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Kate Wolf - Carry It On

Kate Wolf
Carry It On

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These recordings were made in Berkeley, California, from 1978–1981. The five Kate Wolf songs, including two previously unreleased, were all written around the same period.

The songwriters on Carry It On represent some of Kate's major influences, especially Gil "Jellyroll" Turner, author of the title track. Kate dedicated her second album to Turner, and often said, "Gil's genius was that he created songs that people could sing when they'd never heard them before."

Nina Gerber, Kate's main accompanist, once again applies her intimate knowledge of Kate's music in compiling and remastering this collection, helped by the fact that she performed on most of the original recordings!


Listen to 1-minute clips here or full songs on Spotify.

Original Liner Notes

I came across Kate Wolf’s second album, Lines on the Paper, sometime in 1977 just as I was starting to produce and host music programs at KPFA, Berkeley’s listener sponsored radio station. Taken by her sad and beautiful voice, by her songs, the people they held, and the stories they told, I started to play Kate’s music on the radio often. She accepted an invitation to be a guest on my program and we soon became friends.

Kate loved community radio, especially KPFA which she had enjoyed from childhood. Over the radio she revealed the same warmth and integrity, the same attention and grace that she brought to her concert performances. She was a frequent and popular guest, co-host, and guest host. Between 1977 and 1985 Kate lent her support to countless on-air fund raisers and benefit concerts for the station. Some of these were taped and the songs on this album are gathered from recordings made on those occasions. Most of these tapes have been sitting silent on my shelves for the past decade and it’s good to know that the music they hold will find new life through this album.

Three of these songs were recorded at the first event Kate took part in on behalf of the station, a Woody Guthrie birthday celebration in 1977. Others were recorded in front of a fireplace at my house, and some were taped in the studio at KPFA. None of them, I know Kate would want me to remind you, not even the songs recorded in the studio, are studio cuts as the term is usually used. Rather, this is a record in the old sense of the word. Here are moments, captured in their time, which can be revisited in this collection, but were never intended to be “album” versions.

Kate’s love of words, her belief in their power showed in her own craft and in the appreciation and affection that she had for the work of other songwriters. She honored writers, songwriters, artists, musicians, poets, thinkers, and dreamers and gathered them and their work around her. She collected songs with the same care that she wrote them. Some of these, written by Woody Guthrie and Arlo Guthrie, Joni Mitchell and others, are mixed with Kate’s own work on this album.

I’m tempted to say that Kate lives on in her music. She seemed to be most at peace and most alive when she was singing; and the warmth and vitality she brought to her performances resonate in her recordings. But Kate knew that human lives begin and end and she understood that this knowledge is part of what makes our time profound and precious.

Kate Wolf was buried by her friends and family in the California Sierras ten years ago. While she lived she wrote and gathered and sang beautiful, sad, vivid, triumphant, true, caring songs which urged each listening heart to embrace life and to find the courage to accept the vulnerability that that embrace brings. Rather than saying that Kate lives on in her work, let me say that Kate’s music is her memorial. We have her songs to keep in her absence. They still bring light and warmth and comfort to my journey. I hope to yours too.

Robbie Osman
Oakland, California, 1996

Gil Turner was a man from the Eastern Sixties folk music movement. He’s the first person to write an interview with Bob Dylan that was published in a magazine. He recorded the first Bob Dylan tune. And wrote a song that became kind of a rallying point for the SNCC movement and voter registration in the South.

He was a master at making people feel and move toward something from his music. I’ve seen him sit in a room full of people, late at night, everybody just falling asleep and falling off chairs, and he could be singing and everybody would just start to sing along and pick up an instrument and play. He got me going.

When I was going to school in the Sixties, I really liked going to Pete Seeger concerts. He has a way of making the audience just believe that they’re supposed to be there to sing along with him. But that was the extent of my musical involvement until the early Seventies.
I met a friend of Gil’s who said, “There’s music happening in this livingroom and you should come down and join in and sing.” At that time I wasn’t a performer and I wasn’t writing songs. And one of these people was Gil, who is a lot like Pete in the sense that he can really get you involved. So in the course of several living room music trips Gil would really encourage me to sing. I performed in a couple folk festivals with him. The first time I’d ever done that. I had a great time. And he used to say to me, “You ought to go out there and do it.” He says, “I can see that you really ought to go out there and do it.” And I never had anybody say anything like that to me.

So he kind of dragged me into it. I started writing songs, and I remember about the third song I ever wrote, I was playing it for him, and he didn’t say much. He sat in the corner. I couldn’t tell if he liked the song or not. It was Oklahoma Going Home. At the end of it he said, “If you’re gonna to do that song, you ought to learn how to play the chords.” So he showed me how to play the chords. It was a very very beginning sort of thing. And in his own way really just encouraged me. My only sorrow is that he’s not here to enjoy it.

Kate Wolf
KSRO Singers Circle
Hosts: Nina Gerber and David Lewis
Santa Rosa, California, 1977


Collection Produced & Compiled by Nina Gerber
Recording courtesy of Flat Rock Records P.O. Box 1170, El Cerrito, California, 94530
Recording Dates: 7/14/78, 4/17/78, 3/3/79, 3/25/81 & 4/2/81 for KPFA-FM Radio, Berkeley, California
Tape Transfers: Bob Schumaker, Bay Recording Studios
Engineering and Digital Editing: Gary Mankin, Dave Wellhausen Studios
Mastering: George Horn, Fantasy Studios
Photograph by Karl Metzenberg
Cover Design by Max Wolf & Beth Weil
Special thanks to Robbie Osman, host of KPFA-FM’s Across The Great Divide


Kate Wolf  vocals, guitar
Nina Gerber   guitar, harmony vocal, mandolin, harmonica
Rick Byars   electric bass, harmony vocals
Eddie B. Barlow   dobro, harmony vocals


Release History

1996  Flat Rock Records FR-301
2013  Owl Records OWL-016


San Francisco Chronicle Datebook
Larry Kelp
January 1997

A Welcome Cache From Kate Wolf

A decade after her death from leukemia, Kate Wolf's gentle voice and perceptive lyrics continue to define the Northern California country-folk style: introspective and tied to the landscape. Rolling hills, hawks and wolves populate her lyrics, where the meaning of life can be uncovered in the most ordinary of events.

Newcomers should start elsewhere (such as the two-CD "Gold In California"), but for her fans this fourth posthumous album is a welcome collection of a dozen songs taped for Berkeley radio station KPFA and at concerts between 1977 and '81, often with guitarist Nina Gerber accompanying. A couple of Wolf's songs are throwaways, but "Sweet Love" is that gem fans dream about. Her trio of songs by Woody and Arlo Guthrie is a find, and her covers of Paul Siebel's "Then Came The Children" and Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" show just how good she was at getting inside another composer's lyric and bringing our nuances of her own.

If she were still alive Wolf would insist on doing more polished recordings, but the effect is akin to having her sitting in the living room singing for an audience of one. It also marks the launching of El Cerrito's Flat Rock Records, dedicated to putting onto CD precious recordings of merit (also out now are the first Grant Street String Band and two Good Ol' Person albums). Considering the wealth of Wolf on private tapes, label owner Tom Diamant, whose defunct Kaleidoscope label issued most of Wolf's original albums, promises more where this came from.