PortFolio Weekly

PortFolio Weekly
September 6, 2005

Keeping the Folk Fires Burning

by Jim Newsom

It’s hard to think of any other local performing arts organization with a consistent track record stretching back as far as Tidewater Friends of Folk Music. For over 30 years, TFFM has kept the flame of folk and acoustic music alive in our region. The 2004-2005 season brought 24 shows to town, and the upcoming schedule looks just as impressive.

Award winning singer/songwriter Julie Clark kicks things off this week with a performance in Virginia Beach Saturday night (see the story in this week's issue). World music folkie Chris Rosser comes in from Asheville, NC, on September 24th to share a bill with peninsula-based songwriter Ron Fetner.

On October 15th, local native Michael Lille comes home from his current base in Colorado for a show at the Virginia Beach Central Library. Lille was quite popular around here in the ‘80s and has won several songwriting competitions while making a name for himself in acoustic music hotspots like Nashville and the Colorado highlands. Two weeks later, Dana and Susan Robinson come up from the Carolina Blue Ridge with their guitars, banjos, mandolins and fiddles. Dana has been called a “modern day Woody Guthrie,” but the duo’s harmonizing is sweeter than Woody ever imagined.

November brings in a couple more twosomes---Virginians Kim Person and Lana Puckett on the 5th, Minnesotans Curtis and Loretta on the 19th. On December 3rd, the legendary “travelin’ man,” Roy Book Binder returns to town for the first time in a while, bringing his blues songs and character-filled stories to the library’s stage. Local all-star aggregation, The Itinerant Band, headlines the organization’s holiday celebration on December 10th presenting their historically accurate re-creation of music heard in colonial America.

Looking ahead, TFFM has some big names in the folk music world slated for early 2006, including John Gorka in January, and former child popstar Janis Ian (“Society’s Child” and “At Seventeen”) in March.

The NorVa has a couple of great acoustic performers on its fall agenda. Guitarist Keller Williams, known for his Leo Kottke/Michael Hedges pickin’ style and tape loop accompaniment, plays there on Thursday, October 6th, and young contemporary bluegrass genre benders Nickel Creek are in on November 13th.

Over at the beautiful new Ferguson Center for the Arts at Christopher Newport University, there’s not much pure acoustic folk music on tap, but multi-talented country music mainstay Vince Gill sings and plays September 30th, country/gospel legends the Oak Ridge Boys on November 13th, and Ralph Stanley is scheduled to perform with his Clinch Mountain Boys the next week. On December 17th, Judy Collins will put on a special Christmas concert.

The Virginia Symphony makes a contribution to the fall folk calendar on November 5th when the Smothers Brothers join the Symphony Pops for a humorous rehash and update of their classic “mom always liked you best” folk/comedy mixture. Wonder if they’ll break out “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy,” the Pete Seeger anti-war allegory that got their TV show cancelled in 1969 and is once again being quoted in regard to the current situation in Iraq.

If gas prices don’t keep you home this fall, you can find some great shows at the Birchmere in Alexandria. Former Byrds/Desert Rose Band honcho Chris Hillman brings his current band in there on September 29th. Nancy Griffith has a three night stand the last week of October. Fairport Convention founder and songwriter/guitarist supreme Richard Thompson plays there on October 31 and November 1st, followed by folk music queen Joan Baez the next two nights. Satirical specialist Tom Paxton is scheduled for November 19th and former Jefferson Airplane co-pilots Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady bring the current version of their folk/blues offshoot, Hot Tuna, to the Birchmere bandstand on November 21st.

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