The World Folk Music Association benefit concert at Lisner Auditorium Saturday night was a show of telethonic proportions. As it neared its sixth hour, you half expected Jerry Lewis to pop up at the end and sing "You'll Never Walk Alone." Or, more aptly, "You'll Never Get Out of Here by Dawn."
As it turned out, the closing honors went to the Highwaymen, who capped the evening with, to borrow a phrase once popular in folk circles, a medley of their hit, "Michael (Row the Boat Ashore)." Midway through the song, the backdrop curtain rose and out walked all of the show's performers -- dozens of them -- to add harmonies to "Michael" and to revive the Youngbloods' '60s classic "Get Together." (The most stirring rendition of a peace anthem, however, was heard earlier in the evening when Julie Gold, an unscheduled guest and a recent Grammy nominee, sat down at the piano and sang her own "From a Distance.")
All told, the sixth annual concert (which also celebrated the 30th anniversary of Dick Cerri's radio show "Music Americana") featured performances that were alternately nostalgic and topical, competent and compelling. Tommy Makem, Tom Paxton, Sylvia Tyson and the welcome reunion of Bob Gibson and Hamilton Camp were responsible for many of the evening's highlights; they all stamped their songs with signatures that were unmistakably their own. Josh White Jr., lampooning the peculiar logic of the English language, injected a lot of laughter, while Rosalie Sorrels, recipient of this year's Kate Wolf Memorial Award, contributed one of the evening's most heartfelt performances.
As in years past, the show rounded up many familiar faces, most of them from the area. On the local front, the reunion of Fat City's Bill and Taffy Danoff proved particularly crowd-pleasing, especially once the duo began sharing harmonies with their two daughters on the Danoffs-John Denver hit collaboration, "Take Me Home, Country Roads."