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!

Thursday, December 10, 2020

"So Long, Its Been Good to Know You" by Woody Guthrie

Killooleet Sing, 1964, from Vermont Life magazine











There I am, age 10 with bangs swept off to the side and sitting next to the girl holding Tony Seeger's banjo at the Camp Killooleet Community Sing night. Every week, we had a Monday Community Sing night indoors in the main house and campfires outdoors by the lake on Fridays where we sang all the old folk songs I learned during the 4 years I went to Camp Killooleet in Hancock Vermont. Camp Killooleet was run by John Seeger, Pete Seeger's older brother. It is now run by Kate Seeger, John's daughter.

Tony Seeger, nephew to Pete Seeger, is leading us in song. Tony was my first banjo and then guitar teacher at this camp. I don’t play banjo anymore, but I still play many of the arrangements he taught me on guitar and I am forever grateful to him for starting me down this path.

Pete Seeger was a frequent visitor to camp during those years and I learned a great many songs from him when he led us in song at the campfires. This Woody Guthrie tune is one of them. 

The recording below comes from the 5th Annual Woody Guthrie Hoot at the Old Stone House in Brooklyn NY in 2017. Thank you to Joel Landy for the recording and on the mandolin is Vincent Cross !

Here's hoping we can raise our voices in song together soon!

So Long, Its Been Good to Know You

Friday, November 13, 2020

"Once In A Very Blue Moon" by Pat Alger

Shot of me performing this song 8/2004


The blue moon this year was on Halloween, and I missed posting then. The next one isn't until August, and I don't want to wait. So here goes. It seems like it is only once in a blue moon that I post on this blog. I am going to try to do better going forward! 

Below is a link to my performance of this Pat Alger tune that I learned from Nanci Griffith. Clive Gregson is accompanying me on mandolin. thanks Clive! Recorded at the California Coast Music Camp

Once in a Very Blue Moon

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

"Night Rider's Lament" by Michael Burton

I've been thinking about all the boom and bust cycles I have seen in my lifetime now that we are on pause in NYC due to COVID-19. Folks have been staying home and NYC is looking more and more like a ghost town. Hopefully, it is only temporary.

I am remembering all the real ghost towns I saw during my travels out West. This shot posted below is one I took at Bodie, a ghost town and now a state historic public park in an extremely remote part of the Eastern Sierras of California. It is at an elevation of 8379 feet. One tiny long dirt road is all that leads into the town. Windswept and lonely, there is literally nothing nearby.

This town was founded in 1876 with the discovery of gold. During its heyday in 1879, it had a population of nearly 7,000 people.  A visitor in 1881 wrote that Bodie was “a sea of sin, lashed by the tempests of lust and passion”.

A tale is told that a young girl wrote in her diary, upon learning she and her family were moving to Bodie, “Goodbye God, I’m going to Bodie”.

I took the shot below of the Swazey Hotel in Bodie. This building served as a clothing store, a casino, and finally as the Swazey Hotel during Bodie's active years. By 1915, Bodie was all but abandoned.

Today, Bodie is preserved in a state of "arrested decay". Only a small part of the town survived, with about 110 structures still standing. When I visited, we walked the streets of the empty town and were able to look into shop windows and see goods left there when the town was abandoned. We also visited the town cemetery on a high hill where 150 grave markers still stand.

When the Boom Goes Bust

These memories of trips I took while living out west remind me of this song I recorded many years ago. Many things may have passed me by, but then as the song goes:

"...Ah but they've never seen the Northern Lights
They've never seen a hawk on the wing..."

I wouldn't trade my travels for anything....

I hope we can travel again soon! The song below features Clive Gregson on mandolin. Thanks Clive for the great back up! Recorded at the California Coast Music Camp

Night Riders Lament

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

"Testimony" by Ferron

Yosemite Falls, Winter 1994 taken by Beth Kotkin

I originally performed the song  below at the 1997 San Francisco Free Folk Festival during the Summer Solstice. As I am posting this, it is now the Winter Solstice. I think the song is a better fit. 
This year, the Winter Solstice 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.










The Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year and the start 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.

In Scotland, the Cailleach was worshiped by the farmer who was the first to harvest his grain. He 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, an ongoing tradition 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 were forced to vacate the house and lands when they were re-located by the US government and the military 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 all they knew. They were 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.

I stopped at Manzanar while travelling down Highway 395 by the Eastern Sierras. This was the internment camp for the Japanese who were living on the West Coast during WWII. When I first moved to California, I had no knowledge of this shameful piece of US history. One of my co-workers in LA who was of Japanese descent mentioned to me that she grew up there during part of her childhood, and it was from her that I learned of the history of this place. It is so hot, dry and incredibly remote. Not so hard to imagine how awful it must have been to be forced to move there, leaving all the comforts of home behind and loosing most of your possessions and properties simply because your ancestors were born in Japan. Don't forget, these were all US citizens who had committed no crime except that of looking like the enemy. 

The ultimate irony is that many of the young men from there volunteered to fight for the freedom of the US in WWII, while the rest of their families were locked up at this camp. Their unit was one of the most decorated in Europe and also incurred the most casualties. Not much is left there now, but the interpretive center, some markers of what used to be there and this cemetery standing alone at the foot of the Sierras.

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 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 also desolate and abandoned, mostly for economic reasons. Dreams lost and shattered, houses and towns abandoned in the wake of economic ruin. This song sung by me (with Sylvia Herold on harmony vocals) and written by Kate Wolf, captures the feeling a continent away. Recorded at the California Coast Music Camp

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 Guthrie  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.