Top Ten 2008

Various Categories

by Larry Wines

It was a year that few could have predicted: stunning and thrilling political developments; the collapse of Western Capitalism after too few taking too much from too many for too long; improbable and innovative artistic collaborations; and sad passings, almost weekly, of too many beloved musicians, as noted in the companion feature, "Remembering those we lost in 2008."

There were losses of acoustic music venues, including the beloved Bean Town in Sierra Madre, and the occasionally interesting Temple Bar in Santa Monica, and new venues arose, including Arnie's Café in Tujunga and Sierra Cup in Monrovia. There was further erosion of folk-Americana programming on L.A. radio (despite its proliferation and continuously growing popularity everywhere else). And we saw the end of an era when the last overnight paddlewheel steamboats, the Delta Queen and Mississippi Queen, both made their final runs on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers (at least John Hartford didn't live to see that).

We'll leave, for other forums, broader reviews of the year just past. Here, we'll accentuate the positive and focus on the best of the L.A. acoustic folk-Americana music scene in 2008.

Having been privileged to assess and present the "Top Ten" in FolkWorks each year for several in a row, we can begin as we did this same time last year, with this observation:

"We are blessed with more acoustic music performance venues and events in the greater Los Angeles area than any other city in America. Most are doing just fine, despite being ignored by the L.A. Times and LA Weekly. Visit one of our Top Ten picks, or find one in your neighborhood to support. You'll find a reality that's far more entertaining that anything on ‘reality' TV."

Our focus is live performances. No attempt is made here to select the year's top CDs. There is refreshingly good recorded music being released every week in each of the many genres of acoustic Americana. Even offering ten selections within each of the root genres of new and traditional folk-Americana and new acoustic music - blues, bluegrass, borderlands, Cajun, cowboy, Celtic, Cape Breton, Quebecois, new-old-trad-alt-post folk, and the best of today's "acoustic renaissance" - would exceed the space FolkWorks would allow, and would shortchange too many deserving singer-songwriters, bands, instrumental virtuosos, and other artists. Moreover, to be done reasonably, that would require a large collaborative effort.

Hence, we split our focus to assess venues and events that winningly feature acoustic music, and the best live acoustic performers of the year. Winning venues are chosen after evaluating several criteria - acts booked, sound quality, atmosphere and comfort. Venue and event picks are local, the best in the region in 2008, as are the winning performances.

Rather than a "one-through-ten" hierarchical rating, here are the best in each of ten categories.


Number 1: Best Indoor Acoustic Music Venues (intimate, medium, large):

Intimate: COFFEE GALLERY BACKSTAGE, in Altadena, is enthusiastically our perennial winner, with great sound, lights that are worked masterfully, and both a vast variety and quantity of consistently first-rate acoustic acts - far more, by orders of magnitude, than any other venue, of any size, anywhere in the region; the recognition comes with a salute to show biz impresario Bob Stane for bringing us so much wonderful music there (www.coffeegallery.com).

Honorable mentions, four of them, go to: BOULEVARD MUSIC, in Culver City, and booker Gary Mandell (www.boulevardmusic.com), and BLUE RIDGE PICKIN' PARLOR, in Granada Hills, and booker Judy Hersch (www.pickinparlor.com) which both offer outstanding artists in smartly-booked weekly series that convert their music store environments into cozy music halls; HOTEL CAFÉ, in Hollywood, (www.hotelcafe.com) whose nightly lineups often include fine young acoustic acts; and once again, all the stalwart HOUSE CONCERT HOSTS, including the masters Russ & Julie and Reneé Bodie, plus Jaynee Thorne, Barbara Greenspan, Scott Duncan (Ventura), Wayne Slater-Lunsford (Lancaster), and others who enable touring and local musicians to perform without the usual division of revenue, and all of us to enjoy it (www.houseconcerts.com and www.concertsinyourhome.com)

Medium-size: McCABE'S GUITAR SHOP, in Santa Monica, and booker Lincoln Myerson. After 50 years, McCabe's reliably continues to present superb musicians in one or two shows each week with great sound. It's inconceivable that McCabe's would not be the winner (www.mccabes.com).

