Alien Folklife

Alien Folklife


There are songwriters whose deeply emotional songs touch you to the heart. There are others who are so funny they leave you doubled over with laughter. Few songwriters can take you on a journey from laughter to tears and back again, with a few stops in between. Alien Folklife does just that.


"Wrist-slitters and Side-splitters"

Alien Folklife combines quirky humorous pieces and heart-rending story songs to produce their trademark blend of "wrist-slitters and side-splitters." On the funny side, this duo of Joan Kosby and Paul Mercer writes songs about cats, dogs, soap operas, termites and telephones. On the flip side, their repertoire includes moving stories of loss, love, hope and healing. A few "normal" songs help keep things in balance. Wherever Alien Folklife is on the emotional spectrum, you'll find intelligent but accessible lyrics, creative arrangements, stellar vocal harmonies and heartfelt emotion.

A shared passion for contemporary and traditional folk music brought Canadian Paul Mercer and New Yorker Joan Kosby together. Joan's warm contralto and Paul's clear baritone combine to produce a vocal blend reminiscent of sibling duos. Their fingerstyle guitar work is crafted to support the lyrics without overshadowing them. Joan adds textural variety to Alien Folklife's sound with English concertina and some light percussion.


Touring primarily in the Northeast, Joan and Paul have performed in coffeehouses, concerts, festivals, folk clubs, colleges and on radio. They are regular performers at the legendary Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs, New York. They've also toured England twice, most recently in 2002. Their festival appearances include the Old Songs Festival in Altamont, New York, and England's Bridgnorth Festival. Joan and Paul performed in a juried showcase at the 2004 Northeast Regional Folk Alliance (NERFA) conference. They were finalists in the 2005 South Florida Folk and Acoustic Music Festival's singer-songwriter competition, and among the winners in the 2006 "Shine" competition held in the greater Capital Region of New York State.


Alien Folklife's latest CD, Down to Earth (2003), was produced by award-winning Canadian producer Paul Mills at his Millstream studio in Toronto. Guest artists include Tracy Grammer, multi-instrumentalist Curly Boy Stubbs (alias Paul Mills) and some of Canada's finest studio musicians. From the heartbreaking ballad, "Never Trust a Carny," to the life-affirming, "In an Instant," to the outrageous, "Termite Farts," the skillful but spare production highlights the spirit of each of the disc's eleven songs.

The duo has two previous releases, Double Vision (1997), and a now out-of-print cassette, Fast Company (1991). National touring artists Priscilla Herdman, Anne Hills and Cindy Mangsen covered Paul's song "Johnny Burke" on their Voices release.


Alien Folklife's national airplay includes the syndicated programs, "The Dr. Demento Show" and Robert Conrad's "Weekend Radio," where their song "Thomas Cat" is one of the show's most requested songs. New Zealand's "Town and Country Radio" named Alien Folklife "Artists of the Week" on their February 2, 2004 broadcast. Joan and Paul are repeat live performers on such long-running radio programs as "A Hudson River Sampler" (WAMC, Northeast Public Radio) and "Bound for Glory" (WBVR, Ithaca, New York). They've also appeared live on BBC radio in Shropshire, England, and on WAMC's "Dancing on the Air."


Thomas Cat

Written By: Joan Kosby and Paul Mercer

Oh, my name is Thomas Cat, feed my face
Yes, my name is Thomas Cat, feed my face
Yes, my name is Thomas Cat
I am short and rather fat
But we'll talk no more of that, feed my face

I'm a hunter bold and true, hear me roar
I'm a hunter bold and true, hear me roar
I'm a hunter bold and true
Yes, I've caught a mouse or two
See, I brought one home for you, lucky you!

Oh, I've got a big hair ball
Yes, I've got a big hair ball
Yes, I've got a big hair ball
So, I'll throw up in the hall
Then you'll slip on it and fall, ha, ha, ha

Let me out. . . no let me in. . . no let me out. . . let me in
Let me out. . . no, let me in. . . no, let me out. . . let me in
Just open up and stand aside
Yours is not to reason why
When I'm ready I'll decide. . . or maybe not

Time to take my beauty rest, life is hard
Time to take my beauty rest, life is hard
Time to take my beauty rest
On your brand new cashmere dress
Go away, don't be a pest--it's mine now

Well, I ate your parakeet, it was good
Yes, I ate your parakeet, it was good, mm-mm good
Yes, I ate your parakeet
And no more will it go, "Tweet"
And I even ate the feet, crunch, crunch,crunch

