About

Keith at the Mill 2Welcome to Folk Songs You Never Sang in Grade School.

My name is Keith Reins, English Professor Emeritus at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I am also a musician and essayist and have long wanted to combine my artistic interests by writing essays about music. This goal became a reality when I was delighted to receive an Endowed Faculty Chair Award from the Kirkwood Foundation. The endowment allowed me a “mini-sabbatical” in 2012 to pursue my ambition by researching and writing a series of essays about a collection of folk songs I have learned and loved over nearly 40 years of collecting and performing.

Keith and Atticus

The result is Folk Songs You Never Sang in Grade School (FSYNSIGS), a multifaceted project that combines research, original essays, musical performance, an interactive website. and original recordings of songs in the collection. If you are interested in booking a Folk Songs You Never Sang in Grade School performance or have questions or comments about this project, please contact me. Click here for a description of FSYNSIGS shows.

On this website you’ll find all the essays and lyrics (as I learned them) to the songs in the Folk Songs You NeverSang in Grade School FSYNSIGS-Logo-1.jpgcollection. The essays are linked to many of the sources I used in my research as well as varied performances (Thanks, YouTube!) of many songs. I didn’t write an essay about each song per se; I included all the songs in the FSYNSIGS collection in my essays, but the essays are more about themes, history and the artistry of composition than about individual songs. All this I wove together with personal narrative—my relationship with the songs and how I came to love, interpret, arrange and make them my own as a performer. My intent is to produce a compelling, entertaining, reader-friendly collection of essays about the songs I love and my creative life.

copy-FSYNSIGS-Logo-1.jpgThis is the internet, and I hesitate to tell you how to approach your experience with the FSYNSIGS website, but I do suggest that you read the essays in the order they are presented on the “Essays” menu. To a degree, they are sequential. At the end of each essay, I’ve included a link to the next essay in the sequence.
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One more thing…I want to especially thank my friend and bandmate, Tara McGovern, for her help with this project.

Want to get started? You will learn more about this project by following this link to the first essay, “Folk Songs You Never Sang in Grade School.”

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What’s This?

Folk Songs You Never Sang in Grade School is one folk musician's effort to document, honor and share a collection of folk songs I love and my personal history with them through research, essays, and performance. Read the essays here and watch this site for future performances.

What’s New?

Tara McGovern and I, joined by uilleann piper Jon Cooper, have completed the album version of Folk Songs You Never Sang in Grade School. For a taste of the CD listen to "Let No Man Steal Your Thyme" and "I Ride an Old Paint" with "Midnight on the Water."

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I Ride an Old Paint/Midnight on the Water
Let No Man Steal Your Thyme