!) 19 years. The desire's been strong enough recently that we often take out the battered Rand McNally atlas and consider places we might want to hang our hats.

The criteria are somewhat vague but we'd like to land in a place with a thriving acoustic music community. The America I left all those years ago was Denver/Boulder which, in the early- to mid-eighties had a great scene. I know that it's easy to romanticize the past but the number of fine musicians who still influence American roots music and who lived there at the time convinces me that it really was a special place to be (at a special time).

When Jonathan Byrd and Dromedary were here in Switzerland a few weeks ago (what a great act and swell bunch of guys, by the way—they averaged well over a CD per audience member in sales, deservedly so) I asked where they thought the best active folk scenes in the US are. I think it'd be difficult to get Rob and Andrew away from Athens, Georgia. Jonathan felt that Nashville would make a certain amount of commercial sense for a writer with his sensibilities but also pointed out that different places in Texas have supported him enthusiastically over the years. For now, I get the feeling that he'll stay in North Carolina.

So, fellow Folk Alley-ites. . . where are the happening scenes for acoustic music enthusiasts? It'd be great to have a talent pool of local musicians to play with and at least one venue daring enough to book interesting national acts. With Folk Alley around, a broadband computer connection will matter more than local media. We also place a high value on nearby wilderness. Any nominations?

I wish you all a very happy beginning to the new year!

Posted by Stephen Ferron at 7:21 AM | Comments (56)

Get a Gift, Give a Gift

December 14, 2005

As a timely reminder, Folk Alley has an affiliate relationship with Order your pressies through a link on our site and Folk Alley earns a little holiday bonus. I love independent record stores and purchase most of my CDs at concerts, but if you are buying online, please consider starting here. Cheers!

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 4:20 PM

Heating up in Ohio

December 13, 2005

I knew when I recently mentioned folkies packing heat that I would hear from my friend Jim Pipkin. Jim took me and Jim Blum on a hike through the dessert mountain of Arizona last year (the same day that we attended the reunion performance of the New Christy Minstrels) and that's when I discovered that he was a folkie packing heat – although not at the time. Now, I've been to Arizona before and gone hiking around Tucson only to be encounter by six Havelena and a mountain lion, so I would have felt a bit more secure if I had actually had some additional protection that morning.

The fact is, I grew up with guns all around me. My father was a gunsmith in his spare time and hunting was commonplace, especially in Hardy, Arkansas. The whole gun environment was such a part of my life that Sandra Perlman wrote a play based loosely on my family history, with guns and other topics that were of note back in the early '70s. The play is named "Cliff Diving" and it ends with a scene that happened to me. After a long night of hanging out in the bars in Kent with my late friend Chuck Plazzo and our band, Good Company, my father (who was armed with a shotgun at the time) made the mistake of thinking that I was breaking into our garage. Well I'm still writing so I didn't get killed, but I don't want to spoil the play. The point of all of this is that I've had a long history with guns.

It's interesting that to think that a genre of music may predict one's propensity for packing heat. My man Hound Dog Taylor, who passed away in 1975, shot one of his band members on stage because he didn't care for the way he played. Just a flesh wound, but it kept his band in line. I expect that from the Dog, but Joni Mitchell, well perhaps not. What about Bob Dylan? Wasn't the last scene of Pat Garret & Billy the Kid Bob picking up Billy the Kid's gun as the soundtrack "Knocking on Heaven's Door" ended the movie? What does all of this mean? It's a blog and therefore no meaning is required. It does make me a bit uncomfortable though to be sitting around some coffee house wondering if I should clap as to not upset the performer who might be insulted. Guns play a colorful part of America's lyrical content. "Hey Joe" is a case in point, but there are many more. So, the next time I'm at a performance I hope I don't have to worry about what else in the guitar case. Carry a good tune and, please, leave the guns at the door.