Large: The UCLA LIVE! series in Royce Hall, on the campus in Westwood, is the clear winner. Even with their always-rich offerings, 2008 was unprecedented. In addition to their expected stellar concert season, they brought us L.A.'s standout music events of 2008 - multi-day 50th Anniversary celebrations of the kaleidoscopes of live music performances from the Ash Grove and McCabe's. There was clearly no greater, more vibrant expression of folk-Americana music and its rich roots in Los Angeles. In a town that often has trouble remembering its past, UCLA Live! in 2008 set the highest standards for others to follow (www.uclalive.org). 


Number 2: Best Outdoor Acoustic Music Venues (intimate, medium, large):

Intimate-size and Large-size had no winners this year; too many bookers went "pop."

Medium-size (3-way tie): All three win for their free series. Two are the LEVITT PAVILIONS for their Wednesday-to-Sunday series. Co-winner: LEVITT PAVILION in MEMORIAL PARK, Pasadena, runs from late June to late August. A 2008 feature was "American Music Night" on Thursdays, with headliners Laurie Lewis, Lisa Haley, The Stolen Sweets, The Blasters, Stone Honey, John Doe, and acoustic renaissance artist Shannon Hurley. Wednesdays' "Children's Series" brought harmonica virtuoso / harmonikids charity founder Gary Allegretto, and genre giants Parachute Express (www.levittpavilionpasadena.org).

Co-winner: The other LEVITT PAVILION, in MacARTHUR PARK, downtown L.A., runs early July to mid September. Their "American Roots" Saturday series included some of the same acts as Pasadena, plus the St. James Sacred Nation Concert Choir. A Friday series brought "One Hawai'i" with some of the islands' top acoustic musicians (www.levittpavilionlosangeles.org).

Co-winner: "MUSIC AT PERSHING SQUARE" is the co-winner for its succession of year-round series in downtown L.A., including notable weekday lunchtime and weekend day and evening folk-Americana / acoustic renaissance offerings (www.laparks.org/pershingsquare).


Number 3: Best No-Cover-Charge (Free) Acoustic Music Venues (intimate, medium, large):

Intimate (tie): Co-winner: THE CINEMA BAR, Culver City, where you can find very notable musicians playing for tips in the "world's smallest honky-tonk" (www.myspace.com/thecinemabar).

Co-winner: THE TALKING STICK, in its new location in Venice, with some notable monthly series, including Ernest Troost's first Saturdays "Juke Joint Gang" and Daniel McFeeley's fourth Fridays "Out-of-the-Blue" songwriter's showcase (www.thetalkingstick.net).

Medium-size: (four-way tie, all outdoors) co-winners are the three medium-size winners for "Best Outdoor" venues, plus one standout from the myriad of summer evening "concerts in the park" (booked independently in several cities).

Co-winner: The "CITY OF ARCADIA SUMMER CONCERTS IN THE PARK" were great in ‘08, presenting Mrs. Murphy's Chowder, Nannett & Her Hotsy-Totsy Boys, Dixieland jazz, and the Marine Corps 1st Division Jazz / Swing Band. They offer fresh popcorn and other cheap snacks, too. Bring your blanket or lawn chair (www.ci.arcadia.ca.us).

Large-size: no winner this year. A contender that missed the title was the "Santa Monica Pier Twilight Dance Series," summer Thursdays in Santa Monica. Though their series notably included Michelle Shocked with Mike Farris, and "One Hawai'i" with several Hawaiian acoustic music stars, it was mostly pop in '08 (www.twilightdance.org).


Number 4: Best Acoustic Open Mic:

Repeat winner is KULAK'S WOODSHED, in North Hollywood, continued to defy the odds to operate. Every Monday night, performers wait hours to do one song for a packed house and web simulcast (www.kulakswoodshed.com).


