Good timing is essential. Thomas Ford could have invited Illinois folk musician Chris Vallillo to play Friday at the Ford earlier, but this past Friday night really seemed a perfect time. We have established a faithful following for our concerts and can almost guarantee a full audience for a folk artist like Vallillo. And Chris has just released a new CD The Last Days of Winter, from which he played six pieces, three vocal and three instrumental.
Chris is an archaeologist of Midwestern song, having been a song catcher in the 1980s when he interviewed and recorded old musicians who started before there was radio. The work shaped his career and his Friday night concert. With his original compositions, he performed for us 19th century songs, such as "Old Joe Clark," "Burglar Man," and "Shawneetown." He had the audience keep the beat with clapping for the latter two of those old songs. He also had us sing with him on another collected piece, "The Sinking of the Titanic."
From the old musicians, Chris also developed a love of old instruments. He started the night playing on his resonator guitar (seen in photo above) and later turned to his 130 year old hammer dulcimer, which he restored himself after finding it in a "working" barn. He also told us about his 9-string guitar, which was unfortunately in the luthier's shop for a tuneup.
I am now enjoying having my own copy of The Last Days of Winter. The song "The River Road" is urging me to take a driving trip downstate this spring. I'm also liking "Tequila," "The Water is Wide," and the title cut.
Chris is an Illinois Arts Council performer and is especially known for his program Abraham Lincoln in Song. His schedule of concerts can be found on his website. Several of the audience last night will attest that hearing Chris live was worth their long drive.