Folk Music Archives: Recent Articles, Reviews & Features


1999 - 2001
New articles every other week or so going back to Sept. 1999: news, interviews, musings, rantings, Notes from the Road, and more.
"How To" Articles: How to do all kinds of things, from hosting house concerts to making and uploading MP3s.
CD Reviews: All reviews that have been published at this site are listed alphabetically by artist.
Folk Music 101:

An Online Folk Encyclopedia: Articles on the history of folk music, its many subgenres, important songs and essential artists.

Guest Columns
Across the Pond:

Paul Castle, our London correspondent, keeps you updated on who's playing in the UK. His articles feature copious URLs for artist and venue pages, plus interviews and more.
2003: Paul now has his own up-to-date site at:

Song Shop:

Andrew Calhoun, songwriter and founder of Waterbug Records, takes a deeper look into individual song gems and shows what makes them so powerful.

(Note: The internet changes faster than the folk process. Some of these articles are hopelessly outdated (especially those dealing with technical issues like MP3s. Many more of these articles contain links to other sites that may have been moved or removed. Please report dead/changed links and outdated info. Thanks.)

Feature Articles 2001

9/24/01: Israel's Songs of Sorrow: Music of the Pigua
When tragedy strikes, Israeli radio has a playlist of all-too familiar songs that signal the news. Guest feature by Israeli songwriter Laura Fink.

9/23/01: 9-11: In its Wake
The folk community lost one of its own in the WTC attack - bass player Jeff Hardy, brother of songwriter Jack Hardy and longtime house band member of the Fast Folk Revue. Also, some links to alternative media information sites.

9/12/01: When Words Fail: September Songs
This week, in the wake of the terrorist attacks on New York City's World Trade Center and the Pentagon, folk DJs are somehow finding the songs that can speak to our grief and our hopes, songs that offer wisdom and solace. I've started collecting some from DJ playlists and Folk Forum posts. Some like "Imagine" and "Blowin' in the Wind" come to mind first; others, like Townes van Zandt's "Tower Song" are unexpected gems.

8/28/01: A Review of String This! Guitar Strings and the Site
A look at String This! bulk strings,, and the online auctions at eBay. Can you trust these sponsor links? In a word, yes.

8/14/01: Open Mic: Art? Entertainment? Business!
David Fishken and his partner ran a successful open mic for a year and a half, when suddenly the rug was pulled out from under them. What happened? Find out how to start and maintain an open mic in your community - do's and don'ts learned from hard experience.

8/2/01: The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival: Life on the Midway
A photo-essay from your guide, taking an unusual look at the heart of a folk festival, far from the main stage.

8/1/01: Philadelphia Folk Festival Turns 40
One of the country's oldest and most venerable festivals celebrates a landmark anniversary.

7/27/01: The Woody Guthrie Festival, Okemah OK: A Journal
This photo-essay is a guest contribution from long-time folkie and Backwash columnist, Bonny Holder.

7/22/01: Negatively 4th Street
My review of David Hajdu's Positively 4th Street, the gossipy biography of Dylan, Baez and the Farinas. In the process, I spoke to Carolyn Hester about her central role in the story.

7/19/01: Mimi Farina: A Tribute
Mimi Farina died in July 2001. I've collected some excellent links for bios of Mimi and Richard Farina, lyrics, photos, and tributes, as well as a link to her music service organization, Bread and Roses.

7/10/01: Multimedia Folk Music Online
Sites online where you can see as well as hear the music. Oh brave new world....

6/29/01: Parental Advisory: Sex, Drugs & Banjo Rolls
Folk music - real folk music - is unwholesome fare: horrible sounding stuff full of explicit lyrics and adult situations, fraught with sex and violence.

5/22/01: Independent Luthiers Online
A new site where independent luthiers display the acoustic and electric guitars they design and build right on the web. A great place to browse state of the art craftsmanship.

5/18/01: Logon Cafe
Can't get out tonight? Get a live video feed from this local acts only coffeehouse, including weekly open mic.

5/15/01: May 2001 News: Martin Carthy Boxed Set
The Carthy Chronicles is an amazing 4-CD boxed set on Free Reed Records, spanning the entire career of this important British artist who in addition to his incredible solo output was a member of Steeleye Span and the Albion Band. Full description and links to an extensive online biography.

5/13/01: Amazing Music and Photo Archives
Discover the Secret Museum of the Air - a radio show that spins only 78s (archived online of course) - and the Michael Ochs Archive - an extensive online photo gallery of thousands of music icons.

5/9/01: Guitar Workshop: Chord Progressions
A little theory and a few simple techniques go a long way. Learn how to play and improvise almost anything in a few minutes.

5/8/01: Scarborough Fair Canticle and Controversy
Ever try to sing Simon & Garfunkel's version of "Scarborough Fair" but couldn't figure out the canticle in the background? Find out the lyrics - plus the best place to go to get answers to esoteric questions like these.

