Fast Folk: A Community of Singers and Songwriters

Fast Folk: A Community of Singers and Songwriters

by Fast Folk Musical Magazine

“There is always an audience for a good song,” decided The Coop/The Fast Folk Musical Magazine, a musicians’ cooperative founded by singer-songwriter Jack Hardy and guided by the late, great Dave Van Ronk, which in 1982 began publishing a monthly critical journal with a full-length LP of new work by predominantly unknown songwriters. And good -- in fact, great --…  See more details below


“There is always an audience for a good song,” decided The Coop/The Fast Folk Musical Magazine, a musicians’ cooperative founded by singer-songwriter Jack Hardy and guided by the late, great Dave Van Ronk, which in 1982 began publishing a monthly critical journal with a full-length LP of new work by predominantly unknown songwriters. And good -- in fact, great -- songs abound on this excellent two-CD 20th-anniversary anthology culled by editors Hardy and Richard Meyer from more than 1,000 songs from the 105 released Fast Folk issues. An in-the-field oral history in the true-to-life Smithsonian Folkways tradition, this collection vibrantly captures the burgeoning new-wave Greenwich Village songwriter scene in intimate, mostly guitar-and-voice, one-take recordings from the coop’s performance space at the local SpeakEasy club, musician/engineer Mark Dann’s home studio, and the live annual Revue performances at the Bottom Line. Here, you can hear history in the making in seminal standout tracks from the now famous, the almost famous, emerging newcomers, and unsung mainstays -- Shawn Colvin, Suzanne Vega, Steve Forbert, John Gorka, Richard Shindell, Lucy Kaplansky, Eric Wood, Richard Julian, Frank Tedesso, Frank Christian, Erik Frandsen, Rod McDonald, David Massengill, Lillie Palmer, and many, many more -- as they melodically spin poetry and politics with poignance, wit, and even jazz. And always, the song’s the thing... --Matt Hughes

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Richie Unterberger
From the early '80s to the late '90s, Fast Folk magazine was an important document of and voice for the folk-rooted New York singer/songwriter scene. The magazines came with compilation albums -- no less than 105 of them -- allowing subscribers and purchasers to sample the work of many young and unknown, and some veteran and relatively well-known, singer/songwriters. The magazine stopped publishing in 1997, its holdings donated to the Smithsonian a couple of years later. This first retrospective of the massive body of Fast Folk is a 34-track, two-CD set including 142 minutes of music spanning 1982-1997. Some of the performers are famous, like Suzanne Vega, Shawn Colvin (represented by a 1985 version of her "I Don't Know Why"), Dave Van Ronk, and Steve Forbert; others are fairly well known, like Christine Lavin, John Gorka, Lucy Kaplansky, and Christine Lavin. But most of these names will be unfamiliar, even to many folk fans. And while the music is often acoustic folk, sometimes solo, it's sometimes mild folk-rock with fuller arrangements, too. Fast Folk was undoubtedly a valuable organization and medium for exposure, but good intentions don't always make for great music. Most of this is earnest confessional and/or narrative material, on the undistinguished side melodically, lacking the idiosyncratic and arresting vocal personalities of the best singer/songwriters -- and not just Bob Dylan, an obvious reference point for much of this style (though these performers are on the whole far more polite than Dylan), but even Dave Van Ronk, though his "Another Time and Place" wouldn't be considered one of his best performances. What are the best performances on this disc, though? Elaine Silver's "Share the Failure" has the pristine seriousness of the sort heard on early Judy Collins and Joan Baez outings; Patrick John Brayer's "Bourbon as a Second Language" has a refreshing country-influenced lightheartedness; Germana Pucci's "Corpo Gracile," sung in Italian, has a gypsy feel; Christine Lavin's "Don't Ever Call Your Sweetheart By His Name" has her usual comic touch that, while hard to take in concentrated doses, stands out on this comp as a welcome blast of levity. Comic relief's not always a good thing, though, as demonstrated by the bombastic crude wit of Andy Breckman's "Railroad Bill."
Top-notch songwriting and vocals...It's hard to imagine a music scene better chronicled.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Smithsonian Folkways

