Folk Festival music: You can take it with you (sort of)

Salsa Borealis' new CD among offerings at folk fest table

Posted: Thursday, April 08, 2010

When the strains of "Good Night Irene" fill Centennial Hall on Sunday night, fans and musicians all over town begin to go into aural withdrawal. But in some cases the festival spirit can be prolonged - at least in part. The CD table at the Alaska Folk Fest is filled with a variety of recordings, from current performers to past Folk Festival guest artists. This year it holds at least two brand new releases from local musicians, both featured in this year's festival lineup.

Longtime Juneau band Salsa Borealis has just this week released "Bailables" (or "Dance Tunes"), their second CD. Founding band member Russell Sandstrom said the title is indicative of the band's primary purpose: to celebrate and perform Latin dance music.

"That's really what this band has always been about," he said.

The band will play at 8 p.m. Friday night at a folk fest dance at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center, a tradition they've upheld for many years. The band will also play Saturday night upstairs at the Viking beginning around 10 p.m.

Salsa Borealis, formed in 1995 by Sandstrom and others, has become a staple of the Latin dance scene in town. It has performed in various incarnations, and at present includes, in addition to Sandstrom, Alejandro Soria, Antonio Diaz, Conrad Ebron, Marc Ramonda, Eric Ocasio, Mike Stanley, Mike Bucy, and Bryan Johnson.

Their new CD, recorded by Albert McDonnell at Studio A, contains a wide range of material, from mambo-era Latin tunes popular in the 40s and 50s, to cha-cha, salsa, Cuban son, merengue and contemporary Latin music, as well as two originals.

"We narrowed it down to 10 or 11 things that we like, good dance tunes that we like to play, as well as songs that showcase different rhythm styles," Sandstrom said.

Salsa Borealis' first CD, "Mambo Jambo," was released in 2003.

Another brand new CD available at folk fest is "Continental Divide," released by former Juneau musician Britt Arnesen, known as 907Britt. The CD contains original material from the past 11 years, showcasing the Alaska acoustic folk musician's maturation as a songwriter, and was created in her own portable studio.

Due to personal reasons, Arnesen was unable to make the trip to Juneau for her scheduled Folk Festival slot on Monday, but her CD release party will go on as planned. It will be held from 5-7 p.m. on April 8 at the Silverbow Backroom.

Arnesen, who now lives in Fairbanks, also set up a video that simulates her performance on the Alaska Folk Festival stage. Watch it at

For more information and to listen to the album, visit

Other titles on the CD table include releases from guest dance band The Tall Boys, previous guest artists the Carolina Chocolate Drops, popular folk festival acts Foghorn Stringband and the Improbabillies, and well-known national acts such as Chance McCoy, Erynn Marshall and the Rhythm Billiies.

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