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Drowning in CDs

February 28, 2006

I probably have over 1500 CDs in my personal collection—not to mention overflowing bootlegs that still need artwork—thank you (Shhh…it’s our little secret.)

Is this a hobby or an addiction? I used to be much worse. In the teenage years when money wasn’t much of an issue, I would buy an album if the cover looked cool. After getting dissed many times by awful records, I no longer do that. But there is still this desire to continue the collection no matter how big it might get.

When looking for music for a car ride, I sometimes stand in front of my CDs for what seems like forever trying to pick something to listen to. There are 1500 CDs, Chris—just pick one!!! I swear, I drive myself crazy sometimes. It’s like cable TV, there’s almost too much to choose from so it seems like nothing is on when in reality, there’s plenty on.

I recently decided to go through the collection to begin selling some of it. I was able to get rid of maybe 10 CDs. Every album I passed, I found a reason to keep. Sick I tell you—sick. So why the collection? Why drive myself crazy making sure all the CDs are in alphabetical order by artist and then chronological by year of release if I have more than one from the same source? Why drive myself crazy determining where to put non-official releases, singles and bootlegs? Do they go before or after the studio albums and then do singles go before non-official releases and where do I put the bootlegs? Just thinking about it makes me tired. Moving is no fun I tell you.

But now I know why I have so many CDs and why I can’t get rid of them. It’s all because of Roy Harper.

Sometimes you might listen to an album for the first time and not like it—so it goes directly into the CD shelve (in proper placement), never to be listened to again. I get upset at myself for this. It seems like with so many CDs, I keep picking the same bands. Choose something else, Chris! Skip over Genesis!!! (Yes, I talk to myself often. No you don’t. Yes, you do.) But every now and again, something truly awesome happens. I’ll listen to a CD I either hated or dismissed years ago, only to discover a true gem. Here it was, in my collection for years, and I just discovered it now! What an awesome feeling. Has this ever happened to you?

Years ago I picked up a great 3 CD collection from Rhino called “Troubadours of British Folk.” At that time, I was only interested in the traditional material, so I completely skipped over this guy named Roy Harper and his song “Tom Tiddler’s Ground.” Luckily, years later I went back to the compilation and found this song I dismissed years ago. Now Roy Harper is one of my absolute favorites; I have to have his entire collection of records—it must be done.

To make a long story short (too late): Don’t get rid of your CDs!!

Posted by Chris Boros at 5:32 PM | Comments (28)

"I Was Bombarded, And It Felt Great!"

February 27, 2006

OK, so when does it feel great to be overwhelmed? Certainly not while you're cramming 14 hours of work into an 8 hour day. Certainly not during tax season.
But when you're at a North American Folk Alliance Conference, which was in Austin in February, it's different. Life came at me fast and I still wanted more.

Try to imagine every business contact you know from across the US and Canada, being in one room at the same time. Yes, it can be a big room. Now add in several famous musicians and a music library full of up-and-comers. Throw in your peers, and a few fans. Now, imagine all of them wanting to talk with you at the same time while the clock is ticking toward your next prearranged appointment. That is exactly what the Folk Alliance is like.

I stayed an extra day and still missed 1/3 of the opportunities. I averaged 5 hours of sleep and I only went running once. Here's a quick look at what I DID take in:

*A meeting with other folk DJs from around both countries.
*Attended a session called "Meet the Producers." (Wendy Waldmen, Mark Hallman, Gurf Morlix, Bill VornDick) This gang has produced everyone from the Flecktones to Carol King and you could ask them anything you want.
*Ran into Judy Collins in the lobby and she asked my intern Ashley if she was a singer. Ashley produced a CD in seconds, and Judy gave us all candy.
*Interviewed Arlo Guthrie - soon you can hear that discussion on demand.
*Interviewed Pete Frostic of the Old School Freight Train. (hear that now!)
*Talked with Georgia Public Radio about using their live concerts on Folk Alley.
*Met a 1/2 dozen publicists and individuals from record labels and periodicals.
*Met 50-dozen musicians (how many is that?)
*Stopped Jonathan Edwards and Lynn Miles in their tracks just to tell them that I appreciated them.
*Webcast live the tribute to Red House founder, the late Bob Feldman.
*Attended a songwriting critique session.
*Saw and heard a "Theramin" for the first time! Go Nathan! (from Winnipeg)
*Became part of a crowd literally cheering each solo from John Jorgenson's Gypsy Jazz band.
*Shared a cab with a confused fiddler at the airport who turned out to be Annalisa Woodlee of the Bearfoot Bluegrass Band from Alaska!
*Told Anne Hills that she is Noah Adam's (from NPR) favorite singer
*Heard both the Blazing Fiddles and Fiddler's Bid - each group had at least 4 violinists!
*Had a cultural experience by seeing Children of the Revolution. Members of this dynamic band are from Spain, Greece, and Iraq - and they dance!
*Exchanged at least 100 business cards.
*Networked like crazy.

