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folk alley's open mic Whistler's Father 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 Whistler's Father  from Orange County, CA.
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The Suitcase Junket - Twisted Fate

Folk Alley Blog

Album Review: Rayland Baxter, 'Imaginary Man'

October 12, 2015

By Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

Rayland Baxter Imaginary Man cover 300.jpgSome might insist that comparing Rayland Baxter to Paul Simon is inappropriate, the likening of a go-kart to a Mercedes. But that would be overly reductive and dismissive of Baxter's burgeoning talent. Baxter isn't a carbon copy of Simon, to be sure, but how can anyone listen to "Mr. Rodriguez" and not hear the similarities vocally, musically, and poetically?

Setting that comparison aside and looking at Baxter in relation to only his previous work, 'Imaginary Man' represents a sizable leap forward for him. Whereas 'Feathers & Fishhooks' found him wandering through a more rural aesthetic, this effort urbanizes the space with heartier production elements -- thick guitars, churning organs, and lush strings echo, gurgle, and swirl through cuts like "Young Man," "Oh My Captain," and "Rugged Lovers" giving Baxter's delicate tenor that much more heft. While the adventurous pieces are certainly fun and lively, offering Baxter grittier spaces in which to roam, it's the quieter moments ("Rugged Lovers" and "Lady of the Desert," in particular) that allow his inner romantic to really revel.


Rayland Baxter's 'Imaginary Man' is out now on ATO Records and is available at and iTunes.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 10:53 AM

A Q & A with Langhorne Slim

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword), for

Langhorne Slim 300.jpgAfter six critically acclaimed releases over the course of 10 years, the unbridled Americana force that is Langhorne Slim recently issued his seventh project, 'The Spirit Moves.' Slim got sober two years ago and became a meditator in order to harness his energy in a whole new way. The resulting songs speak for themselves, reflecting the new level of openness and clarity that have emerged in the aftermath of that seismic life shift.

Kelly McCartney: You've had a few different firsts with this new record. For one: co-writing. The results are clearly positive, but how'd that go for you in the process?

Langhorne Slim: My process on this record was... and maybe it's always been this way... I have some songs that come to me like the great gifts that songwriters have talked about from the beginning of songwriting. That occurs to me, thank goodness, from time to time. A lot of them are battles and they'll come in through bits and spurts, little pieces that are floating around my head. Eventually they start to accumulate and drive me a little crazy, and I'll just have a ton of recordings on my phone and bits and pieces floating around my head.

I didn't do it on purpose, but I was out there working with Kenny [Siegal] in Catskill, New York, and I was playing him some of the new tunes... or the ideas. He was just effortlessly, in the beginning, kind of finishing my musical thoughts in a way that I hadn't experienced ever before. And I had never really sought that out before. I don't remember the beginning stages of the process. I just recall being in Nashville and building up these songs for a month or two, starting to feel very frantic and anxious and freaked out. [Laughs] Because what happens is, eventually, you have to get this thing out or else it weighs your soul down. It becomes a physical feeling, a kind of uneasiness. To get it out is certainly therapy. Then I could be a little bit calmer for a little while until the ideas would build up again and start driving me mad. Then I would retreat to the Catskills with Kenny and we would drive each other completely bat-shit crazy, but come out with songs. [Laughs] It was certainly madness. I don't know what our method was, but... it worked. We got songs that I'm really proud of.

For two: sobriety. So what do songwriting and performing bring to your self-reflection and recovery and working through things?

I never attempted shyness through art or music. Some people connect with what I do and like it. Some people think it's too over the top. I really find strength in being open and being vulnerable, in some ways. Something like getting sober and needing to... I had a lot to prove to myself and others -- that I could take that step, make that change, and live that way, number one. Music is my air, in a lot of ways. It's the driving force in my life. I hadn't, for 15 years, performed or written or really been creative without some whiskey or wine or some other thing. I always had something. And something turned into a crutch that I was dependent on. I want to be dependent on love and friendship and music, but in a healthy, positive way -- relationships that move me and keep me on my toes.

