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January 27, 1989 - Image 20

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1989-01-27
This is a tabloid page

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f a '0
as folk greats converge on Ann Arbor for


The folk tradition lives on

Though the teens with lopsided
haircuts and Dead Milkmen T-shirts
may be more visible on the streets
of this town, the folk music com-
mui;ty is at least as large as the
.k: ;unk set. And ten times more
Oy just about any evening of the
week, wind your way down Main
Street to the cozy quarters of Ann
Arbor's premiere folk music club,
the Ark, and prepare to be enter-
tained. The Ark brings in an aston-
ishing variety of talent from both
around the world and around the
block. Storytellers, blues singers,
balladeers, pickers, grinners, and
virtuosos all find a place on the



Ann Arbor



Ark's postage-stamp stage. On some
nights, the quarters are too cozy for
comfort. If you're brave enough to
buy tickets for a Richard Thompson
performance, be prepared to spend
the concert wedged back between a
wooden post, an overly amorous pair
of lovebirds, and a scratchy ragwool
sweater. There's always room for
one more at the Ark.
Other nights, though, the Ark has
its troubles drawing a crowd. Some
performers are simply more com-
mercially viable than others. The
Ark heroically invites these risky,
but culturally and artistically impor-
tant acts, to its humble venue year
after year. Since heroism rarely goes

unpunished these days, financial
woes are standard operational proce-
dure at the Ark.
So in order to remain afloat, the
Ark throws an annual fundraiser.
Everybody who's been to one, how-
ever, knows that the events bear a
closer resemblance to a party than a
stodgy old telethon. The Twelfth
Annual Ann Arbor Folk Festival
takes place Saturday at Hill Audito-
Connie Regan and Barbara Free-
man, the Folktellers, serve as the
Folk Festival's southern-fried em-
cees. Close your eyes, and let them
whisk you away to Fairytale land on
the back of their horse-drawn carriage


to his




may be playing one of three instruments, or perhaps to
his face, another "talent" of his. You can never be sure
exactly what to expect from Hartford, except, of
course, a good time.
Dave Bromberg loves Ann Arbor and Ann Arbor
loves David Bromberg. Master mixmaster of music
styles, he is a perennial favorite at the Folk Festival.
And every year the Ark invites him back. Bromberg
has an impressive backlog of live albums to support
the throngs of praise for his showmanship. In concert,
you get the man in 3D, color, and stereo. (See related
story page 11).
Riders In the Sky begin all their concerts with a
"Mighty fine and a great big Western 'Howdy,' all you
buckaroos and buckarettes." This campy trio employ
cowboy outfits, a plug-in cardboard campfire, cut-
out/stand-up cardboard cacti, and corny fun to pull off
their renditions and creations of classic western, saddle-
sitting music. Drawing the audience into their music,
Riders In the Sky once invited the younger members
of the crowd onstage, but warned them not to trip over
the sound cables, as "It would be easy to fall and liti-
gate against Riders In the Sky, but it wouldn't be the
cowboy way."
The group is composed of three strong personali-
ties. Bill Monroe (Ranger Doug) is the self proclaimed
"Idol of American Youth" and a past blue grasser.
Monroe, who sings and plays guitar, is a former
historian for the Country Music Foundation, and a
free-lance writer. Fiddler Woody Paul, alias "King of
the Cowboy Fiddlers," has a Ph.D in theoretical
plasma physics from M.I.T, and has fiddled for Log-
gins and Messina. Finally, there's "Too Slim," the
"perfect side kick" creator of "varmint dancing," and a
jazzy bass player.
Riders In the Sky perform old favorites by masters
of "cowboys in the saddle" music, such as Gene Autry,
Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Bob Wills, and Bob
Nolan. In addition, they've created a repertoire of their
own "classic" and soon-to-be-famous originals. With
nine albums to their credit and over 1600 performances
under their belts, Riders In The Sky have created a
"bale" of fun which has landed them both permanent
membership at the Grand Ole Opry and multiple ap-
pearances on Hee Haw.
Interspersing their music with funny/corny tales and
bouts of "varmint dancing," Riders In The Sky leaves
audiences smiling - just as Roy, Dale and the now
dead and stuffed Trigger did, singing "Happy trails to
you, until we meet again. Happy trails to you, keep
smiling until then..."
Heather Bishop has learned that being outspoken,
eclectic, honest, and a lesbian won't get you on the
charts. The alternative to being open and honest about
herself is an alternative that Bishop won't, or more
accurately, has insisted on, not choosing.
Exploring the traditions and styles of country, folk,
blues, rock, and reggae, Bishop has been creating an
alternative and varied repertoire for the past 13 years.
Before emerging as a performer, Bishop built a few
homes (she grew up in Canada, the daughter of a car-
penter), mastered electrical wiring, and has taught these
"hands-on" skills to women in a special training
course in Winnipeg, Canada.
Bishop brings to her music a sense of honesty. Her
honesty pervades her "adult" music and is the backbone
of her "children's" music. An avid fan of children,
Bishop keeps her political beliefs out of her
"children's" lyrics, feeling that children's music should
be happy and wonderously fun. Bishop hopes to win
this cuttingly critical audience. "If you're not cutting it