5/1/01: Guitar Workshop: Alternate Tunings
Learn how and why to retune your guitar - with links to a number of useful sites.

4/20/01: Who Wrote "Blowin' in the Wind"?
If you never heard of the raging controversy, with another well-known folkie claiming to have penned what became the 60's signature protest song, you have to read this article.

3/25/01: Notes from the Road: Traveling in Europe
How to survive a tour in Europe: currency conversion, current conversions (in volts), and autobahn conundrums.

3/16/01: O Brother Online
The hit movie soundtrack that features classic folk/blues tracks and excellent new covers has a great website with a streaming jukebox.

3/15/01: John Renbourn in Concert: Guest Review
A guest writer in England sends us a "You Are There" concert review of this great British folksinger and guitarist.

3/8/01: Guitar Tab to 25 Folk Song Classics
From Greensleeves to Ani DiFranco. Links to guitar tablature for songs where knowing the right fingerings and tunings makes a difference.

3/4/01: March News
Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls live on Border's Net Cafe to promote her new solo release.

2/4/01: February News
Shawn Colvin and John Hammond CDs, WFUV radio picks up two legendary folk DJs.

2/1/01: Black History Month
Links to sites that will give you tons of information on African-American contributions to folk music - from blues and spirituals to hip-hop.

1/31/01: Crammy Awards
If you think these are the best artists/songs/albums of 2000 you probably believe that Bush won the election. Wish there were an alternative to the media hype? There is.

1/27/01: Pete Seeger: The Tao of Pete
Your guide hangs out backstage with Pete Seeger and his grandson Tao at the Peoples Music Network: Tie-Dying the World since 1992. A photo essay.

1/25/01: On-Line Presskits: A Primer for Artists
What your presskit should include and what it's good for.

1/19/01: Napster: Getting with the Program
Your guide gets a cable modem and wrestles with the ethical and technical problems of using this controversial software/website.

1/18/01: We Shall Overcome: Politics in the 21st Century
Websites to help you at the coronation of King George W.III: information on protests in D.C., and how to get your hands on the ultimate songbook for rallies.

1/17/01: Natalie MacMaster to Perform on Tonight Show Thursday 1/18
Grammy-nominated Natalie MacMaster performs on Jay Leno's Tonight Show, one of the few cases where obvious vote-getting promo hype doesn't make this editor hurl.

1/11/01: True Story? Folk Duo, Ice Queens and Hair Spray
Dave's True Story is one of the most original duos in the music world. So what's with this press release involving Ice Queens, hair spray and Cambridge's venerable Club Passim? An inside peek at what goes on behind the scenes.

1/5/01: The Sixties, Part II: Songs of Protest
The folk revival led to the most fertile period of American songmaking since the days of the wobblies. From Dylan to Buffy St. Marie, each artist took a different artistic approach to the problem of writing songs that would change the world.

1/3/01: January News
Grammy Nominees, Lori B, Idiot's Delight, Welfare Rights.


Feature Articles 1999-2000

12/31/00: Best American Folksong of the 20th Century
Probably a dumb idea - what hubris. Hey, it's a vocational hazard. Take a guess first - and better yet, guess the reasons why.

12/22/00: Top Folk Releases of 2000
Top 10 Picks for new releases and Top 5 for re-releases of older recordings. A banner year for songwriters and field recordings.

11/30/00: 12 Gift Ideas for the Holidays
How not to fail this holiday season.

11/7/00: Folksinger and Songwriter Al Grierson Dies in Texas Flood
The internet community mourns a gentle, wandering soul.

10/31/00: Readers' Campfire Stories: Farewell to a Friend
Scott Cooper of Ontario responds to my campfire article with a moving campfire story of his own.

10/21/00: Blues Faces: Celebrating the Work of Sam & Ann Charters
A day of conference panels and an evening concert with Otis Rush at University of Connecticut celebrates the pioneering work of the Charters.

10/18/00: What Goes on at the About Coffeehouse Monday Night Chats Anyway?
A transcript of part of our weekly discussion - this excerpt focusing on the resurgence of bluegrass and the widespread interest in this original American musical form overseas.

10/16/00: The Sixties - Part I: The Folk Revival
First in a four-part series on the folk explosion of the 1960s. This intro. looks at the revival of interest in traditional music that occurred just before the start of the decade and how traditional music influenced the work of the finest young performers and songwriters of the era.

10/02/00: Waltzing Matilda Gets Gold at Sydney
Australian folksinger Slim Dusty ends the closing ceremonies of the 2000 Olympics with a rousing version of "Waltzing Matilda" with 100,000 singing along. So, what's a billabong anyway? Find out the history and lyrics of this old chestnut.

