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International Folk Alliance Kicks Off 30-Year Celebration With Awards Show

on February 15, 2018 No comments

Written By Lynne Margolis


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The most moving moment of the awards show that kicked off the 30th annual Folk Alliance International conference Wednesday night in Kansas City, Missouri, was a 49-year-old concert clip featuring an artist who passed away five years ago.

The artist was Richie Havens. The clip, of course, was from his unplanned festival-opening set at Woodstock — a set that was supposed to last 20 minutes, but wound up running over three hours because the slated bands were traffic-jammed. When he ran out of songs, he improvised, adlibbing on the spot. “Freedom!” he shouted out, again and again. Not as a lyric, as a declaration. Then he spliced in the spiritual “Motherless Child,” and made folk music history.

The clip was part of a video retrospective honoring Havens as the winner of the posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award: Legacy, one of several accolades presented at the International Folk Music Awards. The ceremony also celebrated the organization’s own 30-year history, which began in 1989 when concert presenters Clark and Elaine Weissman gathered 130 people together in Malibu, California in hopes of solidifying and strengthening their musical community. They forged the North American Folk Music & Dance Alliance, which became Folk Alliance International in 2003. Wednesday, executive director Aengus Finnan announced this year’s conference attracted a record 2,700 artists, presenters, managers, producers, DJs, journalists and others to the Westin Crown Center, including 1,000 first-timers.

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The awards have grown, too; for the first time, they were held off-site, in Kansas City’s historic former Vaudeville house, the Folly Theater. Three-time Grammy nominee Ruthie Foster, the night’s emcee, opened the show with a powerful version of her song, “Phenomenal Woman.” Fellow Grammy nominee Guy Davis (son of acting royalty Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis) delivered a particularly rousing rendition of Havens’ song. Performances also came from young Nashville siblings Giri and Uma Peters, who played “How to Help the World” on mandolin and banjo, respectively, and Spirit of Folk Award winner Anaïs Mitchell, who sang her oh-so-topical tune, “Why We Build the Wall.” Originally written in 2006 for Hadestown, a theatrical project that became an album, a tour, and, eventually, an off-Broadway production, the song gained new relevance during the last presidential campaign.

All those songs addressed prominent themes in the folk community. This year’s conference has focused attention on issues of sexual abuse and harassment in addition to always-present themes of protest and activism.

Spirit of Folk Award winner Martyn Joseph invoked his hero, singer and civil rights activist Paul Robeson, before noting, “We are a big army and we should be making a helluva noise right now.”

Even the Album of the Year award, one of three member-voted honors, seemed particularly timely: It went to Rhiannon Giddens for Freedom Highway. Austin duo Ordinary Elephant won Artist of the Year, and Nashville singer-songwriter Molly Tuttle won Song of the Year for “You Didn’t Call My Name.” That award was sponsored by American Songwriter.

Molly Tuttle accepts the Song of the Year award. Photo by Jake Jacobson

The Kingston Trio presented Havens’ award. Elaine Weissman Lifetime Achievement Awards also went to Peter, Paul & Mary and Elektra Records. John Oates presented the People’s Voice Award to Bonnie Raitt, who sent a video acceptance noting how important activism has always been to her, and how much it’s needed.

Bonnie Raitt is a 10-time GRAMMY® Award-winning songwriter, blues artist and activist. Bonnie has long been involved with the environmental movement, performing concerts around issues of oil, nuclear power, mining, water, and forest protection since the mid 70’s. Active in environmental advocacy, she was a founding member of MUSE (Musicians United for Safe Energy) and supports efforts to preserve Ancient Forests. Raitt consistently demonstrates her commitment to issues of social justice and human rights, as well as royalty reform and music education. At most concerts, Raitt works with The Guacamole Fund to offer seats to local non-profit organizations whose work focuses on issues of safe and sustainable energy, environmental protection, and social issues.

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The People’s Voice Award is presented to an individual who unabashedly embraces social and political commentary in their creative work and public careers.


“It’s great to see all of these people recognized,” said Foster. “What a community.”

The night ended with a performance by the Staley High School Falcon Chorale and a group sing-along of “Goodnight, Irene,” which, for many attendees, invoked the memory of singer-songwriter Jimmy LaFave, a prominent member of the organization who passed away in 2017. As Finnan had noted earlier in the evening while acknowledging his beloved predecessor, Louis Meyers, in a community as strong and tightly knit as this one, the losses hurt. But the commitment continues — and gets passed along as newcomers join the fold.

PROGRAM BOOK

Source: © Copyright American Songwriter
More Info:
Folk Alliance International
Folk Alliance International Conference

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Timeline photosBetter times. Just devastated by the loss of one of my heroes. RIP John. This photo with Bonnie from the Troubadours of Folk festival at UCLA, 5 June 1993. ... See MoreSee Less

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Congratulations to Blues Hall of Famer Bonnie Raitt who was honored at last night's GRAMMYs with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

“To be validated by my peers… it’s a very big celebration and I’m very grateful.” On being an inspiration and influence to other musicians, like Sheryl Crow who was inspired to play guitar after hearing Raitt play for the first time, she says “it’s hard for me to imagine because I still feel like I’m just starting out. It’s been 50 years, but you know people have been really kind. So many more women are playing lead guitar - Prince’s band, Beyonce’s band, all the late-night bands who have women musicians. It’s fantastic.”
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Bonnie will be a presenter at THE 64TH ANNUAL GRAMMY AWARDS® this Sunday, April 3rd! Catch the broadcast live at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on the CBS Television Network or stream live and on demand on Paramount+. Tune in to Music's Biggest Night®! ... See MoreSee Less

Bonnie will be a presenter at THE 64TH ANNUAL GRAMMY AWARDS® this Sunday, April 3rd! Catch the broadcast live at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on the CBS Television Network or stream live and on demand on Paramount+. Tune in to Musics Biggest Night®!
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New and exclusive Bonnie Raitt merch is now available for Fan Community members at bonnieraitt.com/members! You can access this shirt, along with other totes and sizes by logging into the member portal and heading to “Exclusive Merch.” The Fan Community is free and open for all to join. Check out the brand new, exclusive merchandise today! - BRHQ ... See MoreSee Less

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