Music

My music is blues, rags, ballads and the occasional folk song.  All acoustic.  I write some songs myself, some come from the Piedmont, from Mississippi, often from New Orleans. There’s some Tin Pan Alley, too.  Mainly, it’s the music that springs naturally from the life stories of ordinary people, from the largely unheralded but gifted poets and musicians who gave us a truly American music.

These days, my main musical activity is a one-man show called The Roots of American Music. I have given it to audiences ranging from the National Speakers Association to the Asia Society. There’s a video of the adult presentation that appeared on Twin Cities Community TV HERE.  Many thanks to videographer Scott Jameson for going well above the call of duty in recording it, curating great pictures of the people I sing about, and producing a fine finished product.  I have given a version for young people to over 2,500 kids in Florida and one very enthusiastic 3rd grade in Minnesota.

In 2012, I traveled from Minnesota down Highway 61, the Blues Highway, to Memphis, then through the Mississippi Delta, finally to New Orleans.  I blogged on the way at blueshwy.blogspot.com.

It was a great trip, and it contributed to the flavor of the New Orleans chapters of my novel Fatal Score and introduced me to a man who knows how to make the language sparkle.  He appears in my short story, Blues Highway, renamed Mase Jarvis.

Frank Ratliff, storyteller

Frank Ratliff, aka Mase Jarvis, storyteller

I have two CDs, Good Old Blues (2006) and Old and New, Borrowed and Blue (2009). Just click on the title to see the liner notes and sample the songs at CD Baby.

I was a 2011 semi-finalist in the International Blues Challenge (IBC) as a solo player, and Old and New, Borrowed and Blue was one of eleven albums selected for final judging at the 2012 IBC.

I was a regular solo acoustic player in North Florida for nearly a decade.  I have performed at the Florida Folk Festival, the Gamble Rogers Festival, and the Will McLean festival.  My “Roots of American Music” one-man show for adults grew out of a program I designed for children from 5 to 15.  The Blues Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to preservation of blues music heritage, started Blues in the Schools some years ago.  My program, developed in association with the North Central Florida Blues Society, is part of that national effort.  I have performed it for over 2,500 elementary and high school students.  Hear a work song constructed during a BITS performance by third graders from Archer, Florida BITS Work Song.

 

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