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Fiddle Faddle / Violin's Double? (or Fiddles VS. Violins: Duelling Trebles)

April 30, 2006

Avid Folk Alley listener, Robin Roderick, has an interesting question, one I've pondered, as well, for some time:

"Have you ever been compelled to find the answer to something that really doesn't make any difference to you or anyone else, other than, perhaps, to increase your chances of winning at Trivial Pursuit? I've wondered, for many years now, just what, exactly, IS the difference between the VIOLIN and the FIDDLE? I've asked music teachers, and musicians alike. . . and have yet to hear a straightforward answer!

Does anyone out there in the folk alley have a clue, theory, or conjecture on the
subject? You can even begin with "Once upon a time. . . . "

Let's hear it, Fiddle fans - what's your opinion or research on the subject?

Posted by JoLynn Braswell at 8:58 AM | Comments (50)

Local Folk Hero Dies in Chicago

April 25, 2006

Last week, singer/songwriter Tom Dundee died in Chicago of injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident. He was 59. A lifelong Chicagoan, Dundee was well known and well liked by the city's folk community of which he had been an integral part since the 1970s. The '70s "folk boom" launched the careers of John Prine, Steve Goodman, and Bonnie Koloc but Dundee never enjoyed that breakout moment that makes careers. He was a talented songwriter and performer who made a name for himself with the song, A Delicate Balance, and continued to play steadily througout Chicago. He also hosted "Somebody Else's Troubles Sundays" at Lilly's.

I didn't know Tom Dundee, but I received an E-mail about his accident while he was still in the hospital. I came in on the tail of a long forward that had passed through the hands of many members of Chicago's folk community and by their words, it is clear that Dundee was respected and loved and took on an important role protecting and promoting the legacy of folk music. Usually, I find folk music news from press releases or news sources. Word of Tom Dundee's death came from a series of listener E-mails - each one more insistant.

Is there someone in your local community who is always there, ready to lend a hand or offer welcome advice? Don't take him or her for granted, take every chance to say, "thank you," and add your special gifts to the world of folk.

Tom Dundee will be honored with a memorial concert at the Old Town School of Folk Music on May 14. Bonnie Koloc, Corky Siegel, Michael Johnson and many others are scheduled to perform.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 2:35 PM | Comments (8)

Folk Alley Man Attempts to Summit 2nd Highest Peak East of Mississippi on Bicycle with Rescue Dogs Trailing Behind.

April 23, 2006

The tune that best showcases Doc Watson's dexterity with a flat pick is probably the Black Mountain Rag. The Black Mountains are the highest mountains in the eastern US, of which Mt. Mitchell is the highest at 6684 feet. Once you're in the Black Mountain region off the Blueridge Parkway north of Asheville you can easily see why music is written about them. They are inspirational peaks to be sure, despite the haze that surrounds them and the pollution that has damaged most of the trees up there.

I could never figure out why singer Jim Pipkin (find him in the Open Mic) left Carolina for Arizona. He explained his reasons to me over some of his Honey Mead, and they are thoughtful and sound, but I'm from Ohio. I've always wished our ravines were a little deeper, our mountains higher, our music festivals a little more accepted, and the trails more plentiful (and less rocky than West Virginia). And I like lots and lots of green. Even blue-green. That's North Carolina.

After Merlefest, it seems fitting to go where Doc Watson grew up, the North Carolina backcountry. One can drive off the Parkway straight to the top of Mt. Mitchell. I've done it, with a milkshake in hand. There's an observation tower which allows you to clearly see the J-shaped range.

OK, so if I can drive up it, why would I climb it on a bicycle? The answer is I wouldn't. However, Wood Mountain is across the valley. That one has no road but there is a bike trail right to the top. Very few smart people attempt this route, but I am taking one with me - a left handed fiddler named Ed Eakin. I made him buy a full suspension mountain bike and agree to the terms: We take our time; we take two rescue dogs (Kali and Harriet); and we turn around if we want to. As Loreena McKennitt relays - it's not the destination, it's the journey, right?

By the way, Ed pointed out that "rescue dogs" are dogs I'VE saved; he suspected that you might would think that the dogs were insurance, ready to rescue us. Umm... Now that he's made me think about it, every dog and cat I've saved has given way more back to me in return. I guess I had the term right and the definition wrong. I AM the one getting rescued, daily.

