Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Midwest punster and songster

Art Thieme is a living national treasure. His puns, stories, sense of humor, and collection of folk songs are as comfortable as a well worn pair of walking shoes. His voice and instrumental work are so natural that when you hear him perform a song, it sounds like an old favorite, even if you've never heard it before.

The Rock River Valley, along the Illinois border with Wisconsin, is where Art Thieme was raised and sparked his life-long love of folk music. I believe Art could play anything, and I do mean anything. His main instrument is the guitar, including his unique nine-string guitar, but he also plays old time banjo, musical saw, nose flute, jaw harp and who knows what all. He has collected an amazing amount of folksongs of the Midwest, and preserved them through his recordings.

Art, along with friends, Fred Holstein, Steve Goodman and John Prine, were the driving force in the Chicago folk music scene in the 1960s and 70s. He taught at the famous Old Town School of Folk Music, wrote articles for the legendary "Come for to Sing" magazine, hosted a radio program, and performed at Chicago's No Exit coffeehouse for 37 years.

I've seen Art Thieme perform several times, the last being well over a decade ago in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. His live performances harken back to when folk music was an era, a way of life. Unfortunately, Art had to stop performing years ago due to Multiple Sclerosis, but with the help of Sandy Patton of Folk-Legacy Records, he has recently released a new CD of live recordings. For long time fans, you'll know most of the songs, but if you know Art, you know he never performed any song the same way twice. For those of you not familiar with this Midwest troubadour, this CD is a chance to experience one of the best storyteller/singers of the folk era.

Art Thieme - Red Iron Ore.mp3
From his "Songs of the Heartland" LP on Kickin Mule records.

Art Thieme - What Does The Deep Sea Say.mp3
Also from his "Songs of the Heartland" LP

Art Thieme - Here's To You Rounders.mp3
From his "Out Right Bold-Faced Lies" LP on Kicking Mule Records

Art Thieme - Red_River_Valley.mp3
Played on the musical saw. Also from his "Songs of the Heartland" LP

(Kicking Mule was bought by Fantasy Records and are currently out-of-print)

Buy Art Thieme's new CD "Chicago Town & Points West - Live" at Folk-Legacy. Folk-Legacy also has his "On the Wilderness Road" and "That's the Ticket" CDs.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ed I like this. I agree even though I had never heard this before it does have familiar sound of an old favorite.


April 27, 2006 6:43 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

I've been a fan of Art Thieme for a very long time. In fact, it was his "What Does the Deep Sea Say" that inspired my son to play the banjo.

April 28, 2006 8:01 AM  
Anonymous Lucy said...

Yep, what Joey said.

April 28, 2006 8:42 AM  

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