C O N T E N T S
FOLK GUITARS: ten of the most popular acoustic guitar brands .
DONNA THE BUFFALO: after 17 years of tourig the nation this act has got it down pat.
WHAT TO BRING: need a little help sorting out the frustraiting question of what comes and what stays? JOSH PINKHAM: the spotline shines on this talented mandolin playing up and comer.
ANI DIFRANCO: we sit down to talk with the folk music legend to set the record straight on her view of the music biz.
JENNY LEWIS: the indie folk goddess speaks about writing her second albumn and her love of collaborations.
SPRINGFEST: we take you inside one of the fastest growning folk festivals of this generation WHAT THE FOLK?: take a look at where folk music began, what it means, and where itâ€™s going.
Shut up & listen We sit down to chat with Ani Difranco
From his fedora and snow-white beard to his repertoire of labor songs and populist anthems, Phillips is as unambiguously a folksinger as he could be--and as stylistically distant from DiFranco as he could be. But appearances are deceiving. Just a few hours ago, DiFranco helped present Phillips with Folk Alliance’s Lifetime Achievement Award, citing his gift for entwining humor, entertainment, and politics as an inspiration for her.
much more than a unique collaboration between a folk elder and a rising young star; it’s a bold and ambitious musical statement, brilliantly executed. DiFranco sifted through 100 hours of Phillips’ live tapes and picked a handful of her favorite between-song raps--the ones that, she says, “made me fall off my chair laughing or just go off in the corner and cry and mull things over for a while.” She then took those stories--chronicling Phillips’ desertion from the army during the Korean War, the mentors who taught him about politics and life, and various philosophical observations from his years on the road and rail--and holed up in an Austin studio to layer music tracks beneath them. Primarily using light funk and hip-hop rhythms, with dashes of guitar and other instruments.
This is only one of the many traits and passions they share; their connection is so strong, in fact, that he’s the first outside artist DiFranco has brought onto the roster of her own Righteous Babe Records label.DiFranco’s and Phillips’ 1996 album for Righteous Babe, The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere, is
DiFranco created a completely different musical context for Phillips’ words while preserving their soul--making a sort of end run around people’s stereotypes of folk music.“It was a very calculated move on my part,” says DiFranco, “because I can see people around me, people my age, who haven’t had the
he fact that DiFranco defines folk by its spirit and intent rather than its sound and dress code goes a long way toward explaining her connection with Utah Phillips, the venerable singer and storyteller who sits next to her in this hotel ballroom.
Ani performing at the knitting factory on April 26 2010.
experience I have of being thrown into folk festivals half their lives and coming into contact with all this crazy, subcorporate music. I think that they’d be people who’d see Utah and think, ‘What is this? He looks like Santa Claus, he’s sitting on a stool with an acoustic guitar, and he’s singing, what, labor songs? This has nothing to do with me. I don’t think so. No--see ya.’ They would never find out that what he has to say does have something to do with them. So [the album] was taking Utah and putting him into a different context that somebody my age does have a vocabulary for, and then getting them to hear what he has to say. For his part, Phillips confesses that when DiFranco originally proposed the project, he had no idea what the result might be like. So, did the radically new medium for his message come as a shock? “I thought it was marvelous,” Phillips says. “If I were to pick stories that I wanted to persist if I weren’t around, those are the ones I would pick. Not only that, but she put them in the right order. That’s real judgment, almost instinctive. I have old folk music
friends, older people, who say, ‘Gee, I wish your voice was louder and the music was softer.’ I just say, ‘Hey, this wasn’t made for you.’” He adds with a laugh, “Sometimes it’s hard for people to believe that there’s something in the world that wasn’t made for them.” The stories collected on The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere are amazing creations-folksy and literary at the same time, alternately playful, piercing, mischievous, and nostalgic. A true wordsmith, Phillips is always up to more than he lets on. “I always believed that what happened between the songs was as important as the songs,” he says. “I put a lot of time into the stories, so that people would laugh and we would share absurdities together; and I would create this little, narrow window where I could deal with the labor movement, where I could deal with pacifism, whatever it was that I was there to do--my agenda--without being ghettoized as a political performer. “You talked to me in one of your letters about it,” he says to DiFranco. “You said, ‘I understand the use of humor in
performance. You’ve got to get people laughing so their throats open up wide enough to be able to swallow something bigger.’ That struck me. First of all, it’s funny, and it’s a very true thing to say.”
“The sound of him tuning the guitar became this kind of trance to me,” says DiFranco. “I sampled that bit of tuning and sort of made the melodic structure around that.”
The process by which DiFranco married Phillips’ words with music was entirely improvisational. “I would start with the story,” she says. “I would find the BPM [beats per minute] of the story and try to negotiate a rhythm track to it, and then I would usually start with the bass. I’ve got an old Fender P. [Precision] bass. I would come up with a bass line and then build on top of that.” From story to story, DiFranco’s music varies to match the mood. For the lighthearted satire of “Nevada City, California,” she set up Phillips’ punch lines with stop-and-start funk rhythms, as in an old Laugh-In sketch. In the elegiac “Half a Ghost Town,” the music pares down to a slow, sad melody played on a tenor guitar. One of the most haunting moments comes in “Korea,” when the sound of Phillips tuning his guitar--one of the few appearances of his guitar on the record--becomes a ghostly melody floating above the loping beat.
It’s impossible to listen to the words of Utah Phillips without conjuring an image of him on stage: the raconteur and folk historian, singing and strumming and spinning yarns for an audience. The tradition of folk music he carries on has a clear public purpose--it’s really inconceivable without an audience. This would seem to be a major difference between him and DiFranco, who was born into the singer-songwriter age, which values introspection over social commentary and writing your own songs over learning any tradition. But here, again, appearances are deceiving. “That whole introspective singersongwriter thing has been kind of foisted on me,” DiFranco adds. “Some people perceive what I do in that way because I write songs through my own experience. But whenever people say, ‘Well, your work is very confessional,’ I say, ‘It’s
Shut up and listen to what came before you and see what use it has.
not confessional. I’m not confessing anything. I haven’t sinned. These are not my secrets. This is just my life; this is the stuff I’ve seen, the stuff I did, and what I thought about.’ There are different ways of speaking your political perceptions, and it may be [talking about] an event that occurred in your life or an event that occurred in your town . . . but each is a valid path to a certain realization. I think that what we both do is very much about our small, little epiphanies along the way, moments of connection between things.” The introspective tag, DiFranco feels, is often mistakenly applied to the work of women songwriters. “Women have not been all that instrumental in making and running governments and businesses,” she says, “and when we sing our labor songs, it’s like, we’re at home. In a historical perspective, women’s politics exist more in terms of human interrelationships, which is what we’ve been assigned to take care of in society. People look at a chick singing about her abortion or her relationships and think, ‘Oh, that’s hyperconfessional, personal,’ but to me it’s all political. It’s all related.”