09/11/00: A Tower of Song: Greg Brown In Concert
At one of the season's last outdoor concerts, Greg Brown channels the muse for 90 minutes.

08/31/00 - Remember Camp? The Last Campfire.
The final night's all-camp sing at a very unusual camp. I've been helping to lead this ritual for ten years, wondering: what makes a great campsong?

08/19/00 - Celtic Concert Review - Raglan Road and Black 47
A tremendous din at a neighborhood Hartford pub when these two Celtic-rock-punk bands take over. A night of some of the best songs and best fiddling. Of course, some Jaegermeister was involved....

08/16/00 - Taxi Chain
Renegade Canadian bagpiper Grier Coppins, co-founder of Rare Air, now fronts Taxi Chain - just think the Highlander meets the Commitments. New album and brand new sites and MP3s.

08/12/00 - A Folkie Goes to Ozzfest 2000
Heavy Metal is a lot like folk - if you ignore everything you see and hear....

08/10/00 - NPRs Top 100 Musical Works of 20th Century America
This list spans all genres, including several folk classics like "This Land Is Your Land" and "Tom Dooley," and you can hear the in-depth radio stories online. But it raises the question whether more of this legacy is on its way to being folk music.

08/01/00 - Folk Music 101: Part 6
Ten essential things to own: Books, CDs, and a little something extra that no folkie - fan or pro - should be without.

07/28/00 - Notes from the Road - Falcon Ridge Folk Festival
Your guide spends a weekend at the premiere songwriter festival in the Northeast. Picks and pics.

07/18/00 - See Ani DiFranco In Concert on the Internet
In addition to a link that may still go to a streaming video, this article collects some useful links to this most popular and most political of the new singer-songwriters.

06/20/00 - Folk Music 101: Parts 4 & 5
Two more pages added to the opus: "The Contemporary American Scene" and "100 Essential Folk Songs." The lists will soon have links to pages with more info, but till then, check your folk literacy - and mine. Let me know what you think.

06/14/00 - Folk Music 101: Parts 1, 2 & 3
At long last, I get started on this Herculean task. Three articles: "What Is Folk Music?"; "Origins of Folk Music"; and "Major American Folk Artists." Take the crash course. Info pages on individual artists have begun.

06/11/00 - Tommy Sands - The Music of Healing
At Kerrville, I was lucky enough to meet and talk with Northern Ireland's Tommy Sands about the power of music to change lives - and countries. Amazing stories.

06/10/00 - Notes from the Road - Kerrville Folk Festival
Your humble guide spends 45 hours at the longest, largest folk festival in the world - performing the opening set and wandering among the song circles till the wee hours.

05/18/00 - Notes from the Road - Falcon Ridge Most Wanted Tour - Part II
The tour continues through a church, a house concert, and a small club's last hurrah/whimper - Virginia, Maryland, NY.

05/14/00 - Notes from the Road - Falcon Ridge Most Wanted Tour. Part I
The winners of last year's Falcon Ridge Folk Festival songwriters showcase kick off their 6-state tour at the renowned Godfrey Daniels in Bethlehem PA - during a tornado watch.

05/06/00 - Notes from the Road - The Vanilla Bean, Pomfret CT
At the edge of civilization (Eastern CT) an intimate listening room keeps business and music separate, creating a house concert atmosphere with music club professionalism.

05/01/00 - Notes from the Road - House Concert in Newport RI
Blocks from the famous Newport Folk Festival, a quiet house concert series takes root at the home of veteran songwriter J.P. Jones and artist Kerstin Zettmar.

04/22/00 - When Ani Met Abbie
Ani DiFranco provides the soundtrack for a video clip from Steal This Movie - the new movie about 60's radical Abbie Hoffman.

04/07/00 - Woody Guthrie Archives Exhibit
Your guide's pilgrimage to the Woody shrine and his adventures there. The exhibit is in NYC through 4/23 and then moves on to....

03/24/00 - Notes from the Road: Eddie's Attic, Decatur GA
Eddie's Attic is a rare folk club - large room, full bar and a quiet, listening culture - even during March Madness.

03/10/00 - How to Search for Songs on the Internet (updated info and format)

03/03/00 - Smithsonian Enters 21st Century - Folkways collection now available through custom CDRs.

02/24/00 - Grammy Daze - a look at the insipid ceremonies and why, even when good things happen to good people (like Tom Waits) they fail to tell us anything.

02/22/00 - Notes from the Road - A Night at Columbia University's Postcrypt, still one of the great college coffeehouses.

02/13/00 - Notes from the Road - Your Guide on Tour
Folk Alliance continued. Folk music is not a form if entertainment. It's what holds communities together - 2 scenarios.

02/11/00 - Notes from the Road - Your Guide on Tour
The National Folk Alliance's annual conference in Cleveland, Ohio. A twenty story downtown hotel turns into a coffeehouse.

