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Name This Blog!

November 23, 2011

question_mark.jpgFrom the very start of Folk Alley, this blog has been a central feature of what we do. Although, even we have to admit, there was a lot less of what we do now way back in 2003. As the FA team looks forward to a site redesign LIKE THE WORLD HAS NEVER SEEN, we are asking you to help give our blog a proper name as it becomes its own section of What do we mean by a "name?" Check out the NPR Music blogs. They have Ann Powers' The Record, Bob Boilen's All Songs Considered, the jazz blog A Blog Supreme - these names give the blog a real space and presence. They also relate to the music and the genre in an interesting way (I'm voting for Monkeypants - it's a take on a Neil Young song about a guy who smuggled monkeys into the country by hiding them in his pants).

Post your ideas below. We will compile the list and let you all have a vote to determine the winner!

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 10:47 AM | Comments (21)

New Adds for November

November 21, 2011

New Music for November

I don't know very many folk singers who touch on modern life as successfully as Vance Gilbert. His newest, Old White Men, was inspired by a bad neighbor experience. He's written about his failed marriage and his best friend leaving town. That's real folk music, songs that reflect what really happens in our day to day lives.

I've heard a rumor that Crooked Still is taking at least a year off after their current tour is over. Needless to say, if that's the case, we should snatch up every bit of new music from the bluegrassish quintet while we can - even if Friends of the Fall is only an EP. The band - Aoife O'Donovan, Gregory Liszt, Brittany Haas, Tristan Clarridge and Corey DiMario - is made up of some of the hottest musicians of their generation and give new meaning to "string band" with their use of violins, upright bass and cello in the mix.

Ryan Adams has had an interesting career. From a very Alt-Country start with Whiskeytown, he got even folkier as a solo artist before veering into indie rock with his band The Cardinals. And, then he put out a Metal album. In between, he worked through substance issues, developed Meniere's Disease and married Mandy Moore. Adams is back with Ashes & Fire, a new solo CD filled with great songs that return the singer/songwriter to his pared down, acoustic roots.

Before there was Neil Young, before there was Bob Dylan, before there was Pete Seeger, there was Woody Guthrie. A true folk singer, Guthrie traveled the country telling stories about the true America. His music and his legend have endured, with many of his songs becoming permanent fixtures in the musical firmament. Singer/Songwriter John McCutcheon pays tribute to the master with This Land: Woody Guthrie's America. The collection of Guthrie songs - familiar and less so - includes tales of rough and tumble life in the U.S. as well as what have become recognizable anthems. McCutcheon is joined by a host of top-notch artists (Willy Nelson, Tommy Emmanuel, Kathy Mattea, Tim O'Brien and others) in this loving tribute to Guthrie.

More new music - just in time for the holidays:

Jeff Black - "Plow through the Mystic"
Cory Chisel & the Wandering Sons - "Death Won't Send a Letter"
Blue Moose & the Unbuttoned Zippers - "Rousted"
Buddy Miller - "Buddy Miller's The Majestic Silver Strings"
Paul Sachs - "Oil Town"
Donal Hinely - "The Famous Rockey Cage"
Andy Statman - "Brooklyn"
Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 5:48 PM | Comments (1) A Feast of Folk Film

November 10, 2011

Folkstreams 3.png
By Matt Watroba,
A National Preserve of Documentary Films about American Roots Cultures

If you are a fan of both folk music and film, prepare to spend an afternoon or two (or three) lost in a website called Thanks to the Southern Folklife Collection and the folks at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, hundreds of films on the subjects of folk music, folk culture, and folkways are up and ready for streaming. Their mission is two-fold: to build a national preserve of hard to find documentary films about American folk or roots cultures and to give them renewed life by streaming them on the internet. They have succeeded in their mission. Warning: poking around on this site is infectious and will most likely lead to many hours of your day missing in action.

The idea came from filmmaker, Tom Davenport who saw the potential of the internet to connect these films with the niche audience who was sure to appreciate them. In most cases, the films are as long as they need to be, rather than edited to a standard that would fit in a television schedule. And what a variety!

You might check out Pete Seeger's film called, "Afro-American Work Songs in a Texas Prison" where you will see, up close, how singing is used to make hard labor a little easier. You might find the film, "People's Stuff" interesting. It documents the collectors of unusual objects and the stories behind them. If you are intrigued by the work of Alan Lomax, look into the film "Appalachian Journey." Lomax travels through the Southern Appalachians illuminating songs, dances and religious rituals as the result of Scotch-Irish migration. Or maybe "Deep Ellum Blues" would be more to your liking. It's a ten minute film exploring the music scene that exploded out of a small area of Dallas fueled by folks like Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Willie Johnson, and Leadbelly. The list of films goes on and on...and on.

Here's what I would love to see happen. If this website is of interest to you, check it out and report back to the Folk Alley blog what you've discovered. This way we can turn others on, in the Folk Alley community, to the treasures found in the films at I look forward to reading about what you find there. -- Matt

Posted by Matt Watroba at 10:47 AM | Comments (4)

Review: Bearfoot ~ American Story

November 7, 2011

Bearfoot American Story.jpg

by Jim Blum,

American Story
(Compass Records)

It all began at a music camp in Alaska years ago when the members of Bearfoot met as teenagers. Their love of music and playing together flourished and they began touring and recording. For this new album, American Story, only two of the original members remain, fiddler Angela Oudean and mandolinist Jason Norris, but the signature harmony and ensemble playing remains top notch.

The newcomers are Todd Grebe on guitar, also from Alaska, and P.J. George primarily on bass but also adept on banjo, and percussion. Singer/guitarist Nora Jane Struthers now sings most of the leads and brings her songwriting skills to the band as well. Her own group, the Bootleggers, took first place at the Telluride Band Contest in 2010 and the year before that they won a band contest at The Appalachian String Band Gathering in Clifftop, West Virginia. Nora Jane's delivery is strong and pure, even gutsy if the song requires it.

Highlight songs include "Tell Me A Story" which speaks to the marvelous and healthy escapism that books and short stories can bring us. In a difficult world, sings Nora Jane, we need this release. "Come Get Some Lonesome" is the song that features the gutsy delivery; Nora Jane's powerful voice is matched by the talents of guest Jeff Taylor (Elvis Costello, Ricky Skaggs) on accordion. The album offers a little tongue in cheek humor in "While You're Away," a song that describes what the housewife is up to while her man is at work. The answer might surprise you. Another message of escape is in the song "Feel Free," describing one of those special places we all have which offers retreat.

Bearfoot has come full circle. The group was formed from an experience at a music camp, and now they spend a good time of their year leading workshops in schools across the lower 48 states. The workshops are usually assembly based and are very interactive. Band members continue to be impressed with how fascinated children are with Bluegrass and American Roots music. The group has presented over 60 camps for kids in addition to the in-school performances.

Posted by Jim Blum at 11:05 AM

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