Folkie Town 

The annual International Folk Alliance Conference descends on Memphis this week, bringing some 1,800 guitar-wielding registrants to the downtown Marriott and Cook Convention Center for a sprawling, music-laden, five-day happening that runs from Wednesday, February 17th, through Sunday, February 21st.

While most of the conference is open only to registrants, the Memphis-based Folk Alliance has planned several open-to-the-public events in conjunction with the conference. Here's a civilian's guide to the conference. Look for an on-the-scene report from the Folk Alliance get-together in these pages next week:

Bartlett Performing Arts & Conference Center: BPACC will host two big public Folk Alliance shows this weekend. On Friday, "A Sacred Steel Gospel Revue" will bring together more than half-a-dozen noted sacred steel guitar performers, most prominently Miami's celebrated Lee Boys ensemble. [UPDATE: The "Sacred Steel Gospel Revue" has been moved to the Center for Southern Folklore, same night, same time. It will now be free.]

On Saturday, "Songwriters in the Round Super Session" will unite four venerated modern singer-songwriters — Danny O'Keefe, Willis Alan Ramsey, Kevin Welch, and Memphis' own Keith Sykes.

Both concerts begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door.

Center for Southern Folklore: This downtown venue will host a couple of public Folk Alliance shows Friday and Saturday night. Friday's "Roots Music Spectacular" will feature Austin's Stonehoney, British folk singer Martyn Joseph, Alabama's Act of Congress, and alt-folk duo Hudost. Showtime is 7:30 p.m.

Saturday night, "Songwriters in the Round" will bring together a quartet of Nashville troubadours — David Olney, Will Kimbrough, Tommy Womack, and Phil Lee. A second set at 9:30 p.m. will feature Memphis folk stalwart Sid Selvidge, up-and-comer Amy Speace, ex-BR5-49er Chuck Mead, and New Englander Anais Mitchell.

All of these showcases are free.

Cook Convention Center: From 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturday, the Folk Alliance will make a portion of its conference open to the general public. Admission will be free but limited to the first 500 participants. Attendees can get a free CD with the donation of a non-perishable item for the Memphis Food Bank.

The public schedule begins with a series of kid-friendly events. At 10 a.m., there's an "Instrument Petting Zoo" which will allow kids to test out a wide variety of musical instruments. Kids can also bring their own stringed instruments (or use one on hand) for a music lesson during the 10 a.m. hour. At 11 a.m., the "Folk Alliance Kids Music Revue" will present a 90-minute concert featuring children's-music performers attending the conference.

Adult sessions get under way at 11 a.m. with a "Music Business Basics" panel touching on every aspect of the industry. A "Songwriters Workshop" follows at 1 p.m., with a panel on sponsorships and endorsements going on concurrently.

A trio of public events closes the session at 3 p.m. Local industry leaders, including representatives of the Memphis Music Commission, Memphis Music Foundation, and the local Recording Academy chapter, will be on hand for a panel on the Memphis scene. An open-participation "Community Sing" will also be held at 3 p.m.

Otherlands Coffee Bar: Otherlands will host Folk Alliance-connected shows nightly from Wednesday the 17th through Sunday. Wednesday's show (admission: $7) will feature locals Susan Marshall and Kim Richardson. Thursday night ($7), Louisiana's Dirtfoot and Austin's the Trishas will share the stage. Friday night ($8), area native Cory Branan will host various guests from the conference. Saturday night ($8), Memphis' Jimmy Davis leads a band of conference guests. Finally, Peter Hyrka & the Gypsy Hombres will perform on Sunday ($10).

For more information on the Folk Alliance Conference and related events, see Folk.org.

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