Ken Waldman | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Ken Waldman 

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Anyone who's read my writing more than a few times knows that I love music with a sense of place. That's at least partly because I worry that "place" is a dying concept; I see chain stores, chain fashions, and chain music everywhere I go, from Chicago to my native Virginia to my former residences in urban New York and rural Ohio. So I especially love music that sounds like places I've never been, and Alaskan fiddler-poet Ken Waldman works hard at evoking his home state, as if he were the only man charged with bringing its tales down to the lower 48. (He also tours like he really has that mandate.) In his new volume of poetry, The Secret Visitor's Guide, he reflects on his journeys into the wilderness from his Anchorage base and the long trips he made back, balancing a weathered humanism with his grief and confusion over post-9/11 politics. His latest record, the self-released two-CD All Originals, All Traditionals, combines old and new material, and you'd have to know fiddle music very well to tell which is which just by listening--Waldman's own compositions have all the richly melodic hairpin turns and switchbacks of the genuine article, sounding like they've been worn smooth after years of being passed down from player to player. Local fiddler Jordan Wankoff contributes some fine duet playing on the Originals disc. Fri 1/27, 6 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433, $6.

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