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Although folk music's heyday ended with the '60s, folkie Bill Staines is busier than ever. 

Just Folk

Folk singer Bill Staines has rambled the coffeehouse circuit for more than 30 years playing stages from Texas to Alaska to his home turf of New Hampshire. He's cut 22 recordings since his early days when he shared Boston gigs and played backstage poker hands with the likes of Art Garfunkel and Tim Hardin. Far from slowing down, the 53-year-old songwriter is still working hard, playing more now than ever, and his current Southern swing brings him to Richmond Sunday, Feb. 6, at Corinth United Methodist Church. "This is the busiest [season] I've ever had," Staines says with a quiet, friendly manner befitting a performer who has earned solid if low-key credentials among folk fans and fellow performers. Staines falls easily into talk about his days when he hung out learning the folk-singing ropes in the "whole Charles Street scene" in mid-'60s Boston. Beantown was a folkie's dream — second only to Greenwich Village — and the teen-age Staines was in the right place at the right time. He remembers he quit playing Ventures-style surf-rock and took up acoustic music after he heard some traditional tunes during the folk revival of that time. Soon he was running hootenannies at a local club and hanging out with '60s folkies such as Richard and Mimi Fari¤a. "It was a great musical time to grow up," Staines remembers. Staines quit working at the local Sears store and began playing full-time in 1969. At first he performed the popular songs of the time by writers such as Gordon Lightfoot, but soon he started writing his own tunes. Eventually, in 1970, he ventured to Texas. There he befriended Jerry Jeff Walker, Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt in Houston and Dallas, and made some contacts in the Texas folk scene before heading back North. In 1975, he returned to Texas for the Kerrville Folk Festival and won the National Yodeling Championship. Though folk music wasn't exactly the top of the pops in the '70s, Staines continued playing and developing his own unique storytelling style, a style that's laced with much humor and the timing of a standup comic. In the late '70s, he found a regular spot on the "Prairie Home Companion" radio show and reached a wider national audience. His songwriting reputation grew among other players as well, and though Staines says he doesn't pitch his tunes to other musicians, he gets the occasional cut onto other artists' recordings. Nanci Griffith, in particular, is a fan of Staines' songwriting. Through the decades, Staines has continued in his own fashion. His new CD "October's Hill" is set for release and he plays 200 "family show" gigs a year. He says his venues range from the "2,000 seat hall to people's living rooms" to unusual venues such as Corinth United Methodist Church. "It's all the same thing, sort of down-home," he says, explaining his go-anywhere, play-anywhere attitude. And it's just this attitude and love of song that keeps Staines rolling and allows him to make a living with his gift. "I just love music," he says simply. "It's the only thing that I
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