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A folk troubadour

Bill Staines' definition of true folk, often confused with acoustic pop, is simply "songs that are bigger than the person that writes them."

One example: " 'This Land Is Your Land' is bigger than Woody Guthrie," Staines says.

A New England native, Staines was part of the Boston/Cambridge folk scene of the '60s and, in the late '60s, emceed the Sunday Hootenanny at Club 47, the folk-music mecca of the time. Many big-name acts, including Judy Collins, Taj Mahal and Gordon Lightfoot, performed at the legendary Cambridge coffeehouse.

"It was a wonderful music scene to grow up in," he says. "All sorts of folk icons were playing coffeehouses in New York and Boston and Chicago and all the big cities."

Staines recalls that in high school he would head straight for a coffeehouse after classes. After high school, he worked at Sears during the day and sang in coffeehouses at night. It wasn't long before Staines' name was right up there with the best of them.

"If you play in front of four people a million times, eventually somebody knows who you are," he says.

This year marks Staines' 43rd as a full-time singer, songwriter and musician. He's played in all 50 states, driven nearly 3 million miles and, on Oct. 2, released his 27th album, "Beneath Some Lucky Star," on Red House Records.

Staines does three monthlong tours a year and, back home in New Hampshire, plays about three nights a week in nearby cities, including New York City, Baltimore, Boston, Buffalo and Albany, N.Y., and Hartford, Conn., adding up to about 175 shows and 65,000 miles a year.

As part of his fall tour, the folk singer will perform at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26, at the Ashland First Congregational Church, 717 Siskiyou Blvd.

According to The Associated Press, "Staines is one of the best songwriters in folk music today, penning lyrics that evoke a sense of place and a generous spirit to go along with his pretty melodies."

His solo shows feature his mellow originals, gentle wit and humor, plenty of stories and anecdotes, occasionally a sing-along and never anything political.

"I like singin' the answers and not the problem," he says.

His homespun songs are about people he's met — a bush pilot, a trucker, a rodeo cowboy, everyday workers and Midwestern prairie people.

"I like to bring stories of people and places that people have never heard of to the general public," Staines says. "It's fun, and that's what makes the music valuable. It exposes everybody to great and small stories."

Tickets to the show cost $20 in advance and are available at Music Coop in Ashland and www.stclairevents.com or by calling 541-535-3562. Tickets will cost $22 at the door, $10 for youths 12 through 16 and free for children 11 and younger.

Bill Staines, who is left-handed, plays his right-handed Martin guitar up side down. - Photo courtesy of St. Clair Productions