I was a very passionate kid. It got me in a lot of trouble when I was a kid. And that fire never went away. Now I'm a passionate 35-year-old man. I was pissing on my own flame for a while and sort of tempting it to see if it would stay awake. And it did. But it was having problems. That flame needs to stay awake and alive and be a healthy fire. I think for a lot of people who are very, very passionate, you can get yourself into trouble. I've done it my whole life. One of my main goals is to keep that energy and that intensity and that passion for it all... for life, for music, and for love. But to refine it and to unite with my inner bad-ass and not be a bee-otch to anything. Because it's not me. That's not my true self.

It makes more sense now that you are a meditator which, for someone known for a sort of uninhibited energy, is a bit unexpected... and yet not. I would imagine that's part of how you are able to now refine and harness all that energy. So what are the best lessons you've learned or the best gifts you've gotten from that practice, personally and/or professionally?

To be still is an immense gift, when you put it onto yourself, when you struggle with restlessness or anxiety with addiction -- or anything, I guess. Life is beautiful, but very challenging for us all, in ways. To be still and just breathe and allow yourself to be soft and try to be kind to yourself... our society and a lot of what most of us are all about are not really tying to the soul. It's a lot of this exterior stuff that I believe is dangerous, in a lot of ways.

And I'm a part of it, too. I'm not wagging my finger. It's a lot of "Where can we go and what can we achieve outside of ourselves?" And I'm continuing to find, through music and now through meditation and other things, I don't know about the answers, but a lot of what I have been looking for is already there. I believe that deeply. Meditation can help with that. I've always been a restless guy. That restlessness and passion and fire has allowed me a career. But it also has presented me with a lot of problems and a lot of challenges.

Do you feel like the 'The Spirit Moves' is a new beginning altogether or is just the next chapter in the Life of Langhorne?

Uhhh... both. It's the new beginning of the next chapter, I guess.

Or it could be a whole other story.

It's a whole new book, but it's still little ol' me. Maybe it could be... it's not a sequel when it's a book... but, yeah, a new book but the same theme. I've opened the same heart, but it's opening in a different way. That ain't the end of that book. There's a lot more to go.

I keep talking about hippie things, like energy and spirits, but it's because I believe in it. And when these changes have been going on in my life, I've felt the shift in that energy. So when you write a song, I suppose it's going to be a little different. I didn't sit down and say, "I'm going to write a song about being sober now." Similar to when I've gone through a break-up, music never works for me like that. It's always been more of a spiritual, energetic thing in that it's not a conscious process. It moves through me. But it moves through me differently now, I suppose, than when I was always somewhere else. [Laughs] For better of for worse, I'm right here, man. For better or for worse. And I'm grateful to feel that. It's not always easy, but not everybody gets out of the other end.


Langhorne Slim's 'The Spirit Moves' is out now via Dualtone Music and available at
and iTunes.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 10:07 AM

NPR Music's 'Songs We Love - Americana Edition'

September 25, 2015

Rhiannon banjo performance sq.jpgRhiannon Giddens, Patty Griffin And Shakey Graves - A Musical Conversation

by Ann Powers, NPR Music (photo by Joshua Shoemaker)

"I think songs can have different lives," said Rhiannon Giddens in the conversation that flowed throughout NPR Music's "Songs We Love: Americana Fest Edition" panel on September 16 at Nashville's historic RCA Victor Studio A. "Each song has its own way that it likes to be done, but it can be more than one way," the Carolina Chocolate Drops multi-instrumentalist and singer continued. "If you tap into it, you can feel it."

