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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

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.

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.

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.


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

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On this Memorial Day, I'd like to share the lyrics to my song "A SOLDIER AT WAR", dedicated to all the soldiers from all the wars who DIDN'T die, all those who have been living with the internal scars of their war experience. My heart goes out to you all, and I certainly do appreciate your service to our country. Is this an "anti-war song"...YES! And I dedicate these lyrics to the great Ron Kovic, author of "Born On The Fourth Of July".


I’m a soldier at war.
I know you’ve seen my face before.
I am Red, White, and Blue.
I am black and brown and yellow too.
I have killed and I have died,
All alone and damaged deep inside.
And the child I used to be,
Was sacrificed for some insanity.

Left a boy, now half a man,
My innocence was lost in a foreign land.
I fought so hard and I fought so long,
I fought for my country, right or wrong.
In the eye of the slaughter,
No Star Spangled Banner did I see.
There is blood on the water,
It’s flowing like the blood inside of me.

In smoke-fill rooms, the Men Of Might
Will send your son somewhere to fight.
And I am one of many more,
Just pawns in a Holy War.

In a field where the food used to grow,
There’s a murder of crows.

Now the war is dead and gone,
But the battle goes on and on.
And the dream that used to be
Is buried so deep inside of me.
I believed what I was told,
But all that glitters is not gold.
I still see my brother’s hand…..
Why he died, I’ll never understand.

I’m a soldier at war.
I know you’ve seen my face before.
Just a name and a loaded gun,
One more lost, forsaken son.
I’m a soldier at war.
I’m a soldier at war….
Just a soldier at war.
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