Anyway, Ed agreed to all the terms, and we're going. Joe Ebel and Annie Lalley, Folk Alley Musicians extraordinare will put us up. (or put up with us) Joe's Mom is visiting at the same time we are, so Mrs. Ebel gets the guest cottage, Ed gets the sewing room, and I get the van. I'm betting that Kali (Austrailian Shepherd mix) and Harriet (Chihuahua Terrier mix) will choose to share the cottage with Mom. Mrs. Ebel is probably figuring they'll sleep with me, but the dogs are doing the route finding and they'll need the desk and lights for nighttime study with the topo maps and trail guides. I just wanna ride.

That brings up a key point. Why a bicycle? Here's the answer: You get a free ride back down. In all my earlier backpacking journeys out west as a kid, I wished I could be riding my bike. Mountain Bikes didn't exist at that time, but I dreamed about them. Today there are two types of mountain bikers: There are the high-tech athletes who love the steeps and deeps, the rocks and racing, and they never get off the bike. That mandolin player in the Bearfoot Bluegrass band from Alaska is one of those guys (Jason Norris). Then there's me. I like to ride quietly through the woods on a bike with my puppies (and sometimes with one smarter person than me). I can't ride on the road with dogs, and hiking is too hard on the knees. I'm quite sure that the Dalai Lama owns a suspension Mountain Bike. I'll have to ask Richard Shindell, he would know for sure -- except he'll be visiting our studios at the same time that I'll be in the wilderness asking questions. I better take him next time.

Though there may not be a free lunch in life, there is a free ride - - when there's a hill. And who needs a free lunch? I'm happy with endurance bars, trail mix, and an long as I have the one thing which I value more and more these days - TIME. Wanna go? Better yet, invite me on YOUR next trip. Since the dogs do all my planning, I have to keep replacing the smart people (don't tell Ed...)

Jim Blum

Posted by Jim Blum at 10:55 PM | Comments (20)

Marriages & Other Pledges of Devotion

April 22, 2006

Here we go with the big bi-annual Folk Alley Pledge Drive!
Just think....if each of the (at this moment of writing) 54,253 current registered listeners donated just $10., we'd exceed the $75,000 goal mark by almost $470K tout de suite!

It's team work really - a marriage. The thought occurs to me that this is such a marriage of inequity..I mean to say that in a good marriage, each partner contributes 100% to make things between them sound and good and satisfying, always encouraging growth.

What Folk Alley delivers to me excedes far and beyond what I could possibly EVER pledge to it for the growth and satisfaction it delivers to me. And, as in any good and real and growing relationship, what I hear on Folk Alley can cause me to experience both the joys of laughter and tears, plus thought provoking ideas, leading to growth and action.

I plan to contribute what I can to keep the music streaming. It's really the least I can do, considering!

How 'bout you? What drives you to contribute to Folk Alley?

Posted by JoLynn Braswell at 1:30 AM | Comments (11)

Summer Festivals - 6 Degrees of Bela Fleck

April 19, 2006

Bela Fleck and the Flecktones are out promoting their new album (Hidden Land) and, by the looks of things, they're going to be very tired by summer's end. Fleck & co. will be hitting most of the major festivals - and if they aren't attending events in person, chances are that at least one act is on a bill with Bela at some point during the season. Think of it like a giant jam/jazz/folk tree with the Flecktones at the center. Click through for a sample of what you can be a part of - if summer fest touring is your thing (this is in no way a complete listing of performances or summer festivals - feel free to add your favorites below):

MerleFest (4/27-30, Wilkesboro, NC - Bela sighting? YES):
The country's biggest bluegrass festival - look for unusual pairings as headlining musicians play together just for fun. Also on the bill, The Mammals, Nickel Creek, Sam Bush, Hot Tuna, the Duhks, Emmylou Harris, and Tony Rice.

Wakarusa (6/8-11, Lawrence, KS - Bela sighting? YES):
Like several of the big name jam-band festivals, Wakarusa is expanding its reach with acts like The Flaming Lips. Gov't Mule, Keller Williams, Railroad Earth, the Benevento-Russo Duo and Yonder Mountain String Band also entertain.

Telluride Bluegrass (6/15-18, Telluride, CO - Bela sighting? YES):
Bluegrass in the mountains of Colorado. Big names like Emmylou Harris, John Prine and Grammy Award-winner Tim O'Brien are joined by popstars Barenaked Ladies, who are newly totally into the mando and banjo (they've always had an acoustic bass). On hand as well: Sam Bush, Nickel Creek, Jerry Douglas and Edgar Meyer.