Sharing tunes and conversation with fellow Americana stars Patty Griffin and Shakey Graves, Giddens embodied the mood of the festival that would unfold over the following four days. Her selections during the daytime event, spanned Tejano music, Appalachian folk and '90s honky-tonk, illustrating the enduring truth that in a genre whose boundaries remain fluid, song craft remains the magnetic core. Griffin added to the conversation by showing how learning new things (perfecting her piano skills) and turning to old sources (re-reading James Baldwin) influenced her songwriting process on the stunning new album 'Servant of Love.' Graves, a spontaneous raconteur, reflected upon the many different versions his songs take as they evolve - the waltz version, the slow country one, the "I'm yelling at you!" one. At one point, he performed a beautiful, spare take on Townes Van Zandt's "No Place to Fall" that showed how the poetry held within a song's musical frame matters most.

CLICK to read more and LISTEN to the entire conversation/performance with Patty Griffin, Rhiannon Giddens and Shakey Graves.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 9:45 PM

Hear It First: Kevin Gordon, 'Long Gone Time'

September 4, 2015

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

Kevin Gordon Long Gone Time 300.jpgSinger/songwriter Kevin Gordon grew up in the northeast corner of Louisiana, in a town called Monroe. He played in the school band, probably fished in Black Bayou, and went to football games at what was, back then, Northeast Louisiana University. Although Gordon has left Louisiana, Louisiana has never left him...or his music. The places and people that comprised his youth are ever-present in his songs, including the ones that fill his new album, 'Long Gone Time'.

Kelly McCartney: You moved to Nashville quite a while ago, but you still visit your Louisiana homeland. How have things changed or not changed down there in the past few decades?

Kevin Gordon: It's still "home" - the cliche says you can't go back, but you really can't get away from it, either. It's a fascinating, beautiful, and nasty place, full of contradictions ... the best music and food; poorly funded public schools and exceptionally corrupt, eccentric governance. There's nowhere else like it. And I keep going back. I guess I think I'm going to figure it all out somehow. Or, I just have the need to drive south for a good po-boy once in a while.

Your songs are often cited for their literary qualities. Is that a style you chose to pursue or did it choose you?

I don't believe in style as a conscious choice, at least as a way to make art or music that's honest. I just try to be true to whatever I'm hearing in my head, to what feels good and right at the time. Yes, I did go to grad school in poetry ... but I'm also, essentially, a self-taught guitar player, and my deepest ties to music have more to do with rhythm, with the body, than with any high-minded thoughts about melodic structure or lyrical complexity.

This is a three-parter: What's the trick to getting inside the heads and hearts of your characters? Do you have a favorite character? And do any of them have recurring roles in more than one song?

I don't have any tricks, though listening critically seems most important to me for just about all aspects of songwriting. You have to forget it's you when you're listening back to a draft of a song. Most of my characters are or were "real" people - so I either still hear their voices in my mind or, in the case of Brownie Ford -- who appears in two songs on 'Long Gone Time' -- I read interviews with him and combined that with the memory I have of meeting him that one time in Monroe.

I don't have a favorite character, though I have written four or five songs about a guy who closely resembles an old friend from Monroe, who doesn't seem able to keep his life together. (This friend used to come to my shows down there, and would request those songs.) There's a song on 'Gloryland' about a woman I read about in a book, called 'Local Color,' by folklorist William Ferris. She was a quilter, named Pecolia Warner, from Yazoo City, MS, and the prose on the page was in first-person, like she was just sitting there talking to you. I read the chapter on Ms. Warner and, within five minutes, had started what became the song "Pecolia's Star."

So many glowing articles about you make mention of how you are under-appreciated. But you do a pretty specific thing, musically. These aren't three-minute pop songs you're writing. Obviously, you want people to hear your music, but what's the ultimate, long-term win for you?

I just want to keep writing songs and making records, and hopefully get better at it as I go along. I think that when you start feeling too proud of, or satisfied with, your work, you've kind of lost it - the idea of why you're doing this in the first place. To stay humbled by the persistent mystery and wonder of this life feels like the most important thing to me, as a creative person. To not give a damn about what people think is also important. Practically speaking, though, things seem to get a little better out there with each record. So I keep going. This is just what I do. I want to keep doing it as long as I'm able.

