Written by SHAUN SMITH Friday, August 24, 2012 11:58 pm
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Music is a beautiful thing. I hope to explore my favorite subject with you each week as I write this column for The Current Newspapers.
I immerse myself into music – and I’ll try to carry you along on my journey each week.
For example, I have listened to at least one Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue song every day since leaving the Philadelphia Folk Festival, Sunday, Aug. 19.
The weekend marked my fifth time attending, but the festival itself is a deep-rooted tradition, marking its 51st annual installment Friday-Sunday, Aug. 17-19 at the Old Pool Farm in Schwenksville, Pa.
The festival has become something of a pilgrimage for an extended weekend of unpredictable music and weather. Presented by the Philadelphia Folksong Society, the weekend has surprised generations with unknown performers playing roots music.
Trombone Shorty was easily my favorite performer at this year’s event. Blending two distinctly American styles of New Orleans jazz and blues with up-tempo groovy rhythms, he instantly struck a chord with me.
I’ve listened to songs such as “Encore” and “the Craziest Thing,” once each day over the past week from the band’s most recent album, “For True,” released last year.
In terms of discovering new music at this folk festival, the Sunday evening performers are typically among the best of the weekend; the late Levon Helm and his band performed before hundreds sitting in the rain on the closing night of the 50th annual festival.
Like the folkies listening to music on the hill, I hope this column can express appreciation for both the well known and not-so-well-known artists performing today.
This year’s folk festival featured a blend of classic and modern bands including Steve Earle and the Dukes, John Hiatt and the Combo, Little Feat, Lucinda Williams, City and Colour, Secret Sisters and Brother Sun.
Every year that I’ve wandered around the Godshall property and the six stages that encompass festival grounds, I’ve caught at least one band that drew me with an unexpectedly delightful sound. Harper Blynn performed a fun and melodic set Saturday afternoon as part of the Philadelphia Local Showcase hosted by WXPN’s Helen Leicht.
The psychedelic echo effects that punctuate the band’s latest album, “Busy Hands,” would feel at home on the soundtrack to “Where the Wild Things Are.”
I’m going to stay positive with this column. In other words, I won’t waste words writing negatively about a band, album or concert.
I also hope make this an interactive and fun read each Saturday. In the future I hope to incorporate Spotify and SoundCloud links in the posts as well as some other features. The focus will be on established bands that are either playing locally or have a local connection. And I’ll try to include some fun facts along the way. For example: Charter Tech High School for the Performing Arts teacher Lew London of Egg Harbor Township performed at the Philadelphia Folk Festival in 1977 – the same year he received a nomination for Guitar Player of the Year by “Guitar Player Magazine.”
London has been back often, playing behind many of folk’s famous names.
Millville’s Jim Albertson has also been a regular singer, player and storyteller at the Philadelphia event.
Albertson is a folk performer who has been running his WVLT radio program, “Down Jersey,” for 40 years and has been a coordinator of the New Jersey Folk Festival for 15 years.
Music can be inspiring and comforting. An old song can bring back memories. Some bands have been around so long (sometimes longer than our favorite athletes and actors) that they seem like old friends.
Please join me in our search for the next performers and groups that can make a bad day good and fill air with beautiful music.
*The Trombone Shorty link requires a Spotify account.