Folk Era is the largest independent folk label in the Chicagoland area,
and as far as we know, the only independent record label located in DuPage
county, and Naperville specifically. We're also 99% certain that we are
the only record label in America to rent our office and warehouse space
in a building located in a cemetery! As grave as the situation may sound,
we find that from our office space in the Naperville Cemetery, we're able
to keep in touch with artists and stores around the country and around
Our roster of albums includes both reissues and new releases from legends
like The Kingston Trio, Glenn Yarbrough, The Brothers Four, John Stewart,
and the Chad Mitchell Trio. The number of albums on the Folk Era label
has grown rapidly since 1991 when we began releasing music full time.
We have over 70 albums currently in print, although that number is ever
growing. Since the first LP record album with the Folk Era logo was released
in 1985, there have been a total of 90 albums released under the Folk
The genesis of our company's name was a simple one. The time period of
folk music's greatest popularity was the decade between 1957 and 1967.
Music fans and scholars have referred to this decade as the folk era since
the early 1970's, so when Allan Shaw began to look into releasing a never-before-heard
recording of the Kingston Trio, finding
a name for the company was easy. It was the start of the Kingston Trio
in 1957, fourty years ago, that brought folk music into mass consciousness,
and began the folk era, so Folk Era we became.
While originally conceived as a reissue label when started in 1985, contemporary
artists began to creep steadily into the mix from 1985 until 1988, when
founder Allan Shaw decided to take a brief hiatus from the record releasing
business. When Allan restarted Folk Era in 1991, he found the concept
of the label steadily expanding as all of us involved in Folk Era came
to realize that, with the resurgence of interest in folk and acoustic
music, the Folk Era is now!
In the years between 1985 and 1988, Folk Era had a lot of firsts. Folk
Era was the first folk label to reissue any popular folk music from the
Kingston Trio, several years before the current resurgence in interest
in popular folk music began to take hold. In 1986, Folk Era was the first
record label to issue folk music on CD with a Kingston Trio album. In
that regard, Folk Era may also have been the first label to issue a CD
of an album without an LP, as since 1986, Folk Era hasn't released any
of its albums on vinyl. In 1987 Folk Era partnered with the Commission
On The Bicentennial of the United States Constitution to produce We
The People, an album of songs that celebrated the 200th birthday
of the United States Constitution.
We The People was a unique project for Folk Era in many
ways, but today we're most proud of the fact that it featured Johnny Cash
performing a stirring narration about our nations history. Our 1988 release
by Allan McHale and The Old Time Radio Gang garnered two 10 out of 10's
for Performance and Sound Quality in CD Review Magazine. When CD Review
went back in 1990 to see which albums had received perfect reviews between
1984 and 1990, they found that our Allan McHale release was one of four
in the country category. The other three were Emmylou Harris' Ballad
of Sally Rose, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's Will the Circle Be
Unbroken Vol. 2 and K.T. Oslin's This Woman. Finally, in this
time period, we experimented with releasing a couple of our albums on
DAT, and were both the first record label to put folk music on a DAT,
and the first record label to make one of our releases available on DAT
before it was available in any other format. These early years of Folk
Era also saw the release of four classic albums by the Kingston
Trio, a live album from the Clancy Brothers,
and a host of other critically acclaimed albums.
In 1991 after taking a couple years away from the label, Allan bought
out the man who'd been his business partner in the early days, and restarted
Folk Era. Several of the early Folk Era titles were brought back into
print, distribution was secured, and a new line of Folk Era releases began
to roll out. The first release was an atmospheric album blending bluegrass,
jazz, world music, and new-age from banjo master Dick
Weissman (now recording on our sister label Wind
River). The second release was an album from acclaimed singer-songwriter
John Stewart, and the third release
was from folk legends, The Brandywine Singers. We have brought out three
more classic Kingston Trio Reissues, a re-recording of Bob
Gibson's classic Gibson and Camp at the Gate of Horn, two new albums
from the Brothers Four, and three reissues
and two new albums from the Chad Mitchell
Trio. We have also recorded several new albums with legendary tenor
Glenn Yarbrough, as well as reissued
a few of his classic ones.
One of the most ambitious projects we've become involved with is a compilation
album entitled Freedom Is A Constant Struggle.
Freedom is a two CD set featuring forty songs from the Mississippi Civil
Rights Movement. It brings together works of legendary performers like
Tom Paxton, Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul & Mary, and Judy Collins, with
younger performers like Sweet Honey In The Rock and Kim and Reggie Harris.
Combining this album with the rest of our roster, we can say that every
major recording artist from the folk era has been brought together on
Folk Era Records. Even in the sixties, when folk was at its commercial
height, there was not one label that brought together as wide a roster
of hit artists as Folk Era has today.
In addition to our re-releases and compilation albums, we have put out
new releases from our favorite artists of the Folk Era, such as John
Stewart formerly of the Kingston Trio.
We have released six solo Stewart albums in all, including his 1997 album
Bandera that gained much attention on the Gavin Americana Chart.
Also, in addition to re-releasing two 1960's albums by The
Brandywine Singers, we have put out an original Folk Era recording
World-Class Folk, first released in 1994. Brandywine Singers members
Rick and Ron Shaw have released several albums under the name The
Shaw Brothers, including two more recently recorded albums-The
Shaw Brothers Collection and Something Special. The Shaw Brothers
can also be heard on the Folk Era compilation Sing Out America
with Robbie O'Connell, The White Mountain Singers, and the Northeast Winds.
Not being content to simply rest on the hit acts of yesterday, though,
we've continued to work with younger folk acts and are finding great success
with them. Small Potatoes,
a young Chicago based duo who's debut album on Folk Era, Time
Flies was one of the critical raves of 1996. They were also the first
Chicago based act since the legendary Steve Goodman to play the famed
Philadelphia Folk Festival. In 1994, David
Roth's album Digging
Through My Closet was nominated for a NAIRD (National Association
Of Independent Record Dealers) Indie award in the singer-songwriter category.
We've had a release, High
Tea, by one of our Celtic acts, The
New St. George, favorably reviewed in Billboard, and have been successfully
working with two internationally based artists - Tamarack, a folk trio
from Canada, and Totte Bergstrom, a bluegrass player from Sweden.
Realizing that the "Folk Era" label was not quite appropriate for our
younger, more contemporary acts, we started a new division of the record
label called Wind River. Its roster includes a few artists previously
on Folk Era (Small Potatoes, Dick Weissman, David Roth) and some newly
signed artists (Jeff Lang,
Michael Smith). Check
out our Wind River home page for more on these acclaimed musicians.
Folk Era has become not only one of the larger independent labels in the
folk genre, but one of the most diverse. We attribute this to receiving
airplay from DJs having Folk, Singer-songwriter and Americana-based programs
on College and NPR stations, advertising in and receiving print reviews
from the two top publications in the folk and singer-songwriter genres
and a large catalogue of albums, with musical styles crossing from popular
folk to bluegrass, western swing, Celtic, Irish, contemporary instrumental,
and singer-songwriter. Our albums are distributed by Rock Bottom, Inc.,
Traditions Alive, Sidestreet and RM Distributing.