"Colfax," from your last album, caught a lot of ears off guard. If that song turns out to be the pillar of your legacy, how would you feel?

I'm glad I finished that song; I'd been trying to write it for several years. I wasn't sure where I was going with it - except that I wanted the song to stay true to the story as it actually happened. But that presented a problem, because the story didn't have some sort of Hollywood, CGI-induced, bombs-and-glory ending*. (And that kind of monotony, that lack of drama, ended up being one of the things the song is "about," I think - the constant, often silent struggle that victims of prejudice face, and their often quiet, yet heroic, push-back against all that.) But the song had to be about the experience itself first, including all the goofy adolescent stuff, which everybody can relate to. So, yeah, if whoever decides these things thinks "Colfax" is at the top of the heap, I'm fine with it.

*And the first version I came up with, which had a kind of north Mississippi, hill-country blues groove, seemed to want that. But I heard a couple of friends play their own long, linear, lyric-driven songs (Tommy Womack, "Alpha Male & the Canine Mystery Blood"; Peter Cooper's song about Hank Aaron, "715") and that inspired me to go back and try again. Once I simplified the chord structure and the groove, I had 90 percent of those lyrics within an hour. They just fell out. I'd never written anything like it.


Stream 'Long Gone Time' in its entirety in the player below!

'Long Gone Time' is available at Kevin's Pledge Music site and

Upcoming Tour:

October 4 - Roots Music House Concert - Peace Dale, RI
October 6 - Atwood's - Cambridge, MA
October 7 - Norey's - Newport, RI
(October 9 - Folk Alley Session taping - Saranac Lake, NY)
October 10 - Nelson Odeon - Cazenovia, NY
October 24 - Landhaven - Barto, PA

Posted by Linda Fahey at 2:05 PM

A Q & A with Iris DeMent

August 13, 2015

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

IrisThe Trackless Woods.jpgSome 23 years ago, Iris DeMent appeared on the singer/songwriter scene with her 'Infamous Angel' debut. With that set, she set her own artistic bar remarkably high, particularly with the folk perfection that is "Our Town." Since then, DeMent has built an impressive catalog of albums and collaborations, all filled with her personal blend of charm and melancholy. Her newest project, 'The Trackless Woods,' finds DeMent setting the words of Russian poet Anna Akhmatova to music. It's a somber, yet serene collection inspired by DeMent's personal exploration of her adopted daughter's native culture.

Kelly McCartney: Being one of 14(!) children, you've said that you understood your parents best through music. What do you hope to convey to your daughter through your work... this new album, in particular?

Iris DeMent: My daughter spent the first six years of her life in Russia. Anna is one of Russia's most beloved poets. It was a combination of my love for her work and a desire to, in some small way, bridge the gap between my daughter's two worlds that led to the making of this record. I hope to help reconnect her to her heritage... OR, at least open the door to it.

Music is such a mysterious force. You've said that you felt like the music was already in these poems when you found them. That must mean you didn't find many that weren't singing dirges to you because, save a couple that have some pep, this is a solemn affair. Talk to me about translating and honoring someone else's work in that way.

Anna's poetry is filled with hope, forgiveness, and love, even though she was living in times that spoke to none of those qualities. Her entire adult life was one revolution or war after another, loved ones being executed or dying in prison camps and her work being banned and her character being brought into question. She not only survived all these things but thrived, somehow, as an artist. By way of her poetry, she brought comfort and encouragement to countless others who were enduring the same suffering. I didn't concern myself with trying to entertain anyone with this record. There's no shortage of that out there already. I concerned myself with honoring her life, her work, and the victorious human spirit that sings in all of these poems and can sing in each of us.

Akhmatova lived and wrote during such a tumultuous time in Russian history. Were there certain poems or themes that you shied away from? Or were you able to find little threads of hope pretty consistently?

