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June 16, 1977     The Texas Sun
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June 16, 1977

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Festival, however, folksongs of the past but ~s of the future--the new written, which reflect lnd reveal the conscience of then, that the bulk at Kerrville repre- mainstream of quality Texas, whose voices and endeared them at least to heard them in person--if execs as well. Both gandt and Guy Clark, for" favorites as much as their perfor- Hancock, Bobby Bridget, (clean-shaven but other- by success), Delbert McClinton, John Vandiver (who sur- prised many with his powerful a capella blues), Hardin and Russell, John Garza, At the Kerrville Festival music reigns -- on stage, in tents, around campfires- 24 hours a day. Mike Williams, Bill Priest: with so many interpreters and innovators on the same stage, it's only natural the Festival requires uniquesness of its singers. After all, there's nothing like a lone voice in the wilderness to capture an audience's ear--or its imagination. A good example.of this is Shug Malden, a winner of last year's Folk Contest. Shug nearly stole Sunday's show with her outrageous stage presence--an act in which she juggles W.C. Fields, Annie Oakley, and Janis Joplin in her mind and catches the audience in the palm of her hand. Then there was Milton Carroll's set on Saturday with Gonzo Gary P. Nunn on c CampgroundPicker piano and Pointless Sial Paige on violin (not fiddle). Though there's a good chance the rock and roll starved crowd (it was Saturday night!) would have accepted anything, when Paige closed his eyes like some Tarot Fool about to plunge into a musical abyss, only to rescue himself deftly and teeter once more--well, it was angel music. In short, there was just too much good music to attempt an adequate rundown. It's like trying to describe a horserace-- unless you're a bookie, it's not who ran, but how. Nevertheless, the Festival ethic can best be explained by the presence of the New Folk Contest. From over 80 tapes sent in, judges picked 40 songwriters to perform two original songs apiece before the evening concerts. Of those, six were chosen to play 20-minute sets, and two were invited to headline at the next Festival. (It's a mark of the Contest's reputation that this year's winners--San Antonio's Rick Beresford and Eric Taylor from Houston --are already respected musicians with small followings of their own.) But more important than their public exposure are the meetings that take place between the artists themselves. Between the Coleman tents and the port-o-sans, the bug spray and the bar-b-q, it's hard to hide behind your hype, and the earthy encounters the Festival encourages stimulate amateur and master talents alike. Or as Jubal Clark puts it: "I stayed up all night looking at the stars. I didn't see Jerry Jeffs name up there." If Kerrville is any indication songwriters care about in 1977, dead. by Becky Sharp The Kerrville Folk Festival has evolved in such a way that to call the music "folk" may be a misnomer. Purists will tell you that folk music means traditional music that has been passed down through generations. "A folk song is one that everybody knows, but nobody knows who wrote it," says Townes Van Zandt. "If a song is written by one person and has a copyright, it's not a folk song." There's another music that has been popularly referred to as "folk," and that's the music of the folk-boom of the early sixties. Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, and Peter, Paul and Mary all knew the folk tradition of anonymous classics, but there was of what politics is Nam, and bloodied in the streets. The main involvement these kids had with "workers" was to scream "pig" at "policemen, with a contempt intensified by class prejudice. The old folkie values seemed remote. Bob Dylan was the prophet and poet of the age, but except for the war songs, his protests were directed against the diseases of the culture. Then he was a sociologist of the absurd and an angry ironist, but now he's writing love songs just like all the others. You Can Eat Dogfood At KerrviUe we heard more about love than anything else, and not the "The past ten years have been confusing, and they've been confusing musically too. Just about the only thing musicians can be sure about is trying to make money." Tom Paxton another strand in their music that distinguished it from other forms-- polities. Many of the songs the old folkies performed weren't traditional. They were penned by contemporary song- writers, whose concerns were shared by a subculture of post-beatnik, pre-hippie idealists. They sang for peace and freedom and human dignity which meant singing against war and racial segrega- tion and dehumanization of workers for the profit of the owner class. They sang these songs when they fought for voter registration of blacks in Alabama, when they wanted to "ban the bomb," end the war, save the world. By the time the hippie movement came around, the middle-class kids wanted more to change consciousness than conditions. It was a change in style and general values that they wanted, rather than a change in oppressive conditions for a particular group of people. The obvious exception was the War, the one issue that could cause hippies to emerge from a cloud of mariljuana smoke and hit the streets, joining their politico peers in a common struggle. Still, the altruism of an earlier day was almost gone. The political agitation was direct and personal. It was an attempt to end a war and the draft which threatened their own asses. The plight of workers paled before the plight of the bourgeois children who were being busted for dope, sent to Viet humanistic love once expressed in a now out-dated music, but love of the boy-meets-girl variety. A very safe bet for-songwriters, and potentially profit- able. Tom Paxton was one of the few performers whose set included politically oriented songs. The crowd loved his anthem for the Republican Party ("You Can Eat Dogfood"), which Paxton wrote for Gerald Ford to sing during the second televised debate. And he got a rousing crowd participation on the chorus of his little ditty on capital punishment: "Bring back the chair / Zap someone there / Medium rare / Bring back the chair." "The past ten years have been confusing," says Paxton on the subject of politics in music, "and they've been confusing musically too. Just about the only thing musicians can be sure about is trying to make money. "Some of the new songwriters I heard this afternoon were really good, and I think we'll be hearing from some of them. Now, the songs they write aren't political, but some of them were topical, and that's just a step away from being political. I think it will happen." John Garza sang a song about post-Allende Chile called "Victor," and in a gesture that perfectly suits the times, Garza suggested that anyone who didn't know what happened in Chile a couple of years ago should take the time to find out about it, since it was really "atrocious." Country-Dancing Couple at KerrviUe Bill and Bonnie Hearne sang "Evan- gelina," a love song about "a person on one side of the border who can't get to the other side of the border." There were a few more songs scattered throughout the festival that glimmered of something beyond the ego of the songwriter and which made a motion in the direction of political context, but these fleeting suggestions were so spread out that a medley of "Dixie" and 'the Battle Hymn of the Republic" by the T&M Express stands out as one of the weighty "statements" of the festival. If Kerrville is any indication of what songwriters care about in 1977, politics is dead. There are no causes anymore and the music speaks this truth by what it doesn't say. The closest thing to a contemporary political statement, Tom Paxton's songs aside, came from Alan Damron in the middle of one of his numbers when out of the blue he affected a gay pose and said, "I told Anita I would never drink another glass of orange juice in my life." The crowd cheered uproariously. The person who writes the Anita Bryant song that must be written will have silver and gold running out of his ears, if it can be done with enough delicacy to avoid a lawsuit. The song will be written, partly because the folk are ready for it, and partly because it will sell. Sounds Like Folk Music These passing nods in the direction of the political folk past made tidy pacers for the festival, but aside from these few exceptions the tone was Texan, whatever that means, and somehow, someway it cont. on page 0 Texas Sun--June I 0, 1977