October 08, 2019 News & Features » Cover Story

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Folkies on Wax 

Finally there’s a way to take some of the live magic of the Folk Fest home.

click to enlarge album.jpg

You’ll find something brand new at the merchandising tent on the festival grounds this year: a diverse compilation of live Folk Festival performances culled from the past 15 years titled “All Together Now.”

The album is a collaboration between the Folk Festival and Richmond’s own Spacebomb Records, who are responsible for the artwork and distribution. It will be available on compact disc, digital download and both standard black and orange-and-green tie-died vinyl. The CD contains six extra tracks, but vinyl purchasers also get a digital download card that includes all 16 tracks. Suggested retail is $19.99.

Julia Olin, artistic director for the National Council for the Traditional Arts, had the daunting task of digging through more than 1,300 hours of archived recordings to identify potential selections. She had plenty of material because it’s been festival protocol to record every single performance, using volunteer “loggers” to document the different musical traditions for the Library of Congress.

Olin gives a hearty laugh when asked how she managed that.

“Well, I probably knew the collection better than anybody, due to connections with it from the beginning,” she says. “But this was a labor of love for all of us and it’s for the festival fans. … I listened to sooo much go-go.”

Olin says her criteria for picking songs mainly involved the quality of recording, diversity among the genres, as well as length of the recording. She still ended up pulling over eight hours of material she thought was fantastic.

“We knew there was no way we could capture all the genres at one festival, let alone over the years,” she says. “We wanted to capture the great foundational vernacular music. … I hope nobody attacks me because their favorite artists aren’t on there [laughs].”

Being field recordings, these are not multitrack, and most are mono with some stereo recordings among them. “They had to be well [recorded] in real time,” Olin says. “And with everything we’ve experienced, from torrential rains to high winds and extreme heat, it’s a wonder we got anything good at all [laughs].”

To the contrary, the final recordings sound fantastic and capture wonderful memories from festival favorites including gospel queen Maggie Ingram and the Ingramettes, the romantic Portuguese fado of Nathalie Pires and the mesmerizing throat singing of Alta Kai.

Olin admits that many of her favorite performances over the years were much longer, but that would’ve allowed for fewer artists.

In terms of securing rights for the songs, Olin explains that most of the artists were fine with their material being used, especially since all the proceeds are going back into the festival. The legendary Mavis Staples and some others through the years did not allow their sets to be recorded.

“Everyone gave us permission,” she says. “Some wanted to hear what we picked first.” To minimize royalties, she looked for tunes that were in the public domain or written by the artists.
Jesse Medaries, general manager at Spacebomb, says the 8-year-old music company has wanted to work with Folk Fest artists for years now.

“This is our favorite event of the year and we really respect it,” Medaries says, noting that Spacebomb’s art director Travis Robertson designed the layout. “We’ll also be able to help by delivering to Spotify and Apple and digital service providers.”

The vinyl was pressed at Furnace Record Pressing in Alexandria, and mastered by Charlie Pilzer, a veteran engineer in Tacoma Park who has worked with Grammy-nominated artists as well as the arts council for years.

If “All Together Now” sells well, there’s a decent chance you could see more themed live albums using other material from the Richmond Folk Festival’s archives.

“Oh, we could do improvisational jams, female performances,” Olin says. “There’s enough good stuff to do 10 more conceptual albums.”

The album is available at most record stores in Richmond, including the color vinyl. Compact discs, downloads and black vinyl will be sold on the island and through the website.

TRACK LISTING:
1. Clinton Fearon and the Boogie Brown Band – “Feel the Spirit”
2. Lulo Reinhardt and Daniel Stelter – “Swing 2012”
3. Maggie Ingram & the Ingramettes – “Family Prayer”
4. Lunasa – Ryestraw (medley): “The New Day March/Reystraw/An Old Woman Would
5. Nathalie Pires – “Loucura (Madness)”
6. The Holmes Brothers – “Baby What You Want Me to Do”
7. Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band – “Don’t Ask Me Why”
8. The Quebe Sisters – “Speed the Plow Medley: Speed the Plow/The Maid Behind the Bar/Temerance Reel”
9. Altai Kai – “My Native Land,” Altai
10. Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano – “México lindo/¡Viva México!”
Bonus Tracks on the CD:
11. Sona Jobarteh – “Mamamuso”
12. Dale Watson and His Lone Stars – “Real Country Song/A Nashville Rash”
13. Rare Essence – “Overnight Scenario”
14. BeauSoleil Trio – “Le Sud de la Louisiane”
15. Sammy Shelor and Kirk Sutphin – “Angeline the Baker”
16. Spanish Harlem Orchestra – “Son de Corazón”

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