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Freedom Sings Finds Understanding Audience at Folk Alliance Conference


KANSAS CITY, KS  (HAVIGHURST)  --  Freedom Sings, the traveling cavalcade of song that tells the story of the First Amendment and Civil Rights through music, had not staged a show at the Folk Alliance International convention since the early 2000s when the event briefly headquartered in Nashville.

But the convention’s theme this weekend in Kansas City, Forbidden Folk: Activism In Art, was too compelling to pass up.

Ten artists, some veterans of Freedom Sings and others first-timers, were recruited from the talent pool showcasing at Folk Alliance. First Amendment Center Director and Freedom Sings founder and speaker Ken Paulson says it was a contrast from the more scripted Freedom Sings format.

Bob Woodruff sings while Freedom Sings creator Ken Paulson looks on.

“Today was an amazing gamble,” Paulson said after the show. “You contact all these artists you believe are kindred spirits who care about free speech and music and say, ‘Would you consider doing some of these classic songs?’ And then they show up without rehearsal and do them off the top of their heads. And it was an amazingly powerful and poetic afternoon. Sometimes you don’t need rehearsal when you have enough passion.”

Kim Richey sang Loretta Lynn’s 1975 song of chemical/sexual liberation “The Pill.” Mark Huff took on a song banned from radio by an artist with a thick FBI file when he sang John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero.” Environmental songs were represented by Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” as sung by Amy Speace. And singer/guitarist Anne McCue surprised with the power of a global song of protest by her fellow Australians Midnight Oil. “Short Memory” combined a complex guitar lick with lyrics about the tendency of cycles of fascism, imperialism and exploitation to repeat themselves.

Kim Richey sings with Dan Navarro.

Freedom Sings was presented by WMOT in partnership with MTSU’s Center for Popular Music and the Bluebird Café in Nashville. The show tours college as part of the First Amendment Center and MTSU's educational outreach.

A complete set list follows:

Freedom Sings at Folk Alliance

Kim Richey – Where Have the Flowers Gone? – Pete Seeger

Sonia - Blowin’ In the Wind – Bob Dylan

Sonia - Small Circle of Friends – Phil Ochs

Amy Speace – Society’s Child – Janis Ian

Greg Reish – A Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore – John Prine

Sean McConnell -  Ohio- Neil Young

Amy Speace - I Am Woman - Helen Reddy

Kim Richey – The Pill – Loretta Lynn

Amy Speace – Big Yellow Taxi – Joni Mitchell

Mark Huff-  Working Class Hero – John Lennon

Jeff Black - Sunday Morning Coming Down - Kris Kristofferson

Anne McCue - Short Memory  -  Midnight Oil

Bob Woodruff - A Change is Gonna Come – Sam Cooke

Dan Navarro and cast – This Land is Your Land – Woody Guthrie