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The Old Town School of Folk Music heads outside this weekend for the tenth annual Chicago Folk & Roots Festival, which features two days of music in Welles Park, 2333 W. Sunnyside. Old Town's typically eclectic programming style is again on full display, with anything that's not overtly rock, jazz, or classical considered fair game. National and international touring acts predominate on the main stage, while locals command the other spots: one stage is reserved for the school's crew of instructors, another is dedicated to dancing, a third focuses on kids' music, and at the gazebo stage attendees are invited to take part in a series of jam sessions. Most of the main-stage artists have played Chicago in the recent past, many at Old Town itself, but a few promising acts are making their local debuts--most notably New York's Forro in the Dark and Mali's Vieux Farka Toure (who, to be technical, also played a few days ago at Millennium Park). A $5 donation is requested. Call 773-728-6000 or visit oldtownschool.org for more. --Peter Margasak

By Monica Kendrick (MK) and Peter Margasak (PM) Chicago Folk & Roots Festival

SATURDAY14

Gazebo

Noon Kani Ka Pila with Lanialoha Lee

1:30 Honky Tonk Angels with Andrea and Shelly

3:00 Jug Band with Arlo

4:30 R.E.M. ensemble

6:00 Soul ensemble

Staff Stage

Noon Cantaro with Shamila Khetarpal

12:30 Sugarcreek Road with Kara Kesselring

1:00 Chris Farrell

1:30 WAZO County Warblers with Gail Tyler

2:00 Hypnic Jerks with Ari Frede

2:30 Patent Medicine with Skip Landt

3:00 Teflons with Barb Silverman

3:30 Dale Petersohn

4:00 Tom Stevens

4:30 Old Town School Songwriters with Steve Dawson

5:00 Andrea Bunch & friends

5:30 Sheathens with Vanessa Vincent

6:00 Baba Manouche with Michael O'Toole

6:30 Caulfields with Karen Banks-Lubicz

7:00 Scott Besaw & friends

7:30 Malort Brothers with Dan Fulkerson

:00 Buzzkills with Cathy Norden

Kids Tent

Noon Wiggleworms with Mr. Singer (in the park)

12:50 Little Latin Dancers with Lorena

1:45 Stacy Music

2:40 Hula for kids

3:30 Kids guitar performance with Andrea

4:10 Linda Robertson Band

5:00 Kids improv with Ari

Dance Tent

Noon Ballet stretch with Sandra

1:15 Jump rhythm jazz with Glenn

2:30 West African dance with Idy

4:00 Jutta & the Hi-Dukes

5:30 Salsa basics with Isabel

6:00 El Caribe Tropical

Main Stage

12:55 Special Music by Special People

1:30 BLT

2:05 Dave Specter & the Bluebirds

2:45 Ray Abshire Cajun Band

Accordionist Ray Abshire, of Lafayette, Louisiana, belongs to one of Cajun music's most storied families--his cousin was the great Nathan Abshire--and grew up playing with the Balfa Brothers and Amadie Breaux. Country kin to zydeco, this music is easygoing, infectious, and soulful, with unison melody lines and hot-dog soloing driven by a pumping dance beat. Abshire sticks to a traditionalist sound, based around squeezebox, fiddle, and strummed acoustic guitar, and as he started singing this stuff before amplification became the norm, he can seriously project. PM

4:25 Uncle Earl

5:45 Hot 8 Brass Band (in the park)

6:15 Bettye LaVette

Long ago, before rock and R & B hit puberty, got self-conscious, and frostily parted ways, they were twin brothers by different mothers. It's hard to deny, for instance, that Ike and Tina's "Proud Mary" is far more rock 'n' roll than Creedence's, or that both "Gimme Shelter" and "Sweet Home Alabama" get much of their goose-bumps-raising power from Merry Clayton. Bettye LaVette, born in 1946 and a veteran of that preschism soul-rock era, has somehow successfully relocated to Indieville. Her 2005 comeback album on Anti-, I've Got My Own Hell to Raise, was the biggest of her career, hitting home with an audience starved not for authenticity per se but for plain old barn-burning charisma. The forthcoming The Scene of the Crime is LaVette's revenge on Atlantic, the label that shelved a breakout-quality album she recorded at Muscle Shoals back in the early 70s, but it's not in her nature to serve anything cold. Muscle Shoals session players Spooner Oldham and David Hood make contributions, as does the band led by Hood's son Patterson, the Drive-By Truckers--not coincidentally the best southern-rock act of their generation. MK

:15 Knitters

Do they have a new record, you ask? Don't be absurd--The Modern Sounds of the Knitters came out in 2005, so at the band's established recording pace the next one isn't due for another 18 years. What's remarkable is that this group, formed in the early 80s as a retroish side project by the members of X, was if anything further ahead of its time than the parent band: the Knitters' take on folk and country--rebellious and eclectic, but clearly adoring and ultimately purist--helped pave the way for the entire Bloodshot aesthetic. If you're not getting the tone yet, see the "reminiscences" dotting their Web site bio: "When we played for Ralph Peer in Bristol, Tennessee back in '27 . . . there wasn't what you'd call 'electric' music. It was just us, Jimmie Rodgers, and the Carter Family with our acoustic guitars, singing into one microphone. Too bad our master from that session fell off the back of a Model A. Our career might have gotten started sooner." In the current lineup bassist Jonny Ray Bartel, late of the Red Devils, joins lifers Exene Cervenka, Dave Alvin, D.J. Bonebrake, and John Doe (who also plays at the Abbey on Sunday with his own band; see the Treatment). MK

SUNDAY15

Gazebo

Noon Sunday Sing with Jimmy T.