To DiFranco and Phillips, performing music is all about making that connection between the individual and the group. “When Utah’s singing a labor song,” she says, “the people who work in that town are coming up and saying, ‘Yeah, me too. “Yeah, you get that too,” Phillips responds. “Absolutely,” says DiFranco. “Except for me, I’m up there singing my songs, and who comes up? It’s young women in droves: ‘Yeah, I can’t believe you said that.’ It’s the same thing: giving voice to different groups of people.” Utah Phillips takes his role as a community voice very seriously. In fact, he’s made a life’s work of learning music and stories from people, starting back in the early ’50s with a job on a road crew and some songs by Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Snow. “The guys on the road crew were the ones who taught me to play the guitar and sing those songs,” he says. “But it turned out that the songs weren’t the important part I can’t remember those songs, but I can remember those people.”
When DiFranco was first delving into music as a kid in the ’70s, the typical way to learn was through recordings, copping songs and licks from pop LPs. Was this her experience? Not at all, she says. “I definitely learned how to play guitar from people. My parents didn’t have a record player, so my whole experience with music was made by people in the room for most of my formative years. Luckily for me, there were always a lot of people around playing guitar, and so [music] has always been something you did, not something you bought. I didn’t idolize rock stars, I didn’t have wet dreams about . . . whoever; I just had friends who were teaching me songs. I never really aspired to that rock-star thing; it was a party.” DiFranco and Phillips may feel that performing is their true calling, and that recording is a by-product, but there’s a rich irony behind that sentiment: their collaboration would never have happened without recording technology. The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere is a studio-created illusion, a technological bridge between far-distant musical styles. Plus, individually, they are recording artists; DiFranco
in particular has been making records at a breakneck pace. If, as she suggests, the fixation on recordings and product is one of the main characteristics of commercial music that distinguish it from folk music like hers and Phillips’, how do these two deal in the record business without losing touch with the wellsprings of their music?
can begin to write about is your personal sense of alienation. You think over the careers of the singer-songwriters of the ’60s and ’70s, and that’s what you hear.” “And what you have to say will become, without a doubt, systematically watered down to be more radio-friendly and to be more accessible,” DiFranco adds. “They come up with all kinds of convincing arguments about why you should adjust The answer is unanimous: by maintain- your image or why you should play this ing a fiercely independent stance vis-à-vis song every time you appear on TV and the corporate music business. That’s a se- water down any kind of political implicarious understatement when referring to a tions in your music. man who is fond of saying things such as, “Capitalism is a criminal conspiracy to diTake control and take responsibility: vest those who do the work of the wealth this credo runs deep in DiFranco and that they create,” and a woman who sings Phillips, guiding much more than just (no, screams) at corporate America, “I’m their careers. It’s a philosophy of life that the million you never made” and has bePhillips traces to his mentor Ammon come the poster child for DIY musicians. Hennacy, described on The Past Didn’t Go Still, I decide to play devil’s advocate Anywhere as a “Catholic, anarchist, paciand ask them: Couldn’t you deliver the fist, draft dodger of two world wars, tax same messages that you put out there as refuser, vegetarian, one-man revolution a performer now while being part of the in America.” Phillips says, “My body is my corporate music world? ballot, and I try to cast it on behalf of the people around me every day of my life. I “Not a chance,” says Phillips. “It would don’t assign responsibility to do things to destroy your soul. I would rather sleep un- other people; I accept the responsibility der a railroad bridge than work for these to make sure that things get done. I love assholes. No, sir, you’ve got to own the to tell that to people who are frustrated means of production. You’ve got to own with the ballot box. How many people do what you do. I know who have never voted for anyone who won, ever in their lives, and are really “If you create it, you’re not going to frustrated? It’s not the end of the road. wait around for some big company to sign There’s another way to go, and that’s with you to a label. [To DiFranco] you created a your own labor, your own sweat, your own label. Kate Wolf did that when she created body. I think there’s a lot of hope in that.” Owl Records. She didn’t wait around to be invited to a folk festival; she created In the liner notes to The Long Memory, one--the Sonoma Folk Festival. You don’t the 1996 album by Phillips and Rosalie wait around for these people to acknowl- Sorrels, he wrote, “The long memory is edge you. Meanwhile, sure, you make less, the most radical idea in the country. It you learn to live cheap, you really learn to is the loss of that long memory which find your wants and needs in a sensible deprives our people of that connective fashion. It’s like an indentured servant flow of thoughts and events that clarifies buying himself out from indenture, from our vision, not of where we’re going but capitalism. But, at a subindustrial level, you make all the artistic decisions--not the people in the front office, not the people who try to shape your image--and that’s what keeps the material flowing and fresh. When you give in to their system, when you become a bought person and they’re going to give you wealth, power, and fame, and the creative decisions are then being made more and more by the people in the front office, all you
where we want to go.” As a performer, Phillips’ mission is to be a vehicle for that memory, a means by which important ideas, stories, and aspirations are passed from generation to generation. “I’m just a folksinger,” he says, “but I have a real thorough understanding of what that means. Growing up, really growing up, means at some point in your life discovering what you authentically inherit, what you culturally inherit. You finally recognize that, and that’s what you try to put in the world. And that’s what I do now. I find that my inheritance is a wealth of song and story and poem from my elders--especially the radical elders, who never had that wide a voice in their lives.” In creating The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere, DiFranco aims to be another link in that chain. “The pop music realm has a huge disrespect for our elders,” she says. “It’s all about worshipping youth. Youth has a lot of energy, and there’s a lot of important shit that goes down in youth culture, but I don’t think that means you ignore your elders or where you come from. People may constantly want to be inventing the new alternative, which so quickly gets co-opted and turned into just a cookie-cutter formula, with just a slightly more distorted guitar or something, whereas they might be ignoring the fact that they could take the same old tools--an acoustic guitar--and be working in an old, crusty medium like folk music, and do something totally new. “Like Utah would say, ‘Shut up and listen to what came before you and see what use it has.’” --Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers
TOP 10 FOLK GUITARS
TOP TEN FOLK GUITARS Today’s Musica;l Industry offers many fine selections in regard to Classic Folk Guitars Let us help you sort through them and give a little insight.