Heather Bishop pr
for them [children]
they're gone. But i
good, clean energy
Bishop records L
Pearl Records. Witl
she has been able tc
own pace, and beco
too much "radio pla)
of die-hard fans.
Clive Gregson to
singer you'll ever se
musical genius. Tol
brant and vibrating.
stage that is palpabl(
Working from a
ballads, and folksy!r
sets that rely solely
virtuosity. Clive wi
from "folk, rock 'n'
Appreciation for
after a first hand, p
and Christine's vita
translation of the re




, .:
Y :.:

One of the fastest rising musical stars today, James Keelaghan mixes together the old and the new in his music.

of storytelling whimsy. The Folk-
tellers have been collecting stories in
the mountains for over fifteen years,
and they've developed the folklore
craft into high art. (See related story,
page 11.)
Highlighting the fest is John
Prine, who "combines simple music
with down-to-earth observations
about life and turns it into art." This
is a basic staple of a folk music
artist, but some do it better than
others, and Prine is Prime. A fellow
mid-Westerner, Prine hails from
Maywood, Ill., where he got his
start at an open-mike night at a local
bar. Steve Goodman (who wrote the
folk standard "City of New Orleans")

happened to see him one night, and
returned with Kris Kristofferson an-
other night. He took the small town
singer and made him a national at-
Songs like "Please Don't Bury
Me," "Souvenirs," and "Illegal
Smile" show his versatility between
the ballads and the humorous tunes
that fill Prine's albums. But after
working for big labels, he found
their way of doing business not to
his liking: "They're used to putting
out one kind of music and I just
can't crank out songs for the radio."
So Prine started his own label -
Oh Boy Records - and has lived
happily ever after. "It got to the

point when I was on the labels, I
couldn't wait to get finished and out
on the road. Then I didn't care if I
made another record for three, four
years... This, for me, was a positive
move." The life, and love, of a folk
singer is the stage, not the studio,
and Prine's appearance at the Folk
Festival is another positive move -
for him and for us.
The song "Gentle On My Mind"
put John Hartford on the map and
two (of his three) Grammy's under
his belt. He first received national
attention on The Smothers Brothers
Comedy Hour and The Glen Camp-
bell Goodtime Hour. It was Camp-
bell who made a hit of "Gentle," and

its four million air plays have given
him enough financial security to do
as he pleases. Hartford spends his
time performing and piloting a
riverboat on the Mississippi.
Hartford's stage show is as di-
verse as his lifestyle, but don't ex-
pect him to stay on stage for the du-
ration of his set. Hartford is known
to enter the audience and do his act
in the crowd. Though his head is
topped with a bowler, you'll find
your eyes wandering to his feet as he
tap-clogs in tennis shoes on a 4' by
8' piece of fresh plywood - "A"
grade on each side to insure the elec-
trically amplified thumps resonate in
the right key. Then your eyes will

John Hartford's stage show often leaves the stage and takes to the audience.

John Prine is a h



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