My New Album: “1977”

Seriously, folks, all I know about this track is that it is 34 years old.

I’ve Found a New Baby by chris-frank

Everybody should see this

Via Krugman, comment by Digby: And Medicare takes care of the very sickest people in our country.

DUH! For sure, we should completely privatize…

Reality Check: efM at the crossroads

It feels for all the world, to me, like *we* are in a recession, pay no attention to the National Bureau of Economic Research who indicated the the trough of the downturn occurred in June of 2009.  I’m not an economist- but, hell, they are only right half the time.   Call it whatever you want,, our “flagship” nonprofit, is suffering, on our last leg, donations are way down. Who (in our folkie world), after giving what they can to social service non-profits, has much left (or desire) to save folk music?  And really, who do we think we are, that we could make a difference? And what is our place in a world with Facebook and Reverbnation, iTunes, Pandora, and the amazing Grooveshark??? Remember when MySpace was hot? We are chasing a speeding bullet that is a click away from our website, in a buggy! Get real!!!

The status quo is not acceptable. We can’t limp along begging for change any longer.

The realities:

  • It’s a tough time to be a nonprofit, especially arts NPOs; food and medicine come before art
  • We can’t compete with our better-financed “neighbors” on the web (just a click away) in content, design and function
  • efolkMusic has been around for 11 years now, and the old guard is tiring- it’s a common problem, an organization that needs “renewal” but doesn’t have the desire or energy
  • I am responsible, as founder and operator, for where we are, and what happens next, and am suffering from 3rd degree burn-out. I’m a piano player, not a turnaround genius.

SO what should we do? As a nonprofit, we are in a sense “owned” by the community, so I appeal, not for money this time, but for the collective wisdom of the folk community. You tell me, should I just pull the plug? Is there someone out there with a vision and energy who is interested in a friendly takeover? Are we still relevant? Are there any other alternatives?

Can I just say arrrrgh!!!? PLEASE  comment.

Chris Frank
Founder and Chief Musical Officer

Friends, Romans, Countrymen,

Lend me your ears- and eyes….

My Red Clay Rambler bandmates and I singing Jack Herrick’s musicalization of our state toast!

Skype Lessons and Consulting, Right At Home!

It makes a lot of sense, and I’m surprised it’s not more widespread: Teaching musicians are using Skype to offer interactive lessons.  I’m told you can get a fiddle lesson with Kevin Burke, right in your home, and I’m betting  it will become a popular way to get lessons.  It makes me consider taking up the violin!

From the teachers standpoint, it’s fantastic- the market expands exponentially; what is now a local market becomes a world market, crossing borders and facilitating real-time video and audio connection with anyone who has a computer with a webcam. Students, you’re going to find that a lot of  world-class players are willing to “sit down” with you, you are not limited to your home boys.

What am I waiting for? Contact me if you are interested in video lessons on guitar, piano, accordion in a myriad of styles (25 years with the Red Clay Ramblers have taught me a couple of things…) – and while we are listing offerings, I’m also available to consult on music production and marketing. I’m cheaper than your plumber,  and I guarantee my work.

Shhh! We are hiding from Google….but you are welcome!

This is a bit wonkish, as Krugman might say, but bear with me, you may find this interesting:

We moved efolkMusic to a new server in December of last year, and due to a documented bug in our CMS (content management system- ours is Joomla) we inadvertently created around 1.7 million (give or take a few thousand) irrelevant, yet working, URLs.

These “internal links” (on our site and pointing to pages on our site) were, of course, “crawled” by Google’s robots, and since they did return working pages, they continued to be crawled, relentlessly, incessantly, and way too frequently for our server to keep up.  We were brought to our knees.

We’re not a big site, in the scheme of things, about 4000 pages, with 4-5000 human visitors each month; Google and friends, however, never sleep, and were hitting us close to 50,000 times a day. (Hey, it even takes a robot a little time to check on those 1,500,000 pages).

Everything slowed down except our server usage (and monthly bill).  So I appealed to Google to delete their cache of our site and re-index.

Well, they won’t do that. My only alternative (to date) is to ban ALL robots from the website (which you do with a little file called “robots.txt”) and come what may.

This stinks, of course, but we are just the little guy against the 6-trillion ton guerilla. Maybe you can help? I’m thinking some viral spreading of the story would be the best remedy, maybe it is possible to exist WITHOUT GOOGLE!! Hell, it might even put us on the map.


PS Hackers- I suggest a “random link generator” on a enough choice sites could bring down this never-delete-anything-because-information-is-money oligarchy.  How else are we ever going to rid the internet  of all the stupid things we did or said that Google is perpetuating?

Consonance and the Fabric of Time

If you are a musician or a listener (or both), you’ve gotta love this, from the American Heritage Dictionary, a truly beautiful noun, consonance:

  1. Agreement; harmony; accord.
  2. Close correspondence of sounds.
  3. The repetition of consonants or of a consonant pattern, especially at the ends of words, as in blank and think or strong and string.
  4. Music: A simultaneous combination of sounds not requiring resolution to another combination of sounds for finality of effect and conventionally regarded as harmonious or pleasing.

It is firstly about agreement, a wonderful experience when it happens. There is a story in an extraordinary book, The Elegance of the Hedgehog (Muriel Barbery), about consonance; a young girl character, Paloma,  is watching synchronized diving on TV, where two young Chinese divers simultaneously perform the exact same dive at the same moment. As she is watching, the two girls take their turn- after a few graceful bounces they plunge off the high board — Paloma holds her breath as the divers spin through the air, miraculous in their consonance– but just then, something happens, they get out of sync. “One of them is going to reach the water before the other! It’s horrible!” What was potentially a ‘magic moment’, a work of artistry, crashes down, Paloma’s heart drops- she practically has to look away before they reach the water, it is almost too much to take.

