"The Philadelphia Folk Festival is more than a music festival," writes Sing Out! magazine editor Mark D.
"The Philadelphia Folk Festival is more than a music festival," writes Sing Out! magazine editor Mark D. Moss in the 58-page booklet accompanying this four-disc, 58-track, and six-video set. His statement suitably evokes the family-style nature of Philly's 40-year, all-volunteer folk fest, which, as documented here, transcends overlapping generations of artists and audiences. Nicely sequenced, starting with "Scots Piping" by the late highland piper Bruce Martin (the festival's official piper for more than 30 years), the set segues into the legendary Richard Thompson-led Fairport Convention's 1970 rendition of "Walk a While." Others caught in their prime include a young Bonnie Raitt, Doc & Merle Watson, Phil Ochs, Judy Collins, Mississippi John Hurt, Tom Rush, and Ramblin' Jack Elliott. Such veteran folkies as Loudon Wainwright III, Nanci Griffith, Janis Ian, Christine Lavin, John Prine, Arlo Guthrie, and John Hartford are represented by more recent fare—as are contemporary folk group Eddie From Ohio and bluegrass youngsters Nickel Creek. Adding ethnic/world music touches are Eastern European dance-music group Harmonia, Cajun band Beausoleil, Andes mountain group Inti Illimani, and Latin songstress Irene Farrera. The appropriate closer for the superlative set, which was produced by the fest's evening concert host and folk-radio personality Gene Shay, is a free-for-all on Leadbelly's "Goodnight Irene," loosely fielded by Steve Goodman.—JB