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folk alley's open mic Michele Lynn Open Mic is the place for unsigned, undiscovered or otherwise under-exposed artists to post their music and take Folk Alley's online corner stage.

This month's featured Open Mic artist is Michele Lynn  from Philadelphia, PA.
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Folk Alley Blog

Song Premiere: Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters, "Learning How To Love Him"

May 31, 2017

by Elena See, Folk Alley

HoneyCov2 400.jpgChange is unavoidable. There's not a thing you can do to stop it and if you resist its pull, it takes an even greater toll on your spirit. If you can stand back and allow it to happen, though, you might be surprised by the results.

Amanda Anne Platt knows all about change - how scary it can feel and yet how exhilarating it can be at the same time. Recently, she decided it was time to put herself and her musical artistry front and center. Her bandmates agreed and so, starting with their new, self-titled album, The Honeycutters will now be known as Amanda Anne Platt and The Honeycutters. A small change, perhaps, but one that leaves no doubt about who the heart and soul of this remarkable band really is.

"Learning How To Love Him," a song you'll find on the new album, is a prime example of the new intimacy Platt shares with her audience. Her voice, rising and falling above a simple, spare guitar line, is on display in a way it never has been before.

Quietly, candidly, and without a trace of sentimentality, Platt examines how love changes over the years as circumstances dictate. Love, like life, experiences its fair share of ups and downs. It can be strong and steady one moment and wavering and fragile in the next. And, surprisingly, in the wake of tragedy, it can bloom anew to become more meaningful than ever before.

Platt says she wrote the song after hearing an acquaintance talk about learning that her husband of four-plus decades was terminally ill. "What really struck me was how she described the tenderness that the news brought back to their relationship," Platt says. "She said that the house was quiet and she had never realized how much they used to yell at one another. The topic is unavoidably sad but I meant to focus on the beauty of loving someone for that long rather than the loss."

You DO feel the loss in this song - it would be impossible not to. Yet, the journey this particular love takes is one any of us would be lucky to experience.

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Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters will be released on June 9th, and is available for pre-order now at iTunes and Amazon.com.

Upcoming tour dates


Posted by Linda Fahey at 5:15 PM

20 Essential Jimmy LaFave Favorites

May 22, 2017

by Linda Fahey, Folk Alley

Jimmy-LaFave_Promo 400.jpgWe join the folk music community in mourning the loss of our friend, singer/songwriter Jimmy LaFave who passed away yesterday (May 21) from a rare form of cancer, and extend our deepest condolences to Jimmy's family, friends and loved ones.

Jimmy will always hold a very special place in the larger folk music community, and in particular among his Austin, Texas tribe. He'll forever be remembered for his poignant songs and deeply moving vocals, and for his kindness, humor, grace and generosity.

As a tribute, we've put together a 20-song playlist of some of our favorite Jimmy LaFave songs. If you're not familiar with Jimmy's music, we especially hope you'll listen.

R.I.P., Jimmy. Thank you for your music.




Posted by Linda Fahey at 6:00 PM

Hear It First: Chris Kasper, 'O, the Fool'

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for FolkAlley.com

Chris Kasper TheFool 300.jpgLife, just as with nature, is comprised of seasons. Infancy, youth, middle-age, and old-age are familiar milestones, but even within those phases, we each experience the metaphorical mountains, valleys, and deserts that make up a life well-lived. And though their journeys might be more public and artistic, creative folks' ebbs and flows are no different. Such is certainly the case with Chris Kasper.

For his new album, O, the Fool, Kasper found his muse in a tarot card of the same name that depicts a traveling jester (or vagabond, depending on the deck) with all his belongings bundled in a handkerchief and tied to a stick flung over his shoulder. "The Fool, in the tarot deck, usually represents a new beginning and end to something in your old life," Kasper explains. "It also signifies important decisions that involve an element of risk. For me, I felt this record was doing this, in a musical and lyrical sense. It also sounds a lot like my own personal and musical evolution."

Indeed, Kasper has made intentional artistic strides away from his last effort, Bagabones, which was chock full of minor keys and weird sounds, and toward a lighter lushness that represents and reflects the journey he, himself, made over the past few years. "These songs became small journeys in themselves, even lyrically, traveling from the east to the west," he notes, "through cycles of love, second guesses, car troubles, longing for lazy mornings, letting go, and starting over. "

The song titles, themselves - "City by the Sea," "Moving West," "State Trooper," and "Love Letter from Santa Fe," among others - trace his steps and tell his story across a musical landscape that is both soulful and playful.

