Wedged between two holidays that celebrate heart and history, this year's Folk Alliance International conference will be convening in Kansas City with over 2,500 attendees that include those who make the music, those who write about it, those who bring it to you either onstage or through your speakers, and those who simply are fans.
The roots of this organization began 27 years ago in Malibu, when Clark and Elaine Weissman from the California Traditional Music Society hosted 125 people to see if they could unify other regional groups with common interests in music and dance. In attendance were representatives from the Philadelphia Folksong Society, Sing Out!, the Vancouver Folk Festival, Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music, Charlotte’s Fiddle and Bow Society, International Bluegrass Music Association, Augusta Heritage Center, Woods Music and Dance Camp, and more. A year later, the North American Folk Music and Dance Alliance was officially born, and in 2008 the name was changed to Folk Alliance International.
While I've never made it to any of the annual gatherings, I watch with much interest every year from afar. Through the eyes and ears of friends who attend, as well as both traditional and social media, I've come to learn it's a great week to discover new music and artists. And for the musicians who perform at the private and public showcases, its an opportunity to break out and create a buzz literally around the world.
Looking through this year's official program, I can tell you that the talent traveling to Kansas City is staggering. As I've done in the past, below are a handful of videos I put together of musicians I think you'll likely be hearing a lot more about in the coming year. If you're going to KC, catch 'em if you can.
This past year, Canty has been touring almost nonstop in support of her Reckless Skyline album. You may have seen her open for the album's producer Jeffrey Foucault either as solo, with his band, or as a duo with pedal steel wizard Eric Heywood. Here's the song that has earned her an FAI Song of the Year nomination, and I chose this intimate version where she collaborates with Jefferson Hamer, one of my favorite guitarists.
The Massachusetts-based Darlingside are longtime college friends of Canty, and they've all toured and played together for years. Their new album Birds Say really showcases superb four-part harmony and interesting instrumentation, and the production quality expands their acoustic roots to a new level.
Crookston is this year's Artist in Residence. He's been making music and touring extensively in the US, Canada, and Ireland since 2004. Born in Ohio and based in Ithaca, New York, Crookston's official bio offers this description of his work: "Songwriter, singer, guitarist, painter, fiddler, banjo player, eco-village member and believer in all things possible."
This is a band of three songwriters with their own solo careers who met a year and a half ago at a cafe in East Nashville and the next day recorded one song that got a lot of attention. Emily Barker, Amber Rubarth, and Amy Speace have now finished and released a complete album and it's a special collaboration.
The Small Glories
Out of Canada comes this new project from Wailin' Jennys co-founder Cara Luft and singer-songwriter JD Edwards, who has fronted his own band for ten years. Each are certified road warriors who bring two very distinctive vibes that somehow mesh together like tea and honey.
It seems that everybody has been talkin' about Dori Freeman's new self-titled album and how it came about. This 24-year-old woman from Galax, Virginia, sent a message to Teddy Thompson via social media and it led to him signing up as producer and a release on Free Dirt Records. Her Facebook page features a whole bunch of covers from artists as different as Selena Gomez and the Police, which are a blast to watch.
Lowell “Banana” Levinger
Levinger played guitar and keyboards with the Youngbloods, one of the finest "early Americana" bands to come out of the 1960s. His musical career spans both performing and songwriting, and he's a vintage musical instrument collector. This past year, he released an album of new arrangements of Youngbloods' tunes that reunited him with Jesse Colin Young and also featured the late Dan Hicks, Ry Cooder, Maria Muldaur, David Grisman, Darol Anger, Peter Stampfel, Duke Robillard, and Nina Gerber.
This video isn't from that album. In true folk tradition, I've decided to share his arrangement of Richard Thompson's "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" instead, because it simply knocks me out.
For more information on the FAI 2016 conference and all the great things the organization does throughout the year, click here to get to their website.
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