Bonnaroo (6/16-18, Manchester, TN - Bela sighting? YES):
Last year's festival was so huge they actually put up fewer tickets for sale this summer. With acts like Elvis Costello, Death Cab for Cutie, Tom Petty and Bonnie Raitt on stage, it's surely not going to be less frenetic. One word: hydration! Also on the Bonnaroo list: Oysterhead (with Trey Anastasio), Phil Lesh, Bright Eyes (with Conor Oberst), Disco Biscuits, Jerry Douglas, Nickel Creek, Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder and Umphrey's McGee.

High Sierra Music Festival (6/29-7/2, Quincy, CA - Bela sighting? YES):
A different vibe than Bonnaroo - and still much more jammy with performances from Keller Williams, Umphrey's McGee, the Drew Emmitt (from Leftover Salmon) Band, and My Morning Jacket. Also, Joe Craven, Railroad Earth, Nickel Creek and Disco Biscuits.

Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival (7/13-16, Ancramdale, NY - Bela sighting? NO):
No Bela, but plenty of topnotch bluegrass hosted by Dry Branch Fire Squad - including Uncle Earl, Ricky Skaggs, Railroad Earth, Jerry Douglas, Steve Earle and Tim & Mollie O'Brien.

10,000 Lakes Music Festival (7/19-22, Detroit Lakes, MN - Bela sighting? NO):
So far, this is the only big festival String Cheese Incident is playing this summer. Bela will be in Spain, but there will be plenty of old-school jamming from Phil Lesh and Trey Anastasio. Keller Willliams will make the trek to Minnesota, as will Umphrey's McGee, the Benevento-Russo (who are joined by Mike Gordon) Duo , and Hot Buttered Rum.

Calgary Folk Music Festival (7/27-30, Calgary, AB - Bela sighting? NO):
Oh, Canada! Their artist line-up is being released slooowly, but it already looks great. The Mammals (who cross paths with Bela at Merlefest), Dan Bern, Ani DiFranco, Dar Williams and a reunited Roches are excellent "seed" for the festival weekend.

Lollapalooza (8/4-6, Chicago, IL - Bela sighting? NO):
Perry Farrell's groundbreaking traveling show puts down roots in Chi-town for a one-off this summer. Fest favorites Nickel Creek, Umphrey's McGee and the Benevento-Russo Duo will pay a visit, along with folk music legend Ella Jenkins (performing in the kids tent, natch), The Flaming Lips, Wilco, Iron & Wine, Death Cab for Cutie and Gnarls Barkley.

Philadelphia Folk Festival (8/26-28, Philadelphia, PA - Bela sighting? NO):
The end of August really signifies the end of summer - the Philly Folk Fest is a wonderful opportunity to put on your bell bottoms and swirly skirts and sway to the music one last time this season. Jackson Browne headlines and all three Roche sisters perform together. Plus, Hot Tuna (who also show up at the top of this list at Merlefest), the Duhks, the Horse Flies, Arrogant Worms and Gandalf Murphy & the Slambovian Circus of Dreams.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 6:45 PM | Comments (8)

Down & Dirty Dog Gone Cat Scratchin' Blues

So many of us have critters hanging around the home place. I've often wondered if mine each have their own, personal musical preferences.

When I see my adopted greyhounds or cats in a particularly joyous or the odd sullen mood, I wonder if they, like the rest of us, might have a musical soundtrack playing in their heads to get them through the day (or through the night, as is so often the case). Since mine are all adopted, I have no idea what
had influenced their particular musical tastes prior to finding their way to me, but I'm getting a sense of what they like. One thing I do know...animals do appreciate music!

When I'm listening to a Folk Alley stream, invariably, my Lacy will sidle up beside me when a tender love (or lovelorn) song makes it's way into our living space. She'll close her eyes, lean in toward the speakers, and will occasionally gaze with her big ambers into mine as if to tell me something...I haven't yet been able to guess what that is.
Hayley Ann, my old girl, on the other hand, craves livley mandolin and fiddle music. Lately, she's become very fond of Sam Bush, Chris Thile, Solas and Tim O'Brien, it seems. Norman Blake always seems to catch her interest.

One of my cats, William (the one who seems to have only three brain cells, bless him), will suddenly appear, staring deep into my eyes with his pools of blue, gently pawing at me even before I'm aware of the tears starting to well in response to anything which moves me deeply.

Well, old Frisky just wants body heat, so she snakes her way between my back and the chair and becomes my vibrating lower back pillow when I'm checking out the Folk Alley Blogs or Open Mic. Frisky can sleep through anything, but purrs a lot, so I guess she likes what she hears.

