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August 21, 2008

Folk Radio
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 11:58 AM * 18 comments

WUMB Boston is my favorite radio station. Folk music! Hurrah! They’re on the internet, too!

Comments on Folk Radio:
#1 ::: toxicfur ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2008, 12:26 PM:

Indeed! I discovered WUMB thanks to one of those ads on the T, commuting home from work one afternoon. I snagged one of the pull-off tabs and found the station the next time I was in my car. It's awesome!

#2 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2008, 12:29 PM:

I listen to nearly nothing else in the car. It's an interesting mix of songs. I find that I've haven't heard 80% of them before. Of those, 15% I can't stand, 50% are generally listenable, and 15% are soul-shatteringly wonderful. Any kind of radio station that can deliver that kind of experience is worth gold.

#3 ::: Beth Friedman ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2008, 02:16 PM:

For Internet-based music, I'm also very fond of the folk station at (formerly It's a subset of the country stations.

For a while, they were limiting listening to an hour a day except for AOL subscribers, but that seems to have gone by the wayside.

#4 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2008, 02:17 PM:

With a connected computer handy, I also recommend Hober (, whose musical selections work particularly well with the long twilight on a Washington summer.

They have oldies as well as newies, and only occasionally something that makes me wrinkle my nose and hit (classical).

#5 ::: Tim in Albion ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2008, 02:46 PM:

KZYX is my favorite radio station, because it's the only one broadcasting my show. :D They also have a live Webcast!

Folk music shows are on Saturday mornings (Humble Pie, American roots music), Saturday afternoons (Lunch on the Back Porch, bluegrass); Sunday mornings (Oak & Thorn, Celtic music); and depending on your definitions of "folk music," other shows as well.

Their Website is unfortunate, but you can find the schedule if you persevere. Sometimes the Webcast seems to be troublesome - if you have trouble, send a message to rich at kzyx dot org.

#7 ::: Rob Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2008, 02:50 PM:

I am a fan and longtime supporter of the mighty listener-supported WFMU in Jersey City, NJ. It supplies me with the weird and obscure music I need to make it through the day. Disclaimer: I have played an hour of music as part of their Listener Hour show (on Saturday mornings).

#8 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2008, 04:31 PM:

KCDX Arizona's my favorite. It is totally random -- sometimes mainstream stuff, sometimes local artists I've never heard of. And nothing but music.

#9 ::: DaveMB ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2008, 08:05 AM:

I'm a regular listener of WFUV in New York, which has mostly a combination of the "folk" that WUMB has and a more sophisticated selection of classic rock than any classic rock station. They also have several Irish music shows and 20's-30's pop and jazz on Sunday nights. And there are NYC traffic reports -- very amusing to listen to in rural New England.

#10 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2008, 09:14 AM:

It's worth mentioning the various reasons I love WUMB so much: no commercials at all. A vast and eclectic range of music (ranging from Richard Thompson to Elvis Costello, and including James Taylor, Dar Williams, Lori McKenna, and Taj Mahal along the way). As mentioned above, a great Internet presence that includes five separate 24-hour streams of various flavors of folk (contemporary, traditional, Celtic, French, and something called "X-Stream") in addition to the main programming. They host the Boston Folk Festival.

But mostly it's the music, blissfully unbroken by commercial interruption.

#11 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2008, 04:37 PM:

I like WUMB occasionally; I'm afraid that I listened to them the most when they were broadcasting NPR's news show at 19:00 for awhile. I sometimes catch bits of "Mountain Stage" there. I like M.I.T.'s WMBR quite a bit too---if you like the folk music, try their "Troubador" show on Thursday afternoons at 14:00 (Eastern U.S.).

My favourite station is (again) WFMU, almost always over the web (usually timeshifted, thank-you wget and/or old testing tools). What can you say about a station whose annual (and that's it) funds-raising marathon is actually _more_ enjoyable than most radio stations' usual programming? In addition, every second spent listening to it is refundable at the end of your life---so keep your receipts.

(My only beef: "Jewish Moments in the Morning" is no longer streamed on the same stream as the rest of FMU, so I no longer get the Wednesday transition from very conservative religion and politics, mixed with oft-kitschy attempts at Jewish pop music, to Station Master Ken's oddball mix of G-d knows what.)

#12 ::: Notlob ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2008, 09:54 PM:

I think the issue here is our definitions of "folk" differ. Suffice it to say it seems you prefer contemporary "singer-singwriters" where I prefer traditional (very old) / revival (Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Dave van Ronk, Jack Hardy, Utah Phillips, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez) folk.

WUMB used to "serve the roots and folk community" (their mission on the UMass website, since scrubbed) but six months ago or so switched to a commercial-pop AAA format (Meika Pauley, Kevin So, Ani DiFranco, Bruce Springsteen, etc.), with the occasional folk artist thrown in. They have hired a music/programming director from a commercial rock and blues radio station, who promises hosting changes (some of the current hosts have been employed as folk DJ's for 30+ years). Read more about his thoughts of taking the station away from its past, steerning it to a "contemporary" market ideas in the link below.

To give an example of the extent to which WUMB drank the consultant's kool-aid, they broadcast "World Cafe" 20 hours per week(7-11pm, m-f). 100% of the NE Folk n Roots expressing their opinion agree that they turn WUMB off when World Cafe comes on.

The format change has been enough for many of us to let our memberships expire.

To read more of the programming change and long time listeners' thoughts, go to

Sorry, WUMB is NOT a folk radio station, they now promote themselves as 'WUMB music mix". My recommendation for a quality, non-commercial streaming folk music is Grassy Hill -

#13 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2008, 10:44 PM:

If only music that's more than 50 years old qualifies as "folk music", where will the next generation of folksingers come from? And more importantly, where will we get material that's relevant to our lives rather than our grandparents'? I'm reminded of the the old joke:

Q: How many folksingers does it take to change a light bulb?

A: Twelve -- one to change the bulb, four to write songs about how much better the old bulb was, and seven to complain because it's electric!

#14 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2008, 11:20 PM:

Testing for XSS per Vicki's comment - no sign in the preview page...

#15 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2008, 11:29 PM:

Janet put her backpack on
And all her goods arranged
And she's gone to Carterhaugh
The light bulbs for to change.

She'd not changed a double bulb,
a bulb but only two
When up then spoke young Tam Lin
says "Lady change no more"

"And why change you the light bulbs
without my acquiescence"
"Those reg'lar bulbs use too much power
I prefer fluoresescents".

- Jeri Corlew

#16 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2008, 12:28 AM:

Clifton #14: Maybe Vicki meant "Folksongs Are Your Friends"?

#17 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2008, 09:03 PM:

Okay, got it figured out. The XSS is the little Technorati icon in the Folksongs are your Friends post. It was an experiment I was running, to see if the silly thing worked/was useful.

The conclusion: Not well, and no.

#18 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2008, 09:48 PM:

I like both contemporary singer-songwriters and traditional folk music. I'm listening to Riverside Battle Songs by Ollabelle now.

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