Ed Holstein

This is a big night at Charlie's Coffee House. Ed Holstein is on the bill. Ed sings and plays guitar and tells stories that make people laugh. The place fills up fast. Fans of Ed going back 40 years crowd in, and the club's owner has to squeeze another couple of people at a table here, find another chair there.__ My ears perk up at the faint sound of a guitar in a back room -- Ed tuning up.__
I know that sound. That's a folk music club sound. A sound from before the Modern Era, before wife and kids and life insurance. How very strange. How very great. __A folk music club in 2005. But here we are on a Saturday night at Charlie's, which feels suspiciously like a real folk club, and here comes Ed, climbing up on stage like those days never ended, and here I am, happy as can be.Because -- and I'm coming out of the closet here -- I like folk music.

Ed goes right into an upbeat blues that morphs into another song and I am captivated by his guitar work, the way he picks so easy and sure. __Between songs, Ed does that folk singer thing -- he plucks out a gentle groove and talks over it. Ed sings a few songs, the quiet kind I like most. He sings his own fine song, "Jazzman." He sings John Prine's perfect song about perfect conversation, "A Good Time." He sings Michael Smith's haunting "Spoon River." Most of us at Charlie's know the words, and a few of us sing along. Ed won't mind. __A hootenanny, whatever that is, sounds like something I'd like to avoid. A sing-along is for a campfire. But the kind of thing happening now -- people joining in because they can't help themselves -- that's what used to happen on all the best nights at all the best clubs. Maybe Charlie's is that kind of club.
Tom McNamee CHICAGO SUN-TIMES (edited)