Woodie Guthrie had the Dust Bowl. John Denver had the Rocky Mountains. Likewise, Gordon Bok has always been associated with a particular place: the icy, isolated coast of his home state, Maine. For forty years, the songwriter has been a stalwart presence on the folk scene, issuing a slew of acclaimed albums starting with his self-named, 1965 debut. Produced by Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary, the record unveiled Bok's penchant for vividly spun sea chanteys and salty tales of sailors, dockworkers and the deep -- a knack that earned him an honorary doctorate from the Maine Maritime Academy in 1997.
As provincial as his music can be, however, Bok draws from a wide range of traditions and experience, as shown on his new disc, Apples in the Basket. Rich with his trademark mastery of the twelve-string guitar, the songs bend Bok's almost bottomless voice from Irish to Latin influences, from horizon-scanning wonder to nearly mystic introspection.
But even while fathoming such universal themes, Bok can't escape the lull and pull of the sea. "I find whole worlds in songs; in many cases, a song can be a person's entire life, magnificently condensed," he notes. "I'm fascinated by the ways people deal with the challenges of their lands and their times. But I also think that many of us are constantly drawn outward from our lives to the world that feeds us."
Bok comes ashore tonight at 8 p.m. at the Swallow Hill Music Association, 71 East Yale Avenue. Admission is $23; visit www.swallowhill.com or call 303-777-1003 for tickets and information. -- Jason Heller
Al Burian speaks his mind.
Al Burian's band, Milemarker, and his zine, Burn Collector, are veritable institutions in the punk scene. Not that his mother is very impressed; in Burn Collector issue thirteen, the latest installment of his self-published journal, Burian relates in terse and hilarious prose his family's distaste for his music -- not to mention his inability to translate his art into money.
Big bucks and mainstream pandering couldn't be further from the soul of Burian's writing -- which is why he'll be doing a free reading tonight at the Denver Zine Library, 1644 Platte Street, before Milemarker takes the stage at the Climax Lounge. In addition to Burn Collector, which was compiled in 2000 into an eponymous trade paperback, he's known for one-off titles such as Utopia and Natural Disasters, a collection of his comics called Things Are Meaningless, and his regular columns for the renowned magazine Punk Planet. Poignant and raw, yet literary and universal in scope, Burian's work proves him to be one of the most compelling writers in the underground press. Even if his mom doesn't quite get it.
The reading starts at 6 p.m., and although it's free, donations to the DZL will be gladly accepted. Visit www.denverzinelibrary.org or call 720-210-8451 for information. -- Jason Heller