1:30 Woody Guthrie's Folk Jam with Mark

3:00 Old-time string-band jam with Steve

4:30 Grateful Dead ensemble

6:00 Beatles ensemble

Staff Stage

Noon Third Wheel with Jeremy Babcock

12:30 Graham Greene

1:00 Occidental Brothers Dance Band International with Nathaniel Braddock

1:30 Luis Jahn & band

2:00 Lanialoha & Kupono

2:30 Joel Frankel & the Ankles

3:00 Lantry & Weeks with Heather Lantry

3:30 Kaiju Daiko with John Yost

4:00 Hijazz with Omar Al Musfi

4:30 Picante with Mani Bances

5:00 Dahui with Rick Neuhaus

5:30 The Jack Clark Five with Mark Dvorak, Peggy Browning, and Maura Lally

6:00 Crossed Grace with Rebecca Toon

6:30 Steve Rosen Orchestra

7:00 Mystery Train with Alton Smith

7:30 Sweet Hello with Laura Doherty and Cat Edgerton

:00 Tangleweed with Ryan Fisher

Kids Tent

Noon Wiggleworms with Sandy (in the park)

12:50 Joel Frankel & Juan Dies

1:45 Jitterbugs with Xaviera

2:35 Hop to Pop with Shana and Abby

3:25 Bhangra for kids with Shamila

4:20 Erin Flynn Band

5:15 Kids rhythm circle with Lenny

Dance Tent

Noon Qigong with Al

1:15 Hip-hop dance with Boogie

2:30 Polka lesson

3:00 Polkaholics

4:30 Clogging with Barb Silverman

5:15 Square dance with the Wilders (Paul Tyler, caller)

Main Stage

1:00 Fifth Annual Midwest Fiddle Championship

2:05 Wabolabr

Full disclosure: I took some old-time fiddle classes from the unfortunately named Jordan Wankoff at the Old Town School a decade or so ago; he's not, however, to be blamed for the way I play. Wankoff's band Wabolabr, in fact, would serve quite well as an educational tool: pure mountain music of the 20s and 30s, reassembled to museum-grade specs with all its joyousness intact. Apparently immune to any modernizing influence, the group's double-fiddled, clapboard-church-singing string band re-creations sound pretty much like something Alan Lomax might have ripped off--er, I mean documented. MK

3:00 Sones de Mexico

On their new album, Esta Tierra Es Tuya, these locals take on a dazzling array of Mexican folk-music forms with a preservationist's care (the CD insert includes a diagram of the roughly 70 instruments used on the recording), but the results never feel fussy or stilted: each track bursts with energy, and novel arrangements and ideas are everywhere. At one point they put a son jarocho spin on a movement from one of Bach's Brandenberg Concertos, and, with U.S. immigration policy under fire from all sides, the title track confirms that Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" loses none of its power when sung in Spanish. PM

4:30 Forro in the Dark

For at least seven decades forro (pronounced something like "faw-HAW") has been the music northeastern Brazil dances to. Originally played on accordion, bass drum, and triangle (hence the regular comparisons to zydeco) and popularized throughout the country in the 40s by pioneer Luiz Gonzaga, the form has grown well beyond its original sound. Percussionist Mauro Refosco, a New York-based Brazilian expat, put this group together for a birthday party five years ago, and the arrangement stuck. Since then they've lost accordionist Rob Curto (who then started the more old-school Forro for All) and picked up an electric guitarist and a flautist, and they take plenty of liberties with the traditional repertoire. On Forro in the Dark's second album, Bonfires of Sao Joao (Nublu), Gonzaga's classic "Paraiba" gets updated with tea-garden wooden flute and and Japanese-language lead vocals by Miho Hatori, while "I Wish (Bundle of Contradictions)" features some palsied blues singing courtesy of David Byrne. Through it all, though, the ineffable, unmistakable forro rhythm maintains its frantic pulse. PM

5:45 Read My Hips (in the park)

6:15 Vieux Farka Toure

The son of the great Malian singer and guitarist Ali Farka Toure, who died last year of bone cancer, Vieux Farka Toure seems to have the goods to creditably carry on the family business. Vieux began playing music in defiance of Ali, who reportedly wanted him to enter the military, and it was only after hearing the quality of the son's recordings that the father gave his blessing. Judging from Vieux's self-titled debut (which features appearances by the elder Toure and the legendary kora player Toumani Diabate), the fruit hasn't fallen far from the tree. Although he makes a few half-hearted excursions into reggae and rock, on the more traditional material Vieux sounds authoritative and passionate, delivering somber meditations that balance north African folk imagery with tempered calls for peace and optimism for the continent. PM

:15 Grupo Fantasma

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Bettye Lavette.

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