I could go on, but why not look to if you'd like to know more. Next year the event moves to Memphis where it will stay for a while. And yes, I HAVE been following up on all these leads (and they've been following up with me). So tell me, this can't be an isolated occasion - when has being overwhelmed been a valuable experience for you?


Posted by Jim Blum at 1:23 PM | Comments (24)

Live from Seattle - it's Folk Alley!

February 24, 2006

IMAOnce a year, we get together with our brethren in new media to discuss current trends and gaze into our collective crystal balls seeking the truth about the future of the Web. To celebrate the kick-off of the Integrated Media Association Conference, Folk Alley hosted the opening reception last night, complete with concert performances by Uncle Earl, Mike Marshall & Hamilton de Holanda, Sonya Kitchell and Garland Jeffreys. And, surprisingly, Led Zepplin guitarist John Paul Jones, who is producing the next Uncle Earl album. Al sent back pictures for proof. I hope many of you were able to tune in and listen on-demand, it was a great show. And a needed break for the tech-heads amongst us.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 10:28 AM | Comments (5)

The Monkey and the Engineer, and Jack the Baboon

February 22, 2006

Do you ever wonder where songs with peculiar lyrics come from? There is usually a story behind the story. The Grateful Dead had a song by Jesse Fuller they used to perform called The Monkey and the Engineer that has been played here on Folk Alley. It is one of those songs that cries out for a story behind the story to me. Well, it could just be a story that was totally made up, I never heard that Jesse Fuller ever told where he got the idea for the song. However, there really was a baboon named Jack that became a signalman's assistant in South Africa when the man lost his legs in a train accident. He worked for years actually switching the tracks for his master. Although it is a different story than the song, I have always been struck by the common thread that runs through both stories.

Jack's story:

What songs with unusual story lines strike you with wonder about the story behind the story?

Posted by Jack Swain at 11:07 AM | Comments (11)

Thanks for the memories

February 19, 2006

I just wanted to say thank you to all of our Folk Alley friends who responded to my first time folk experience. I certainly enjoyed them all and found that the connections we have to this music are so varied but have lasted a life time.

My musical son stopped by today after a week of his first real job at Sherwin Williams (I say "real job" only because this is the only post he's held since graduation from Kent State University). Paul shared with me a web site that put me a little closer to heaven - at least musically. The web site is called You Tube and features thousands of videos many of them musical footage and videos from artists. I just started exploring the site and found live footage from the Allman Bros. live at the Fillmore East. I'm headed next to check out some of my favorite folk performers, but this could be a interesting idea for Folk Alley. Could you imagine watching a video somebody took of Gram Parsons? Well guess what? There is a Gram Parsons Flying Burrito Bros video, and it's embarrassing, but it's so bad it's good, well kinda.

So some of the Folk Alley crew are heading to Seattle for the iMa conference and I hope we're on for a web cast Thursday the 23rd. More on that later. So thanks again for your comments on your first experience with Folk music, and thanks to Folk Alley for playing my favorite song while writing this blog. What is it? "Case of you, what better."

Al Bartholet

Posted by Al Bartholet at 9:56 PM | Comments (1)

More Live Music - Next Stop, Seattle

Wow! I hope you got a chance to listen to our first in-stream Live From Folk Alley, featuring Old School Freight Train on Saturday night! As you know, we've been presenting about one live concert a month as on-demand content from our website, but the OSFT show was our maiden voyage into adding live shows to the stream. It was very exciting for us, and we hope to do more of these in the future. If you listened, we hope you enjoyed it! Please let us know what you thought. If you missed the live show, we should have the recording archived and available to listen on-demand very soon!

