The power of folk: With her voice and a guitar, Karin Blaine crafts a soulful exchange


For Inland 360

Folk musician Karin Blaine believes live performance is the most creative thing an artist can do.

“It’s kind of like a jazz solo between me and the audience, an exchange — immediate, real, maybe even risky, never ever to happen again in the same way,” said Blaine, who will perform Sunday at The Attic in Moscow.

Blaine picked up a guitar as a preteen and began writing music in 1981. Early in her career, she was nominated for Best New Folk Artist by the Northwest Area Musicians Association and chosen as a songwriter finalist in the nationally acclaimed Kerrville New Folk Festival songwriting contest in Kerrville, Texas.

Inland 360 asked her more about her work before her stop in Moscow.

What is your newest work?

I am currently working on a new recording project which is very exciting. I hope to have the new project out and available by late Fall 2019. The songs are being arranged for other musical voices: bass, drums, sax and cello, as well as my guitar and vocals to create a fuller sound than my solo format of one voice and one guitar.

One of the new songs is called “Walk On The Beach,”  and was inspired by Ebey’s Landing on Whidbey Island, Wash., an absolutely divine natural location with a vista across Puget Sound to Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula. The song incorporates a poem by Ernest Dowson, which I recite over the music as the song begins and then launch into singing the lyrics. I am incorporating more poetry and adventurous forms in my newer pieces.

Songwriting is always a great adventure for me that requires a lot of inventiveness, plain old fooling around and an open mind. I kind of know what I want — but the end result is always something a bit different.

Will you be performing solo in Moscow?

I will be performing solo — just my voice, my dear old Gibson J-45 acoustic guitar and my original songs. I picked up the guitar when I was 12 years old. I fell in love with the folk singer format; that is, one voice and one guitar.

I listened to and sang so many songs growing up — I mean hundreds and hundreds of songs — all of which led me to realize that the entire human experience can be expressed powerfully with the human voice and a single instrument. As a teenager and in college, I saw famous folk singers such as Elizabeth Cotton, Mississippi John Hurt and Buffy St. Marie perform live — incredibly moving performers.

Who inspires you?

I like music that is compelling, highly original and well executed. And it doesn’t really matter what the genre is. Andrew Bird is a really interesting artist, as is Ani Di Franco, who had Bird on her own record label Righteous Babe Records. Di Franco was such a trailblazer for women in the music industry — she had an edge and toughness. I listened to a lot of her music in the ’90s.  She also had the great folkie Utah Phillips on her label even though he was an older cat. She just broke the mold, you know?

Another of my folk heroes, Buffy St. Marie is getting inducted in the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in April. Her early work was so moving and original. She is 78 and an absolute pistol and was a huge influence and inspiration when I was young. And speaking of Canadians, there is always the great singer-songwriter, Bruce Cockburn, who I adore.

Is this your first time performing in Idaho?

Years ago I had a five-piece pop/folk band with my twin sister called the Blaine Sisters Band. We were out on the road at various times, and I remember that we had a three-week engagement at a hotel bar in Pocatello over Christmas. That experience went down as the most miserable gig and Christmas of my life.


WHO: Karin Blaine

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Sunday, April 7

WHERE: The Attic, 314 E. Second St., Moscow

COST: Freewill donation

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