Folk Songs You Never Sang in Grade School

What is Folk Songs You Never Sang in Grade School?


The project began as a Faculty Endowed Chair Award at Kirkwood Community College, where Keith Reins is Professor Emeritus of English.  For the endowment, Keith researched many traditional songs and wrote a series of ten essays about the songs, their history, and the art of balladry.  The essays are housed at the interactive web site Folk Songs You Never Sang along with the lyrics, audio tracks and plenty of other information about the project.

The original project has evolved into a performance and a CD. We are pleased to announce that one track from the CD, “The Twa Sisters,” was selected by radio station KUNI as one of the 10 best folk recordings of 2017.

Thematically, the songs in this collection are connected by their frank, dramatic content.  These are folk songs you never sang in grade school.  As a collector, interpreter and performer of folk songs, Keith has always been drawn to “edgy” traditional songs—songs of warning; songs of danger; historical songs of murder and war; songs of disaster; songs of betrayal, regret, and grief; of the ghosts who haunt people and the people who haunt ghosts.

So far, Keith and Tara have brought their music to The Carl Sandburg Birthplace Songbag Concert Series, Galesburg, IL; Coe College, Cedar Rapids, IA; Kirkwood Community College, Iowa City, IA; The Ward Irish Music Archives, Milwaukee, WI; Uptown Bill’s, Iowa City, IA; The St. Louis Tionol (an Irish music festival), St. Louis, MO; The Ca d’Zan House Concert Series, Cambridge, IL; Market Music, Iowa City, IA; The Ritual Café, Des Moines, IA; Ballantyne Auditorium (a faculty recital), Cedar Rapids, IA; The Java House, Iowa City (an Iowa Public Radio live performance); The Community College Humanities Association Midwest Conference, Iowa City, IA; and The Anchor Coffee House Concert Series, Des Moines, IA.

The Folk Songs You Never Sang in Grade School show is a “performance/talk” with the talk gleaned from the project essays.  Typically, the show is about 85% music and 15% talk.  Tracks from the album are embedded in the website, so potential audience members can listen in advance.

Book a Folk Songs You Never Sang show by contacting Keith Reins.