I also want to let you know about a very special on-demand webcast coming up this Thursday, Feb. 23rd - live from the Palace Ballroom in Seattle, Washington. This Live From Folk Alley will feature four outstanding acts, including the lively and spirited old-timey string band, Uncle Earl; two masters of the mandolin, Mike Marshall & Hamilton de Holanda; young, soulful up-and-coming singer/songwriter, Sonya Kitchell; and reggae/soul infused rocker and songwriter, Garland Jeffreys.

This on-demand LIVE webcast starts at approximately 10:30pm EST (-5 GMT) on Thursday, Feb. 23rd. To listen, simply visit the website and click the "Listen Here" button. Join us!

Posted by Linda Fahey at 1:45 PM | Comments (4)

Music for the Half-Pipe

February 16, 2006

So, I've been slacking at Folkalley this week. The place wasn't getting very dirty because everyone was at Folk Alliance. I know Sarah thought I missed everyone because I was washing the same spot on the floor all the time, but that's the best spot to watch the TV, and the Olympics have been on all week.

I've been really impressed by the snow boarders, and thought it was interesting that all these kids rock out on their ipods while they are competing. Do they let the cross country skiers wear ipods?

So anyway, in each of the interviews the kids try to be more cool than the others by naming some obscure band only their friends at school have ever heard about.

But it prompted a question since I'm surrounded by folk music here at the alley. If you were competing as a snow boarder at the Olympics, what folk song would you play as you performed your inverted aerials and 720 spins? I think I'd either listen to Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash or Casey Jones by the Grateful Dead (which may not be technically a folk song, but at least I could borrow the mp3 from the kids).

Posted by Norman (the janitor) at 2:41 PM | Comments (11)

Say Goodbye, Austin

Now that I'm back at home, sleeping in my own bed and eating oatmeal every morning, I can look back at the wonder that was Folk Alliance. It's overwhelming, even in retrospect. So much music, so little time. Here are the moments that I will remember: Joebass from the Wiyos coming up to our Folk Alley booth so he could shake hands with Jim Blum (who wasn't there at the time - but they did connect eventually), Darryl Purpose telling me that he liked the Folk Alley Chat, feeling the floor move when Brave Combo played, the great young old-time music bands (like Boulder Acoustic Music Society - which boasts a marimba and a fantastic violinist), the Malvinas (just because), meeting Tink and Sharkey (a fabulous guitarist) from Gandalf Murphy and the Slamobovian Circus of Dreams, and talking to so many really committed musicians and industry folks. A life in folk music is not for the weak of heart!

Watching the Performance Alley, sanctioned showcases was like sitting in on a group audition. Larger rooms, amps, people wandering in and out. Upstairs (or, more accurately, up the jammed to the gills elevators - get to know your neighbor!), the outlaw showcases filled rooms on three floors of the conference hotel. It was steamy, with people and instruments everywhere. And a true sense of community. I attended a showcase in the Austin Conspiracy Room featuring singer/songwriter Greg Klyma that kind of summed it all up to me. It was just Greg and his guitar and a room full of musicians, sitting on the beds, singing along to his catchy tune about a beanbag chair. You cannot get much more intimate than that (at one point, I looked around and realized I was the only female in the room, but it was ok - I stayed calm). Great music, a friendly, welcoming environment as I stood listening because, ironically, there were no beanbag chairs. And now that we've met, I look forward to hearing Greg locally as he tours about.

Maybe that's what I should take away from this conference: the friends, old and new; the songs, original and familiar; and the music, offering a spark that lingers and a refrain to remember. Until next year!

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 12:34 PM | Comments (1)

What do you listen for?

February 15, 2006

When I hear something I especially like on Folk Alley I will go to the song listing and rate it. I do not do it for every song I hear because I do not have the time or inclination to do that, but I do feel the urge to respond sometimes. I seldom go in to issue a negative response on anything, although I have once or twice if there was something that really bothered me. Again, it has to make me feel the urge to respond.

So what is it that makes me respond one way or the other to a song? I am most attracted to the song and individual delivery. While I appreciate excellent musicianship, my criteria is more focused on the song. I have been a musician myself since I was a child so I do understand the need for proficiency with your instrument. There are certainly some performers who are breathtaking in their technique, but the music and the song is my focus, not the fabulous musicianship of the sidemen, so if it is showboating in a way that takes away from the song it leaves me cold. I realize I am different than many people on this. It sometimes amazes me when crowds will go nuts for some dazzling display of showboating that really has only marginally supported the song. Guitar players are usually the worst about this. I distinguish a guitar-player from a musician based on how they support the music. That said, it is not usually so much a problem with material I hear on Folk Alley, I am really talking about live performances where this happens with great regularity.

