Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Sleep when you're dead

It's the usual comment one hears at the big showcase events: "I'll sleep when I'm dead." In my case, after four days of late nights and early mornings at the Folk Alliance conference, it could be "I'll blog when I'm dead." So apologies for not keeping up with events at this site.

Now that it's over, I'm backed up with other work, so I won't try to share my many thoughts and observations right away. I will be writing up the interviews I did with John Cowan, Abigail Washburn, Leonard Podolak, Jo Miller, and Travis Jones, as well as with some of the business-side people I talked to, so stayed tuned to Festival Preview for upcoming articles.

For now, here's a report on the Folk Alliance Awards presented on the last night of the conference. Although such awards events are a standard feature of music industry associations, this was the first year that the Folk Alliance produced such a program (excepting the Lifetime Achievement Awards it has presented for many years). Despite a fair number of glitches in the program, it was a well-produced event that reflected well on the genre, honoring both long-time veterans of the folk music movement as well as some of its up-and-coming stars.

The night's big winners were Eliza Gilkyson, who won for Best Album (Paradise Hotel), Best Song (Man of God), Best Contemporary Artist, and Best Solo Artist; and The Duhks, who were named both as Best Band and Emerging Artist of the Year.The award for Traditional Artist went to Quebec traditionalists Le Vent du Nord.

Accepting the award for "Man of God," a song lampooning the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Gilkyson noted that folk music "is the one genre where a political song could win." If so, next year's nominees in that category could include any of the dozen songwriters competing in an impromtu contest held concurrently with the awards show in which writers showcased compositions about Vice President Cheney's shooting accident, which had first been reported less than 24 hours earlier.

Lifetime achievement awards were presented posthumously to zydeco master Clifton Chenier and ground-breaking folklorist Kenneth Goldstein, while 60s folk legend Tom Paxton was on hand to be honored with a lifetime award. Each of the three was featured in well-produced films covering their work and accomplishments. To me, the films were probably the most interesting part of the program.

Country outlaw artist Ray Wylie Hubbard handled the emcee duties with humor and a few forgivable flubs (for example, forgetting to read the names of the nominees in several categories before announcing the winners). The award presentations were punctuated with live performances by Danny O'Keefe, Jonathan Edwards, Susan Gibson, and Eliza Gilkyson.

Business-side awards were presented for Festival of the Year (Winnipeg Folk Festival), Record Label of the Year (Red House Records), Best Club (The Ark in Ann Arbor, Mich.) and Best House Concerts (tie between Fox Run in Sudbury, Mass., and Rouse House in Austin).

Perhaps the biggest winner was the Folk Alliance itself, along with its executive director Louis Meyer, who also produced the program. With this awards program and the association's new permanent home in Memphis, where future Folk Alliance conferences will be held, the organization has a strong foundation for promoting the musical genre to the wider industry and to fans of traditional roots music.

1 comment:

drubytue said...

I may have overlooked some of the winners, since I was also trying to monitor the Cheney song contest in an adjacent room. FA has not yet posted an official list anywhere, so this is based on my somewhat sketchy notes. For example, I believe the Best Club category was a tie between The Ark and another venue, but I don't know which that was. If anyone has more complete info, I would appreciate if they would post it here or contact me privately.