Arlo Guthrie to Perform "Alice's Restaurant" in Mesa for Song's 50th Anniversary

Categories: Folk You!

Hopefully your Thanksgivings are less eventful than the one that inspired "Alice's Restaurant."

Given the nature of "Alice's Restaurant Massacree," Arlo Guthrie's signature song, clocking in at 18:37 and containing 2,833 words, one might think Guthrie would be the talkative sort. Maybe other renderings of that epic song, some stretching 30, even 45 minutes, have Guthrie being more economical with his words. In any case, Guthrie's answers to this interviewer's questions were, well, concise, at least in comparison to the rambling song.

Nevertheless, Guthrie's place in American musical lore is forever secure. "Alice's Restaurant" opened the doors for a new level of anti-disestablishmentarianism (one of the longest words in English language but not a word used in the song) and since has become part of the American lexicon of folk music in which justice prevails in the face of foolishness.

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Hurray for the Riff Raff's Folk Music Celebrates the Downtrodden

Categories: Folk You!

Pauly Lingerfelt
Hurray for the Riff Raff's Alynda Lee Segarra

Do it on your own. Get uncomfortable. Learn, create something, be a voice for those without one, tell a tale in the hopes that it might inspire the listener.

Alynda Lee Segarra will not tell you these things outright, but give a listen to Hurray for the Riff Raff, her genre-warping Americana folk band, and take note of her background and you will find that these are the lessons that she learned for herself. She crafts songs that can be both emotive and exposing, sometimes taking the role of those served undue justice and singing their story.

Raised in the Bronx, Segarra struck out on her own at 17, riding the railroads in the vein of Mike Brodie or Jack Kerouac, sans the literary embellishments, and faced with the jarring reality of life on the streets. It was necessary to Segarra's ethos to challenge herself, a common thread that runs through her music today, defying convention and bending rules to suit her need. Before the musical success, however, she wished to experience the tribulation that would shape her adulthood. Adapting to New Orleans after a stint on the rail lines, and ultimately surviving the city, would prove to be her first hurdle to overcome.

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How Having Blind Parents Created Empathy in William Fitzsimmons' Music

Categories: Folk You!

Erin Brown
William Fitzsimmons' unruly beard belies his gentle songwriting.

From the time we are thrust into the world and make an attempt to find our place in it, we have to seek ways to be seen and heard by those around us. The things we say, the words we write, and the clothes we wear help to us to not only differentiate ourselves from others but allow us unique self-expression. For William Fitzsimmons, the bearded singer-songwriter from Jacksonville, Illinois, his attempts to be seen by his parents were musical in nature. His mother and father are blind. Both were struggling musicians, and they passed on their love and knowledge of all things melodic to their son.

"There was no disability with music," Fitzsimmons recalls. "It was something we [all] could share. It was a purely good thing. I don't know if I would ever pick up a guitar if it weren't for my folks."

As Fitzsimmons grew up, his struggle to understand others rather than himself became a prevalent theme. As he started writing his own songs in his 20s, Fitzsimmons was working on a master's degree in the field of counseling. He worked as a mental health therapist but was writing introspective folks songs influenced by the music his mother had exposed him to as a child.

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Here's What Happens When Folkies the Avett Brothers Work with Rick Rubin

Categories: Folk You!

Republic Records
Guess which two are the actual Avett brothers

Blood is thicker than water, but for the Avett Brothers, music is thicker than blood. It's not just a moniker -- Scott and Seth Avett really are related, and they've been playing together since they were kids. But 2000 was the year they started releasing their signature blend of fervent bluegrass and folk. Fifteen adventurous years later, the North Carolina indie rockers have released four EPs and eight full-lengths (with another on the way), earned a Grammy nomination, played a few late-night TV guest spots, and have been heard on shows like Parenthood and One Tree Hill.

But if one attribute stands out over the Avett Brothers' varied career, it's that they are gentlemen. Their approach to soulful, traditionalist Americana is stark yet rich, sometimes sarcastic, often existential. But their technique is especially unique in the light of their contemporaries, because it is unambiguously honest.