Number 5: Best Web Simulcast:

Winning again is KULAK'S WOODSHED, in North Hollywood, with its five-camera simulcast of every show for a global audience. Though the Coffee Gallery Backstage installed the same capability in '08, this is still unparalleled (www.kulakswoodshed.com).


Number 6: Best Weekly Event (two-way tie):

Co-winner: "MAIN STREET SONGWRITER'S SHOWCASE," at Café Belissimo, Woodland Hills. Every Tuesday, two recording artists each do 30 minutes, followed by an open mic; all acoustic. (Repeat winner.) Venue has $10 food / drink minimum (avoid the house wine, at $10 / glass). Show produced / hosted by Garret Swayne (www.garretswayne.com).

Co-winner: Mark "Pocket" Goldberg for his new-in-2008 "POCKET GOLDBERG & FRIENDS SONGWRITER SHOWCASE" at Arnie's Café in Tujunga. It's every Thursday, with a rather astonishing lineup of folk-Americana musicians who have been-there, done-that, played major festivals and won major awards along the way; no cover (www.myspace.com/pocketgoldberg).


Number 7: Best Monthly Listening Room (four-way tie):

Co-winner: "BLUEGRASS AT BRAEMAR COUNTRY CLUB," third Tuesdays, in Tarzana, produced by the Bluegrass Association of Southern California, it's free unless you want to eat the dinner buffet (www.socalbluegrass.org/bascnite.html).

Co-winner: L.A. WoMen in Music's performing songwriter "SOIREE," at the M Bar in Hollywood, where $20 buys a buffet dinner and eight acts in a respectful listening-room atmosphere (www.lawim.com).

Co-winner: "GRASSROOTS ACOUSTICA," the monthly charity showcase series with thoughtfully booked artists. It's produced and hosted by Mark Islam, second Saturdays at the Talking Stick in Venice, after roaming all over town (www.grassrootsacoustica.org).

Co-winner: "WESTERN MUSIC JAM," third Sundays, at the Autry National Center (formerly the Gene Autry Museum of Western Heritage) in Griffith Park often draws major western artists to its respectful performers-in-the-round atmosphere. It grew in 2008 to feature a reliably large lineup, and the museum now provides plenty of seating for the sizeable audience. Free with museum admission, and free to performers (www.westernmusic.com/calendar.html).

Honorable Mentions to the "JUKE JOINT GANG," produced and hosted by Ernest Troost, first Saturdays at the Talking Stick in Venice (www.ernesttroost.com), and the "AMERICANA MUSIC CIRCLE," produced and hosted by Lauren Adams at Kulaks Woodshed with a varying schedule (www.laurenadams.com); both include fine touring and local acts.


Number 8: Best Annual Acoustic Music Festival (by category):

One-Day Festival: The "Topanga Banjo Fiddle Contest and Folk Festival" in May at Paramount Ranch, in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, as always, drew world-class contestants and splendid entertainment on its multiple stages and continuous cornucopia of jams (www.topangabanjofiddle.org).

Ethnic Americana, and Music & Dance: The two local Southern Louisiana-theme festivals are winners in two categories each, and both are charity benefits. They are the "Cajun Creole Festival" in Simi Valley in May (www.simicajun.org), and the "Long Beach Bayou Festival" in June (www.longbeachfestival.com). Both featured Grammy winners and nominees, workshops, multiple activities, plenty for kids, and great food. Simi offers two Cajun / zydeco stages, Long Beach offers a Cajun / zydeco stage and a blues stage. Both have large wooden dance floors beneath canopy roofs.

Western Music: The "Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival" is a winner, with multiple stages and a full corral of western music stars and cowboy poets and storytellers. It was even better in 2008, able to place merchants inside the picturesque western-town buildings of Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio for the first time since the end of HBO's "Deadwood," which had locked-out festival uses. The sponsoring city never met a real estate developer they didn't embrace, but they do maintain an enduring annual commitment to celebrate western heritage in grand and fun style.

