Scott Alarik

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She Had A Song: Ronnie Gilbert, from the Weavers to Women's Music

She had a song: Ronnie Gilbert of the Weavers (1999)Ronnie Gilbert, Judy Collins, Dar WilliamsWhen America first heard the songs that would ignite the commercial folk revival of the 1960s, it was not the voices of Judy Collins or Joan Baez or Peter, Paul, and Mary that they heard. It   more»

Art Thieme Comes Home

Scott's note: Art Thieme passed away in May, 2015. He was a real hero of mine. One of the first stories I wrote for Sing Out! The Folk Music Magazine was about the legendary banjo-picker, traditional singer and raconteur, back when I was just learning the rules of the road   more»

Writings In the Key of You: Woody Guthrie's Enduring Legacy

 Woody Guthrie is a very busy man these days. That’s a peculiar thing to say about a man who turns 100 this year and has been dead for nearly a half-century. But Woody is a peculiar genius, and there’s no question he is more famous, influential – and prolific   more»

Old Time Music: A Brief History

Part 1, Mountain Journey Author’s Note. In 2004, Rounder Records released two CDs tracing the recorded history of old-time music, the term Southern rural people used to describe their traditional folk songs, tunes, and ballads. They asked me to write the liner notes, and what resulted was something of a primer   more»

Will These Be Folk Music's Good Old Days?

One thing is clear: the times they are a-changin', and a-changin' fast. The mainstream music industry is in such an epic collapse that some are predicting its imminent demise. While CD sales dropped more than 20 percent this year, Apple reported that, through 2006, it had sold over 2 billion   more»

Liam Clancy's Last Interview

Writer's Note: This story ran in Sing Out! The Folk Music Magazine, and was Liam Clancy's final interview. We had to do it over several weeks, because he was in and out of hospitals. He wanted very much to finish it, though, knowing he was telling his story to people   more»

The Folk Song That Made Us Americans

Yankee Doodle: the biography of America’s best-known songIt is impossible to be an American and not know the song "Yankee Doodle." It is played every Fourth of July, a plucky old tune that instantly conjures patriotic images of America's war of independence against Great Britain. But the wonderful story of   more»

Eddi Reader: From Gang of Four to "Gang Agley"

Scottish singer Eddi Reader's strange odyssey has taken her from Annie Lennox to "Annie Laurie," Gang of Four to "gang agley," as in the Robert Burns line, "The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men/ Gang aft agley." She began her improbable rise singing on the streets of her native   more»

How is a folk singer like a movie star? Only Jeff Daniels really knows

Given Jeff Daniels' leading-man looks and understated style, his film career has been remarkably adventurous; from playing George Washington to Jim Carrey's dumber half; a psychotic killer to the absurdly self-absorbed parent in "Squid and the Whale." He's also always been a closet songwriter, but only recently began treading   more»

Aine Minogue: songs of holiday and mourning

It is virtually impossible to wander a mall this time of year, and not realize we're missing something in the way we mark the special moments of our lives. When those kinds of troubling thoughts percolate, Irish harpist-singer Aine Minogue has some lovely remedies.   The Tipperary-born Arlington resident   more»

Robert Burns & Woody Guthrie: Two Of a Kind?

Almost anywhere you go in the English-speaking world, when people talk about ''the Bard," they mean William Shakespeare. In Scotland, it's Robert Burns. For more than 200 years, the late 18th-century Scottish poet and songwriter has been the defining national icon of his native land, his image emblazoned on cookie   more»

The Neo-Primitivists: tradition's new wave

Ollabelle was stopped cold. Sitting in a recording studio, the Manhattan vocal group, whose members come from varied jazz, pop, and rock backgrounds, agonized over how to arrange "John the Revelator" for their new self-titled CD. The song is an eerie old African-American hymn, full of mystical images from the   more»

Songwriter Antje Duvekot: A Tradition of Empathy

This year's Newport Folk Festival was completely booked. That's what producer Robert Jones thought, until he heard Somerville songwriter Antje Duvekot in June, and immediately added her to the lineup. He says he had one of his rare "rings-true" moments, like he did the first time he heard Bob Dylan,   more»

Pete Seeger: "The Most Important Job I Ever Did"

Pete Seeger is 86. His shimmering tenor is frail now, his exuberant banjo and ringing guitar less muscular. What remains, however, burning bright and warm as ever, is the force of his personality; his palpable passion for folk music in all its forms and foibles; his deeply cut egalitarianism; and   more»

Folk Piano?

Like a banjo at the opera, the piano can seem strangely out of place in American folk music. Guitars come to mind as folk instruments, along with fiddles, banjos, mandolins, and perhaps the occasional dulcimer. So why is the Lowell Folk Festival, the most traditional of regional summer fetes, toasting   more»

Francis James Child: the man who saved the ballads

The Child ballads are coming back in print. Originally published over a century ago, "The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, Edited by Francis James Child," quickly became known as simply the Child ballads; and formed the foundation stone for the great folklore movement of the early 20th century. In fact,   more»

A Visit With Cheryl Wheeler: "Oh, get over yourself"

Swansea songwriter Cheryl Wheeler has enjoyed a remarkably consistent career, spanning three decades of continual productivity, touring, and recording. Her songs have been covered by Better Midler, Peter, Paul and Mary, Juice Newton, Suzy Bogguss, Linda Thompson, and Maura O'Connell. Her rivetingly personal and hilarious concerts have kept her among   more»

Chris Smither: The Upside of Old

Chris Smither is having the time of his life getting old. For one thing, as he turns 60 in November, his career has never been better. His new Hightone CD, "Train Home," is off to the fastest start of any of his 10 previous records, selling over 10,000 in its   more»

Dan Zanes & the family music movement

Dan Zanes is all the rage in children's music these days. To hear the national media tell it - and his charming, folksy recordings have been touted in People Magazine, Rolling Stone, the New York Times Magazine and Entertainment Weekly - he is single-handedly making kiddy music hip for parents.   more»