Show Spotlight: Ramblers’ Retreat

Greg Harness, Ramblers Retreat on Radio Boise

Greg Harness, the host of Ramblers’ Retreat, takes his music curation very seriously, giving listeners a deep look into regional and international folk music, both historical and contemporary. His playlists and commentary are not only entertaining but often educational and insightful into the cultures represented by his musical selections. Here Greg tells us more about his love for folk music, culture and guinea pigs.

What can you not stop listening to these days?

The record that has really caught my ear recently is by Valentin Clastrier & Steven Kamperman. Clastrier is from France and plays hurdy-gurdy. Kamperman is from The Netherlands and plays alto clarinet. Their record combines folk and jazz in surprising and impressive ways. Second place is about a 50-way tie between artists like Luke Winslow-King, Moussu T E Lei Jovents, Leyla McCalla, Amira Medunjanin, and Carrie Rodriguez.

What is going on in the Treasure Valley that you’re excited about?

I am very pleased that I have been involved with the Hermit Music Festival from almost the beginning. It’s a wonderful festival held at Indian Creek Winery over Labor Day weekend, and many of the finest roots musicians from the Pacific Northwest and beyond have played there. There is plenty of excitement in the Treasure Valley, but Hermit is always the musical highlight of my year.

Do you have a ritual surrounding your show? You know, a ritual meal or a certain artist you have to play?

I wait to have my first cup of coffee until after my show ends at 8:00 Wednesday mornings. Often I get coffee and a doughnut at Guru before I head to my day job. My show has always started with a song from Skip Gorman from his record Mandolin In The Cow Camp. I used “Bonaparte’s Retreat” as my theme song for years, but after the election I switched to “Hard Times Come Again No More.”

How long have you been doing Ramblers’ Retreat? What drew you to take on the show?

I started in May 2011, just a couple of weeks after the station started broadcasting on 89.9 FM. I was writing for RootsWorld magazine, and radio was one more way for me to share my love of roots and world music with an audience.

For those who may not be familiar with your show, how would you describe its sound?

Ramblers’ Retreat is a broad swath of folk music with an international flavor. I often focus a show on a specific country or more often a region and play music rooted in the folk tradition of that place. I might focus on Latin America or Eastern Europe, or Texas and Louisiana. I believe music is an incredible gateway to learning about other places, other cultures, other stories.

How did you discover Radio Boise?

Twitter! One of my Twitter friends posted about Radio Boise in the summer of 2010 when it was internet-only. I started listening and following the station on Twitter, and when they finalized their broadcast license and advertised training for new volunteer programmers, I signed up immediately.

What other shows do you listen to?

I listen to everything. My radios are always tuned to 89.9. I find a particular resonance with The AM Breakdown, The Black Sheep Farm, and Global Grooves. But every show I listen to has something I love that I’ve never heard before, and I am amazed on a daily basis at the sounds our DJs find and bring to listeners. I also strongly believe that public affairs shows are incredibly important right now, perhaps more important than ever. Both Democracy Now and CPR News give vital insight into what is happening nationally and internationally.

What other kinds of things do you do in your life?

I still write for RootsWorld magazine. I’m an adjunct faculty member at The College of Idaho and a volunteer leader for 4-H in Canyon County. I also raise and show purebred guinea pigs. My wife and I will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary in August, and we have two daughters and a son. Our family also raises a few chickens and goats and sheep and rabbits and cats. I am very happy with the life we have built as a family.

Why do you believe in volunteering for community radio is important?

Unlike corporate radio, we at Radio Boise are not tied to making a profit for stakeholders. That gives us both great latitude for programming and a responsibility to represent voices that are outside the mainstream. Participatory democracy demands that we listen to and respect many points of view, and community radio provides a platform for voices that will never be heard on corporate media.

What sounds do you find yourself inexplicably drawn to?

Sounds that are rooted somewhere. Old folk songs remade in new ways. Traditional music mixed with the newer sounds. Collaborations between different global traditions. Sounds that are at the same time both familiar and unfamiliar are extraordinarily appealing to me.

Ramblers’ Retreat features a broad swath of traditional and new folk music with a regional focus and an international flavor. The show airs every Wednesday morning from 6:00 to 8:00 Mountain time on community radio station KRBX. It can be heard across the Treasure Valley on 89.9 FM, in downtown Boise on 93.5 FM, and online everywhere via

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