A fun game is to go to open mic night and play “Pin the artist on the Martin guitar.” Martins are no doubt the most widely-played. But there’s a reason this company is so revered - their guitars have a warm, full sound. They’re also good-looking and lighweight. Famous players include Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, and Joan Baez, as well as John Gorka, Patty Griffin, Jerry Garcia, Arlo Guthrie ... the list goes on and on.
Gibson guitars are big, pretty, and have incredible sound. Part of it is the great electronics they put in there, that keep the acoustic sound top-notch even when they’re plugged in at high blast. They’re a little more challenging than Martins, but well worth the effort. Famous players include Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris (who has her own Gibson signature series), Keb Mo, Lucinda Williams, and others. Earl Scruggs plays Gibson banjos.
Epiphones are manufactured by Gibson, which is probably why they’re one of the most loved. They sound good, they’re affordable, they’re durable and hold their tunings. They’re pretty much the most practical guitar on the list. Famous players include Steve Earle, Patti Griffin, John Lennon, Lucinda Williams, and others.
Taylors are among the finest guitars made. The list of folks who would agree is extensive, but among them are Mary Chapin Carpenter, Shawn Colvin, Iris
Well for one, I have an Alvarez Artist, which has traveled with me since 1998. It’s survived harsh winters and summers in the desert. It’s been dropped on sidewalks and rained on during winters. And she still isn’t warped. Alvarez makes their guitars with a lot of love and staying power. And I’m not alone. Carlos Santana, David Crosby, Ani Difranco, Luka Bloom and others love Alvarez as much as I do.
Guild guitars are big and chunky, but have a nice raw, thick, warm sound. They have great electronics and the most wonderful thing about them is that they hold onto their tunings really well. Guild, like Alvarez, really makes heavy duty guitars. Famous players include Paul Simon, Jerry Garcia, and John Denver.
Fender is probably most famous for their electric stratocaster guitars. But make no mistake, Fender makes darn good acoustic guitars as well.
Gretsch guitars have a nice sound, and they’re great for fingerpicking. George Harrison, Neil Young, Steven Stills, and Bo Diddley are among the great guitarists who have owned and played Gretsches.
Ovation guitars have a nice well-rounded sound. I learned how to play on an ovation. But aside from my personal partiality, there are tons of great Folk artists that play ovation guitars. To name a few: Joan Armatrading, Melissa Etheridge, and Karen Hunter.
Sure their television sets and DVD players are what they’re best known for, but Yamaha makes some pretty decent instruments as well. Their guitars are excellent for beginners, but they’re also played by great artists like Keb Mo, Edwin McCain, and Mark Oakley.
ometimes all it takes is a niche, and the members of Donna the Buffalo have certainly found theirs.
With easygoing songs and a low-key peace-love vibe honed over the past 17 years, the western New York folk-rock band can essentially play as many intimate halls and small festival gigs as it wants -Infinity Music Hall in Norfolk, for example, where the band performed Thursday night. It was a generous set, spread over more than two hours, with guitarist Jeb Puryear and violinist/ guitarist Tara Nevins alternating on lead vocals on songs drawn from folk, rock, and Cajun traditions. Backed by drums, bass and keyboards, the co-leaders had an easy rapport with each other, and with the crowd, which occasionally stood to dance in the aisles. Puryear sang with the same mellow inflection as Willie Nelson, though the former’s voice isn’t quite as rich, and he played his Stratocaster guitar without a pick, coaxing a smooth, buttery tone from the instrument. Nevins, who also played accordion and washboard on the thrumming, bayou-flavored “Part-Time Lover,” has a pretty, slightly frayed voice that sounded wistful on the countrified “Locket and Key” and bobbed lightly on “Blue Sky,” an easy
flowing rock song with Puryear’s electric guitar cascading over Nevins’ sturdy acoustic strumming. The band often stretched out, steering songs into light jams. The electric guitar and violin each sounded in turn as though they were straining toward the heavens during an extended middle section on “Let Love Move Me,” and the rest of the band left Puryear and Nevins alone on stage to finish the aptly named “Funky Side” themselves, locked together on the riff that drove the song. After finishing the main set with Nevins singing the acoustic country-ish song “No Place Like the Right Time,” she and Puryear started the encore as a duo as she played a mournful violin line over a plucked guitar groove. The rest of the band emerged quietly to join them on the end of the song, before diving back into a good-natured jam on the next song.
TOP 10 FOLK GUITARS
Indie-folk goddess Jenny Lewis discussess inspiration, writing her second record, and why she loves collaborations.
acid Tongue J
enny Lewis began her career as a child actor in kid-friendly â€˜80s movies like Troop Beverly Hills and The Wizard, but around the turn of the millennium she moved into a bigger, brighter spotlight as the frontwoman and co-songwriter of the much-loved indierock band Rilo Kiley. The tiny, big-voiced, frequently adorable Lewis blossomed into something of an indie goddess over the course of the first three records she wrote and recorded with Blake Sennett for Rilo Kiley. But it was her glowingly received 2006 solo debut, Rabbit Fur Coat, that cemented her status as a captivating songwriter and performer.
Jenny Belts out her title track â€œAcid Tongueâ€? with her distinct big-voiced style.
Lewis returned to Rilo Kiley for the band’s 2007 major-label effort, Under The Blacklight, which landed atop several year-end best-of lists and earned the band the most popular notice of its career, but also alienated some longtime fans with its buffed, pop-friendly sound. Seemingly undeterred, Lewis has veered into yet another direction on her sophomore solo
new album’s release to talk about touring, the pros and cons of Pro Tools, and how Elvis Costello stacks up against a tonedeaf puppet. The A.V. Club: You wrote a lot of Acid Tongue during the Rabbit Fur Coat tour and while you were doing Under The Blacklight with Rilo Kiley. Were you writ-
this it was really a different approach. A lot of the songs came out of a live context. We played them on the road 100 times, so we knew that we could walk into the studio and record them the same way. So the record had a different intention from the outset. It wasn’t really a studio record, but more of a live record in some ways. It was about getting the band together and
On stage at the Cat’s Cradel in Carrborro, NC.