Folk / Acoustic Renaissance: The "Millpond Music Festival" in mid-September near Bishop is not-quite-local but easy to reach, and it was so good it makes our list of winners. An intimate festival with one fully-equipped stage plus a workshop stage, it books a quality cross-section of acts found at big folk festivals throughout the US and Canada. Small, friendly, and a real winner (www.inyo.org/millpond).

Best Free Festival: The "Taste of Folk Music / Taste of Encino" brought an impressive lineup of headliners you don't usually hear for free, though it was reduced to only two concert stages of music in '08, plus one stage each for folk dancing and storytelling. It all adjoins the annual street fair, which unfortunately offered far fewer "taste" booths in ‘08, replaced by too many commercial enterprises. It would be well worth going even if it wasn't free, but even with fewer stages, the amplification of each stage often annoyed its neighbor; things should be repositioned for ‘09 (www.ctmsfolkmusic.org).


Number 9: Best L.A.-Based Acoustic Live Performers of 2008 (by category):

Each year, I know there's at least one area where I'm bound to get into trouble. I'm sure you've found it, right here. Nearly all the winners have performed live on radio's "Tied to the Tracks," though selections here are based solely on 2008 performances in venues.

To be eligible, the artist or band must be based in the L.A. area, and be an answer to the question, "Who, among L.A.'s acoustic artists, consistently delivered knock-your-socks-off live shows, locally?" The field changed when some musicians moved out of the area (like Simon Lynge, Andrew Lorand, Julie Gribble, and Kat Parsons). Some play here a lot, but live outside the bounds (like San Diego's Berkley Hart and Jack Tempchin). Others who live here tour so much, their local performances were too rare for consideration (like Peter Case, Katy Moffatt, and Amilia Spicer).

We present separate categories for best band performances, and best male, female, and instrumental solo performances.

Top Ten Live Acoustic Bands in L.A. in 2008: 

1) Riders of the Purple Sage

They're amazing, and transcend their genre, as they prove when they perform with symphony orchestras. Endorsed by the widow of band founder Foy Willing, and with mandolin wizard Evan Marshall now solidly a member, they are the best acoustic band in L.A., period (www.ridersofthepurplesage.com).

2) Sligo Rags

When they performed on radio's "Tied to the Tracks" on St. Patrick's Day, 2006, eight of the Top Ten songs on one Celtic music chart were theirs (no other artist appeared more than once in the Top 100). And they've grown much since then, with lively Irish music that imparts flavors of bluegrass and jazz (www.sligorags.com).

3) Susie Glaze and Hilonesome

Susie is justifiably endorsed by Appalachian music legend Jean Richie, and the band has a fine repertoire of beyond-bluegrass originals from its chief songwriter, Rob Carlson. They can take you up in the hollars, or sound like a female-fronted Asleep at the Wheel (www.susieglaze.com).

4) Lisa Haley & the Zydekats

Grammy nominees in 2008 for the first-ever Cajun-Zydeco Album of the Year, their originals are mostly in English, making their music more accessible than others in their genre. They play festivals on both sides of the Atlantic, and enough shows here to keep the home folks happy, including New Year's Eve at Disneyland (www.bluefiddle.com).

5) Moira Smiley and VOCO

Yes, Moira performs in other contexts, notably in 2008 with Molly's Revenge. But her creation of VOCO, four women with amazingly woven harmonies and dazzling body percussion, is one of the best vocally-based shows anywhere (www.moirasmiley.com).

6) Janet Klein and Her Parlor Boys

Janet lives in a musical world of 80 to 100 years ago, selecting obscure gems and reinvigorating them for all of us. Her band is rich with players from first-rate gypsy jazz and old-time bands, including Grammy winner Ian Whitcomb (www.janetklein.com).

7) Fur Dixon & Steve Werner

A phenomenal duo, these two could easily get a motion picture song placement and be instant stars. Both are top-drawer songwriters, and together their vocal harmonies and complementary guitar licks create rootsy road music worthy of Woody Guthrie at his feel-good best. They're fun folks who delight in throwing big barbecues and inviting everyone (literally everyone). They often bring a sizeable band, including Cliff Wagner (Old #7) and Paul Marshall (I See Hawks in L.A.). The town is still abuzz from their fall '08 show at the Getty (www.furandsteve.com).

