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Roger McGuinn, 'Den' Father

November 11, 2001|Richard Cromelin

What: Roger McGuinn's "Treasures From the Folk Den," on Appleseed Records.

Who: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member McGuinn, 59, invented folk-rock with the Byrds in the mid-'60s. Before that, he was a key instrumentalist and arranger in the urban folk music boom, backing the Limeliters, Judy Collins and even Bobby Darin. He resumed the role of solo troubadour 20 years ago.

The Idea: On the album, McGuinn collaborates with some old cronies on a set of folk staples, including "Wagoner's Lad," "Alabama Bound," "John Riley" and "Whiskey in the Jar." Among his duet partners: Collins, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Odetta, Tommy Makem and Jean Ritchie.

The Origins: In 1995, McGuinn started recording and posting a folk song each month on his Web site, A series of "Folk Den" CDs, made up of MP3 versions of the songs, is available on the site, but the sound quality isn't as high as the new album's.

The Purpose: "I was concerned about traditional music getting lost in the shuffle, with the trend in music going so one-dimensional," McGuinn says. "I thought, 'Gee, what's going to happen to these wonderful stories and melodies?' These things can get erased."

Signs of Life: "Today I feel much more encouraged.... There has been a sort of bubbling underground revival of acoustic and folk music, and traditional music is well-represented on the Internet.... I've watched 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' and 'Songcatcher' go up the charts, and it's great to see these well-done traditional songs get back into the public again. I get a lot of e-mail from people under 20 who have come across my site and like what I'm doing."

Destroying Folk Music to Save It: "I think [folk-rock] was a good thing. It came at a time when the folk music revival had commercialized and plasticized to the point where it wasn't the real traditional folk music anymore. It wasn't good. It had become too watered-down. So it needed a shot in the arm, and putting rock with it was what it needed."

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