Posted by Al Bartholet at 9:49 PM | Comments (26)

Our Favorite CDs of 2005

December 7, 2005

At the end of each year it’s fun to think about all the great new music that's been released over the past 12 months. It can be a real challenge to pick your Top 10 Favorites for the year. It's worse when you're asked to pick your top 5 favorite CDs of the year. But I asked myself this the other night...If I could only choose 5 favorite 2005 releases to take with me on a road trip to Baja and back, what would they be? Or, what 5 2005 releases am I likely to play in my living room in another 5 years? I also asked the Folk Alley staff to tell me their 5 Favorite CDs for 2005.

What about you? What are your Top 5 Favorite CDs that were released in 2005?

Here are the Folk Alley staff picks:

Linda Fahey - Programming & Marketing Director
Robert Earl Keen - What I Really Mean
The Greencards - Weather and Water
Abigail Washburn - Song of the Traveling Daughter
Kate Rusby - The Girl Who Couldn't Fly
Pat Donohue - Profile

Chris Boros - Production & Operations Director
John Doyle - Wayward Son
Abigail Washburn - Song of the Traveling Daughter
Tim O'Brien - Cornbread Nation
Shooglenifty - Radial Mestizo
Porcupine Tree - Deadwing

Ann VerWiebe - Queen of All Things Copy Related & Trivia Quiz Maven
Jackson Browne - Solo Acoustic, Vol. 1
The Clumsy Lovers - Smart Kid
Alison Brown - Stolen Moments
Cheryl Wheeler - Defying Gravity
The Bills - Let 'Em Run

Jim Blum - host, and Patron Saint of Rescue Dogs
Harry Manx - West Eats Meet
Alison Brown - Stolen Moments
Jamie Hartford - Part Of Your History
Polyjesters - Ka-CHUNK
Jackson Browne - Solo Acoustic, Vol. 1

The Fabulous Ms. Elena See - host
Abigail Washburn - Song of the Traveling Daughter
Over the Rhine - Drunkard's Prayer
Mary Gauthier - Mercy Now
Jeff Black - Tin Lily
Iron and Wine, Calexico - In the Reins

Jeff St. Clair - another granola crunchin', tree huggin' folk music host
The Duhks - The Duhks
Chip Taylor & Carrie Rodriguez - Red Dog Tracks
The Lonesome Sisters - The Lonesome Sisters
Abigail Washburn - Song of the Traveling Daughter
Joel Mabus - Parlor Guitar

Posted by Linda Fahey at 4:37 PM | Comments (22)

An exclusive Folk Alley recording of the Dust Poets!

What a treat is was to hang out with the Dust Poets till 2 O’clock in the morning after the big Donovan concert at this year’s Kent State Folk Festival. Their Jazz/Folk like hybrid style of music was a great way to end the festival. Not only was I super impressed with the songs, but their presentation, harmonies, and instrumentation with the clarinet and accordion was soothing and crystal clear.

Click here to listen to a song from The Dust Poet's performance at this year’s Kent State Folk Festival. Extra special thanks to producer Jimmy Wilson for recording and capturing the show.

Posted by Chris Boros at 3:30 PM | Comments (2)

Barenaked Ladies Rock the Palace

December 6, 2005

Last night, I journeyed out into the frozen tundra (btw, if this is what December looks like, our winter is so screwed) to see the Barenaked Ladies perform a holiday show at Cleveland's Palace Theatre (which is part of Playhouse Square – one of the country’s largest entertainment complexes). Sure, they're a rock band, but there were plenty of mandolin and banjo solos – not to mention accordions, an underrated folk instrument if I ever saw one. The Barenaked Ladies are one of those bands that really shine when they are live on stage. They write great songs with good hooks and clever lyrics, so the albums are swell. But, in concert, they somehow bond with the audience. Maybe, having two lead singers (Steven Page and Ed Robertson) tempers the ego quotient a tiny bit. This show had a holiday theme, so as Folk Alley's resident Christmas music screener, off I went. BNL is now selling digital downloads of all of their live shows, so you can actually enjoy the same show I did last night. Click to read my full review (and of my adoration for Kevin Hearn).

