CD Release Concert

Photo by Patti Cooper

You Are Invited!

What: CD Release Concert for Folk Songs You Never Sang In Grade School
When: Saturday, July 8, 2017 at 7 pm
Where: Uptown Bill’s Coffee House in Iowa City

Keith Reins and I are thrilled to be releasing our album Folk Songs You Never Sang In Grade School that we’ve been working on for the last several years along with our friend uilleann piper Jon Cooper.

This project has been one of the great thrills of my professional life and it has so many layers that I find it hard to describe so heeeeeeeeeeeeeeere’s Keith!:

My name is Keith Reins, English Professor Emeritus at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I am also a musician and essayist and have long wanted to combine my artistic interests by writing essays about music. This goal became a reality when I was delighted to receive an Endowed Faculty Chair Award from the Kirkwood Foundation. The endowment allowed me a “mini-sabbatical” in 2012 to pursue my ambition by researching and writing a series of essays about a collection of folk songs I have learned and loved over nearly 40 years of collecting and performing.

The result is Folk Songs You Never Sang in Grade Schoo(FSYNSIGS), a multifaceted project that combines research, original essays, musical performance, an interactive website. and original recordings of songs in the collection.

On my website you’ll find all the essays and lyrics (as I learned them) to the songs in the Folk Songs You Never Sang In Grade School collection. The essays are linked to many of the sources I used in my research as well as varied performances (Thanks, YouTube!) of many songs. I didn’t write an essay about each song per se; I included all the songs in the FSYNSIGS collection in my essays, but the essays are more about themes, history and the artistry of composition than about individual songs. All this I wove together with personal narrative—my relationship with the songs and how I came to love, interpret, arrange and make them my own as a performer. My intent is to produce a compelling, entertaining, reader-friendly collection of essays about the songs I love and my creative life.

I invite you to pop over to Keith’s website to enjoy his wonderful essays, to join Keith, Jon and I tomorrow night at Uptown Bill’s, and to bring home one of our CDs for your very own. If you prefer a digital copy, check back here and  I will let you know when the album hits CDBaby and iTunes in a few weeks.

Thanks for supporting local music!twopanel-page-001

Congratulations to Nina!

Introducing Nina, my featured musician for July and April!

Shortly after Nina and her wonderful family moved to the area, I noticed her beautiful voice and serene presence in the Family Folk Machine and my heart leaped in recognition of a true up-and-coming artist.

Nina’s innate talent is matched ounce for ounce by sheer determination and she has already accomplished an incredible amount as a fiddler, not the least of which was her May 2017 appearance in City Circle‘s ANNIE GET YOUR GUN both as an actor and an onstage fiddler. I can’t wait to see what else is in store for our Nina.



Interview with Dannye Chase

I recently had the honor of being interviewed by writer Dannye Chase for her delightful new project The Bright Side Blog.


Dannye is as gifted an interviewer as she is a writer and we had a lot of fun discussing creativity and parenting along with many other things we have in common.

Stop on over to read my interview and check out her other interviews and stories as well. Dannye is a wonderful  person to know, especially if you are inspired by looking on the bright side of life.

Ready, Set, Summer!

Borrowing from my charming, talented and articulate pal Jeffrey C. Capps because it all applies to me too (and why reinvent the wheel?):

Dear Friends,

It’ll be a busy musical weekend for me, and I hope to see many of you!
On Friday, I am honored to join Tara in opening for John Rapson’s must-see Hot Tamale Louie benefit for IC Compassion at The Mill. We’ll be performing a couple of tunes during the 8 o’clock hour and the show will follow at 9. This is a really incredible show and a great cause! More info here.


On Saturday, I’ll be performing twice as part of the Longfellow Front Porch Music Festival. Family Folk Machine will kick off the afternoon with a 2 p.m. set at 604 Grant Street, and Jeffrey C. Capps and His Almost All-Girl Band will immediately follow on the very same porch. Grab your lawn chair, and come on out! More info here.

And if you’re one to plan ahead, please mark your calendar for Saturday, July 1 when Tara and I will make our annual appearance at the Iowa City Farmers Market. We’ll play from 9 until 11 a.m. on the temporary stage right outside of City Hall!

Thanks so much!

Sound as ever,


I also have two other related events this weekend: at 4 pm on Saturday, I am honored to accompany on guitar some of my fiddle students as part of the Longfellow Front Porch Music Festival. At 9 pm on Saturday, the Hot Tamale Louie ensemble will be playing at the Motley Cow. This is a ticketed event and it will sell out so look sharp.

Happy summer!!

Congratulations to Ambrose!

Introducing Ambrose, my featured musician for May and June!

Ambrose’s talent for composition has been emerging alongside his pianistic abilities beginning very early on in our musical adventures together.

Ambrose has the unique and precious ability of finding and revealing stories in his music. I feel so grateful for the gift of witnessing him discover himself as an artist.

May 2017 Featured Musician (1)-page-001

Hot Tamale Louie

I don’t know how I got lucky enough to be a part of this project but I am surely grateful.


“Over and over, we forget what being American means. The radical premise of our nation is that one people can be made from many, yet in each new generation we find reasons to limit who those “many” can be—to wall off access to America, literally or figuratively. That impulse usually finds its roots in claims about who we used to be, but nativist nostalgia is a fantasy. We have always been a pluralist nation, with a past far richer and stranger than we choose to recall.”

Schulz, Kathryn. “Citizen Khan” The New Yorker. June 6 & 13, 2016.


Left to right: Paul Kalina, Dan Padley, Tara McGovern, Justin LeDuc, Ryan Smith, Steve Locher, Daniel Gaglione, John Rapson and Dave Moore.






Captain Charles Boycott was a land agent of absentee landlord Lord Erne living in Lough Mask House, County Mayo, Ireland in 1880.

Harvests were poor that year and the farmers working Erne’s land were unable to afford the rent. 

There are vast swaths of context that I’m not including here because so many valuable resources have already covered how the enclosure movement legalized the theft of land from Irish farmers who were then charged rent to work the land they had owned for centuries.

Boycott, showing all the mercy and grace of our modern-day GOP, responded by evicting 11 tenants from the land.

The Irish farmers had no recourse. All they had was solidarity which they employed despite significant personal hardship by refusing to work the land from which their friends and neighbors had been evicted.

Now the harvest was coming in and Captain Boycott had painted himself into a corner. He eventually had to hire Orangemen from Counties Cavan and Monaghan and pay one thousand police officers to escort them in to reap a harvest that was worth far less than it cost Boycott to gather.

If you’re looking for a way to celebrate this St. Patrick’s Day in our deeply troubled world, I invite you to join me in invoking Ireland’s greatest gift to the world, the boycott

The legacy of our Irish ancestors isn’t luck at all, it’s resilience.