[Audio Interview] Michael Johnathon talks about the Woodsongs Front Porch Association and Gathering

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The Woodsongs Front Porch Association (WFPA) is an amazingly and elegantly simple creature.

Based in Lexington, Kentucky and the brain child of Michael Johnathon, singer-songwriter and 36 other titles, it’s spreading its tendrils across the USA and the world.

I’ll not steal any WFPA thunder by block copying and pasting here – yet, but please follow the links, and your rewards shall be many and bountiful.

The Cliff Notes, as MJ would say: it’s a cheap-as-chips member association which opens everyone up to a world of information, resources and networking, and opens its arms and invites the world of art and artists in to share, share, share. Stop, collaborate and listen!

On Friday 23 and Saturday 24 September 2016, the WFPA is holding its second annual Gathering in Shaker Village, Pleasant Hill, Kentucky – see main picture for all the salient details of the wheres and whens.

Full details at www.songfarmers.org

It’s the how much that’s the real news story here. And it’s a good, good news story at a time when good news stories are pretty gosh-darned thin on the ground.

Choose your preference: click on a hyperlink or click on the audio file link below, and listen in as Michael explains WFPA and the Gathering in his signature succinct, clear, resonantly-voiced vocal stylings (even over the tech equivalent of two cans and a 9063 mile piece of string!)

ENDS (for now, but really it’s just the beginning!)

Some basic notes for the interview… which I never referred to!

 

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Image courtesy of www.songfarmers.org

 

[Audio Interview] Melissa Deaton-Johnathon’s Tribute To The Luke Bryan Memorial Car Park

Image courtesy of Melissa Deaton-Johnathon of PostMan Records. Photo by Michael Johnathon.
Image courtesy of Melissa Deaton-Johnathon of PoetMan Records. Photo by Michael Johnathon.

 

At the time of recording, this was still something of a developing story, as the ripples from a fairly large event snafu were still rippling outwards.

The press stories from Lexington Kentucky can tell the story better than a middle-aged music press writer from Sydney can. But put simply, there was a Luke Bryan concert at the Talon Winery and Vineyards in October 2015 that probably needed a better risk management plan. To say the least.

Risk: half or more of the audience stay stuck in traffic at the time the concert starts, throughout the concert, after the concert, and as late as 4am the next morning.

Likelihood: high.

Severity: parody songs are written in the event’s honour.

Image courtesy of Rick Deaton
Melissa Deaton-Johnathon. Image courtesy of Rick Deaton.

And so it transpired.

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Interview: Michael Johnathon of Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour

Image courtesy of Woodsongs dot com and Michael Johnathon. Photo by Larry Neuzel.
Image courtesy of Woodsongs dot com and Michael Johnathon. Photo by Larry Neuzel.

Image courtesy of Woodsongs dot com and Michael Johnathon. Photo by Larry Neuzel.

From humble beginnings in 1998, from a small venue that sat just 20 people in the audience, Michael Johnathon has built the Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour into a public broadcasting colossus. Woodsongs is heard and seen around the globe each week from its current home in the Lyric Theatre, Lexington KY.

The program showcases bands, performers and troupes from across the broad spectrum of bluegrass, Americana, roots, acoustic and alt-country, and a few others around the blurred edges of folk.

It’s a 100% community and volunteeer-run operation, making its longevity and sustainability all the more remarkable. And laudable.

It gets even better than that – but you’ll have to listen to the interview for the part that rocked me back on my heels.

And upturned kayak.

The show has reached an eye-watering 750+ episodes as of April 2014, many of which are freely available from the Woodsongs website in audio and video formats. Apart from its legion of individual listeners, Woodsongs has spawned a string of coffeehouse groups which meet to experience the show as a community.

The log cabin. Image courtesy of Michael Johnathon.
The log cabin. Image courtesy of Michael Johnathon.

And it’s not like Michael has anything else to do with his spare time.

Like being a singer-songwriter of many years standing. Or touring. Or arranging other concerts. Or building a log cabin and surrounding structures plus landscaping and bridges etc. bare-handed. Or being a father of two adult children (and two more on the way in one hit).

No, I lied. He’s all of that and more.

An just get a load of where he got his folk beginnings from. I can only interpret my silence at hearing who his neighbour was in upstate New York as a little mild shock and awe.

On a chilly autumnal morning in Sydney, I stepped off the Manly* Ferry and found a suitable-ish place to record an interview over the shaky airwaves from Australia to Lexington, Kentucky. A picture of my luxurious chair in the ‘recording studio’ appears below.

* For international audiences, ‘Manly’ refers to a suburb and location on the north side of Sydney Harbour named ‘Manly’. We don’t believe in forcing gender stereotypes onto our aquatic transport vessels. Actually, if anything, we refer to them as ‘her‘ for the most part. Continue reading

A Punter’s Perspective 17 – Kids in Folk pt II: Almira Fawn (Kentucky, USA)

Almira Fawn
Almira Fawn

A Punter’s Perspective

Random observations on the wide, weird world of folk from the side of the stage

#17 Kids in Folk pt II: Almira Fawn (US)
First published in Trad and Now magazine, September 2009

Last year I wrote a column about two young performers from New South Wales (then aged 11 years old), and I had cunning plans to make a semi-regular feature in my monthly A Punter’s Perspective column in Trad and Now magazine to focus specifically on younger performers.

Plans are funny things, aren’t they? We have endless fun making them, and then so often simply file them under ‘F’ for forgotten.

Or ‘I’ for ‘I’ll get back to that…’.

And then a funny thing happened on the way to a singing session one cold Saturday night in Canberra.

The radio announced a burgeoning young star from Lexington, Kentucky and I was hopelessly hooked.

I was stopped in the carpark outside Woolies in Dickson (Canberra), and found myself unable to get out of the car.

Instead, I sat transfixed to the Woodsongs Old Time Music Hour program, and the story of Almira Fawn (aged 11 at the time of recording, having turned 12 in the intervening few months).

It’s quite a story, and one which could stretch over a year’s worth of articles, were there time to tell them all.

Six billion eccentrics wander the earth
To me right, file diddle i ay…

– Peter Morton, Northumbria

This is the story of Almira Fawn, collected over the phone while talking with Almira, her dad Don, and mum Umi in Lexington, Kentucky. Also patched through via conference phone to Almira’s manager of sorts, Beau, who runs a community radio station (The Penguin 106.7FM) in Wilmington, North Carolina.

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