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Returning to her vocal roots

Folk singer Tracy Newman, who detoured into TV writing, will be playing at the FAR-West Music Conference in Irvine.

October 08, 2013|By Michael Miller
  • Gene Lippmann, Tracy Newman and Paula Fong.
Gene Lippmann, Tracy Newman and Paula Fong. (James F. Dean )

Hard traveling is an admired trait of folk singers, and Tracy Newman took a long journey to her gig this week in Irvine — even if it didn't quite adhere to Woody Guthrie's mythical highways.

Newman, who recently turned 70, released her first CD less than 10 years ago. As a young adult, she played gigs on the blossoming folk scene, but she didn't spend all the years in between as a hungry talent eking out a living from the tip jar.

Rather, she headed to Hollywood, where she garnered acclaim as a writer for "Cheers," "Ellen," "The Drew Carey Show" and other programs. She performed with the comedy troupe the Groundlings, which spawned Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig and other alums.

But even through all those years, Newman never forgot her love of music — and she'll tap into that passion Saturday night when she performs at the FAR-West Music Conference at the Hyatt Regency Irvine.

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"I did clubs and everything for a number of years, off and on," Newman said by phone Friday, remembering the 1960s. "I mean, you have to be so committed to it. And also, when I started out, I wasn't writing. You know, I was singing Bob Dylan stuff and Tom Paxton and stuff like that."

Now, Newman is singing and writing. Her two albums, 2007's "A Place in the Sun" and last year's "I Just See You," feature original work. And speaking of Dylan, she'll be in good company at the Hyatt: Chris Hillman, who made "Mr. Tambourine Man" a No. 1 hit as a member of the Byrds, is among the other performers on the program.

FAR-West, taking place in Irvine for the second year in a row, is the western-states gathering of Folk Alliance International, a group dedicated to promoting folk music and dance. For four days, the Hyatt will host performances, workshops, panels and more.

(And despite the old-time feel of much folk music, the conference has a strong modern sensibility: Seminar titles include "1-to-1 Social Media Assessment" and "How to 'Tweet' and 'Like' Your Way to Better Concert Promotion and Organization.")

The jury-selected performers range from the Hawaiian ensemble Keale and the DamNatives to the New Orleans-flavored Quinn DeVeaux and the Blue Beat Review. Newman will close Saturday evening's show with her band, the Reinforcements.

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