Blues/Folk Beat: Pete Seeger, Utah Phillips, Willie Nelson ...

Folk singer's banjo returned; social activist cancels appearance; country legend extends invitation to presidential candidates.

Pete Seeger's prized banjo was returned Monday (Aug. 21) safe and sound. The instrument had been missing since Aug. 8, when the 81-year-old folk legend participated in a campaign event for presidential hopeful Ralph Nader. The Associated Press reported that Gary Schneeweiss Jr. found the banjo by the side of a road in Rosendale, N.Y., and contacted Seeger, whose phone number was on the banjo's case. Seeger's wife, Toshi, said that although the banjo had been thought stolen, it's possible her husband left it on top of his car and drove off, which would explain how it came to be found by the roadside. ...

Folkie and social activist Utah Phillips has been forced to cancel his appearance at the Philadelphia Folk Festival on Saturday (Aug. 26). On the advice of his doctor, Phillips withdrew from the festival because of a serious heart condition that will not allow him to make the trip. Songwriter and multi-instrumentalist John Hartford will perform in his place. For more information, check www.folkfest.org. ...

Willie Nelson has invited Al Gore, George W. Bush, Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan to meet with farmers before the Farm Aid 2000 concert in Washington, D.C. Also invited to the Sept. 17 event are members of the House and Senate Agricultural Committee as well as members of the House and Senate Agricultural Appropriations Committee. No word on whether any of the camps have agreed to attend. ... R&B and blues pioneer singer Ruth Brown is getting ready to hit the road again after a stroke forced her to cancel several shows earlier this summer. Her next performance date is Oct. 27 at the San Francisco Jazz Festival, her management firm, Rosebud, reported. ...

Fleadh, the all-Irish music festival, has been canceled. After being postponed because of trouble finding sponsorship when its previous backer, Guinness, backed out, the projected six-city tour was scaled back to just two cities — New York and San Francisco — until finally being canceled altogether this week. ... The Squirrel Nut Zippers have announced their follow-up to 1998's Perennial Favorites, titled Bedlam Ballroom, which will be released Oct. 17 on Mammoth Records. The album, the band's fourth, will include 13 new tracks and enhanced CD content, which includes the band's award-winning video, "The Ghost of Stephen Foster." ...

Indigo Girls, Indigenous, Bonnie Raitt and Joan Baez will take part in the Honor the Earth Tour 2000. The tour, which began in 1993, raises money for American Indian groups to help them call attention to issues including the slaughter of buffalo and concerns about nuclear waste storage. These tours collectively have raised $465,000, which was distributed to 65 American Indian groups. This year's monthlong tour will kick off Sept. 30 in Billings, Mont., and close Oct. 4 in Missoula, Mont. ...

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is sponsoring "Got My Mojo Working: Muddy Waters and Modern Blues," as part of its American Music Masters series. The series will focus on Muddy Waters, inducted to the hall of fame in March. Waters is a key figure in the evolution of the blues, from its birthplace in the Mississippi Delta to one of its high-water eras, in Chicago in the '50s. The event will include a daylong conference Sept. 23 on Waters' legacy at Case Western Reserve University and two concerts Sept. 23 and 24. Other events include a symposium at CWRU, workshops for college and high-school students, and a blues film series. The series runs Sept. 18–24. ...

Shannon Curfman will appear on "Access Hollywood" later this month and also will be featured in next month's issue of George magazine. Fans can catch Curfman performing alongside John Mellencamp and Neil Young at Farm Aid next month in Washington, D.C. Last week the guitarist and singer/songwriter, who just turned 15, flew home to Fargo, N.D., to play her first show there in almost a year. She's also taped an interview for House of Blues radio that will run later this year. ...

Robert Lockwood Jr. , Homesick James, Henry Townsend and Honeyboy Edwards will pay tribute to Delta blues legend Robert Johnson in two performances Sept. 23 at B.B. King's New York club. The group, which has been called the American blues equivalent of Cuba's Buena Vista Social Club, includes the only living contemporaries of the late bluesman. ...

Buddy and Julie Miller have been tapped to open for Emmylou Harris for the following dates: San Francisco (Sept. 26); Portland, Ore. (Sept. 28); Seattle (Sept. 29); and Vancouver, British Columbia (Sept. 30). Buddy Miller, alone, will then open some October shows for Harris, including: Denver (Oct. 3); Minneapolis (Oct. 5); Chicago (Oct. 6); Grand Rapids, Mich. (Oct. 7); and Columbus, Ohio (Oct. 11). ...

John Hiatt will release streaming video of a song he performed during a taping of PBS' "Austin City Limits." The song, from his Sept. 26 release Crossing Muddy Waters, will not be aired with the program in October. To watch the free video, head over to EMusic.com. ... Sara Hickman, Victoria Williams and Rain Perry will participate in Agility: A Women's Music Festival in Ojai, Calif. The songwriters will perform to benefit the Arthritis Foundation. ... Emmylou Harris, the Dubliners and Loudon Wainwright III are performing Aug. 24–27 at the T-nder Festival in Denmark. Also performing will be Fairport Convention, Doug MacLean and Great Big Sea. ...

Comotion have announced a tour of the West Coast in support of their debut album, Head West, due Sept. 12 on SCI Fidelity Records. The project, which features bluegrass and jazz artists such as Darol Anger, Aaron Johnston and Tye North, will kick off its tour Sept. 29 in Las Vegas and wrap up Oct. 8 in Vancouver, British Columbia. ...

Jimmie Lee Robinson, 69, will participate in a "48 Hours Blues Vigil" in Chicago from 6 p.m. Aug. 25 to 6 p.m. Aug. 27 to protest the University of Chicago's plans to tear down the city's Maxwell Street area. Maxwell Street was known in recent decades for its open-air markets and as a haven and stamping ground for Chicago's burgeoning community of blues musicians. Carey Bell, Mike Bloomfield, Big John Wrencher and Johnny Young were all, at one time or another, familiar faces there. For more information about the issue, visit www.openair.org/maxwell/preserve.html. ...

Fans of Emmylou Harris, Dave Matthews and Buddy and Julie Miller who missed the May 6 "Songwriters Special" on the PBS show Austin City Limits will have a chance to catch the show again Aug. 26. Also being rebroadcast Sept. 2 are performances by Joe Ely and Indigenous. ...

Aaron Neville will record a gospel-inspired collection titled Devotion, due Sept. 26. The album will feature a duet with his son Ivan. ... Darden Smith, Slaid Cleaves and the Asylum Street Spankers will play at the Hearts of Arts Blood Drive on Aug. 26 in Austin, Texas. The performance will benefit the Blood and Tissue Center of Central Texas. ... Ellis Paul, Sloan Wainwright and Greg Cagno are appearing at the Cutting Edge of Campfire Festival on Labor Day weekend in Cambridge, Mass. For more information visit www.clubpassim.com. ...

— sonicnet.com staff report