Born and raised in New York City, Jeff Cannon is the son of former Columbia University Chaplain and social justice advocate John Cannon, and the great grandson of World Peace Foundation founder and publishing magnate Edwin Ginn. Chasing visions of a better world has been something of a family business.
This spring Cannon releases “High Tea for Poets,” his sixth solo CD, nearly 10 years after his last release. For the High Tea CD, Cannon emerges backed by the Virtual Strangers, a No Depression-style acoustic string band made up of folk luminaries from around the US. The new sound is stark and bold, a perfect fit for a record about the beauty and new life to be found in hard times.
Of his years away, Cannon has no regrets. The homeward move was a no-brainer. Having grown up in 1960s New York City soaking up folk music at the Postcrypt, the still-running coffeehouse his father founded at Columbia University in 1963, and having been one of the founding managers of the renowned non-profit Club Passim in Cambridge, MA, he knew there is a time to wander and a time to return home.
“My daughters were 7 and 4 when I stopped touring,” he explains. “I was missing important moments on the road. There was no substitute for being there.”
He settled in as a freelance writer and full-time senior lecturer in communications at Indiana University.
Identified as a music prodigy at young age, Jeff found childhood success in NYC as a professional singer. In the 80s he led popular DC-area pop-rockers The Kids to acclaim and a 1981 album, then returned to folk music in 1994, arriving on the Boston Folk Scene after a 12-year stint as a hotel manager, which led to his joining the opening management team that reimagined Club Passim as a non-profit.
As a singer-songwriter Jeff found quick success at that time in the New England scene, reaching the final three of the 1995 Boston Acoustic Underground competition, playing acoustic venues throughout the Northeast, and then, fueled by widespread support from a web of national folk radio DJs and syndicators, touring the national folk circuit, including such prestigious billings as the Kerrville Folk Festival in 1997.
When he left the road life in 2005, Jeff focused his creative energies as a folk DJ in his own right as host of the radio show “Folk From the Heartland” between 2003-2007.
Jeff has been supported on his CDs by a who’s-who of contemporary folk and alt-country: Patty Griffin, Greg Greenway, Johnny Cunningham, Rani Arbo, Jake Armerding, Dave Dick, Roger WIlliams, etc., as well as some of the best in side-sters, including Jim Hoke (Dolly Parton, Kenny Chesney, Faith Hill, Wynonna Judd, etc.), Stu Kimball (Bob Dylan Band), Adam Steinberg (Dixie Chicks, Patty Griffin, etc.), jazz horn notable Pat Harbison, and many others.
The hats will continue to rotate, but the issues are always the same for Jeff: it’s always about reaching a little higher, making things just a little more fair:
“I’m at an age where I’m willing to say it’s about the imprints we make on our institutions. Mikhail Bakhtin, the Russian social theorist, brilliantly wrote in exile, ‘Nothing is ever completely dead. Every meaning will have its homecoming festival.’ I believe that offers a perfect roadmap for living, to make each step count believing that someday it will have its moment, and in a place where it will truly matter for someone.”
With the release of High Tea for Poets, Cannon offers eight new songs and two remakes tailor-made for just those kinds of discoveries.