So what do you think? What moves you in the music? Do you appreciate simple arrangements in accompaniment to a song, or do you need to be dazzled?

Posted by Jack Swain at 12:21 PM | Comments (36)

Day Three - And Boy, Are My Arms Tired

February 13, 2006

It's been a very exciting three days so far at Folk Alliance! I've gotten to say "hello" to many old friends and show Folk Alley off to a lot of new folks. Hopefully, Jim will write all about seeing Judy Collins (she gave him a big hug) and running into Arlo Guthrie (who played "White Christmas" on Ashley's ukulele). Darryl Purpose surprised me by telling me how much he likes the Folk Alley Chat (thanks for the donation Darryl!). Yesterday, I saw Old School Freight Train, Blazin' Fiddles and Jeff Black. Tonight it was The Wiyos (which Jim has spoken so highly of), the Boulder Acoustic Society (who I'm now totally into) and Brave Combo - and I'm on my way back to the showcase rooms for more (including my old pals Beyond the Pale). I'm ready for a nap!

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

Jim Blum Misses Carla Bruni and I Ride the Elevator with Jonathan Edwards

February 11, 2006

We all arrived in Austin today for the Folk Alliance conference. Day 1 was filled with checking in, searching for our boxes and getting started with workshops and showcases. Jim Blum and Chris has an exciting journey and arrived just in time to grab some Mongolian Barbacue before the showcases really kicked into gear (Jim missed singer/songwriter/model/heartbreaker Carla Bruni as she presented the Italian flag during the opening ceremonies of the Olympics - but he had enough on his mind).

I'm making it an early night so I can set up our booth first thing tomorrow. Already I've seen performances by Marshall Crenshaw, Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem, and the Yellow Room Gang (David Tamulevich, Jim Bizer, Jan Krist, Matt Watroba and Annie & Rod Capps). I also rode the elevator with a very tan Jonathan Edwards. Other meet-ups: Harvey Reid and Joyce Andersen, Jeff Black, David Elias, and the large Cleveland contigient. On to day two!

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 12:44 AM | Comments (2)

First Time Folk Experience

February 7, 2006

Do you remember the first folk performance you ever attended? I have been in the process of reorganizing everything on the home front and I came across a picture someone took of me organizing my first folk festival in high school. I think the year was around 1970, but looking at the picture reminded me of that first Folk Night I attended at Hoban High School in Akron, Ohio in 1968. I was just struck by a performance of Joe LaRose, who was a few years older than me and who did a great job with acoustic blues. At age 16, Joe clearly had a gift and I was mesmerized by his ability.

Well, that did it for me, at that point I went to every folk performance that I could get to, which was difficult without a car, but I always managed rides with older friends. By the time I was a junior in high school, I jumped at the chance to take over the Folk Night. My friends and I auditioned students from around the area and sought out some of the kids who were already performing around town. By my senior year, I booked a local performer by the name of David Allan Coe, who had released a few prison albums (having done a little time himself). We paid David $100 for the night as he told our gathering of about four hundred kids that he wrote most of James Taylor’s material. Hey, the guy could tell a story - nobody believed him but he was a hell of a performer nevertheless. Who would have known the direction that his career would take following that night at Hoban High.

It was in many ways my experience with Hoban High School’s Folk Night and Joe LaRose that paved the way for my continuing passion for the music. Do you remember your first live performance that hooked you for life? Let us know at Folk Alley.

Al Bartholet

Posted by Al Bartholet at 11:22 PM | Comments (35)

Solitary Music

I have 3 guitars, a banjo, a mandolin, a mountain dulcimer, a keyboard, and a glockenspiel. To be quite honest, I have no clue how to play them properly. Sure, I know guitar chords—all of the standards and some I’ve invented/discovered—and yes, I can sort of/barley read a little bit of music. The other instruments I just mess around with—I really don’t know what I’m doing when I play the dulcimer, but man, it sounds cool and you can tune it a million ways to get a different sound. I only use the banjo to add little things to a song, and on the mandolin I can only play the easy chords—I need smaller fingers!!!

