Scott Alarik knows the folk music world from just about every side.
He’s a singer-songwriter with five albums to his credit, he’s been the principal folk music writer for the Boston Globe for over 20 years and is a regular contributor to Sing Out!magazine. His first book Deep Community was a collection of stories, interviews and profiles highlighting the landscape of the modern folk world.
For his latest book, Revival: A Folk Music Novel, Scott has crafted a rich, illuminating saga about the power of love, tradition and community and how it sustains folk music in these times.
“There’s a big reason why I wanted to write the book,” Scott says. “I became aware putting Deep Community together that there are some truths you need fiction to tell. Particularly those kind of intimate truths and emotional truths. What does it feel like to write a song and to be afraid the next verse isn’t going to come? And that way of welcoming inspiration into your life and being prepared for it when it comes.
“I also wanted to show what it’s like to make a record, go to a folk festival and deal with the problems of the business. But to show it in a very emotional way.”
The central characters of Revival are: Nathan Warren, a man whose bad experience with the corporate aspect of the music business resulted in a years-long bout with depression, and Kit Palmer, a young woman with amazing talent who’s held back by self doubt.
“I think of Revival as three love stories in one,” says Scott, “At the center, there’s this very intimate love story about two folk musicians. Around that there’s this larger love story about the folk music world of the 21st Century; how it exists and the kind of people who keep it going. And then there’s this other love story about folk music itself and what it is to see tradition as a living thing and to have your life guided by the love of that.”
The book is a great read which reels you in, partly because the characters may remind you of people you already know: the passionate, eloquent journalist, folk radio DJs, house concert hosts, festival-goers and eager open-mic participants.
“They’re definitely fictional,” Scott says of his characters, “but there are shimmers of real people and actual events throughout the book. One of the things that folk songs teach you is that you can’t fake real.”
Since publication, Scott has traveled extensively promoting the novel with readings at book signings, the Folk Alliance conference and his own concerts.
“People tell me the readings felt like songs,” he says, “because it’s about the wonder of folk music and the wonder of tradition. But there are also people outside the folk world who are discovering the book. There are things for them too. (Like) how we can have human art and human culture in this corporate age. But also there’s the journey of Nathan Warren and of Kit Palmer. I say on the cover of the book, ‘We come of age more than once’. Each of the characters helps the other have the coming of age they should have at that point in their life.”