It’s no secret the music industry was one of the hardest hit by the pandemic and is still in recovery, garnering new efforts to support struggling musicians.
One recent addition to the widespread support is the Folk Alliance International’s promotion of The Village Fund through a new series titled Artists in (Their) Residence, a COVID adaptation of their Artist in Residence program, which has been running since 2015. The fund provides direct grants to music professionals and musicians in need.
The FAI is a 3000+ member strong nonprofit committed to the preservation, promotion, and presentation of the folk community, sustaining the genre worldwide. Historically a somewhat local endeavor to Kansas City, MO, where their office is located, their annual Artist in Residence project has worked with organizations such as the Kansas City Ballet and Topeka Correctional Facility.
This new digital series, is hosted by mandolinist Chris Thile, and has recruited twenty artists from around the world to build awareness for The Village Fund, a charity truly rooted in folk. The name for it was “inspired by the rural origins of various folk music traditions, the urban villages that expanded the folk audience, and the recognition that folk music forms one global village of fans, artists, and industry professionals alike.”
To launch the series, John Paul White of The Civil Wars and Canadian songwriter Rose Cousins teamed up for an emotional piano duet, “I Can’t With You,” as the first of the quarantine-inspired songs to be released on the FAI’s YouTube channel. In true social distancing fashion, they filmed from their respective homes, but were perfectly in sync as they delivered a tender, emotional performance.
“I Can’t With You” is a title that plays on a phrase which is often spoken in frustration, but in this case is instead more literal, lamenting about activities prohibited given the current and past restrictions. From reminiscing about walks on the beach, to simply holding a loved one in your arms, White and Cousins trade lines in soft vibratos that display not only their expertise as vocalists, but subtle melody and harmony craftsmanship derived from their individual songwriting strengths. Their voices blend beautifully, complementing each other with similar softness and tone that eliminates any notion of distance between them.
This is not the first time the artists have worked together, as White joined Cousins on a number of shows in 2020 promoting her album Bravado.
The pair were a strong choice to commence the series, and it is beginning to see promising success. The video, which has only been out for a week, already has more than five times the views of most other videos on the FAI’s channel, and comments on the posting are begging for a version of the song to be released on streaming platforms. With nine more videos to go, Artists in (Their) Residence appears to be set up to reach a large, supportive sector of their dedicated audience.