disc, Acid Tongue. The new album replaces Rabbit Fur Coat’s old-school countrygospel vibe and backup vocals from the Watson Twins with a livelier collection of tracks that draw from a rock, soul, and country influences, fused together in a live-tracked studio setting and assisted by a stable of guest musicians. The A.V. Club spoke to Lewis the day before her
ing with another solo record specifically in mind, or did it just grow out of the material that you had accumulating? Jenny Lewis: Yeah, it wasn’t the same process as Rabbit Fur Coat, because I wrote those songs in a relatively short period of time and thematically I wanted all the songs to relate to one another. With
creating an atmosphere that lent itself to good chemistry between the band members and trying to capture as much of the record live as we could. AVC: You seem to have a very collaborative mentality when it comes to your solo stuff: You worked with the Watson Twins on the last one, and then your band and
all your collaborators are a really big part of Acid Tongue. I take it you’re not a big control freak? JL: I’m a control freak with regards to certain aspects. I think you just have to be when you’re making stuff in the world. You have to have a clear idea what you want. But I’m also fortunate to have friends that are great and I trust them musically. So I think with this record that it was matter of having guest musicians, but not having them overpower the songs. I think if you listen to the record, sometimes it’s difficult to pick people out, but they’re definitely there and I think that their presence is definitely more supportive than anything else. AVC: Originally you wrote the title track from Acid Tongue as a potential Rilo Kiley track, right? JL: No, that’s quite not true. I wrote it on the tour for Rabbit Fur Coat. So it was first performed with that, and then recording for Blacklight I had all these songs. We [Rilo Kiley] tried “Acid Tongue” and it didn’t really work. So I tried it again for my record and it worked really well, immediately. We recorded that one live actually, in a room with myself and the male choir. AVC: The live recording of Acid Tongue is really striking, that analog-y sound. Why did you to want to record like that? JL: I am a child of digital generation. I have done most of the records with Rilo Kiley on computers, on Pro Tools or other digital programs. On my last record we did half of it on tape and then we dumped it into Pro Tools. Then we tweaked things and we comped the vocals together and we doubled and tripled the [Watson] Twins. So it was very much a record that Mike Mogis and I tweaked out on for a long time after making it. With this record I really wanted to go in and capture the live spirit, mistakes and all. I wanted to limit myself to 24 tracks, so that the songs did breathe and all the parts could be heard. Just returning to the studio and recording on tape I think it puts you in a different mindset, and I really wanted to try something new. I think that Pro
Tools is a very valuable resource and you can use it in some interesting ways. Tape is very expensive. That’s why we didn’t really take a long time recording this record. You can use Pro Tools in the same way where you go into the studio and you limit yourself to 24 tracks and you make a rule that you’re not going to comp the drums together and fix all of the mistakes. I really love hearing those moments on some of my favorite records. It’s fun to pick out the songs that speed up and slow down and all those little flubs and strange harmonies. I think you kind of lose the human aspect when you make things too perfect. AVC: What are some of those favorite records of yours that have that not-perfect sound you seem to favor. JL: All the things I grew up listening to that were made pre-mid-’90s, and the records that were made in the studio where we worked, Sound City. Tom Petty recorded there, Neil Young, Nirvana, Fleetwood Mac. We were in the same room that Nevermind was recorded in, which was pretty exciting. And that record, I know that they worked on it for a while, but you really hear the room. You can hear the space and everything. It’s so rocking but so clear. I mean you can hear the distorted guitar and the background vocals, and I think when you layer stuff in Pro Tools you lose that clarity . AVC: Because of the way it’s recorded, the record has this kind of freewheeling, off-the-cuff vibe, but many of the songs, like “The Next Messiah,” are way too complex to be spontaneously hashed out during recording. How much did you bring in and how much did you work out in the studio? JL: We spent a couple of days arranging the songs before we went into the studio, and we put together a Band A setup and a Band B setup. The Band B setup was for the ballads and the Band A setup consisted of Jason Boesel, Davey Faragher from Elvis [Costello’s] band, myself, Johnathan Rice, and Blake Mills on guitar. We kind of gave the more complex, rock ‘n’ roll songs to Band A, and then we kept the ballads for the other configuration. So
we had a pretty clear-cut idea of what we wanted. But with “The Next Messiah,” we arranged that song in an afternoon and it took us a while to get it right. Then when we got to the studio it took us all day to remember the parts and get to where we not only remembered all the transitions, but where the energy and the tempo were right. We had to choose the one with the right kind of singing because I wanted my vocals to be live, as they are for the entire record. So it took us about 10 or 15 takes of the mix to get it. AVC: That track is interesting in that it’s a medley. Were those just scraps of songs that you put together or was it composed as a whole? JL: Actually, those were three separate songs that Johnathan and I wrote together. We just played them around the house for six months as different entities, and then we just started talking about stringing them together. I’m a big Barbra Streisand fan, and I think the first time I ever heard a medley was on one of her records. So we just put them together and it was so fun coming up with the transitions, because if you’re slowing down to get to the second part, we had to speed up to get to the outro. It was just totally exhilarating arranging that song and then recording it in the studio, because if one person messed up at the sevenminute mark, can you imagine the dirty looks he or she got from the band? AVC: What’s your writing process like? Do you sit down and say, “Okay, I’m going to write a song now,” or do they come to you fully formed, or are you always writing down lyrics? JL: All of those things. I’m always jotting things down on little scraps of paper that I sometimes lose, but if I’ve written something down that’s noteworthy I’ll remember it. Some of the ones that I don’t need to remember I’ll end up losing. Like last night we played at the Ryman in Nashville and I reached in my pocket and I had a movie stub from Pineapple Express, which I had seen weeks earlier, and I borrowed a pen from the night security guard at the backdoor of the
video of myself and Johnathan singing that song with a tone-deaf puppet. AVC: A puppet? JL: A puppet, yeah. We did this thing backstage at Town Hall a couple years ago for this puppet show called Steve Paul’s Puppet Music Hall. That was the only recording or reference that I had for Elvis. So I sent him that YouTube and told him to ignore the tone-deaf puppet. AVC: And what was his reaction? JL: He acknowledged the puppet’s lack of skills. He was like, “Don’t worry about it. I’m going to crush that puppet.” AVC: Acid Tongue is definitely, as you say, more rocking than Rabbit Fur Coat was, but it’s still definitely nostalgic. It’s
backdoor of the Ryman and wrote down some bullshit and then lost it, luckily. AVC: How did the duet with Elvis Costello, “Carpetbaggers,” come about? JL: We had met each other a couple of times. He actually called me when [Rilo Kiley’s] More Adventurous came out. My phone rang and I didn’t recognize the number. I picked it up and it was Elvis on the other end of the line. I truly thought it was a prank. Johnathan wrote “Carpetbaggers” for us to sing on some of the Rabbit Fur Coat tour, because Rabbit Fur Coat, the songs on that record are not exactly rocking. There are some mid-tempo numbers, but we wanted something that was a little more upbeat. We sang that song as a duet on the road for about a year. Johnathan sang it in a very low register, and when Elvis came in he basically took it up an octave and changed the intention of the song, which I really like. I think he made it less country. Wait, you asked me how it happened. Sorry, I’m rambling on and on, I haven’t had my morning coffee yet. [Laughs.] I e-mailed him, basically, and I sent him a YouTube
Top: Jenny Lewis poses for the camera showing off her trademark folky style of vintage shirts and oversized belts. Bottom: Jenny performing live with her band Rilo Kiley in 2006 at the house of blues in hollywood california. Photographs by Dana Williams.