"I learned a lot from arranging strings on the last record and I wanted to try more of that," Kasper adds. "My method was to keep the tunes fairly simple in structure, even abandoning choruses in some songs in favor of tag lines or dressing them up with strings, horns, and piano. It felt like a good and challenging road for me to explore."

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O, the Fool is out on June 2. Pre-released singles from the album are available now at iTunes.

Upcoming tour dates

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Posted by Linda Fahey at 11:20 AM

Video Premiere: Pieta Brown, "Street Tracker"

May 17, 2017

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for FolkAlley.com

Pieta Brown Postcards 500x500.jpgSubjective interpretation is one of the fundamental components of art. Where some see chaos, others see order. Where some sense rage, others sense passion. In Pieta Brown's "Street Tracker," some might experience tenderness and vulnerability in both purpose and practice. But the artist herself experiences something completely different.

"The spark for 'Street Tracker' was a photograph I saw of a motorcycle not long after getting home from being on the road touring," she says. "I saw a kind of openness, freedom, and power in the machine. I hear and feel this same mix in Mark Knopfler's guitar playing."

Of course, vulnerability and courage are inextricably linked, so perhaps this song (like most of Brown's music) lives in the space between the two, in the transformation of those qualities into the artwork that represents them. Like the power in even the gentlest of streams that slowly, gradually, defiantly wears down the stones that stand in its path, "Street Tracker" is both calming and clarion.

Translating those qualities into a visual piece would, necessarily, demand a certain sensitivity. "For the video, I wanted to continue the collaboration aspect of the Postcards project and invited the mesmerizing aerial silks performer Mimi Ke to work together," Brown notes. "She so gracefully manages to convey this same spirit of openness, freedom, and power that I first saw in that photograph. Making the video of her choreography and performance was extra fun, and I remain mesmerized."

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Pieta Brown's latest album, Postcards, is out now and available at iTunes and Amazon.com

Upcoming tour dates





Posted by Linda Fahey at 10:15 AM

Hear It First: The Mastersons, 'Transient Lullaby'

May 12, 2017

by Elena See, FolkAlley.com

The Mastersons Transient Lullaby 300.jpgIf you're lucky, it'll be one or two songs on an album that instantly grab you and draw you in. Maybe three songs, if you're really fortunate. If all the stars have aligned, Jupiter and Mars share a rising sun and moon phase, and the universe has (somehow, in its infinite wisdom) discerned that you need good music around you, you'll find an album where you connect with half the songs. That's as rare as a blue moon, though - I can count on one hand (ok, maybe two hands) how often that has happened.

That's why Transient Lullaby is such an extraordinary body of work: not one, not two, not even half, but each and every song on The Mastersons' newest release has something that's going to draw you in and keep you there, hanging on to every word, every phrase, every guitar lick or violin line.

And there are a lot of guitars and violins. Mandolins, too. Dobros. Organs. Harmonicas. Other string instruments and percussion instruments galore. In their infinite wisdom, Chris Masterson and Eleanor Whitmore explore a huge sound world, blowing it wide open with lush orchestration, gorgeous string arrangements, a mix of acoustic and electric sounds and spot-on vocal harmonies that, more often than not, don't resolve to the chord you think they're going to resolve to - one more reason to keep listening, as you think to yourself: "What will this duo think to do next?"

That's also a question you might ask them when it comes to their career trajectory - what will The Mastersons think to do next? If they're not touring as a duo, they're on the road with Steve Earle, as part of his band The Dukes. And it's that nonstop motion, exhausting for some, that energizes this husband and wife team. "When you travel like we do, if your antenna is up, there's always something going on around you," reflects guitarist/singer Chris Masterson. "Ideas can be found everywhere. The hardest thing to find is time."

The Mastersons did find the time, though, and used it wisely, creating an album that's filled with images and ideas of wanderlust ("Transient Lullaby"), relationships that come and go ("Highway 1"), devoted lovers (the Neil Young-esque "Fire Escape") and cautious optimism in an uncertain future ("Perfect").

The Mastersons' laid back groove brings to mind the best of 1960s and 70s folk pop while their unusual arrangements and surprising vocal harmonies place them firmly in the present. And it's the unique lens they use to look at the world around them (and us), not to mention their seemingly endless supply of energy, that ensures they'll be singing and playing long into the future.

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'Transient Lullaby' is out on May 19 and is available for pre-order now directly from Red House Records, iTunes, and Amazon.com.

Upcoming tour dates


Posted by Linda Fahey at 11:00 AM

In Review: Guest DJ, Kim Ruehl from 'No Depression'

May 11, 2017

summer2017_ND 400.jpgKim Ruehl, editor-in-chief for the roots journal No Depression, joined Cindy Howes for a Guest DJ hour showcasing the music highlighted in the most recent in-print edition.