Stylistically, the Brothers are all over the place. "If It's the Beaches" reflects on not deserving forgiveness, and on "Murder in the City," they preach graceful nonviolence over revenge. They are metaphorically overwrought on "The Ballad of Love and Hate," yet tender and romantic on "January Wedding." In fact, they've got a lot of love songs, but this one explains it best why they succeed: "She keeps it simple / And I am thankful for her kind of lovin' / 'Cause it's simple."

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Take Your Giant Music Festival and Shove It

2015 just might be the year the major music festivals lost their collective souls.

The lineups for Coachella and Bonnaroo have been released, and they both absolutely suck. Seriously, Coachella is only four hours away and I could probably a finagle a free ticket, and I still won't go. Shoot, I wouldn't go if it was in Glendale.

Now, some music writers would get all deep into the lineup on why it's bad, but forget all that noise, I'm going to start from the top. How are you trying to sell me on Drake being a good headliner for Coachella?

Just look through the amazing headliners that fest has pulled -- Rage Against the Machine, Jay Z, Daft Punk, and Bjork just to name a few -- and putting Drake into that club seems like bad practice.

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Courtney Barnett's Slacker Sound Masks Her Sly Observations on Life

Categories: Folk You!

Tajette O'Halloran
Courtney Barnett just writes the songs, man.

Courtney Barnett tends to find her songs in places no one else is looking.

The Melbourne, Australia, singer-songwriter collects subject matter like a curio shop, her words turning the inexplicable or the mundane into fully formed commentaries and poignant observations on some of life's biggest questions.

The plain, the everyday, the too-weird, and the not-weird-enough all find their way from Barnett's notebooks into songs that are too pure, too honest to turn away from.

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Boy & Bear and Run River North Headline an International Folk Show at Marquee

Categories: Folk You!

Boy & Bear

Not often do you see an Australian folk-rock band and a Korean folk band on the same bill. It's actually very rare you see a Korean folk band at all. While both Boy & Bear and Run River North come from different backgrounds and musical influences, they're currently touring together to share tunes drenched in strings and kick drums and luscious harmonies.

Boy & Bear's sophomore release, Harlequin Dream, shot to number one on the Billboard charts, landing them a performance spot on Conan in July. The album front-to-back captures stories about parenthood, uncertainty, and being a rock star. However, it's their single "Southern Sun" that really skyrocketed them into rotations on indie radio and launched them on a worldwide tour.

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Veteran Songwriter Bruce Cockburn Fires Vocal Rockets

Categories: Folk You!

Courtesy of Bruce Cockburn
Bruce Cockburn

Bruce Cockburn has to be the most hot-cold songwriter operating today. On one hand, there are songs about sunrises, horses running across golden plains, the mysteries of life, and spiritual awakening. And on the other, Cockburn fires off songs about narco-politics, human rights, religious flaws, and environmental degradation, offering such poignant lyrics as "If I had a rocket launcher, some son of a bitch would die."

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Back from the Brink, Rocky 
Votolato Moves Forward Again

Categories: Folk You!

Bjorn Lexius
Rocky Votolato

Rocky Votolato is a guy on the shore skipping stones across the water. Part craft, part amusement, the circumspect Seattle songwriter's success and happiness has ebbed and flowed like the tide, something he's gradually grown more accustomed to, though it's not always been a smooth ride. Finally firmly at peace, he's enjoying that purgatorial moment between albums.

"Most of the songs are there, but I'm still writing the last few, and I have a couple different offers from labels to work with them," he says about weighing his options. "I'm in a real open space again. These songs are extremely intimate and they're just kind of happening on their own. That's really the best thing and it feels much better than being burned out or feeling overexposed."

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Dax Riggs Brings His Demons to Scottsdale

Danin Drahos
Dax Riggs

Demon tied to a chair in my brain/ black bird a-tapping on the window pane/ sittin' and smilin' at a stray dog in the rain/ demon tied to a chair in my brain.

With these haunting, bluesy lyrics, Dax Riggs opens with on the first track of his 2007 album We Sing of Only Blood or Love, introducing his then-new solo project to fans and gaining the respect of those who had him pegged as just a heavy metal guru. The song, aptly titled "Demon Tied to a Chair In My Brain," certainly picks up pace from there and serves as a perfect prelude into the blues-based album that ranges from slow to fast; filled with dark imagery, soothing tones and even the blood-pumping growls that Riggs has been associated with since his sludgy heavy metal outfit of the early '90s, Acid Bath.

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