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Scott Alarik - Deep Community

Deep Community:
Adventures In
The Modern Folk

(416 pages, 69 photographs)

Author: Scott Alarik
Photographs by Robert Corwin

ISBN: 0-9720270-1-7

Black Wolf Press

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Carey Driscoll

Scott Alarik's credentials in the Folk music community could hardly run any deeper or be more impressive: himself a songwriter and performer, he's also written extensively on the topic of Folk music for The Boston Globe and Sing Out! Magazine, was the editor of the New England Folk Almanac for seven years, and is the Folk music critic for National Public Radio's Here and Now program. It's fair to say that, over the past 30+ years, he's interviewed almost everyone who is anyone in the genre.

Deep Community is basically a compilation of articles that he's written for The Boston Globe and, to a lesser degree, Sing Out!. One dates back to 1986, there are a few from the early '90s, but the overwhelming majority come from the past half-dozen years. The articles comprise individual "chapters" in this book, ranging from two to five pages in length, and were apparently only edited to remove dated references, such as to upcoming performances.

There's no chronological pattern to the order in which they appear, nor does there seem to be a thematic one, not to imply in any way that this is a negative. To the contrary, it enables the reader to open the book anywhere and be able to read enjoyable, entertaining and informative musings of both Alarik and his subjects without having to follow a storyline. Each "chapter" stands entirely on its own, which makes this book ideal for the coffeetable, waiting room, bathroom, or anywhere else that you (or your guests) might spend a short time. Although reading it from cover to cover is enjoyable, it's a book that doesn't HAVE to be read in that manner.

Alarik is from the Boston area, Folk music's "Ground Zero" in recent decades, and a number of his subjects may be unknown to much of the rest of the country. Others are known elsewhere, although many not as well as their Boston-area fame. In terms of what these people have to say, and what Alarik has to say about them, however, it matters not that you might never have heard of them for, like Folk music itself, the message conveyed is universal: "We're a community."

Of course, there ARE the widely-known names, those recognized even among non-Folk - and even non-music - fans: Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, and Judy Collins.

But this book isn't really about recognizable names, certainly not about "stars," but rather it's about the universal experience of seeing and hearing people - not just performers, but writers, presenters, and others - whose efforts allow us to share in the experience of live music, often performed by those who create it. Music that is, at heart, from the heart - because NO ONE chooses to work in the Folk music genre with an eye towards fame and fortune. Alarik shares with the reader much of the love - the passion - that makes these people do what they do, whether that's write and perform their music for, typically, small crowds, work long hours operating marginally profitable venues in which the music is performed, write about this music in the hope that, against all odds, the public will finally awaken to the joys of real, pure music, or whatever contribution it is that the subjects of this book make.

Deep Community is a book whose appeal should lie far beyond the fans of Folk music. The very fact that it's such an easy book to pick up, open, and begin reading - whether you have a few minutes or a few hours, and whether or not you'll ever have the opportunity to pick it up again - makes it an ideal book to give as a gift, to have available for waiting guests to browse, to take on a trip or for any situation in which you might find yourself with a few minutes you'd like to fill with enjoyable reading material.

In fact, much of what is written - in terms of community, and the manner in which local, grass roots actions can be extremely fulfilling - has lessons that apply to many other areas of life besides Folk music. Although it has become a handy catch-phrase with which to beat up on a certain politician, the fact is that, in most things in life, it DOES "take a village", which is nothing more - or less - than a community. If there's one story that best summarizes that concept, it may be this: when Bill Morrissey produced Ellis Paul's first CD, and was asked by Paul how much his fee would be, he replied "When you're in my position - and you will be - do the same for somebody who's just starting out. That's how you pay me."

THAT's an example of a Deep Community.

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2003, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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