For summer of 2017, No Depression took a trip around the world (well, figuratively, even though Kim would have LOVED to travel to make this issue) to places like Honduras, Israel, Japan, Northern Ireland and more. The articles highlight and focus on International music, but not just "world music" in general. Much care has been taken to examine and present "folk music" from each of these countries. From stories about a 50-year-old Japanese bluegrass band (Bluegrass 45) to a traditional Scottish group who invents their own instruments including the "Sporkinator" (which is made of utensils, obviously).

Once again, No Depression collects unique and interesting stories that reflect folk and roots music. This time around, they expertly showcase the genre from a global perspective.

Find out more about No Depression and about becoming a subscriber HERE.

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LISTEN Kim Ruehl's guest DJ hour!

Posted by Linda Fahey at 1:00 PM

Song Premiere, The Mammals, "Lilac Breeze"

May 10, 2017

by Elena See, FolkAlley.com

Mike + Ruthy ILNER couch duo square.jpgThey'rrrrrrrrrrre bbbbbbaaaaaaacckk! Yep, it's true. With their tight vocal harmonies, technical virtuosity on fiddle and guitar, and a sense of intimacy borne out of years and years of making music (and a life) together, The Mammals are back and stronger than ever.

Since there are just a few things happening in the world right now, Ruthy Ungar and Mike Merenda, along with Ken Maiuri (piano), Konrad Meissner (drums), Jacob Silver (bass), and Andy Stack (harmony vocals), figured that 2017 was a good time to get the band back together. Music, after all, can help us figure out what's going on in the world and can help us figure out how to talk about what's going on in the world, too.

The band's first two singles ("Culture War" and "My Baby Drinks Water") take a strong political stance - they don't shy away from sharing very honest opinions about the state of the world. But The Mammals know the importance of taking a break every now and again, too. And that's what "Lilac Breeze" is - a sort of gentle, open the windows and let the fresh air in, soul cleanser of a song. And the vivid imagery in "Lilac Breeze" definitely touches your soul - and your nose, too.

"There's at least one week every spring when our purple and white lilac trees fill our little Catskill Mountain yard with the most glorious fragrance," Mike Merenda says. "Last year we were lucky enough to be home during May and I was swept away by springtime's magic. Whatever I was worried about that day seemed to fade into oblivion. This song attempts to bottle up a little of that contentment, when everything falls into place and you're happy just being where you are. Easier said than done. It helps to be surrounded by lilacs!"

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"Lilac Breeze" is available for download HERE.

Upcoming tour dates

Posted by Linda Fahey at 7:05 PM

Hear It First: Jon Stickley Trio, 'Maybe Believe'

May 8, 2017

by Jon Stickley for FolkAlley.com

Jon Stickley Maybe-Believe-Front 400.jpgSince the release of our last full-length album, Lost at Last, we have traveled thousands of miles and played hundreds of shows to a wide range of audiences. Every performance has been completely unique and we learn something new about ourselves, and our music at every show. Maybe Believe was written while touring, and we got a chance to road test many of the tunes and let them grow as music will over the course of many performances. Other tunes were purposely left in their most basic form to be completed in the studio with the guidance of our producer, Dave King (The Bad Plus).

This is our second album with Dave. The first time we worked with him, he helped us figure out our identity as a band, and he was a major influence on our overall sound. Two years later with Maybe Believe, he recognized that the trio had grown into a fully formed, road-tested, musical idea, and his goal in the studio was to capture the spontaneous energy of our live show... and we did!

In true Jon Stickley Trio fashion, Maybe Believe features original compositions that represent the band's next evolutionary step, as well as covers by Aphex Twin and Bill Monroe. From its crowd-funded beginnings, to the music, to the artwork, I am more proud of Maybe Believe than any project I have recorded to date. I hope people enjoy listening to it as much as we enjoyed making it!

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'Maybe Believe' is out on May 12th and is available for pre-order HERE.

Upcoming tour dates

Posted by Linda Fahey at 11:20 AM

Song Premiere: Deb Talan, "Joshua Tree In The Headphones"

April 27, 2017

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for FolkAlley.com

Deb Talan 500.jpegFew things recall an era as quickly and clearly as citing "wood panel walls and shag carpet," as Deb Talan does in "Joshua Tree in the Headphones." She does so to set the scene of a very specific memory of being at her best friend's house, stoned and immersed in U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name."

But that scene is only the starting point for a story that goes much deeper.

"I'm a survivor of childhood sexual abuse (incest), so revisiting any part of my growing up has serious minefields," Talan says. "This song is partly shaped around the sense of being trapped at the end of high school, nearly free, but still under the auspices of our parents. For me, those feelings are inseparable from those earlier ones of being trapped in my family because I was being abused."

