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Death, Love and Liberty in the American Ballad

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Date and time
Monday, December 05, 2005

Greil Marcus and Sean Wilentz, editors of the acclaimed anthology The Rose and the Briar: Death, Love and Liberty in the American Ballad, discuss the place that folk ballads hold in American culture. A panel featuring musician and Boston Globe folk critic Scott Alarik, folklorist Millie Rahn, and Rounder Records founder Bill Nowlin asks how these songs of jilted lovers and hanging judges still manage to speak to 21st century audiences. Scott Alarik performs a selection of ballads to illustrate points in the discussion.

Greil Marcus is an American author, music journalist and cultural critic. He is notable for works such as "Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century", a scholarly and literary essay that places rock music in a much broader framework of culture and politics than is customary in pop music journalism. Marcus was born in San Francisco. He earned an undergraduate degree in American Studies from the University of California, Berkeley, where he also did graduate work in political science. He has been a rock critic and columnist for *Rolling Stone* (where he was the first reviews editor, at $30 a week) and other publications, including *Creem*, *The Village Voice*, and *Artforum*.
Scott Alarik has been the principal folk music writer for *The Boston Globe* since 1986. He is also a frequent contributor to *Sing Out!* the Folk Music Magazine, and was folk critic for the public radio program "Here and Now" for seven years. From 1991-97, he was editor and chief writer for the *New England Folk Almanac*. With the release of a new CD *All That Is True* and the launching of a long-awaited website, scottalarik.com, Alarik hopes to more closely connect his long careers as music journalist and folk singer. Before moving to Boston in the early 80s, Alarik spent nearly 15 years as a folk singer and songwriter. He released three albums and appeared regularly on the public radio hit "A Prairie Home Companion." During that time, writing overshadowed performing for Alarik. In 1991, the *Globe* briefly minimized the attention it paid to folk music, and Alarik, in partnership with the Folk Arts Network, founded the *New England Folk Almanac* to fill the breach in print media coverage. From 1991-97, it grew from a regional music calendar into a nationally respected magazine. At the peak of its popularity in 1997, an internal struggle within the sponsoring organization forced Alarik to leave the Almanac. It went out of business a year later.
Millie Rahn is a Massachusetts based folklorist who has done extensive fieldwork throughout New England and beyond. Her research interest include food traditions, traditional music, 1960s folk music revival, oral history, and industrial communities of New England. She has developed long and short term projects and events involving living cultural traditions for cultural and educational organizations, government and economic development agencies and the tourism and heritage industries. She has curated exhibits for many regional folk festivals, including the annual Lowell Folk Festival, the American Folk Festival in Bangor, Maine, the Boston Cultural Heritage Festival and the Working Waterfront Festival in New Bedford, MA.
Bill Nowlin began writing about the Boston Red Sox as a young teenager, for a self-published neighborhood newspaper. Though the paper's circulation hovered in the single-digit range, it was the first step on what would become a life-long journey for Nowlin. Since the early '90s he has established himself as an authority on the much-beloved Sox via 15 published books and over 100 articles in various newspapers, magazines, and journals. His books include *Mr. Red Sox: The Johnny Pesky Story*, *Fenway Lives*, *Ted Williams: The Pursuit of Perfection*, *Blood Feud: The Red Sox*, *the Yankees*, *The Struggle of Good vs. Evil*, and *Day by Day with the Boston Red Sox* (the first two titles co-authored with fellow Sox enthusiast Jim Prime). Nowlin's devoted scholarship - particularly his detailed exploration of the life and legacy of Ted Williams - led to his recent election as Vice-President of the Society for American Baseball Research, as well as his continuing role as publications editor for the Ted Williams Museum in Florida. These days he appears frequently on radio and television in the Boston area, discussing his favorite team, the Boston Red Sox. Bill Nowlin grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts. For the first dozen years of Rounder Records' existence, Bill also served as a professor of political science at the University of Lowell; Dr. Nowlin retired from teaching in 1982.