Paloma records this incident for her “Journal of the Movement of the World”, where she is keeping her innermost thoughts- even at her young age she is frustrated by “all those things that pass before us, which we miss by a hair and which are botched for eternity…”

As a player, in a band, I know just how the divers feel, how Paloma felt watching: the never-ending quest for those moments of consonance, when it all comes together, and the uneasy feeling when its not. But the quest never ends, as aspiring artists continue to search for the “odd moment of beauty, where time is no longer the same…a sort of interlude in time, something suspended, an always within never.”

“Beauty, in this world.”

Rave on, Paloma, rave on…

Partial-song Previews, RIP, Please!

For years I’ve been harping on this, and slowly but surely the tide is turning.  All of the streaming song previews on efolkMusic all full-length, complete songs, always have been, always will be. When we started in 1999, I had a stock letter for responding to artists who only wanted preview “clips”, 30 or 40 second bites out of songs, for their previews.  I never liked them, never wanted them on our website.  Try my logic:

If you are a painter, and you want to sell your work, do you show prospective buyers just a corner of the picture, tell them they have to trust you about what they can’t see?  Does that corner impart the full emotional weight of the art work? Obviously not- if I’m listening to a song, just starting to get “hooked” and it stops, do you think I’m more or less likely to want to continue the relationship than if I heard a complete song?

I think MySpace figured it out pretty quickly, following our lead (don’t they all), and all your Reverbnations, etc. now offer full-length previews. The plays an artist gets through these online encounters are filling in – as much as they can- for the paucity of radio play most of us fringe artists receive.  You certainly wouldn’t want to hear yourself on the radio and have it abruptly cut off after a minute. Wouldn’t be much of a sales pitch, now would it?

Take my advice, don’t hide your light under a blanket, if you’ve got something to sing about…

Fester Report

Just as predicted,  one of the most pleasant festivals you’ll ever attend. The LEAFestival cranked up this past Thursday, the weather was EXCELLENT, the pickin’ “mighty fine”….

Rick Good, banjoist extraordinaire, pickin' blue fire at LEAF

Here’s a shot of Ricardo Bueno, pickin’ the ol’ fiver, in Eden Hall- this was the first of three sets, each one unique and quite satisfying, IMHO.  We had a lot of the right ingredients that are necessary to achieve the totally impossible “perfect gig”, and it was damn close for all three performances.  Here’s why:

1) Hospitality in spades, ample food, coffee, beer, etc.

2) Perfect weather

3) Great sound, with the help of our own celebrated Jerry Brown

4) The most important element, an incredible crowd/community that forms up there for these weekends.  This is not a park-and-ride day-fest, it’s a set-up-camp-and-live-there kind of thing, tents packed in close, some really nice setups,  very comfy home-away from home:  grills a-burnin’, kids running everywhere, music in the air.

Two headed fiddler: Clay Buckner and Michael Pilgrim

Everybody seemed to have the same intent, a good time,  seeing old friends and making new ones.  Playing for that kind of a crowd is as good as it gets, a way different animal than the drive-to-a-concert-after-a-hard-day-at-work audience.

I think I can safely speak for all of the Red Clay Ramblers tribe, thanks to everybody at LEAF- this was their 31st year and this festival is in top form: no tell-tale signs of the dreaded fester-osis that often comes with the ‘mature’ fest. This must have been one of their most successful and satisfying years to date, here’s to 31 more!

PS and my daughter was a daring young girl on the flying trapeze, check out her story…

The Front Act and the Legend

September 15, 2010 Memorial Hall, UNC, Chapel Hill, NC: Earl Scruggs with “special guests” The Red Clay Ramblers

That's Rick Good, me, with Rob Ladd on the drums

We’d all really been looking forward to this show — the renovated hall is a great concert venue, we were on the bill with a bona fide legend, and it’s our hometown crowd, a lot of the elements of the elusive perfect gig. Even the weather was favorable.

The Scruggs bus was parked in tight to the loading dock as we headed in for sound check. Since we were first on the bill, our sound check was after the Scruggs’; they were picking away, Earl’s son Gary standing in for Earl to check his setup. Nothing unusual, I wouldn’t have expected to see the man himself. Our own Rick Good hoped to get Earl to hold Rick’s “guitar/banjo” for a photo op (that’s the instrument Rick is holding in the picture), we were definitely on the lookout.

Our sound check followed, practically uneventful, and we headed for the thin meat (maybe we should specify in our rider that we would like a bit thicker cut??). We hang, we wait.

Showtime was 7:30; at 7:25 there is a knock at the dressing room door, and the suddenly serious producer has bad news. Earl is not well and won’t be performing. Woah- an instant let-down and an immediate tizzy. We are asked to lengthen our set a little as it will comprise the whole of the evening’s entertainment.

It wasn’t too cheery backstage, with the Scruggs crew packing. It’s a terrible feeling, a show that won’t go on, a disappointed audience. Musicians, actors, dancers, it’s the same for all of us, the worst of the worst. And we have to worry a bit about Mr. Scruggs at 87.

But for us the show must go on. We did fine and the audience was very sympathetic (is that good?) and responsive. Unfortunately I made the mistake of high expectations, and the end result left me wanting.

Earl Scruggs, in the Bill Monroe band in 1945, invented bluegrass banjo. In 1959 he was a headliner at the very first Newport Folk Festival. He’s been playing gigs for probably 70 years, I wanted to see him, to hear him, maybe even talk to him. There is something about just being in the presence of true legend, you don’t want to miss an opportunity.

But that one is gone. Let’s hope Earl comes back strong, maybe there will be another time. It’s all about chance, and odds, and as bad as the odds are, there is always a chance.

Here’s a review of the show in the campus news, some real quotes for our press page….