The tune comes from Talan's new solo record, 'Lucky Girl,' which has helped her reclaim her role as an artist after spending years identifying as a mom, a wife, a bandmate (in the Weepies), and a cancer survivor. Part of that reclamation necessarily involved facing some old demons, as she does so bravely and beautifully in "Joshua Tree."

"Everyone leaves something behind when they pass from high school into the larger world," she offers. "There's a sense of grief, but also relief and anticipation of something bigger, maybe better. For me, this song weaves together those different narratives and feelings. I hope everyone can relate to something in here. At the very least, it felt amazingly cathartic to write."

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'Lucky Girl' will be released May 19 via Nettwerk Music Group and is available for pre-order now at iTunes and Amazon.com.

Upcoming tour dates


Posted by Linda Fahey at 9:30 PM

A Q & A with Tift Merritt

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for FolkAlley.com

tift_merritt2.jpgOn her seventh studio album in 15 years, 'Stitch of the World,' singer/songwriter Tift Merritt has churned out another solid set of roots-infused tunes that reach backward, forward, and side to side. You see, Merritt has a lot of musical ground to cover and she does just that, from the throwback folk-country of "Dusty Old Man" to the bluesy jangle of "Proclamation Bones" to the ambient Americana of the title track. With support from Sam Beam, Jay Bellerose, Marc Ribot, and Eric Heywood, Merritt works through numerous styles and explores myriad themes, all with the deft skill and artistic insouciance listeners have come to expect from her.

Kelly McCartney: You've enjoyed comparisons to a lot of legendary artists and "Dusty Old Man" certainly echoes elements of early Joni Mitchell. What do you do with those sorts of comments?

Tift Merritt: I reference Bonnie Raitt's first album as an inspiration of that track. It's a great, breezy acoustic record recorded with some blues legends at a summer camp in north Minnesota. One of my favorite records. When people compare me to artists I look up to -- it is lovely and I'm grateful. But I'm also careful to look the other way. I like being a working artist. I have my work cut out for me. I think, especially in the Internet age, there is a lot of premature referencing of people whose work has made a mark. Time tells the truth about that kind of thing, not Twitter.

You wrote and recorded this album in a several disparate locales. And you recently headed home to North Carolina. How do the different pulses of those places find their way into the songs?

Landscape had some direct influences. "Wait for Me" and "Icarus" were both inspired by the incredible high desert plains in Marfa, Texas. "Heartache Is an Uphill Climb" and "Stitch of the World" were saturated with impressions from hiking the California coast. "Eastern Light" and "Something Came Over Me" are taken from the streets of New York City. I like really strong environments -- nature returns me to the essentials, and the energy and people-watching in cities always gets me going, too.

Having collaborated with Andrew Bird and MC Taylor, how does stepping out of center stage feel after so many years in that spot? And, now, stepping back up front, is anything different for you?

Collaborating and being a supporting player is such a great way to learn. The spotlight is a certain kind of muscle; it is always healthy to leave it. I really love being in bands and cheering people on and witnessing how other people bring their vision to life. It returns me, always, with greater clarity to my own work and why I do what I do the way I do it! Playing with other people is also great for your chops, not just your heart.

Watching you perform recently, it struck me in very clear terms how, despite the pedestals we put them on, artists are just normal people with cool jobs. From the artist's perspective, what are the pros and cons of a culture that fetishizes fame in the way ours does?

I don't think I am famous, but I do think fame can be destructive, as can performing for strangers each night. Traveling too much can be very lonely. I don't think being the center of attention is as deeply satisfying as people think it is. Doing good work is satisfying, giving of yourself is satisfying. I try not to think about the froth of what's of the moment; I try to think about how to be a working artist throughout a lifetime. What people don't realize is that it is very difficult to make any money as a musician these days and that is a complicated thing when you are a parent.

You aren't overtly political in your music, but anything can be a statement, really, as in "My Boat" or "Love Soldiers On." Do you see your role as a songwriter shifting at all to reflect the times we find ourselves in?

I did not write "My Boat" (which is based on a Raymond Carver poem) or "Love Soldiers On" for political purposes, but I certainly sing them that way now. The world has taken such a strange direction lately. I think my role as a songwriter is to remind people -- myself included -- of the beauty, compassion, and hope that remains in the world and help to grow that piece of ourselves in whatever way I can.

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'Stitch of the World' is out now on Yep Roc Records and is available at iTunes and Amazon.com

Upcoming tour dates

Posted by Linda Fahey at 12:04 PM

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