Related Subjects


Disc 1

  1. American Jerusalem
  2. What's Wrong With the Man Upstairs
  3. Old Factory Town
  4. Just Need a Home (Spotlight)
  5. Another Time and Place  - Dave Van Ronk
  6. I Don't Know Why
  7. Geza's Wailing Ways
  8. Ragman!  - David Indian
  9. High Times
  10. Don't Ever Call Your Sweetheart by His Name
  11. Where Were You Last Night?
  12. Introduction to Corpo Gracile
  13. Corpo Gracile
  14. Kilkelly, Ireland
  15. Introduction to the Viking Rag
  16. The Viking Rag
  17. Forget-Me-Not
  18. Vacation  -  Ensemble

Disc 2

  1. Gypsy
  2. Thirty Thousand Men
  3. Margaret
  4. Share the Failure
  5. Bourbon as a Second Language  - Patrick John Brayer
  6. King of Hearts
  7. Heart on Ice
  8. The Courier
  9. By Your Eyes
  10. Danton
  11. Long Black Wall
  12. Railroad Bill
  13. Gravedigger
  14. January Cold
  15. Disenchanted  - Eric Wood
  16. Raphael  - Hugh Blumenfeld
  17. Your Face  - Louise Taylor
  18. Crazy Horse  -  Josh Joffen & Late For Dinner

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Fast Folk Musical Magazine   Primary Artist
Hugh Blumenfeld   Guitar,Vocals
Andy Breckman   Guitar,Vocals
Frank Christian   Vocals
John Gorka   Guitar,Vocals,Background Vocals
Jack Hardy   Guitar,Mandolin,Vocals
Tom Intondi   Guitar,Vocals
Michael Jerling   Guitar,Vocals
Josh Joffen   Guitar,Vocals
Paul Kaplan   Guitar,Vocals
Christine Lavin   Guitar,Vocals
Rod MacDonald   Guitar,Vocals
David Massengill   Dulcimer,Vocals
Richard Meyer   Guitar,Vocals,Background Vocals
Pierce Pettis   Guitar
Richard Shindell   Guitar,Vocals
Shawn Colvin   Guitar,Kazoo,Vocals
Steve Forbert   Guitar,Vocals
Suzanne Vega   Guitar,Vocals
John Kruth   Flute
Laura Burns   Guitar,Vocals
Dave Van Ronk   Guitar,Vocals
Wendy Beckerman   Guitar,Vocals
Patrick Brayer   Guitar,Vocals
Louise Taylor   Vocals
Jeff Berman   Drums
Lucy Kaplansky   Guitar,Kazoo,Vocals,Background Vocals
Robin Batteau   Vocals
John Caulfield   Fiddle
Mark Dann   Synthesizer,Bass,Guitar,Mandolin,Drums,Electric Guitar,keyboard bass,Pedal Bass
Erik Frandsen   Guitar,Vocals
Lisa Gutkin   Violin,Background Vocals
David Hamburger   Pedal Steel Guitar
Jeff Hardy   Bass
Margo Hennebach   Synthesizer,Keyboards,Vocals,Background Vocals
Teresina Huxtable   Casio
Richard Julian   Guitar,Vocals
Janice Kollar   Vocals
Lillie Palmer   Guitar,Vocals
Roger Rosen   Guitar,Vocals
Frank Tedesso   Guitar,Vocals
Bob Warren   Guitar
Howie Wyeth   Drums
Judith Zweiman   Guitar,Vocals
Jennifer Hersch   Bass
Gerry Devine and the Hi-Beams   Banjo,Vocals
Tom Duval   Bass,Electric Guitar
Germana Pucci   Guitar,Vocals
Nikki Matheson   Vocals
Elaine Silver   Guitar,Vocals
Susan Fiering   Background Vocals
Willie Nininger   Guitar,Vocals

Technical Credits

Frank Christian   Liner Notes
Jack Hardy   Producer,Annotation
Michael Jerling   Liner Notes
Paul Kaplan   Liner Notes
Christine Lavin   Liner Notes
Rod MacDonald   Liner Notes
Richard Meyer   Producer,Annotation
Shawn Colvin   Liner Notes
Peter Beckerman   Engineer
Joe Brescio   Engineer
Mark Dann   Engineer
Richard Julian   Liner Notes
Bill Kollar   Engineer
Lillie Palmer   Liner Notes
Jeff Place   Producer,Annotation
David Seitz   Engineer
Tom Heyman   Composer
Germana Pucci   Liner Notes

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