TheMichigan Daily - Wt/e p, ekc. - Thursday, January 25, 1996 - 5B
Folk Fest brings diverse crop of artists to A2
Saturday concert at Hill Auditorium benefits local acoustic club
Continued from Page 1B
and harp guitars, calls his playing
0oustic thrash," but a loyal band of
fans and critics call it just plain incred-
Iris DeMent isn't an instrumental
whiz like Atkins or Hedges, but her
unfailingly honest, heartfelt
songwriting has secured her place as
one of the best contemporary singer/
DeMent, perhaps the most well-
known artist on the bill, has two highly
It/aimed Warner Bros. albums to
h credit, 1992's "Infamous Angel"
and 1994's "My Life." The Arkansas-
born DeMent sings of everyday trials
and triumphs, but her songs never
become mundane - DeMent's an-
gelic soprano is so pure and sweet
that no one in the Hill Auditorium
audience will remain unmoved by her
Now entering the fourth decade of
l career,,Janis Ian remains a vital
songwriter and performer with her
latest album, last year's "Revenge."
At first chastised, then applauded for
herpolitically charged songs (her first
single "Society's Child," released in
1966 when Ian wasjust 15, concerned
aninterracial romance), Ian is used to
creating a stir with her distinctive
voice and her sharp, intelligent
any young female singer/
gwriters can claim Ian as an influ-
ence, but so can performers of her
generation - Ian dueted with folk
icon Joan Baez on her recent album
"Ring Them Bells," recording Ian's
Keb' Mo' played Mississippi blues
god Robert Johnson in a recent film,
and it's not as great a stretch as one
might think: Keb' Mo' captures the
inspiration on the album's 11 origi-
nals and two covers. In the end,
though, Keb' Mo's soulful sound is
all his own.
Siblings Tim and Mollie O'Brien
both have successful solo careers of
their own: Tim is a successful Nash-
ville songwriter and founding mem-
ber of the bluegrass band Hot Rize,
while Mollie's a vocalist with the
With their third Sugar Hill re-
lease, "Away Out on the Mountain,"
though, the O'Briens show their fin-
est musical moments occur with
each other, in their tight harmonies,
call-and-response vocals and coun-
The excellent "Away" contains
the duo's interpretations of songs
by a wide variety of songwriters,
including Leadbelly, A.P. Carter,
Lucinda Williams and Gillian
New England native Dar Williams
made her first appearance at the Ark
in 1994, opening for last year's Folk
Fest favorite Ani DiFranco. Williams,
however, has since garnered a de-
voted following of her own with last
year's Razor & Tie release of her
album "The Honesty Room." Her soft
soprano hits silky highs but preserves
her quirky vocal inflections, making
her songs not only lovely, but thor-
oughly charming. The redheaded Wil-
liams is equally convincing when sing-
ing of the innocence of childhood
("When I Was a Boy"), the coming of
age ("You're Aging Well"), and punk
rockers in heaven ("Alleluia").
Bartholomew "Batt" Burns doesn't
even play an instrument -unless you
count his speaking voice. Burns, a
schoolteacher in his native Ireland,
provides the evening's story time
treats with traditional Irish folk tales
Nothing about singer/songwriter
Laura Love is typical. She's a self-
described "Afro-Celt" musician (even
she's never heard of that combination
before). She doesn't even play guitar
on-stage (Love prefers electric bass).
Make no mistake, though - Love is a
powerhouse of a singer and a sharp,
insightful and politically conscious
songwriter. Don't pick Love's time
slot to take a bathroom break; her set
should be one of the festival's most
surprising and entertaining perfor-
The mere sight of the "power duo"
Trout Fishing in America should be
entertaining: bassist/vocalist Keith
Grimwood stands just 5'5", while gui-
tarist Ezra Idlet hits 6'9". The pair are
unlikely in other ways, though: Not
exactly earnest folkies, Trout Fishing
in America combine humor, harmony
and assured musicianship into a dis-
arming, entertaining folk-rock hybrid.
Grimwood and Idlet will also serve as
the festival's emcees.
So whether you're accompanying
rabid folk fans or skeptical unbeliev-
ers to the show, expect a night of
consistently excellentmusic from this
wildly diverse bunch of artists. The
Ark never offers less.
"Acoustic-thrash" artist Michael
Hedges impresses audiences with his
Delta spirit in his own work. On his
self-titled debut record, Keb' Mo'
(born Kevin Moore) mines the blues
tradition for all it's worth, drawing on
the works of legendary blues artists
such as Johnson, Muddy Waters, B.B.
King and Stevie Ray Vaughan for
Continued from Page 1B
Love was the second child of jazz
saxophonist Preston Love and Winnie
Jones, a singer in his band. She was
o e of many children conceived
ough her father's affairs with sev-
"My mother wasn't very well-
equipped to be a mother, let alone a
single mom," Love revealed. "She
has a lot of mental problems (para-
noid schizophrenia). She was in and
out.of mental hospitals when I was a
kid, and my sister (Lisa) and I would
go in and out of foster homes. We
were in an orphanage for a year. We
e in a lot of schools and homeless
Love's mother's condition would
at times improve, once for a period of
nearly two years. But eventually the
psychological attacks would return.
