For ‘Folk Music Novel,’ only Club Passim release party would do

Musician and writer Scott Alarik will be all over Cambridge this month, starting with the Thursday book release party for his “Revival: A Folk Music Novel” at Harvard Square’s Club Passim. (Photo: DanTappan)

Cambridge is not only the setting of “Revival: A Folk Music Novel” by musician and Boston Globe writer Scott Alarik, but the setting of its release party — for the rest of the month.

The Harvard Square Business Association has named September “‘Revival’ Month in Harvard Square,” according to Denise Jillson, the association’s director.

“When I read the novel, the connection was immediate. All these events come together under that theme of revival. It’s a month of living traditions, bringing the community together and celebrating things we share, from community gardening to welcoming autumn with RiverSing, to folk music and Oktoberfest,” Jillson said, hinting at the coming events. “It’s not about reliving the past, but reviving the best traditions and making them part of the present. And that’s what this novel is all about.”

So Thursday brings a book release party — a day ahead of the official release date by New Hampshire-based Peter E. Randall Publisher, a high-end custom press — at the legendary, 53-year-old folk music haven Club Passim with Alarik and musicians Jake Armerding, Meg Hutchinson, Alastair Moock and Ellis Paul; Sunday sees Alarik at the third annual Urban Agricultural Fair, for which the club is hosting an outdoor concert, and the Revels RiverSing celebration afterward; what Jillson describes as “an old-fashioned folk hootenanny” at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education on Sept. 25; the HONK! Parade and festival of street bands from Sept. 30 to Oct. 3; and the 33rd Annual Oktoberfest, also featuring a Passim outdoor concert, on Oct. 2.

“Harvard Square has never done this for a book before,” Jillson said.

This isn’t the first time Cambridge has served as background or backdrop for a novel — in July 2010, suspense novelist Lisa Gardner released “Live to Tell,” which is set at a pediatric psychiatry unit based on Cambridge Health Alliance’s Child Assessment Unit — but “Revival” is generating a unique level of excitement; Alarik has spent decades writing about and cultivating friends and admirers among his fellow folk singers. Everyone from Garrison Keillor of “A Prairie Home Home Companion” (on which Alarik has performed) to Dar Williams and Pete Seeger have kind things to say about the writer and his work, many of them posted on the book’s Amazon page.

Also quoted is Carol Gladstein’s review from Booklist, which makes the novel sound a little like the 2009 Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal movie, “Crazy Heart.” Her description of the novel:

Talented, respected folksinger and songwriter Nathan Warren was well on the way to stardom when a contract dispute reversed his trajectory and with it any notions of commercial success. He now lives quietly in Cambridge, Mass., spending his time at a local bar and folksinger hangout, Dooley’s, managing its talent night and nursing pints of root beer. There he meets very young, very talented musician Kit Palmer, whose debilitating stage fright threatens to railroad her career. As their relationship develops, Nathan works to support Kit, acting as mentor and eventually lover, encouraging her to conquer her nerves. Kit in turn brings a long-lost joy back into Nathan’s life, reminding him of his early days and his deep love for folk music and inspiring him to recapture his zest for music and living. ‘Revival’ is a quiet, contemplative novel that, though at times slow moving, succinctly examines people reexamining themselves and finding the courage to move forward. It is also a fascinating introduction to folk music and a joyous celebration of folk musicians and their world.

“Truly an outstanding first novel,” said Matt Smith, manager of Passim, in a blurb on the Amazon page. “You don’t need to know anything about folk music … to feel that you are part of what’s happening — and to love the story and characters.”

Even if Smith hadn’t liked the novel so much, Club Passim would still make sense as a book-release venue, said Paul, one of the songwriters performing with Alarik.

“It’s sort of like returning to the scene of the crime,” Paul said of unveiling the book at Passim. “The core of the novel happens in Cambridge, and Passim is probably the most prestigious folk club in the country. Plus, a coffeehouse is always filled with readers. Folk fans are people who read a lot of books.”

The book release party begins at 8:15 p.m. Thursday at Club Passim, 47 Palmer St., Harvard Square. There will be a free reception and signing before and after the show, which costs $20. For information, call (617) 492-7679 or click here. More information about Revival’ Month in Harvard Square is here.

This post took quotes and other information from a press release.

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