Wednesday, February 08, 2006
The best liner notes I've ever read
Fred Holstein is from Chicago, and with any kind of luck, he'll end up there. Not because he's some kind of outcast from legit folkie circles. Let's face it, Chicago without Fred Holstein would still be Chicago, but Fred Holstein without Chicago would be Mel Torme. The love for Chicago is there, but it takes the form of a comfortable pride as if to say, "You can live in Chicago or someplace else--so why not Chicago?" What, the diligent reader may ask, does this have to do with Folk Music? Not a goddamn thing, except that here is a guy with a great voice and a presence on stage that makes Enzio Pinza look like Arnold Stang who decides to make his livelihood doing our music. I mean OUR music! Write? Shit, I don't even know if he can write his own name. So what! We got singer/songwriters like Lilian Carter's got little liver spots. But singers--well, as they say in Georgia, that's a horse of a separate but equal color. Fred knows songs. And the song Fred doesn't know hasn't been written yet. Sure, it's a camel filter, make-a-buck-world where if you don't write you're on the corner with a tin cup. But what about the guy who can sing Goodnight Irene to a packed house and make them believe he made it up on the spot? That's Fred. And we need him. You know why? Because the most radical idea in America is the long memory. School bussing in Chicago? Fred sings "If you can't find me in the back of the bus--" and there you are. The past and present become one and the future is yours to choose. So all you walkers and talkers, singers, humdingers and all-night flingers standing by on the ramp with your thumb out and a mouth full of words-a little piece of advice: sometimes the song's not enough. There's the craft, see? The sitting down and earning your money part. Well, tilt your thumb Fred's way, because there's craft you won't find in any college or book or cowboy fantasy. Sitting in a Fred Holstein audience is like going to school, and if this is your trade, listen and learn. Better finish off before I sober up and get sentimental.
-Utah Phillips 1977. Excerpt from Fred Holstein's "Chicago and Other Ports."
I've got more to write on this later.