Some of her poems have very Russian-specific themes and, for obvious reasons, I chose not to take those on. But, basically, if a poem spoke to me and I felt it lent itself to music, or at least the music that runs through me, I went to work on it.

Do you agree with Akhmatova's summation in "To My Poems," in regard to your songs? Because it's a fairly dark take on creativity as a pursuit or an outlet.

Anna devoted her life to this work and the work nearly cost her her life! It's pretty safe to say she believed in the value of what she was doing. I don't think of this particular poem, or any creative work, for that matter, as something to agree or disagree with. I look for the integrity of it, the spirit of it, and take it or leave it on its own terms. "To My Poems" feels to me like the expression of someone's truth, a truth that may have lasted five minutes or a lifetime -- I don't know or care. Truth is inherently beautiful and valuable, no matter its lifespan.

One of the things that's so striking about you is that you come off as just an everyday Jane. Then you sing and that's out the window. Do you feel like Iowa allows you that space or would you have maintained a sense of normalcy in, say, L.A. or Nashville?

I don't relate to the idea of an everyday anything. I've never met an everyday "Jane" or "Joe"! All of life... the fact that we are here... that there is an Iowa, a Mars, a California... that Anna lived and poured her heart into these poems and lifted the hearts of others by doing that, mine included... that I'm raising this child from Russia, a place that sounded like another universe to me not all that long ago... there is no such thing as ordinary. All of it is "out the window." No exceptions!


'The Trackless Woods' is out now on Flariella Records and is available at iTunes and

Posted by Linda Fahey at 11:47 AM

Album Review: Jason Isbell, 'Something More Than Free'

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

Jason Isbell Something More Than Free.jpgAs soon as "If It Takes a Lifetime" opens Jason Isbell's 'Something More Than Free,' it's obvious that the singer/songwriter did not make 'Southeastern: The Sequel.' Quite the opposite, really. 'Southeastern' overflowed with cutting lyrics that rock his fellow writers back on their heels in awe every time they hear them. Lines like this (from "Songs That She Sang in the Shower"): "On a lark, on a whim, I said 'There's two kinds of men in this world and you're neither of them.' And his fist cut the smoke. I had an eighth of a second to wonder if he got the joke." Those kinds of brilliant turns of phrases filled each song on that album and made it what it was.

Here, though, Isbell is far more exacting and economical in his eloquence, applying rigorous standards to his word choices and reserving the grandiosity for his musical explorations. That's not to say that his character sketches aren't poetic. They are. They are merely more grounded than lofty this time out, leaving less of a vapor trail. "And the couple in the corner of the bar have traveled light and, clearly, traveled far. She's got nothing left to learn about his heart and they're sitting there a thousand miles apart," he sings in "Flagship" to set the scene. Then he injects himself into the story: "Baby, let's not ever get that way. I'll say whatever words I need to say." It's the most tender moment on the record, haunting in its simplicity.

Contrasting that piece are entries more reminiscent of the Band and Neil Young than anything on 'Southeastern.' And while specific lyrics may not linger, Isbell's melodies certainly do. While "If It Takes a Lifetime," "Flagship," "24 Frames," "Children of Children," and "Hudson Commodore" are certainly stand-out tracks, 'Something More Than Free' is one of those top-to-bottom albums that, just drop the needle anywhere and it'll hit a great song.


'Something More Than Free' is out now on Southeastern Records and is available at iTunes and

Posted by Linda Fahey at 8:57 AM

A Q & A with Samantha Crain

July 30, 2015

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

MC-Samantha-Crain-19 sq.jpgOklahoma's Samantha Crain is a musical force to be reckoned with. As a singer, her phrasing and rhythms fail to follow traditional folk patterns. And, as a songwriter, her compositions prick and pry at our hearts and minds in the best possible ways. Her latest endeavor, 'Under Branch & Thorn & Tree,' puts those talents to work on a collection of songs that folds the political into the personal. From the easy swagger of "Big Rock" to the gentle folk of "Elk City," the set finds Crain in fine form.