8) Cow Bop

This is the bebop, western swing, jazzy, innovative and fun creation of technically precise jazz guitar wizard Bruce Forman, who doubles as artist-in-residence at USC. First-rate players and music, all-around. (www.cowbop.com).

9) I See Hawks in L.A.

They tour so much these days, it's hard to catch them at home, but oh-so-worth-it when you do. Instrumentally, vocally, and with their songwriting, they're first-rate, with band members of rich experience (www.iseehawks.com).

10) The Tumbling Tumbleweeds

With no Grammy for western music, the genre's most prestigious awards come from the Academy of Western Artists and the Western Music Association. This band won top honors from both in '08. Ostensibly a tribute band to the Sons of the Pioneers, they have moved beyond that, with originals and farther-ranging covers delivered with four-part harmonies backed by guitar and seasoned pros on fiddle and upright bass (www.thetumblingtumbleweeds.com).

Top Ten Live Acoustic Male Singer-Songwriters in L.A. in 2008:

1) Lowen & Navarro

Eric Lowen & Dan Navarro are among the most respected songwriters in the folk-Americana music world. Their hits include "We Belong" for Pat Benatar. Despite Eric's battle with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) the two continue to write and perform wonderful music (www.lownav.com)

2) Ken O'Malley

He's from Ireland, he's the best know local Irish musician, and his performances of traditional and original Irish music are both fun and moving, solo or with his band, The Twilight Lords (www.kenomalley.com).

3) Freebo

Longtime bassist and sideman to Bonnie Raitt, session and touring bassist with John Mayall, CSN, Maria Muldaur, and Ringo Starr, tuba virtuoso with Dr. John and Spinal Tap, he keeps getting better as a singer-songwriter. Winner of the "South Florida Folk Festival Songwriting Competition," he has three solo CDs, one nominated in 5 categories in the Just Plain Folks Awards, with two songs in the Top 10 of the "International Songwriting Competition." He's a solid part of the folk-Americana world (www.freebomusic.com).

4) Ronny Cox

Best known as an actor with many film and TV roles, Ronny continues to prove his artistry as a performing songwriter with lots of engaging storytelling. He's sang on the Jay Leno "Tonight" Show, and NPR's "Mountain Stage." (www.ronnycox.com).

5) James Lee Stanley

He writes superb songs in English, he speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese, and he's performed and recorded with many known artists. One of his records was named among the Top 200 CDs of All Time by Fi Magazine. And he's just fine solo (www.jamesleestanley.com).

6) John Batdorf

With a 2008 solo CD, this half of ‘70s duo Batdorf & Rodney continues to assert his credentials as an artist with something to say in his new folk music (www.johnbatdorfmusic.com).

7) Robert Morgan Fisher

He was performing host of his too-many-artists-for-one-day "Folktacular" held twice during 2008. Another of his songs reached number one on Neil Young's "Living with War" website. And his writing and performances are always strong (www.robertmorganfisher.com).

8) Brad Colerick

He returned to writing and performing folk-Americana music after spending 20 years doing music for commercials, where Johnny Cash sang one of his tunes. When he records, he gets Suzy Bogguss, Herb Pedersen, and April Verch on his records. When he performs, you're glad you're in the room (www.bradcolerick.com).

9) James Hurley

He could sing the phone book and we'd listen. Fortunately, he's a fine songwriter who's performing songs from his considerable repertoire and his 2008 CD, his third release (www.jameshurleymusic.com).

10) Dave Morrison

He doesn't tour, and he should. But that means we get to hear more of him here, and those who know his music go to hear him again and again (www.davemorrisonmusic.com).

Top Ten Live Acoustic Female Singer-Songwriters in L.A. in 2008:

1) Joyce Woodson

Renowned for her vocal range and songwriting, in 2008 she won "Song of the Year" from the Western Music Association, and the "Will Rogers Best Female Performer of the Year" honors from the Academy of Western Artists. With no Grammy for western music, that, and Joyce, are as good as it gets (www.joycewoodson.com).

