A full review
by U.C. Berkeley Visiting Poet Geoff Bouvier:
SAN FRANCISCO, CA  - Written and composed on the ukulele during a 6-week trip on two distant continents, recorded live at The Tower Studios in SF’s Mission District, and self-released digitally and on vinyl in December 2010, Annie Bacon’s The Folk Opera is a haunting and triumphant extended musical suite written for ukulele, upright bass, fiddle, trumpet, and multiple voices.
Described by various delighted listeners as a diverse and eclectic cross between A Prairie Home Companion, Neko Case, John Darnielle, Patty Griffin, Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town,” traditional American folk musicals such as “Oklahoma,” and Bob Dylan’s “Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid” soundtrack, The Folk Opera is, in fact, a musical world unto itself, with few, if any, antecedents in musical history.
In just over a year and fewer than 20 performances, The Folk Opera has achieved a grassroots following so dedicated that the live recording sessions were fully funded by donations from avid fans, including among them myself. Mixed and mastered by ex-Fantasy Records staff engineer David Luke (who worked with Jefferson Starship, Mike Marshall, and The Grateful Dead, among others) The Folk Opera translates equally well to recorded media as it has to the live stage.
Featuring some of the Bay Area music scene’s most up-and-coming stars, the recording and live show highlight Joe Lewis (Os Beaches, Honeycomb) on the upright bass, Elizabeth Greenblatt (the OSHEN) singing the lead character, Joel Dean vocalizing the Old Man and the Mechanic, Savannah Jo Lack (Ruth Gerson), giving voice to Aunt Sara and playing fiddle, and Annie Bacon herself, playing the ukulele and singing Rita, the waitress. A chorus of 10 voices fills out the Townsfolk Choir, including among them myself.
The haunting and simple melodies, beautiful soaring harmonies and captivating folk and bluegrass rhythms are memorable after only one hearing, the characters are so indelibly drawn, you’ll feel like you know them, and the story – tracing the events of a single afternoon that expand into life-changing moments for a few different people in a small town – is as timeless as classic literature. Described by reviewers as “transfixing” and “almost indescribably poignant and beautiful,” The Folk Opera is a comedy, a tragedy, and a love story. It will make you smile, and it will likely make you cry. And in the meantime, you’ll want to sing along and maybe get up and dance.
About the piece
The Folk Opera is a 40-minute musical suite composed on the ukulele that carries the listener through a day in the life of a few small town folks as the forces of love and loss (of memory, people and places) rewrite their plans. Haunting folk melodies and harmonies meet operatic hyperbole, creating an indelible, visceral, musical experience.