just nostalgic in a different way, kind of a ‘70s California-country vibe. Was that a natural transition from the old-school country of Rabbit Fur Coat, or was that a sound that you’ve always wanted to explore and didn’t really get a chance to until now? JL: No, I really didn’t plan out the direction of this album. I didn’t say, “I’m going to create a California-country record.” The songs kind of just came about, and my friends happened to be in Los Angeles and these are the sounds that we created as a group. I think you can definitely hear the influence of the producers on the record, myself included. Some of it might reference some older Rilo Kiley songs because that’s where I come from, I kind of come from an indie-rock world. Farmer Dave Scher, one of the other producers, he was in a band called Beachwood Sparks. They’re a Sub Pop band and they were and are huge fans of The Byrds, so you can kind of hear some of those aspects listening to some of the singles on the record. Johnathan Rice made a record in the same studio the year before and his record was heavily influenced by Tom Petty, so you can kind of hear some of those aspects, like some of the tones of the guitars. The whole thing kind of reflects the overall varied tastes within the group and within our production team. Between the four of us we make one really sweet human being.
ence. Certainly, some of the Rilo Kiley kids are there, but I think also there is an older factor in the crowd. So I hope with my records that we reach all different kinds of people. Senior citizens are welcome. Babies can come, too. I like babies, but not in the front row. I don’t want to sing directly to a baby. AVC: Acid Tongue seems to move away somewhat from the religious theme that was on Rabbit Fur Coat, lyrically at least, but there’s still definitely kind of a spiritual vibe or some gospel overtones on some of the new songs. Do you consider yourself a spiritual person, or is it more of the aesthetic that appeals to you? AVC: It’s interesting that this is what immediately followed Under The Blacklight, because that record has such a different set of influences—it’s more dance-oriented, and just shinier. JL: I like all different kinds of music, but that particular sound reflects Rilo Kiley. That isn’t entirely my sensibility. It’s about what the four of us enjoy listening to and playing as a group. So that’s what you get when you throw us into a room at that particular time. This record wasn’t necessarily a reaction to Under The Blacklight, but I think the process with which we made this record was. It took us a long time to make Under The Blacklight, and it was somewhat agonizing because of that. This record was made in under three weeks, which I think for me, I tend to work well within a deadline. If I know I have to get something in three weeks, I tend to A, enjoy myself a little bit more, and B, really work well. AVC: Speaking of Rilo Kiley, fans of that band seem very protective of your so-called place in it. Do you ever worry with your solo material that how they’re going to react to it, because it is in a pretty different direction than in the band, or are you like, “Screw you guys. This is what I want to do.” JL: I know. I mean I love all of our Rilo Kiley fans, but you know, that’s a different band. I’m not trying to repeat myself or cater myself to one specific group of people. I think the people that come out to my shows, it’s a different kind of audi-
JL: No, I think I’m a person who is always looking for answers. I’m always questioning things and searching for clues. I tend to also to get bored with one subject, so I think I exhausted some of those ideas on Rabbit Fur Coat and I think I exhausted them in a way that’s very, you know, in your twenties singing about these things. I’m sure as I grow and age I’ll probably revisit some of these things later. But these are the questions that we all ask ourselves. We ask if there’s a God or there isn’t a God, if we’re going to fall in love or get sick or follow our dreams or fail or succeed. All of these things tend to crop up. --Genevieve Koski
WHAT TO BRING
What to bring
Not just for babies any more, wet wipes can keep you feeling fresh as a daisy even after a few days with no shower. Your hair will still be a rat’s nest, but at least you won’t smell. Remember what their original purpose is, as well... they can clean up even the most sensitive areas when a hot shower just isn’t available.
FIRST AID KIT
Legally-run festivals (which are the only kind you should attend) are required by law to have first aid services available and an ambulance on call, so if something major happens, there will be people to take care of you. However, they often don’t dispense headache medicine, and sometimes it’s more hassle than it’s worth to get a simple band-aid put on, so make yourself a simple first-aid kit and save yourself some trouble.
we all hate packing, even if its’s for a music Festival. Let us help you out a bit. Here are ten items you will definitely not want to forget for your extended weekend of fun.
We all know the dangers of UV rays, and at most festivals, you’re very exposed to them. You don’t want a sunburn now, and you certainly don’t want skin cancer later, so lather up. For festivals, I like to use sport sprayon sunblock; I can put it on myself without having to ask for help with the hard-to-reach areas, and it won’t sweat off in the summer heat. Remember to reapply every few hours!
You can’t go to a music festival without your camera! Some festivals have rules about what types of camera you can bring (no movie cameras, etc.), but every outdoor festival that I know of lets you take snapshots. If you’re worried about your expensive digital camera and you’re not a hotshot photographer anyway, bring a few disposable cameras and you’ll be set.
I refused to buy one of these for way too long because of the dork factor, but now I don’t leave home without it. These convenient flashlights strap around your head on an elastic band (no more holding a mini-mag between your teeth). They’re invaluable for nighttime PortaJohn trips (the scariest thing ever) and they work well for mixing drinks, making beds, and all sorts of other things.
No one ever wants to talk about this, but every seasoned festivarian knows to bring a couple of rolls of Charmin from home. PortaJohns often run out of toilet paper pretty quickly and even when they have paper, it’s usually of the super-thin super-scratchy variety. Toilet paper also doubles as facial tissues, and a few well-tossed rolls can take care of your problems with the neighboring campsite (kidding, kidding).
WATER AND SPORTS DRINKS
If festivals let you bring your own drinking water, by all means, do it. Staying hydrated in the hot sun is very important. Remember, also, that if you’re sweating heavily, it’s important to keep the minerals (salt, calcium, potassium, etc.) in your body replenished as well. I seldom attend a festival without a jar of dill pickles for this reason (seriously), but I’m told that normal people just drink electrolyte-rich sports drinks.
