Worcester, MA - the year was 1978. Jimmy Carter was president. Disco was king. Elvis had only recently left the building. Folk music was in retreat.
Undaunted, three Worcester friends with a passion for folk music, Charlie Ball, Dennis Costello and Barry Sullivan, became Plain Folk. They cut their musical teeth at the local Irish pubs with two guitars and rich three-part harmony, holding forth into the wee hours of the morning celebrating the successes and mourning the failures of everyman. It was music for its own sake and it was great fun.
The eighties brought change: another band member, more and diverse instruments, a much broader repertoire and many more venues. Dennis discovered the banjo and his brother John Costello joined the band, adding vocals and a bass guitar. Still later, Tom Porzuc joined adding vocals and mandolin.
And the band played on. They took their show to clubs and pubs, festivals and colleges, and eventually to concert halls. They marked their eighth year together with a concert at the acoustically renowned Mechanics Hall in Worcester, MA. It was recorded and released as their debut album “Plain Folk: Live at Mechanics Hall.”
And still they played on. The nineties arrived bringing more changes. Charlie finally figured out how to get a piano on stage. They released another recording to celebrate their fifteenth anniversary. Entitled “Plain Folk: Under the Influence,” a tribute to their folk roots and influences. Tom retired after 15 years with the band and sadly, succumbed in 2012. Dave Poland’s name was added to the roster. Dave is a fiddle player by trade, nationally ranked and simply amazing. Barry started commuting to the shows by airplane, the band created a web site and, somewhere along the fuzzy continuum of time; “Plainfolk” became one word (attributed to the world wide web's influence).
On it went. In November, 1996 they released their third recording, “Plainfolk: The View From Here.” This effort, a powerful and compelling collection of original songs, is certain to play for this and future generations. Indeed, one of their songs, “Fireman’s Prayer”, has found an international audience in the fire fighting community adopting the song for ceremonies, services, videos and websites.
Plainfolk continues to write and record folk music in a traditional style, singing the songs that tell the stories of New England and far beyond. Their performance resume now includes a place on the Artist Roster at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. They released a CD single “The Smiley Face Song: The Ballad of Harvey Ball” telling the story of the creation of the most famous icon the world has ever known. That CD has aired on local radio and television, CBS National News, National Public Radio, the BBC and The History Channel. Plainfolk's song Amoskeag Mill (The View From Here CD) and Charlie were featured in the WCVB TV "Chronicle" Series on a program about New England Mills and the historic Amoskeag.
In recent times Eric Kilburn has begun appearing with the guys bringing his mandolin and dobro talents to the mix enhancing an already diverse sound. You can count on the Plainfolk quartet at each gig and often enjoy the expanded group with an extra guest musician or two.
Now here it is 36 years later, a new millennium, and Plainfolk is still together. That’s a long time. During that time they went from the local pubs and clubs to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC and on into cyberspace. That’s a long way. And finally in 2006 they released yet another CD of great folk music with a local flavor - "PAST DUE" which includes the songs Blackstone Valley and Union Station.
But the instruments are still good; the harmonies still sweet and the voices still honest. As ever, it is music for it’s own sake and it’s still great fun.