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VIDEOS: Alarik’s ‘Revival’ a uniquely touching folk music novel

2013 January 22
by Steve Ide
Scott Alarik's book "Revival"

I’ve known Scott Alarik for many years, from his days when he was a folk music writer for The Boston Globe, to the stage where his resounding baritone brings wondrous folk ballads to life, and now as an author. His second book, “Revival,” is a far cry from his scholarly debut “Deep Community.” In fact, it is a novel, a love story, steeped in the folk music he and his characters love.  The book recently won the prestigious Benjamin Franklin Silver Award for Popular Fiction.

Alarik’s unique storyline of a romance between brooding old folk guitarist and songwriter Nathan Warren and 25-year-old guitarist, singer-songwriter and fiddler Kit Palmer, takes the reader on a journey that only Alarik, an aficionado of folk music and its history, could relay.

The pair haunt the streets of Cambridge, Mass., beginning in a small neighborhood bar called Dooley’s, where Nathan works as a the host of open mike nights and jams:

Through their relationship, Kit’s career blossoms and together they explore the Boston folk scene. They visit Boston-area coffeehouses, some real, some pseudo-named, from the North Shore of Boston (complete with circling to escape the one-way streets of Marblehead) to Quincy’s United First Parish Church and all the way west to the Iron Horse Cafe in Northampton, Mass., and the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival in New York. Nathan and Kit immerse themselves and the reader in folk music through their own songwriting — and we watch that creative process unfold in “Revival’s” pages, complete with song lyrics, and an eye for detail that only a folk singer could capture.

Their exploration of music travels from classical to Christmas (and other) carols, and the real songs of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger. Alarik reveals the history of folk music through his characters, the contemplative nature of the music, the feelings that go into every word in each song, the passion for making the music real.

Alarik includes some folk history in the book, including this story about folk legend Pete Seeger:

Alarik beautifully weaves a storyline of musical and personal growth and discovery, the songwriter’s angst, the overthinking of lyrical meaning that leads to logic and reason. Nathan and Kit’s relationship is tumultuous and endearing, as Kit and Nathan feed off one another’s strengths and overcome weaknesses. They have their moments of stupendous joy in each other and the music, as Nathan battles his disbelief over his good fortune.

Alarik’s other characters ring familiar. A folk music freelance newspaperman cast in the shadow of the corporate Mother Ship that cares more about the dollar than the quality of the work. Open mike performers, who run the gamut from an MIT professor to an envious and obnoxious gadfly, to the bartender who can control the bar with a towel and the wave of her hand.

But it is through Nathan and Kit that the world and community of folk music is revealed and revered, the passion for each other and the essence of song, and the desire to see the music emerge as the victor over personal gain.

Author Scott Alarik gives a reading from his new book "Revival" at the Rose Garden Coffeehouse, Mansfield, Mass., on Jan. 19, 2013. Photo by Stephen Ide.

Author Scott Alarik gives a reading from his new book “Revival” at the Rose Garden Coffeehouse, Mansfield, Mass., on Jan. 19, 2013. Photo by Stephen Ide.

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