The show started with an opening set by the LeeVees, which is really a bunch of guys from other bands (including Adam Gardner of Guster) who got together to record a collection of Chanukah songs called Hanukkah Rocks! I actually previewed the music on their web site before the concert, mostly because I’m a complete geek, so I was bopping along while the majority of the crowd listened politely to what was a really fun set (plus, I didn't have to stand the entire time – boy, am I getting old). I teach a class on holidays around the world for Sunday school, so I was digging the Chanukah vibe. And, Shank Bone Mystic played a banjo solo, thus cementing the cool banjo element for the evening.

The Singing Angels, a Cleveland youth show choir, led the second half. It made me really happy that people were actually getting into the performance (which was pretty tight for a bunch of kids) and, when BNL made their grand appearance, The Singing Angels sang back-up on the first three songs (I Saw Three Ships, Hanukkah O Hanukkah, and We Wish You a Merry Christmas). It was fun to have a decent children’s choir behind the boys, who were on their acoustic instruments at this point (Kevin on mando and drummer Tyler Stewart on tambourine). The guy next to me needed me to identify the mandolin – I assume he recognized the accordion (they don't call it Cleveland-Style Polka for nothing).

The thing I really love about BNL live, is that they really sing and play well. You could pull all of their cords and the show would still work (although the people in the balcony would probably be a little peeved). Kevin joined the band about ten years ago as a keyboard player (he took the place of bass player Jim Creeggan's brother, Andy, who also make up the Brothers Creeggan), and I think he adds a nice layer of complexity to what the band was already doing, including the multi-instrumentalism. But, back to the show.

After plugging in, BNL played a big mix of new songs, old favorites, seasonal stuff off of Barenaked for the Holidays (which, btw, is now available on a reusable USB memory stick, so you can be totally hip this holiday), and even something new they’re working on. And the patter. Most big acts totally ignore the talking bits that are a lot more necessary when you don't have roadies to tune your guitars between songs, but BNL are all about making each show unique with raps created on the spot and funny stories that serve as band breathers (two straight hours – I don't know how they do it every night). It was an excellent blend for a crowd that ranged in age from teens to oldsters. I wrote down the set list, if anyone wants it (is it a female thing that I don't know any of the actual names for the songs?).

End conclusion? This was a worthy concert. There was plenty of holiday music (God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Hanukkah Blessings, etc.), along with beloved BNL songs that the audience has come to expect (like Brian Wilson and If I Had a Million Dollars). If you have never heard the band, a live concert is always an excellent introduction, and, if you bear them deep affection, the holiday show is super fun. Check out the BNL web site for tour dates near you.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 11:37 AM | Comments (2)

Inside the Sausage Factory

December 1, 2005

There is an old adage that proclaims that you should never see how the sausage is made in the factory if you want keep eating sausage. In fact, I know a few vegetarians who started their practice once they left the factory. Some days that could be said about the inner workings of "Folk Alley," the discussions, the differences of philosophy, the fundraising, the opinions that circulate among the staff makes me doubt at times that I ever want to hear Folk Alley when it's a finished product. Last night though, I found myself listening at home, hearing music that inspired me to pick up the guitar and try to play along. Jeff St. Clair, one of our "local" hosts, was just perfect. Somedays, it's tough (as President Bush might say, "It's hard work.") but at the end of the day the music is sweet and it's a perfect way to end the day.

All of this would not happen if were not for a very dedicated staff, despite the fact that some days it feels like the final days of the Beatles, in whatever that movie that was when all they did was sit around and take shots at one another. Poor George, may God rest his soul, how he put up with Paul, I'll never know. Sometimes we forget that were breaking new ground here at Folk Alley and there are, like any new enterprise, growing pains that come with the task. What really matters in the end is that we provide you with a service that you like so much you keep coming back to it time and time again and one that you tell your friends about.

Last night, it all seemed well worth the squabbles and the growing pains that we go through to make this service happen. Thanks for listening, I think you can agree that we're a better service than we were at this time last year. And we will continue to improve.

The next Blog will be about Folk Musicians who pack heat, you know who you are, but maybe I'll wait until all of the holiday cheer has slipped away.

Posted by Al Bartholet at 2:58 PM | Comments (15)

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