They came to a head when Love was
6 anid her mother "tried to hang her-
self, unsuccessfully, in front of my
sister and me."
Love nevertheless continues to hang
*to her memories of those times
when her mother was lucid.
"There were moments when me,
my sister and mom would have fun
together. We'd sing songs and stuff;
my mom was a terrific singer. There
weton't many good times, but they
Elementary school was no better
for Love or her sister. "Either my
sister and I were the only black kids at
bite school, or we were the only
W ite-acting' kids at a black school.
... I got my butt kicked every day."
Always searching for a positive
note, Love found a form of solace in
junior high school, where she actu-
ally stayed for three years.
"When I was in seventh grade, I
pulled out the 'ol guitar and sang
'Anticipation' by Carly Simon for a
talent show. I sang it solo, and that
t set me up for the next three years.
did the song, and I did it right. The
whole school clapped," Love remem-
It was then that Love found her
musical calling. Actually, it was a
toss-up between music and athletics.
"I was pretty much an athlete all
through high school," Love remarked.
"I was city trampoline champ of Lin-
coln. Yes, indeed. I was into gymnas-
tics, volleyball, track."
Through high school and into col-
lege things were looking up. But, in
1980, after two years of college, Love
left for Portland, Ore., with her boy-
friend at the time. She returned to the
classroom in 1987 to earn her
Idon't know if
there are any Afro-
Celt artists out
there, but I'd sure
like to meaet 'em,
boy., I don't know
where my music
sits in any
-- Laura Love
bachelor's degree from University of
"Sadly, I think there are fewer op-
portunities for kids today." Feweryou
"You can't live today on minimum
wage; you can't live on one salary. If
you're lucky enough to go to college
you come out 20 or 30 thousand dol-
lars in debt. I think in general there
are fewer opportunities for people
today than there were in the '50s, 60s
Laura Love is a selfdescribed
"Afro-Ct" artist saying, "I don't
know if there are any other Afro-
Celtic artists out there, but I'd sure
like to meet em, boy." She admits:'I1
don't know where my music sits in
She knows her music doesn't nec-
essarily play well in any modern
radio stations, and she admonishes
the fact that many feel that her mu-
sic, and the types of music that in-
fluence her work, aren't "commer-
"If we were given more variety by
our radio stations, we'd like it. But
we're not. I mean when I was a kid,
radio was more interesting. You could
hear Joan Baez and then James Brown
and then the Weavers of Carnegie
Hall and then Hank Williams.
"I love Celtic music and bluegrass,
but I also love R&B and occasionally
listen to rap," Love said.
"I really like Sir Mix-A-Lot. I love
his grooves. I haven't been crazy about
all of his lyrical content, but then
again I haven't been crazy about
anybody's. So what? The groove's
"I don't like that much rap, but
when something grabs me, it grabs
me. I really like that video where
Snoop Doggy Dogg turns into a Do-
berman ('What's My Name')."
No one is too old to make mistakes,
and Love knows this firsthand. She
explains things this way: "When they
said, 'Just Say No,' I just said 'Yo.' I
had a lull in my career when I grew
marijuana and was caught. That was
four years ago. It was kind of a drag
and an 'inconvenience."'
It's also a felony. How has this
experience affected her opinion of
drugs in this nation? "I feel all drugs
should be legalized. These are hor-
rible drugs, but I believe people will
do them regardless.
"People are gonna make life
choices; just give people more op-
tions so they won't sell or do drugs.
Don't make addicts - really just
people in despair - into criminals.
That is so stupid."
Obviously, Love is no Republican
"I dislike what I see as a wave of
Republican cruelty. I feel Republi-
cans are simply pro-'angry white
males.' I mean, what do white men
have to be angry about? As all of us,
they have less than they had before,
but they still have more than the rest
of us. They're still at the top of the
"I feel like Gingrich, Dole and
Buchanan arejust evil incarnate. They
make my flesh crawl."
Always pulled in three directions
by her music, her garden ("gardening
is so therapeutic") and her five cats,
Love has nevertheless decided to take
some time out from working on her
fourth CD to follow the very beautiful
"Laura Love Collection" released last
year and join other tip-flight folk
artists at the annual Ann Arbor Folk
Festival this week to celebrate what,
unfortunately, seems to be a dying
A pioneer of sorts, Laura Love and
her work are comparable with such
names as Tracy Chapman and Dionne
Farris. She continues to find solace in
her music which has an ironic (or
perhaps not so ironic) intertwining of
upbeat,joyful beats with not sojoyful
Love is as simple, down-to-earth
and humble a person as they come.
But she isn't perfect. Love's not
afraid to admit she's made mistakes
in the past, and she knows she'll con-
tinue to make them. After all, she's
But Laura Love will keep search-
ing for silver linings of positivity that
made her painful life worth living.
And regardless of the sadnesses piled
upon her, Love will continue to sing
and dance and laugh and smile herself
into joyful oblivion.
Read Weekend, etc.
"Power duo" Trout Fishing in America serve as emcees, hosting this year's Ann
Arbor Folk Festival.
Read the MichinDaily?
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