Oh, my name it was Tom Cat, what a stud
Yes, my name it was Tom Cat, what a stud. . . I was great!
Yes, my name it was Tom Cat
Many offspring I begat
Till the vet took care of that
That's the end of Tom Cat

In an Instant

Written By: Joan Kosby and Paul Mercer

It happened in an instant, but it changed your whole life
You walked through the valley of death and came out the other side
Your body torn and shattered, but your spirit strong and true
And those who love you best never gave up on you

Chorus: And it’s been a hard road and an awful climb
It’s been a long, hard road, and I know there must have been times
You thought you’d never make it, you were weary to the bone
But love was always near, you were never alone

Some you thought would be there couldn’t stand the pain
They slipped away into your past, never came back again
For you remind us of how fragile our own lives can be
But there are those who face their fear, and know that sets them free


Bridge: Bitterness and anger might have caught you in their snare
Robbed you of your hope, and torn your love apart
But you found your way back home to joy and compassion
And you reached out your hand and opened up your heart

As I travel on my journey, there are times I feel lost
My body often fails me, and my spirit pays the cost
Then I remember how you fought back, how your courage pulled you through
And I step out on the path ahead, and try to follow you


It happened in an instant

And Now a Word from Our Sponsor

Written By: Joan Kosby and Paul Mercer

Jeremy and Shannon had an unexpected guest
Grant confronted Mindy who reluctantly confessed
Steffi staged an accident on Laura’s wedding day
The trial threatened Dixie’s health and Brian threatened Kay
Rick told Brock that Jack was sick and Nikki was a fake
Paula found passion at the hospital with Jake
Meanwhile, in the shadows, there’s a stranger with a secret
Sponsored by brighter, bolder colors… in your toilet… freshens breath

Alan, who’s engaged to Stacy, had a tryst with Kim
Kim, who’s really Marsha, thinks that Alan’s really Jim
Jim went undercover to get the goods on Hank
Who blackmailed Bo, who shot Fitzsimmons, who had robbed the bank
Tina’s topless turn-on fell flat with Father Flynn
Paula found passion in a gondola with Tony’s evil twin
Meanwhile, in the alley, there’s a finger on the trigger
Sponsored by ask your doctor…what's in your toaster?…baby wipes

Lacy faked her pregnancy but found out Henry knows
Fiona fled the clinic with the frozen embryos
Vicki caught the virus…Sonia had a seizure
Todd woke up in Rio with Alonzo and amnesia
Becky bit a biker’s nose off in a barroom brawl
Paula found passion at the circus with Fernando, the human cannonball
Meanwhile, danger’s lurking at the mansion on the island
Sponsored by foaming cleanser…sticks like magic…tastes like cheese

Todd regained his memory and suddenly he knew
Where Lilly hid the money from the bank job in verse two
Muffy learned that in a past life she was Mao Tse Tung
Dee discovered she’s been dead since 1991
Satan spoke to Trucker through the fillings in his teeth
Paula found passion in a motel room in Vegas, with a man she thought was Mark,
The husband of her best friend, but Mark was bound and gagged
On a spaceship to Uranus, and the man whose passion thrilled her
Turned out to be a lizard underneath
Meanwhile, there’s a package in the back seat and it’s ticking
Sponsored by unsightly dandruff…in your coffee…kills ‘em dead!


Down to Earth (DINO 003, 2003)
Double Vision (DINO 002 CD; 002 CS, 1997)
Fast Company (DINO 001, 1991)--cassette, out-of-print

"Thomas Cat," from Double Vision, included on Dr. Demento's Basement Tapes 6 (no date)
"Johnny Burke," from Fast Company, recorded by Herdman, Hills and Mangsen on Voices (Flying Fish/Rounder 1990)
"Sweet Reunion" included on Caffe Lena 25th Anniversary compilation, (Fast Folk 1985).

Set List

Our shows almost always consist of all our own songs. We mix up the funny and serious material, aiming for a balance that keeps the audience interested and involved. Judging from the comments we get from audience members, we're hitting the mark!

We often start and end our shows with funny songs. This gets the audience in a good mood, and puts the sadder songs in some kind of context. We'll include some humorous material during the set, and then end with something funny, to leave the audience feeling good.

We generally do two 45-50 minute sets, since that format is typical for the types of venues we play. We are very flexible, however, and will work with whatever a particular venue's needs are.