Newcomers to Sonoma County must wonder why they hear so much about Kate Wolf.
Although the folk singer and songwriter died at age 44 of leukemia in 1986, her spirit and music are still alive throughout Northern California.
Those who don’t know Wolf’s work can get an easy introduction through “Unfinished Life,” Randall Keith Horton’s new musical tribute to Wolf, to be performed by the California Redwood Chorale at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 26, at Glaser Center in Santa Rosa.
And the annual Kate Wolf Music Festival, founded in 1996, will run from June 29 through July 1 at Black Oak Ranch in Laytonville, with some 30 folk and roots music acts lined up already.
Born in San Francisco on Jan. 27, 1942, Wolf started her musical career in the band Wildwood Flower before moving to Sonoma County, and becoming a familiar performer on local radio stations and at local venues.
Wolf left a legacy of 10 albums and about 135 songs. Some of the songs Wolf wrote were recorded by such big-name artists as Nanci Griffith and Emmylou Harris. By the time of her death, Wolf had played at the Kennedy Center and Wolf Trap and appeared on the public TV series “Austin City Limits.”
We’ll never know how many more songs she might have written if she had lived, but the ones we have are memorable. Many of them, including “Across the Great Divide” and “Give Yourself to Love,” are part of Horton’s tribute.
Tickets to next weekend’s performances cost $20 in advance from brownpapertickets.com, or $25 at the door. Featured singers and musicians include Bonnie Brooks, Michael Fontaine, Michael Boliver and Don Coffin.
At the first Kate Wolf Music Festival, promoter Cloud Moss said something that is still true now: “Even though she’s not living, it’s her energy that’s bringing people here.”