Kate Wolf is probably unknown to the average music fan in The United States. Her albums only sold moderately and she never headlined stadiums or large concert halls. Still, from 1976-1986 she released a number of superior folk albums that are now seeing the light of day again through a series of reissues by Collector’s Choice Music.
Despite the lack of huge commercial success she was well respected within the folk community. Her lasting influence has far exceeded her sales as she was an early practitioner of the fusion of folk and pop music. Her influence can be heard through the music of such artists as Mary Chapin Carpenter, Nanci Griffith, and many more who have taken folk music into the 21st century.
Her career was cut short in 1986 when, at the age of 44, she died of leukemia. The Wind Blows Wild was originally issued a year after her death in 1987. It consists of studio recordings, radio shows, and concert performances. As such it does not have the unified appeal of the studio albums released during her lifetime yet there are some brilliant songs contained here.
Listening to Kate Wolf 23 years after her death, I find that she was above all a story teller. She was a rare artist who was able to paint pictures with words. The music, while pleasant and effective, is in many ways secondary to her talent as a lyricist.
There are several tracks that are top notch and should be required listening to any fan of folk music. “Old Jerome” is a nostalgic trip to an old Arizona mining town. “Laugh Like That” is a song about love and laughter. “Rising Of The Moon” is a song of heartache as she sings about an old love who has probably been gone for years. She wishes her former lover happiness and states; “I’d like to see you when you’re old.”
The title track is the last song she ever recorded. It was written in the hospital while undergoing chemotherapy. It was composed for a birthday concert that ultimately she was unable to attend. It is both thoughtful and philosophical as she faced her own mortality.
Today her music and memory are kept alive through the annual Kate Wolf Memorial Music Festival which has been in existence since 1996. It has drawn such artists as Joan Baez, Donovan, Richard Thompson, Nanci Griffith, Tom Paxton, Arlo Guthrie, Jesse Winchester, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and many more.
The Wind Blows Wild is a wonderful journey through the mind and music of Kate Wolf. It is a journey well worth taking.