Welcome to my music webpage!

My love of folk music began with my playing music with the Seeger family when I went to their summer camp in Vermont as a child. From there, I began to expand my repertoire, and added songs from Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Hank Williams, Kate Wolf and many others too numerous to name. After playing many venues New York, I relocated to the West Coast for several years and continued my passion for performing there. I recently moved back to my hometown of NYC, and am enjoying reconnecting with my folk roots here.

Thank you for visiting my page and I hope you enjoy it!

Monday, August 29, 2016

"Love at the Five and Dime" by Nanci Griffith

"Dance a Little Closer to Me"
(I took this shot of my Contra dance buddies several years ago)
I have always loved Nanci Griffith. During the 1990's, I went to every concert she gave within a 50 mile radius of Santa Cruz, Ca where I used to live. I worked out her arrangement to this song in open tuning by carefully watching and listening to her. 

I have been in many bands over the years, none of which managed to stay together long enough to get anywhere, and the song certainly speaks to that in a humorous way. This is why when I perform, 
I still  mainly perform solo.  

I remember mon amie Pascale with this shot. We used to go Contra Dancing together oh so many years ago now. When this was taken, we had just spent the weekend at the Harvest Moon Dance in Santa Barbara.
She is dancing with her former husband in their living room before the dance.
Pascale died tragically and too soon a few years ago.
But this is how I always remember her,
so full of life and eternally dancing...

The clip below is my version, taken at a live performance I gave at a music festival in Santa Cruz.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Song for the Solstice by Ferron

Yosemite Falls, Winter 1994 taken by Beth Kotkin
  I originally performed the song  below at the 1997 Free Folk Festival in San Francisco, during the Summer Solstice. It is now the Winter Solstice, and I think the song is a better fit. This year, we have the Winter Solstice today which comes in close proximity to the Christmas Full Moon also known as the Full Cold Moon or Long Nights Moon. It is a relatively rare event, which was last here in 1977 and will not come again until 2034.

This is the longest night of the year, and moving forward, the days get longer and longer until Summer Solstice in June. This is also the beginning of the Winter season.
In the Scottish tradition of my maternal grandparents. Winter brings the goddess of life and death known in Scotland as the Cailleach, or crone aspect of the triple Goddess. In her most mysterious aspect, the Cailleach was the "dark mother" who knew what the future held for all men.

A Scottish tradition surrounding the Cailleach was that the farmer who was the first to harvest his grain would make a corn dolly that would be passed from farmer to farmer as their grain was harvested in turn. When the last farmer to harvest his grain received the corn dolly that represented the Cailleach, he would watch over her until the Beltane festival. During  Beltane, the planting cycle was renewed by the Beltane fires. These fires still burned in the Scottish Border area on the peaks of  the Eildon Hills near Melrose in an the ancient traditions passed down from the Picts and  my Scottish ancestors until well into the 18th century and modern times. The song speaks to the passing down of ancient mysteries to our young ones as well, in an unbroken chain towards the future.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Carolina Pines by Kate Wolf

This is a shot I took of the  Redman-Hirahira House in Watsonville, Ca.
 It was built by local architect, William Weeks in 1897 for James Redman, a sugar-beets farmer.

In the 1930's, a Japanese-American family, the Hirahira's, bought the house and the farmland surrounding it. During WWII, the Hirahira family vacated the house and lands when they were forcibly re-located to Manzanar detention camp located in a desolate spot on the Eastern side of the Sierras.

As many as 10 percent of the population of Watsonville, Ca where this house is located, were forcibly removed from their houses, businesses and friends and bused to various internment camps during WWII. It has stood empty in the fields between Highway 1 and Highway 152 in Watsonville since the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake made it uninhabitable.

This is a shot I took of the memorial at Manzanar in 2009 on my cross-country road trip.

Only a few of the innocent Japanese-Americans who died  during their illegal internment at Manzanar during WWII remain in this lonely cemetery on the Eastern side of the Sierras.

From Wikepedia: "On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which authorized the Secretary of War to designate military commanders to prescribe military areas and to exclude “any or all persons” from such areas. The order also authorized the construction of what would later be called “relocation centers” by the War Relocation Authority (WRA) to house those who were to be excluded. This order resulted in the forced relocation of over 120,000 Japanese Americans, two-thirds of whom were native-born American citizens. The rest had been prevented from becoming citizens by federal law. Over 110,000 were imprisoned in the ten concentration camps located far inland and away from the coast. Manzanar was the first of the ten concentration camps to be established"

The Manzanar cemetery site is marked by a monument that was built by prisoner stonemason Ryozo Kado in 1943. The characters on this monument are translated to mean "Soul-Consoling Tower" .