What’s the point of all these instruments? Why do I have them? I barley know how to play them. I took a month’s worth of guitar lessons. I play the occasional Open Mic Night (when I say occasional, I mean maybe 5 times a year) and I have never been in a band. So what’s the point? Is it better to focus on one instrument and practice practice practice, or have minimal skills on a bunch of sound toys? With the exception of the Martin, my instruments are cheap low end models—the 12-string cost me $99 brand new. Some musicians would frown on these inexpensive versions. In fact, I used to live near a folk music store—but I never had them work on my cheap gear since I knew they were super serious about high-end quality instruments. If they saw my mandolin, I might have been kicked out for good—that’s OK though, they’re expensive anyway.

Some might argue that having low end instruments diminish the quality of your learning and playing. But I disagree—get something cheap, learn, and get better before making a leap towards a Taylor.

The music though is for me. I write, record, and play for myself. Only a handful of people have heard my songs and it’s taken a good ten years before I wanted to share them with more open ears. To come home after a long day of Jim Blum’s antics and sit down with the 6-string for a while is pure bliss. Sometimes I lose myself in those strings for hours. The quality of playing and model of guitar then means nothing. At that moment in time, the music’s for me………not you.

Posted by Chris Boros at 5:20 PM | Comments (12)

Songs About Singers

In the February Folk Alley Chat, Sue Gilbert adds her praise of Folk Alley and adds:

"I especially like the themed sets like trains, mail, etc., and would like to make a suggestion. Back when I was in college, a friend and I put together tapes for each other of themed topics and I think our favourite were songs about singers. Things like 'Did You Hear John Hurt?,' 'Song to Woody,' 'Song for Gamble,' 'The Ballad of Carl Martin,' etc....That kind of thing. I suspect you can come up with a lot more than I ever could and I think it would be a fun set to put together and to listen to."

Do you have a favorite song about a singer? Click comments and post it. It's fun to share!

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 11:45 AM | Comments (17)

Who Deserves a Grammy?

February 2, 2006

The Grammy Awards will be handed out this Wednesday. About a dozen will make it to the live telecast, while most of the 105 awards (yikes!) will be doled out earlier. Folk music will receive at least a passing mention since Pete Seeger and the Weavers are being honored with a lifetime achievement statue. They may even give the prize for contemporary folk album out on air (the woman at the Grammys said they won't know until a couple of days out), since Bruce Springsteen is nominated and he'll be performing on the big night (along with Madonna and Sir Paul McCartney).

Speaking of Bruce... once again the nominees for contemporary folk album bear little relation to the artists who actually call themselves "folk" (traditional folk album is a much more aligned list). I shouldn't blame the Academy, since it's the artists (or their people) who pick the categories they enter. And it's probably too expensive for many folk artists or smaller labels to enter. At least Bruce's album has a narrative, acoustic sensibility (with Warren Zevon, I think they were just so desperate to give him the award that they shoved it in the nearest open hole).

If you were giving out the Grammys, what are your picks for contemporary and traditional folk albums released last year? And, what about best new folk artist (I'm going to say first album, I don't remember the real Grammy criteria)?

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 1:41 PM | Comments (10)

Meet Our 50,000th!

Yesterday at precisely 8:12 AM (EST), Folk Alley reached a big milestone and said "hello" to Ludwik Stawowy from Warszawa, Poland - our 50,000th registered listener! In a short 2 1/2 years, Folk Alley has taken great strides towards reaching our ultimate goal of becoming the destination on the internet for folk music fans who want 24/7 access to the music they love.

Ludwik StawowyMeet Ludwik: I am from Poland. Am old enough to remember Bob Dylan's folk years, but am more of a folk fan than a folk expert. Folk (and jazz, and Screamer Radio) helps me much to survive those long hours I am spending each day in front of my computer: I am supplementing my pension translating books from English into Polish. I think the main reason I like folk is that it perfectly fits my way of listening to music - mostly with my heart.

Welcome Ludwik!

And -- as a way to celebrate this exciting benchmark in Folk Alley's growth, we're holding a contest over the next few weeks where 4 lucky winners will be selected to program their own hour of Folk Alley. Just take the Folk Alley quiz by Feb. 17th to enter for your chance to win.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 12:18 PM | Comments (10)

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