SMALL COOLER you bring your
own drinking water, by all means, do it. Staying hydrated in the hot sun is very important. Remember, also, that if you’re sweating heavily, it’s important to keep the minerals (salt, calcium, potassium, etc.) in your body replenished as well. I seldom attend a festival without a jar of dill pickles for this reason (seriously), but I’m told that normal people just drink electrolyte-rich sports drinks.
BLANKET OR CHAIRS
Between my little cooler and my little backpack, I can carry just about everything I need for the day. Carrying a purse (as much as I love them) just isn’t practical at a festival; it’s tough on your back and purses generally don’t hold as much as you need. Keep the stuff you’re carrying to a minimum; you probably don’t need three changes of shoes, for example (that’s mostly advice for me).
At some point, you’re probably going to want to sit down in one place and hear some music. Some festivals don’t let you bring chairs, but most do, and if you’re bringing them, the folding canvas chairs with carrying bags are the best, comfy and easy to carry. I personally prefer to sprawl, though, and I really like those ten-dollar woven wool Mexican-style blankets. They hold up and they’re easy to carry, but if they get lost or forgotten, they are quite replaceable.
music. The lineup is a fusion of alt-country, funk, folk, traditional string bands, blues, gospel and jazz. The energy is young, fresh and frequently surprising.
wasn’t a big bluegrass fan when I went to my first Suwannee Springfest music festival in North Florida. The only bluegrass I knew was hillbilly music that sounded like the same monotonous string song over and over.
Wow, was I wrong. Twelve years later, I am among the thousands who flock to Springfest each year to hear an outstanding, eclectic lineup of musicians — not just bluegrass. Musicians travel from all over the world to play in the tiny town of Live Oak, along the Suwannee River. The music is so good, and such a value, you almost don’t want to tell anybody about it. I’ve seen a 14-year-old Tampa Bay area mandolin prodigy kick out a tune by funk legend Prince; a young Canadian band segue improbably from an Afro-Cuban-French-Canadian pop tune into a smoking rendition of Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love; a North Florida string band play acoustic arrangements of Pink Floyd’s The Wall. I’ve danced myself sweaty while a Miami House of God steel guitar band whips the crowd into a gospel frenzy at 1 a.m. Favorite of fans, bands alike Founders Beth and Randy Judy search the country for good talent and choose a mix of genres that go under the umbrella of “Americana”
Based in Jacksonville, the Judys put on two festivals at Live Oak every year — Suwannee Springfest annually in March and Magnolia Fest every October. Both festivals take place at the 700-acre private Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park -- a destination in itself. It has primitive camping, 600 RV spots, cabins, canoes for rent, a restaurant, stores and a riverfront beach. Suwannee Music Park has a unique stage — a natural amphitheater filled with live oak trees. Concertgoers hang dozens of hammocks there during the weekend. The informal rule is that you can get in anyone’s hammock and relax, but you have to climb out when the owner returns. I have spent hours lying there, listening to music, visiting with friends and gazing up into the Spanish moss in the trees. More than once, I’ve seen an owl swoop out and check out the crowd.
Top: Springfest hosts a variety of Music Genres. Keeping the energy constantly changing from one stage to the next.
“There’s something about the atmosphere here,” says Jim Lauderdale, a longtime Americana music performer from Nashville who won this year’s Grammy for Bluegrass Album of the Year (Bluegrass Diaries). “It’s one of my favorite places in the world to play.” The festival draws up to 7,500 people but the park rarely feels crowded because it is so expansive. Many travelers come early and vacation for a week.
“When people come to a music festival, they don’t have to go anywhere for three or four days. It makes you feel good, and feeling good is not as common as it ought to be,” says Jeb Puryear, lead guitarist for the Ithaca, N.Y., band Donna the Buffalo, a Suwannee fest favorite that sets progressive lyrics against danceable funk, Cajun and jams.
“This is in the top three festivals we do, and we do a lot of festivals,” Puryear said. “Music reflects the power of living, and people that are really living, they really love music.”
Long, music-filled days and nights Your day at Suwannee Springfest might start with a bike ride, or a swim in the
a picture, and all the bands are a different part of the palette,” Beth Judy says. “There are some colors we use all the time and some we use once in a while.” Many of the young performers at Suwannee are what I call “bluegrass babies.”
coffee-colored river. You might grab a hammock for the morning’s music. But rest up, because pacing is key. There are four days and four stages, with music from about 10 a.m. through 2 a.m. And the music at the informal campground stages lasts beyond dawn. Talk to any musician who plays here and they will tell you how much they value the synergistic musical community that has grown up in Live Oak. In this little place out in the woods, musical sparks create new alliances and styles that go across the world when the tour buses roll out onto the interstate.
“Coming here, we get inspired. It is so open to different styles,” says 32-year-old Leonard Podolak, founder of the Canadian band the Duhks, which fuses Afro-Cuban percussion with traditional folk, gospel and Celtic music. The Suwannee fest has been good to the Duhks: After their debut here, they got a record deal, an international tour and a Grammy nomination in 2006. “Every festival, we’re painting
They are the children of bluegrass players, the ones toddling at the foot of the stage and playing shaky fiddle for spare change. Now grown, they are moving the music forward.
Josh Pinkham was 12 the first time I saw him play at Suwannee; now he’s an 18-year-old pro. Like everybody else, I was blown away by the mandolin prodigy from Odessa who seems to have come into the world hardwired with inventive, soulful jazz licks. “The great thing about this place is that when the festival is over for the night, people don’t leave and go home,” his father, Jeff Pinkham, says. “You can walk 80 steps into a campground where everybody’s picking.”
And so it is one Thursday night at last year’s Magnolia Fest, after the stages close for the evening. I am at the campsite of Dread Clampitt, a talented band from North Florida’s Walton County who learned the Beatles’ White Album entirely by ear and perform it on acoustic guitar, mandolin, fiddle and upright bass.
Their leader, mandolin player Balder Saunders, comes from North Florida Cracker stock. He writes from place, the way traditional bluegrass pickers have always done. He may be singing about
pine trees and shrimp boats, but his arrangements are influenced by John Coltrane and Louis Armstrong. Call it “jazz-grass.” Visiting Suwannee is like “going to college and going to a (music) seminar,” Saunders says. Dread Clampitt’s campsite is shoulder-toshoulder string players, with fingers and bows flying. Music and campfire sparks waft up through the trees. It sounds even better out here in the woods than it does on the stage. And the best part? I’ve got three more days here and nothing to do but listen. --Julie Hauserman
From its humble beginnings the festival has grown into one of the largest music festivals in the southeast.