02/10/00 - Celebrate Black History
African Americans have created forms of music that have transformed the making of song in the U.S. and around the world.

02/05/00 - Basics: Internet Resources for the Folk Fan
A few basic tools - from free software to essential bookmarks - to surf the net like a pro.

01/23/00 - Children's Music - Thoughts on what we feed kids, plus a great playlist
A historical look at the genre of children's songs - the good, the bad and the sickeningly sweet - plus an extended playlist from verteran folk DJ Scott MacKinnon's annual Children's Show.

01/10/00 - How to Find a Song on the Internet
This is by far the most frequently asked question I get. So here are my research techniques for finding that song that's been haunting you for years. Or minutes.

11/19/99 - Notes from the Road - Your Guide on Tour in Europe Part 2
Observations about the songwriter scene in Switzerland, Germany, Austria and three golden rules of the road.

11/09/99 - Notes from the Road - Your Guide on Tour in Europe Part 1
Your guide waxes philosophical after a bar gig in Switzerland.

10/04/99 - Fingerstyle Guitar - The Other British Invasion
Reviews of re-released British classics from the 1970's that revitalized the art of fingerstyle guitar - Dave Evans, Davey Graham, Burt Jansch and American expatriate Duck Baker.

09/21/99 - How to Host a House Concert: Part II - How to Manage One
Tips on creating a successful concert and a memorable evening of music. How to handle the artist, the publicity, and your guests.

09/14/99 - How to Host a House Concert: Part I - How to Book One
How to book your favorite artist to do a concert in your own home. Tips on making contact, logistics and how to speak the language.

09/05/99 - How to use MP3 (revised 01/00)
An explanation of the MP3/MPEG III compression format: How to download and listen to songs on MP3 and what software you need to convert your CD tracks and music files into MP3 files to upload onto the internet.

09/03/99 - How to Use Musi-Cal
Musi-Cal, the biggest on-line concert database, is one of the best resources on the internet. Search by artist, genre, venue or city. Even get listings sent automatically by e-mail.

09/02/99 - How to Listen to Webcasts
How to listen to live feeds and archives using Real Audio, plus a weekly schedule from your guide.

09/01/99 - Spread the Word
Folk performers' PR budgets are close to zip. Word of mouth is what it's all about. What you can do to promote your favorites artists and be a savvy fan.

08/31/99 - Welcome to this Brand New Site
A brief overview of the Folk Music site's scope and purpose, description of its content and special features, and plans for the site as it grows.



Across the Pond
A monthly column on the English folk scene by Paul Castle, our man in London. All columns include comprehensive tour calendars for London and beyond with scads of artist & venue URLs as well as featured topics:

10/99 #1: Feature: On-line Resouces and publications. Also, drummer Dave Mattack.
11/99 #2: Feature: Guy Fawkes Day.
12/99 #3: Feature: Celebrating New Years Eve - Scots style.
01/00 #4: Feature: The huge, international Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow.
02/00 #5: Feature: Interview with Jez Luton
03/00 #6: Feature: St. Patrick's Day brings out the Celts.
04/00 #7: Feature: Festival season.
05/00 #8:
06/00 #9: Feature: Interview with Richard Thompson about performing at the Joni Mitchell tribute concert.
07/00 #10:
08/00 #11: Feature: Paul Castle comes across the pond and hears more folk music in a week than I did all year. His exploits (with a camera) plus the monthly UK tour info.
09/00 #12: Feature: Paul interviews Cry, Cry, Cry's Lucy Kaplansky.
10/00 #13: Feature: UK News, Interview with Mary Black's bass player, James Blennerhassett
11/00 #14: Featuring the newsbreaking interview with Martin Carthy re: Paul Simon and the stealing of "Scarborough Fair."
12/00 #15
: Feature: Kate Rusby review and photos.

01/01 #16: Featuring Lucy Kaplansky in the UK and complete Celtic Festival listings
02/01 #17: Feature: BBC Folk Awards and Dan Crary
03/01 #18: Feature: Paul goes to Vancouver Folk Alliance.
04/01 #19: Feature: Interview with Maddy Prior.
05/01 #20: Feature: Copper Family, Dylan's B'day, New BBC mega-website
06/01 #21: Feature: Interview with Shawn Colvin
07/01 #22: Summer Issue: Festivals


Song Shop
An in-depth look at the beauty in individual songs, by songwriter and Waterbug Records president, Andrew Calhoun.

#1 Bill Camplin's "January Guitar," by
Leslie Smith's "Boat In A Bottle"
#3 Leonard Cohen's "I Tried To Leave You"
#4 Bob Dylan's "Love Minus Zero/No Limit"
#5 Thoughts on Editing
#6 Colum Sands' "Buskers"
#7 Annie Gallup's "100 Miles from Music City"



1999-2005 Hugh Blumenfeld/The Ballad Tree