2) Michelle Shocked

One of folk-Americana's true performance artists, she can work her vocal intensity to project exactly the right emotion for each line and each word in her fine original songs (www.michelleshocked.com).

3) Marina V.

A rising star in the acoustic renaissance, she delights folk fans at house concerts as easily as she delivers a full-band show at Hotel Café. Marina, now a proud American citizen, was classically trained in Moscow, and her piano compositions combine with her inspirational songwriting and soaring voice to great effect (www.marinav.com).

4) Nicole Gordon

Whether performing her "Songs of Shiloh" thematic repertoire with songwriting partner Marty Axelrod, or doing her own songs solo or with her band, Nicole's performances are compelling (www.myspace.com/nicolegordonmusic).

5) Ashley Maher

Better known in world music circles for her brilliant use of a crateful of indigenous African instruments, Ashley can, and did, deliver folk-Americana with the best of them in ‘08 (www.ashleymaher.com).

6) Kristin Korb

She bills herself as a jazz artist, and her depth and range make us take many second looks at the genre. And at Kristin. She is a beauty with a beautiful voice, and she sings like Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn while playing the upright bass as a virtuoso (www.kristinkorb.com).

7) Stephanie Bettman

Stephanie performs from a repertoire that increasingly includes her originals, attracting bluegrass and new folk audiences alike with her fiddle, vocals, and songwriting (www.stephaniebettman.com).

8) Vertigo Road

Okay, so it's a band name and it looks out of place in this category. But longtime band mates Kim Kopp and Dawnia Dresser could be a female Lowen & Navarro, and they deserve notice as acoustic renaissance artists (www.vertigoroad.com).

9) Dafni

A diminutive artist with fine songwriting chops, the Acoustic Americana Music Guide repeatedly referred to her during 2008 as "the delightful Dafni." Her music is fun, original, and evocative of the 1930s (www.myspace.com/dafni).

10) Chelsea Williams

A genuine busker, and one who busks under contract at Universal Citywalk. In '09, she'll be playing some big folk festivals. We first learned of her when John McEuen phoned from the road in Kansas City. Her songwriting is jaunty with a compelling youthfulness, and her performances are lots of fun (www.myspace.com/chelseawilliams).

Top Ten Live Acoustic Instrumentalists in L.A. in 2008:

1) Evan Marshall

Long renowned as a mandolin virtuoso who plays duets solo, he's developed fiddle chops to match. And he writes all the parts for entire orchestras when the Riders of the Purple Sage play those gigs (www.solomandolin.com).

2) Doug MacLeod

He was nominated in late '08 by the Blues Foundation for "Acoustic Blues Artist of The Year" in the 2009 Blues Music Awards. He's a remarkable slide player on his National guitar, and you'll enjoy his vocals and stage banter, too (www.doug-macleod.com).

3) Bernie Pearl

He's been touring his acclaimed 2008 double CD, "Old School Blues, Acoustic / Electric" (one disc of each) and fortunately, he plays his great blues guitars often around L.A. and the O.C. (www.berniepearl.com).

4) Gary Allegretto

Harmonica player extraordinaire, he works with top players in both the blues and western music genres. Gary founded Harmonikids, a global charity that's taken him to teach the instrument to young orphans of the Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina (www.garyallegretto.com).

5) John McEuen

Multi-instrumental virtuoso and founding member of the Grammy-winning, CMA-winning Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, when he's home in L.A., he always dazzles his audiences. Cocktail party trivia? He taught Steve Martin to play banjo (www.johnmceuen.com).

6) Bruce Forman

One of the world's top beyond-jazz guitarists, he is artist-in-residence at USC. In addition to his western swing / bebop band, Cow Bop, he does "The Red Guitar," a musical fable based on "The Red Shoes" children's story. In it, he brings a tour de force of styles and licks from every great jazz guitarist, and then some (www.bruceforman.com).