Harold (my big boy) loves anything LOUD, raucous and Scandinavian, and will often "sing" right along, with squinted eyes. He's also my "Bouncer" at bed time who stands guard and won't allow any other creature to bother me as I fall asleep to the recorded sounds of the Pacific nighttime surf. He keeps it quiet around here when it needs to be.

Lily prefers LIVE music and just wants to hang outside with the birds and the summer bugs. She sits for endless hours listening to the hummm and whirrr and chatter and gives close attention to the nesting Mockingbird, who nightly sings her extraordinary repertoire near my side porch. Lily has her own, personal concert I think. A social creature, she'll check out the conjunto band down the street, and when the occasional friend stops by for a front porch acoustic jam, Lily is right there singing along and making requests! I suspect that she'd hang out at Folk Music festivals, if given half a chance.

Juno "Roots and Traditional Album of the Year" award winner, Corb Lund and the Hurtin' Albertans, web site features video clips of a big ol' hound, "Jax the Dog", wailing away to "Time to Switch to Whiskey". The hound harps in, as if on cue, to "Whis-keyyyyyyy!", and amazingly, he's in tune every time!

The fish? Well, the fish seem to enjoy the good vibrations as well. Since I've deprived them of their TV priviledges with a soft boycot since May '05, they don't seem to complain. I think they prefer Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, but I can't be sure...

So, fellow Folk and critter lovers, what tales could your menagerie tell about the soundtracks of their lives?

Posted by JoLynn Braswell at 4:56 PM | Comments (19)

How Do You Eat a Reese's Cup?

April 12, 2006

I was thinking of the familiar ad campaign for my favorite candy (Reese's Cups and Sweetarts - but not together) when I was listening to Open Mic today. My dilemma is, especially now that songs are being added almost hourly, how to find the best mix of music? Chris Boros turned me onto the playlist shuffle, which pulls together a random collection of songs. There is also the "take a chance" button for a single pick. Most of the lists on the Open Mic homepage (Top Rated, Listener Favorites, etc.) can be launched as a group in by clicking on the player button at the bottom. I've had fun clicking on songs that have had recent comments added. If someone cares enough to comment, I want to see what the fuss is about. When I really love something, I can add it to my favorites (which appears as a list on the Open Mic homepage at the very bottom when you're logged in) and then play the entire lot as a session. It's fun, and it's easy - and it's new every time you visit. Make sure you vote on songs, too, that information affects the front page lists and will earn someone a place in the Folk Alley stream. Yahoo!

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 3:10 PM | Comments (19)


April 10, 2006

Grammy winner Tim O'Brien is touring in support of his TWO new albums: Cornbread Nation and Fiddler's Green. I was lucky to introduce him at The Kent Stage in Ohio on Saturday 4/8. Scratching my head for something to say I came up with the following. Listen for an exclusive Live From Folk Alley web-cast of this show in the stream on April 14 at 4 a.m., Noon, and 8 p.m. ET (GMT -5) and on April 15 at 3 a.m., 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Or, download the concert to your heart's content from the website later this month and enjoy!











From all of his albums with Hot Rize, to all of his own country and folk releases, to the tour with the Bela Fleck all we listened to song after song, memory after memory surfaced. I began to realize I grew up with this guy. And I continue to marvel at him. What do you think of Tim O'Brien?

Jim Blum

Posted by Jim Blum at 1:05 PM | Comments (47)

Earth to ? ? ?

April 7, 2006

Listener Robin Roderick presented an intriguing idea to me today, and I thought it might appeal to the Folk Alley crowd as well:

"If you worked for NASA and they assigned you the task of creating a folk musical stream that would be repeated over and over to contact extraterrestrials. . .what would you pick? Remember, let's not make these aliens mad! They may have better technology than we do at the moment!"

Come on folks - we could have a lot of fun with this one!

Posted by JoLynn Braswell at 9:08 AM | Comments (49)

Folk Alley's Open Mic

April 1, 2006

It's finally here! You might remember last July I announced in this blog that Folk Alley was planning to add an Online Open Mic feature to our website. Well, 9 months later our baby has arrived! It's been a true gestation period, and we're thrilled to finally introduce this new feature to the world.

Like anything in its infancy, there will be significant growth and development to Open Mic as it gets its legs. It's important - particularly early on - that you let us know what you think, and especially if you find any snafus in the system.

Visit Folk Alley's Open Mic to find out more about it!

Posted by Linda Fahey at 7:06 PM | Comments (116)

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