SPOTLIGHT JOSH PINKHAM Age: 18 Instrument: mandolin Years playing: 14 Genre: Acoustic / Classical / Progressive Location Tampa, Florida, US Website www.JoshPinkham.com Record Label Run’n’Gun Acoustic Type of Label: Major
hese past few years, mandolinist extraordinaire, Josh Pinkham , has grown in about every way imaginable; height, musical ability and maturity. Now only 18, Josh has shed his kid mandolin skin, to become a regular on the major festival circuit, first call session player, as well as an accomplished solo recording artist. Since 2003, Josh has been a regular, billed artist at both Magnolia-Fest and Spring-Fest. He’s shared the bill with countless name artists on the stages of Merle-Fest, Mando-Fest, The Florida Folk Festival, Gamble-Fest, Festival Internationale de’ Louisaine, Riverhawk and Magnolia Midwest Festivals. 2005 not only brought a growth spurt, but more invaluable experiences on the big stage. Josh performed at the Mediterranean Island of Corsica at Au Son des Mandolines in the city of Ajaccio. The Corsica shows included performances with seminal acoustic & roots artists such as Mike Marshall and amazing Brazilian mandolinist, Hamilton De Holanda. Later
that same year, Josh toured the South of France with shows in Lunel and Roumagne. This tour included performances with bassist, John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, and Mike Marshall. At Merlefest in 2005 Joshua performed on the Mandomania stage with a plethora of mandolin pickers lined up in a row, including: Sam Bush, Mike Compton, Ronnie McCoury, Tim Obrien, Roland White, Tony Williamson, Jeff Pinkham, Wayne Benson, and James Nash. In 2006 Josh composed and performed an original 9 minute piece at famed Carnegie Hall in NYC. At this same event, hosted by Edgar Meyer with Mike Marshall, Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, and Chris Thile, Josh had the opportunity to accompany other young gifted players. Later that same year, Josh performed in Los Angeles for Elixir strings and Elite Music at the NAMM convention. These events included Josh performances with LA session legends Dean Parks and Phil Upchurch, as well as being featured with the Frank Vignola Quintet at Guitar Player magazine’s “All Star Guitar Night”. Other performers included Ritchie Kotzen, Muriel Anderson, Paul Reed Smith, Johnny Highland, and the legendary Dick Dale. The musical chemistry between Vignola & Josh was immediate.
In 2007, Joshua was asked to tour with Frank Vignola & his Quintet. This tour of clubs and concerts included the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society’s annual event in Nashville.
WHAT THE FOLK? Poetry: Ballads, Epics and Riddles
WHAT THE FOLK?
herever reading and writing are not widespread, poetry is always chanted or sung. This is true of literary epics - The Bible, the Iliad and Odyssey, Beowulf - as well as those ballads and songs which are composed and transmitted orally, without ever being written down at all. This second class makes up what in simpler times used to be known as “folk” music. A third class might be called riddles and code songs which are ways of preserving a culture’s collective knowledge and wisdom.
Set to music, important stories - even long ones - could be remembered and passed down from one generation to the next, learned simply by repeated hearing and singing. Because one of the main purposes of song was to aid memory, these songs of the oral tradition share certain characteristics - simple, repetitive melodies, repeated lines and refrains, formulaic images or dialog that can be lifted from one song and used in another. To my mind, the key feature of folk songs is economy - economy of form, of language, and even of subject matter. With human memory being a limited commodity, most folk songs stick to the essentials: birth, death, and sex. Many delve into the supernatural, the mysterious realm where the urges of the human psyche and the forces of nature combat and become each other. Work songs - including lullabies - are also part of the folk repertoire. Love - as a feeling - is usually not a subject for folk songs; it becomes interesting only when
it’s part of a story, when it’s news, which usually entails sex, birth or death, preferably all together. Many people have noted that the vast majority of folk songs are tragic and violent - even humorous songs and songs for children have a tendency toward physical comedy and violence: “There was an old woman who swallowed a fly....” Folk songs are almost always weirdly amoral. They are stories that take place in a chaotic, elemental world over which no one - even kings, queens, warriors and maidens - has any real or lasting power. Perhaps the best place to start is with Francis Child, a nineteenth century American musicologist. Child made it his life work to collect as many old ballads as he could find. Most of these songs had only recently been written down after being passed down from generation to generation orally for centuries. Child saw this “oral tradition” disappearing and began collecting all the transcriptions he could find. He discovered that many
songs had scores of variants. Like his colleagues in biology and philology, he began the arduous task of both classifying the ballads he collected and attempting to trace them back to common ancestral originals. His ultimate collection, known popularly as The Child Ballads, encompasses about 300 distinct songs, some of which have as many as a dozen musical and lyrical variants. The 300 root songs are classified according to their basic plots. Variations range from relatively minor changes - character and place names, number of verses, amount of dialogue, changes in the melody line, to major shifts like alternate melodies and verse forms, switched genders, addition or exclusion of supernatural elements, and tragic or comic outcome.
American folk songs Child restricted his collecting to songs in the British Isles, but his work was continued in the U.S. by scholars who discovered many of these same ballads, some unchanged, some altered almost beyond recognition. For instance, the tale of “Lord Randall” - who is poisoned by either his fiancée, his fiancée’s mother or his own mother (depending on the version), became, according to the logic of the folk tradition, the less aristocratic “John Randall,” and finally, “Darling Billy,” which retains the tune, the mother-son dialogue format, and a difficulty involving a fiancée’s mother, but no poisoning at all. Bob Dylan was a great student of the old traditional songs, often using ideas or stealing from them. His watershed song, “A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall” begins:
“Oh where have you been my blue-eyed son Oh where have you been my darling young one?” These lines are lifted directly from the dialogue of “Lord Randall.” But instead of being poisoned himself, Dylan’s young wanderer has witnessed the poisoning of his country. His use of the ancient lyric makes the new song reverberate more deeply, makes it sting as protest while respecting the tradition.
folkways “Folkways” are the paths by which songs travel from one period/culture/ place to another. In medieval Europe, folk songs often began on the continent - in France, Italy or Germany - and found their way north to England. They traveled via minstrels, troubadours, merchants and soldiers, being translated into one or more new languages along the way. Some of these songs trace their origins back even further to the griots of northern Africa. One of the most important folkways is the one which follows Scottish immigrants to the rural areas of Appalachia and the deep South of the United States. Because of their love of music, their fierce nationalism and antagonism to the British, and because of their geographical isolation, these Scottish immigrants maintained a relatively pure musical tradition well into the twentieth century.