7) Tom Sauber

A master multi-genre multi-instrumentalist, he plays banjo, fiddle, guitar, and mandolin, and he sings, all "well grounded in tradition, with a comprehensive grasp of style." We're fortunate when this humble, unassuming wizard plays locally, between big festivals (www.tombradalice.com/tom.html).

8) Brantley Kearns

A spectacular fiddle player who was missed while recovering from hand injuries, he was back better than ever in '08, with I See Hawks in L.A., Fur Dixon & Steve Werner, and other local bands fortunate enough to have him. And he did big international tours with Heather Myles. If you see Brantley walk on the stage, you're in for great music (www.answers.com/topic/brantley-kearns).

9) Amy Farris

A well-respected fiddle player on the Austin music scene, Amy moved to L.A. in '03. She's steadily making inroads, playing with all ther local big names in roots music. And her vocals have grown dramatically. She was always impressive in '08. Expect big things in ‘09 (www.amyfarris.com).

10) Daniel McFeeley

This guy can play anything with strings, and some things without them. He's quite effective on ukulele and harmonica and plays well with others. Solo, he's a contender as a very funny, entertaining singer-songwriter who needs a wheelbarrow for his gear (www.myspace.com/danielmcfeeley).


Number 10: Most Under-Appreciated People of the L.A. Acoustic Scene in 2008:

Many of enjoy the rich offerings of the acoustic music scene. So much is done so well that few of us think about the devotion of those who make it possible. We offer recognition here to a few key people.

1) The volunteer team of the Topanga Banjo Fiddle Contest and Folk Festival.

They work year-round to deliver, one day each year, excitement, anticipation, high-level competition with first-rate judging, and a delightful immersion in roots-Americana music. Of course, they're always looking for fresh volunteers (www.topangabanjofiddle.org).

2) Shared honors for Jimi Yamagishi, singer-songwriter, daytime music professional, volunteer executive director of Songnet Songwriters Network; and, Alex del Zoppo, singer-songwriter (his band Sweetwater opened Woodstock), chair of the L.A. Songwriters Co-Op; are the people who, each month, cajole music industry professionals to present programs and critique original music for free for a roomful of songwriters who attend for $5 (Co-Op) or free (Songnet).

3) Bob Stane, legendary show-biz impresario and booker of the Coffee Gallery Backstage in Altadena. Bob brings world-class acoustic acts to his stage more nights each week, by far, than any other venue in the L.A. region, even working the sound and lights himself.

4) Lincoln Myerson, concert director of McCabe's in Santa Monica, and,

5) Gary Mandell, concert booker and impresario of Boulevard Music in Culver City, and,

6) Judy Hersch, concert booker and impresario of the Blue Ridge Pickin' Parlor in Granada Hills,

are the people who seek and find and lure and book the wonderful acoustic roots-Americana acts for their music-store-sponsored concerts.

7) Steve Dulson, devoted director of The Living Tradition, the nonprofit series in Anaheim that hosts great concerts, traditional dance, and jam sessions.

8) Rex Mayreis and Nick Smith of the Caltech Folk Music Society, longtime prime movers of one of the best folk-Americana concert series anywhere on the planet.

9) Wendy Waldman, legendary songwriter and musician, now with the Refugees trio (Wendy, Cindy Bullens, Deborah Holland), has for years provided her home studio to Roz Larman and the late Howard Larman to enable the top-quality recorded performance-interviews you hear on the "FolkScene" radio show each week.

10) Mark Humphreys, singer-songwriter, record producer, and founder of Trough Records, an archetype multi-artist co-op label. Mark performed and toured coast-to-coast, and he now stays-put with a demanding day job. But that doesn't keep him from "herding cats," coaxing and nurturing a stable of artists who, under his direction, create fine acoustic CDs.


The latest detailed information on live acoustic Americana and acoustic renaissance performances is always in the "Acoustic Americana Music Guide," and there's more (including obits, when necessary) in its companion "Acoustic Americana Music News." Both are available at http://acousticamericana.blogspot.com

You can contact Larry Wines at tiedtothetracks@hotmail.com