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 Al Poindexter 

There are a lot of so called folk musicians around North Florida but I don't know of many who are able to capture the authenticity of the craft while staying true to the roots of the music and yet, somehow, simultaneously making the music sound fresh and new. Al Poindexter is one of those. He writes songs about the people and places of Florida, with a keen eye for details and finding the wonder in everyday events that most of us take for granted. Some of Al's songs would fit well in a documentary about North Florida wildlife or even in a classroom setting
, yet they never sound forced--Al writes true to life vignettes about the wondrous nature of Florida. I first met Al at one of Mike Shackelford's songwriter events at Atlantic Beach (and if you haven't been to one of these, you should definitely plan to attend. Mike is a gracious host, always entertaining, and there are always great songs to hear from the fabulous songwriters who play there regularly.) and Al was wowing the crowd with a song he had written on his old National steel body guitar.

Roy: So let's start by telling our faithful readers who Al Poindexter is. Give us a few quick sentences to catch us all up.

Al: Al Poindexter is a folk singer and singer songwriter who plays lots of songs about Florida folk lore and also some traditional roots music as well. I also play a lot of concerts for children again with original music and roots music.  I try to respect the folk culture of the past and do my part to keep it going.
 

Roy: Tell us a bit about your favorite songwriters. What have they taught you?

Al: Will McLean is a favorite of all Florida folk singers.  Also Ann and Frank Thomas.  But some of my others are Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie and in the contemporary music John Hartford  and David Holt. From all of their music, I get an urgency to write songs people can relate to personally, songs that may surprise you that you learned something or came to appreciate something new, at least from a new perspective.  Musically, I try to keep my songs sounding traditional but not worn out.


Roy: You write acoustic-based music, mostly in a folk and early blues format. But, to my ears, what you do never comes off as sounding like "oldies music" or nostalgia, but rather nuanced and genuine. These songs are fresh and poignant. What do you keep what you do relevant in today's fast paced world while staying true to your roots?
 

Al: I think many people who are singer songwriters in my generation came at it from rock and roll and pop music.  I was never a as big of fan of popular music.  Most people would not know or recognize any names in my record collection.  But when playing roots music today, I think its important to be clear and refined and avoid letting it get too rustic.  I love rustic music, but I canít pull it off.  Also, I think that folk lore of the past is based on themes that are timeless and when we stay true to those themes, we stay relevant.


Roy: There's a lot of storytelling in your songs. Where did that come from? 

Al: Story telling is a big part of folk lore.  And Iím a long winded talker.  Ask me what time it is and Iíll tell you how to build a watch.  Thereís things that I have come to realize and know that I think others can appreciate.  So I tell the story.  We live in a soundbite world. If the music is interesting people will listen to the story.
 

Roy: You write a lot of songs about nature, particularly the nature of Florida--rivers, creeks, swamps, and animals are all referenced frequently in your songs. I take it Florida itself is a source of inspiration for you? 

Al: My dad took us camping every chance we got.  I donít think we missed a single state park when I was a kid.  We traveled the state and went to all the tourist attractions as well, but the nature and history just stays a part of me.  I love to get off the interstate highways and just wander down backroads and see what I can find.  Sometimes you see animals and nature and sometime come up with a historical scene.
 

Roy: Let's talk about performing for a moment. Writing a song and performing a song are two completely different entities. Do you prefer one over the other? Have you ever written a song that is difficult to perform live?

Al: Iíve written many songs that I donít perform so much. You have to keep the audience and the venue in mind.  A song may mean a lot to me, but needs to be performed in a venue where I feel it will be appreciated.


Roy: What got you interested in playing music to start with? Specifically--what made you want to write songs?
 

Al: My older brother was listening to folk music in the 60ís.  It was the pop music for a while back then.  The first time I saw Peter Paul and Mary live, I think I took over my brotherís guitar and never quit playing.  I donít think I ever gave it back to him.  Then I found out about more traditional folk music and learned from that.  I started writing songs when I came to realize that Florida has such a rich history of songwriters and an endless source of song ideas.


Roy: You also regularly perform at concerts for children. What's different about playing music for a younger audience?

Al: David Holt told me never to play down to the kids. You donít have to just play silly meaningless songs.  You need to keep things simple, but there are lots of songs that are easy to sing that kids can remember that have many levels of meaning.  People donít realize that Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly had dozens of songs for kids.  And grown ups like those songs too.  Iíve tried to stay in that vein.

 

Roy: I know that you play guitar, bottleneck slide, and banjo--what other instruments are you proficient with?

Al: I approach the 12 string guitar as more than a funky sounding guitar.  I learnt from listening to Gordon Bok that you donít have to play all the strings all the time.  Different groups of stings on the 12 string have different sounds.  I play a gourd banjo and a cello banjo too.  But  I just donít seem to have time to be real proficient with some of the other instruments that I have to fool around with.

 

Roy: Let's talk about one of your newer songs, particularly "Beluthahatchee". Tell us a little bit about the song's inspiration and how you came to write it.

Al: That is a song about Stetsonís Kennedyís home down St Road 13 south of Mandarin.  I first read about Stetson entertaining Woody Guthrie in a newspaper story.  There was a famous picture of Woody playing a guitar at Beluthahatchee.  Woody would come stay there with Stetson. I was aware of what he stood for politically and how he also was for conserving our Florida folklore and environment.  Thatís a convergence of three of those traditional themes I was talking about earlier.  Beluthahatchee just inspires me on so many levels.

 

Roy: Besides playing all over North Florida, what's next for Al Poindexter? 

Al: Iím trying to get some CDís made. One with my kids songs, one with just my Florida songs, and probably another of traditional folk songs and blues that I really like. Iíll come up for air after that and see where I can go.

 

You can find more about Al at his website http://alpoindexter.com/ as well as playing at many North Florida venues every week.

His album "Al Poindexter With River Rise At the Riverside (Live)" features local Jacksonville musicians Ron Spencer and Eric Wendorf and was recorded live at the Riverside Arts Market on several blustery days on the stage by the river.

                      
You can find a copy here:
http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/AlPoindexter