Another group who remained relatively isolated were the slaves brought from Africa, most of whom ended up living and working on plantations in the South. Their worksongs and spirituals evolved into blues and gospel, combining
European elements with their own polyrhythmic, communal singing traditions and styles.
the birth of “american” music It was mainly these two distinct folk traditions - and the social/musical limbo of rural, working-poor communities where they often met - that the ethnomusicologist John Lomax and his son Alan documented in their famous field recordings. What Child did for British folk music, the Lomaxes did for American music. And just as the Child Ballads served as the foundation for the English folksong revival, the Lomax recordings of the1930’s and 40’s, became the foundation for the U.S. folk revival of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. In 1952, the eccentric Harry Smith edited The Smithsonian Folkways Anthology choosing material from the Lomax’s recordings. Many of the songs that performers like the Kingston Trio, The
Limelighters, The Weavers, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and others later made famous came from that seminal 6-LP set- like “House Carpenter,” “Mole in the Ground,” “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” “Casey Jones,” “John Henry,” and “The Titanic.”
Much of what makes American popular music so unique - from blues to R & B to jazz to rock and roll - is the long, tempestuous encounter of Anglo-European and African folk traditions. First the rural South, and later the industrial urban centers of the north, were a crucible where these two traditions were not just mixed but transformed. This American alchemy remains one of our greatest contributions to world culture.
variety of folk music today Very often - as was the case for Child in 19th century England and the Lomaxes in 20th century America - folk music is recognized as such only when it is in decline. As “the folk” leave their social and economic isolation to enter the middle class, they start to crave music that is more commercial. Music becomes a luxury, entertainment - and demand increases for songs about love, fun, and simple moral/ political choices. Demand increases for songs about love, fun, and simple moral/political choices. A similar process takes place when ethnic groups get assimilated. As the old, austere music disappears, it becomes a scarce and therefore valuable commodity for the sociologist and ethnomusicologist. And once middle and upper class scholars and artists recognize a kind of music as “folk,” it starts to change. If you think about it, only someone outside of “the folk” would ever call them that, or call their music by that name. Just to say the name implies a position of superiority, and at the same time a kind of nostalgia for that “simpler” state. No wonder the most popular folk music so easily gets a bad reputation for being inferior and sappy.
WHAT THE FOLK?
What happens to folk music is fascinating: it gets analyzed by scholars (Child, Lomax); popularized by professional entertainers (Kingston Trio, Joan Baez, Peter Paul & Mary); and politicized by political/nationalist singers (Pete Seeger, The Irish Rovers). Then, magically, a new generation of song poets and musicians fills the gap. Thanks to the popularization of folk music, they become exposed to the tradition. But instead of consuming and producing music as entertainment, they grasp it as art. Learning from the ancient masters, they begin again to write the kinds of contemporary songs that are as elemental and vital as the old folk songs were in their original state. This is how “folk music” today has come to encompass traditional songs, ethnic music, political songs, sentimental songs, and the poetic singer song writers. Roots musical forms reached their most expressive and varied forms in the first two to three decades of the 20th century. The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl were extremely important in disseminating these musical styles to the rest of the country, as Delta blues masters, itinerant honky tonk singers and Latino and Cajun musicians spread to cities like Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. The growth of the recording industry in the same approximate period was also important; increased possible profits from music placed pressure on artists, songwriters and label executives to replicate previous hit songs. This meant that fads like Hawaiian slackkey guitar never died out completely as rhythms or instruments or vocal stylings were incorporated into disparate genres.
The roots approach to music emphasizes the diversity of American musical traditions, the genealogy of creative lineages and communities, and the innovative contributions of musicians working in these traditions today. In recent years roots music has been the focus of popular media programs such as Garrison Keillor’s public radio program A Prairie Home Companion and the feature film by the same name. From its origins, folk music has been the music of the working class. It is community-focused and has rarely enjoyed commercial success. By definition, it is something anyone can understand and in which everyone is welcome to participate. Folk songs range in subject matter from war, work, civil rights, and economic hardship to nonsense, satire and, of course, love songs. From the onset of American history, folk music has shown up at times when the people needed it most. The earliest folk songs rose from slave fields as spirituals: “Down by the Riverside,” “We Shall Overcome,” etc. These are songs about struggle and hardship, but are also full of hope. They sprang from the need of the worker to go to a place in her brain where she knew there was more to the world than the hardships she was facing at the time.
A New Generation
In the ‘60s, again, the American worker found himself in struggle. This time, the main concern was not wages or benefits, but civil rights and the War in By the 1950s, all the forms of roots Vietnam. American folksingers gathered music had led to pop-oriented forms. in coffee shops and at hootenannies in Folk musicians like the Kingston Trio, San Francisco and New York. They picked pop-Tejano and Cuban-American fusions up the legacies of Woody Guthrie and like boogaloo, chachacha and mambo, others, singing songs about the concerns blues-derived rock and roll and rockabilly, of the day. Out of this community rose pop-gospel, doo wop and R&B (later Folk Rock’s superstars - Bob Dylan, Joni secularized further as soul music) and Mitchell, Joan Baez, and others. Their the Nashville sound in country music all work dealt with everything from love modernized and expanded the musical and war to work and play. The 1960s folk palette of the country. revival offered political commentary, sure, but also a powerful promise for change.
By the 1970s, folk music had begun to fade into the background, as the US pulled out of Vietnam and the Civil Rights Movement saw its biggest triumphs. Folksingers continued to persevere. James Taylor, Jim Croce, Cat Stevens, and others wrote songs about relationships, religion, and the continuously-evolving political climate. Now at the head of the 21st Century, American folk music has begun to swell again, as workers find themselves in a position of nostalgia. Now, the main concerns are Civil Rights for LGBT workers and another war - this time in the Middle East. Folk singers in New York, Boston, Austin and San Francisco have emerged with a new brand of music. Alt-Country has evolved over the past couple of decades. A new generation of bluegrass bands has changed the name of the genre to newgrass, thanks to bands like Nickel Creek, Railroad Earth, and Open Road. Folk festivals are thriving with younger audiences joining their parents’ generation in celebrating folk singer/songwriters like Dar Williams, Greg Brown and Ani DiFranco. -- Kim Rhuel