Playlist.  Listen.


  1. Shady Grove (Colby Maddox) * [MP3]
  2. Take This Hammer (Jon Langford)
  3. I Know You Rider (Linda Smith) *
  4. Brown's Ferry Blues (Robbie Fulks)
  5. Trouble In Mind (Alice Peacock)
  6. Aragon Mill (Rita Ruby) *
  7. Worried Man Blues (Chris Walz) *
  8. Salty Dog (Rick Sherry)
  9. Cripple Creek (Steve Rosen) *
  10. Deep River Blues (Janet Bean) [MP3]
  11. Amazing Grace (Rob Anderlik & Erin Flynn) *
  12. St. James Infirmary (Pete Special) *
  13. Don't This Road (Andrea Bunch & Aerin Tedesco) *
  14. Down In The Valley (Bill Brickey) *
  15. Old Dog Tray (Kathy Cowan) *
  16. Drunken Sailor (Dan Zanes)
  17. Erie Canal (Ted & Marcia Johnson)
  18. Wabash Cannonball (Danny Barnes)
  19. Just A Closer Walk With Thee (Elaine Moore) *
  20. Wayfaring Stranger (John Stirrat)
  21. Freight Train (Mark Dvorak) *
  22. Midnight Special (Steve Levitt) *
  23. Goodnight Irene (Weavermania)

* Denotes songs performed by an Old Town School instructor

Old Town School Recordings Old Town School of Folk Music Songbook: Volume One

OTS 002 2006 $9.95
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These kids today with their sequencers, samplers, loops, USB interfaces, pitch controllers and iPods holding 50,000 songs. They think music was invented yesterday by them and their buddies and tunes are spit out at the push of a button in patterns of Zeroes and Ones. Ain’t it time we all unplugged, slowed down and got our folk back on? To wrap our hands around the cool maple neck of an actual guitar and our brains around actual songs passed down for generations?

The Old Town School of Folk Music Songbook: Volume One provides such a service with this topnotch overview of songs that have thrived in the centuries-old oral traditions of American folk cultures. All your song styles are represented: ballads and narratives, lyricals, blues, work songs, sacred songs, protest songs and even some folkified Tin Pan Alley compositions. This CD also proves that something good can be good for you as well. Yes, it is a valuable learning tool for anyone interested in traditional songs, but it’s also a bang up good listen.

The Songbook contains 23 archetypal songs performed by a wide range of artists. Some are nationally known like Jon Langford (Mekons, Pine Valley Cosmonauts, Waco Bros), Dan Zanes, John Stirrat (Wilco), Janet Bean (Freakwater, Eleventh Dream Day), Alice Peacock, Robbie Fulks, and Danny Barnes (Bad Livers), and some are instructors from the School—performers themselves with decades of teaching experience. Included is a hefty booklet written by folklorist Paul Tyler that gives a detailed history of each song.

These songs have thrived in the folk traditions of America for a reason. They are tough and long lasting but malleable enough to be adapted and re-invented easily. Their essence lies in their distillation of the varieties and vagaries of the human experience, topics that never go out of style. They are strong witnesses to what we all have in common; longings and desires, good times and bad, loved ones gone and true love found.

Besides, since no one’s teaching this stuff in schools anymore, it’s been left up to the Old Town School of Folk Music to keep our vast musical heritage alive for all of us. That’s no small feat in this time of short attention spans and whiz-bang computer programs. Pull up a chair and join the circle.

"... enthusiastically picked and generally given a simultaneously timeless and modern spin." —Los Angeles Daily News

"... serves up equal parts reassurance and revelation." —Chicago Tribune

"Many of these are well known and all have long stories (documented in the accompanying booklet) but they hold up well and a new generation does them proud. There's rarely a dropoff in quality from the better-known artists to the instructors ... The music is acoustic but rarely solo, with supporting instrumentation and harmonies adding to the communal, hootenanny spirit." —



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