There are many places across the USA that are desolate and abandoned...this song sung by me and written by Kate Wolf, captures the feeling a continent away:

Carolina Pines

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Deportee by Woody Guthrie

Shot taken by me on a back road near Salinas, Ca

When you wander through the Salinas Valley today, if you go down a certain back highway, you will pass these gigantic wooden figures of happy farm workers picking heads of lettuce while their boss watches them work on the side of the road. As you drive through mile after mile of farmlands, you can see actual farm workers looking not so very happy as they labor in the hot sun. Our fruits and vegetables are picked by Mexican immigrants (both legal and "illegal") in much the same manner as they did more than 60 years ago when Woody wrote Deportees. I took this shot a few years ago, when I still lived on the Central Coast of California.

Woody heard a report on the radio in 1948 about the plane crash carrying Mexican farm workers who were being deported back to Mexico by U.S. Immigration authorities,  and he wrote a timeless classic song about it. Recently, these nameless "deportees" were given names and a memorial nearby. For more, see the article here.

Here is a version I sang in honor of Woody Guthrie's 100th birthday at the last Woody Guthrie birthday bash at the Bowery Poetry Club in NYC in 2012.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Water is Wide (Traditional)

Photo taken by me at the John Seeger Memorial.
Pete is there with John's children, Kate and her husband and Tony Seeger
The Last Time I Saw Pete Seeger

We were all gathered in Hancock Vermont at Camp Killooleet for the John Seeger Memorial in the summer of 2010. It was a full day, that included the Seeger family making music (which is when I shot the picture posted below), an outdoor picnic, a campfire sing-along and mainly sharing remembrances of John and Ellie Seeger and our collective memories of this beautiful camp in Hancock Vermont that nurtured my love of folk music that has lasted my entire life. Pete was a fixture at the camp throughout my childhood there, along with the rest of the Seeger family, and they all instilled in me my love of sharing and swapping songs, and the sense of community that comes from raising our voices in song together.

Just a quiet moment with Pete Seeger in the main house at Camp Killooleet from that day in the summer of 2010…. Pete came in to get his famous banjo (with the writing “this machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender”) while I was looking around the room that hadn’t changed at all in the 44 years since I was last there as a camper. We talked about the books on the wall, that Pete said were there from when his brother John Seeger and his wife Ellie bought the camp in the 1940’s.

We got to talking. One thing led to another, as it often does with Pete, and he started to discuss one of the secrets to his longevity: he said he sleeps every night with his feet propped up by pillows, higher than his head, to keep the blood flowing to his heart. He told me he learned this from his father, Charles Seeger (musicologist and teacher), who Pete said had studied Yoga and practiced it well into his old age.

He then shared a humorous anecdote: He said that Charles Seeger practiced yoga every morning in the nude, upstairs at his home. One day, a young woman journalist who had been sent there to interview him got the shock of her life when she arrived a little earlier than expected and saw the aging Charles Seeger, doing a headstand in the nude!

We had a good laugh about this, and spoke of many other things in our moments together that day. He noticed my guitar case and knew who had made it for me. Encouraged me with my music as he always did, and then moved out to help set up for the memorial service for his older brother, John. When I strolled down to the lake, I was shocked and amused at the sight of then 90 year old Pete, picking up the long benches that the guests were to sit on, and moving them into place all by himself. But that was Pete!

The video clip below is from a performance I gave at a Folk Festival in 1994 of a traditional tune that I learned at Camp Killoleet. I am pretty sure that Tony Seeger, Pete's nephew and son of John Seeger, taught me the arrangement.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Circle Game

I took this shot on the beach in Santa Cruz.   .
In 1968, I saw Joni Mitchell live for the first time. She was playing in the Village in NYC in a special concert that was put together shortly after Martin Luther King was assassinated. 1968 was going to be a horribly traumatic year, with the riots after King's murder and the assassination of Robert Kennedy only a few months after we lost Rev King. This was quickly followed by the police riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, the election of  "tricky Dick" Nixon and his so-called "secret plan" to end the Vietnam War, which in reality meant escalation, the bombing of Cambodia and many more years of death destruction.  

But the night I saw Joni Mitchell in the village, we did not know the horror that was to come. Jimi Hendrix was on the bill with her, and I was front row center for both of them. Little did I know what I was in for. I learned how to tune to her turnings by watching her closely, and the chord formations for many of her early songs, including Circle Game in G tuning. Hendrix followed her amazing set, and it was shocking and exciting for me as a young teenager to watch him with no idea what to expect, as I had barely even heard of him at the time. He danced around the stage, made love to his guitar and the audience, and set fire to it when he was finished. I left the concert feeling both overwhelmed and exhilarated.

The clip of me singing Circle Game is from 1994 at a folk festival in the Santa Cruz mountains, where I was living at the time. Singing this song brings me back to those years long before I turned 20 (14 springs and 14 summers gone now...).

 I will never forget.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

"Waltz For You"

Shot taken by me of Yosemite at twilight
 Another one of my favorites written by the late great Sarah Elizabeth Campbell. When I sing this song, I always think of being on the Eastern side of the Sierras, as the song says, "all alone, me and the stars". One magical night in particular stands out when I was camping out in the high desert just south of Mammoth Ca. Far away from the city lights, the sky is so black that the Perseid showers seemed close enough to reach out and touch in the night sky.....