I just finished my 4th Folk Alliance International Conference.

The conference has been held at the Westin Crown Center in Kansas City for the last five years.  I’ve had a lot of great experiences, educational, inspiring and otherwise at these event.

I’d actually considered not attending this year, not fully accepting the idea that I was the right type of artist to fully benefit from a conference like this.  I don’t really have a “folk” type act that resonates here.  My bio or even my message does not really reflect the attitude of any political or social agenda.  I just like to play music and hang with great musicians.  That really is reason enough to attend the conference.

When I was asked to join my friends “Under the Big Oak Tree” in their FAI private showcases, I felt I had a great reason to go.

While in years past, I would really show up for everything and really push to fit everything in, this year I took a more relaxed approach.

I actually missed the first day and a half and arrived early Friday evening.  I got checked in.  It took me about two minutes walking through the halls to see some hometown folks amongst the familiar and unfamiliar folky faces and guitar cases.  After a little light chatting, it was up to the official showcases.

I was able to catch a great Irish singer (really from Ireland).  I saw a killer band from Memphis called the “Southern Avenue”.  Great R&B, gospel-y with a high-energy female vocalist you could describe as the next Tina Turner.  She really sold the deal with great singing and dancing.

There are panels on a wide range of topics all day long too.  And on Friday through Sunday, they run a music camp with great instructors for all kinds of instruments in the Sheraton.  I personally enjoy and get a lot out of the music camp.  Always great to meet the instructors and just see different teaching styles.  I was lucky to get to talk personally with a few of them this year.


Clawhammer Guitar (and gourd banjo) w/ Steve Baughman was more challenging than I imagined.


Chris and Ganesh’s “Intro to Indian Music”!


Got into the 12 bar blues and many more rabbit holes with the legendary, David Amram.

Country Guitar with Redd Volkaert!



Saturday’s Keynote interview was with Mary Chapin Carpenter.  Turns out “Mary Chapin” is kind of like “Mary Anne”, they always go together.  Living and Learning.








I only attended one panel this year on “Parenting for musicians”.  Seems like everyone agrees “parenting is really hard”.  Sometimes kids are even a pain in the $%^.  Doesn’t actually matter what you do for a living.  But, maybe… just maybe it’s good for kids to see their parents following being creative, doing what it takes and following their dreams.  At least, that’s our story and we are sticking to it.




Really enjoyed the Saturday night official showcases on the 20th Floor in Benton’s Restaurant.  Great music and a great aerial view of KC.  Saw some really good stuff there, Folk legend John Gorka, Jorma Kaukonen of the Jefferson Airplane and one of my personal favorites, Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley!


The Elephant Sessions from Scotland are just blowing up.  Great to see them on their first trip to the US.


The private showcases are where all the real fun actually goes down.  Floors 5-7 are transformed into private showcase rooms and the hallways are filled with wandering musicians and fans shooting from short performances to jam sessions and hangouts.  



A real highlight was see “The Western Flyers” do their western swing thing with pure intensity and excellence.








The Midwest Music Foundation room is always a great spot and there’s almost always a friendly party going on there.


Trey and Rob again!

The amazing Chris Robley and his impromptu trio of back-up singers!


All in all, I’m glad I got to go again this year.  Twas to be the final conference in KC and it’s been great having all these wonderful musicians from all over the world in our proverbial back yard.


FAI is obliged to go to Canada every 5 years and will be in Montreal in 2019.  Canadians are big proponents of the music.  The government is actually supportive of their fine artists!  Can you believe it.


Big Thanks to Under the Big Oak Tree for having along.  It was a great one!