Kelly McCartney: You're a live-to-tape, one-take kind of recording artist. Do you ever go back and fiddle with arrangements after the fact? Or do they stay true for their life cycles?

Samantha Crain: My live performances are rarely exactly like the recorded songs. I strongly believe in the fluidity of songs depending on what musicians you're playing with or the mood of the audience. However, arrangements are very important to me. Just because we do analog recording and do few takes, doesn't mean I don't give thought to arrangement; I do. I'm very deliberate in everything I do. I just do a lot of pre-recording practice and talking with the other musicians. I want everyone to be on the same page, in the same headspace, but, at the same time, in the moment and surprising. Most songs, through their lifetimes, take several different forms regarding tempo or groove; it just happens organically after you haven't listened to the recording for years.

A lot of singer/songwriters put more emphasis on the songwriting part of their craft. You weight them pretty evenly, though. Who are your influences as a singer? And how does the singing affect or inform the writing for you?

I'm really drawn to any singers who are overly emotional or do something different tonally or rhythmically. I've always been into pretty polarizing voices. I love Billie Holiday, Neil Young, Patti Smith, Roy Orbison, Marc Bolan, Lhasa de Sela, and Annie Lennox. I've been told I'm a very rhythmic singer. Its not something I'm particularly aware of, but I assume my natural inclinations to move words in certain ways affects the way I write. I don't try to study how I create; I just do it.

In your songs, you use personal perspectives to make political points. Do you ever worry that the nuance softens the blow you're landing too much? Or do you find that it's the sugar that helps the medicine go down?

I feel a little of both. Part of me feels I'm being too gentle; the other part of me thinks its the best way to get the narratives into a public consciousness. I go back and forth with how I feel about it. I probably always will. I still do believe the only way to have intelligent and meaningful conversations about anything political or social is through empathy, though. And I know empathy only comes with understanding other people's stories and lives. That is something I will always believe. So however hard or soft I'm being with my issue, the story will always be the base.

If you had to pick one song, from this album or another, that represented the heart of what you're trying to do as an artist... which one and why?

I really feel like "Elk City" on this album was a breakthrough song for me -- a song that represents the exact sort of song I'd like to keep writing for the rest of my life. Something that has humanity in the lyrics and, to me, that song is interesting musically without seeming difficult. I'm just really proud of that song. I feel like I'll want to play that song for the rest of my life.

Cultural appropriation is a hot topic these days. And it's something you've stood up to in the past, in terms of your Native American heritage. Some people argue that every culture is appropriated. Why do you think it's such a hard thing for folks to grasp that even "all-in-good-fun" mockery is still mockery?

Racism is a learned thing. Its very hard to unlearn. Moving away from cultural appropriation starts in our education system... and it's not being addressed at all really, considering the history in our history books is terribly skewed. These aren't problems that are easy to address in an abrupt manner. These are solutions we start pumping into the framework of society now for a more positive, equal future.


'Under Branch & Thorn & Tree' is out now on Ramseur Records and is available at iTunes and

Posted by Linda Fahey at 1:30 PM

Album Review: Kacey Musgraves, 'Pageant Material'

July 29, 2015

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

Kacey Musgraves PM 300.jpgThere's a reason sophomore albums are considered a tough nut to crack. An artist has only a year or two to write a batch of tunes that stack up to the batch from their debut that they had their whole pre-debut life to write. Whether or not that debut was successful, the artist also has to decide to stay that artistic course or branch out in a different direction. Kacey Musgraves stayed firmly put on 'Pageant Material,' her follow-up to the wildly successful 'Same Trailer, Different Park.'

Taken on its own, without any knowledge of its sibling, 'Pageant Material' is a fun and lovely album. The songs are overflowing with memorable melodies, clever catchphrases, and pitch-perfect performances. And the first five cuts, from "High Time" through "This Town," are as thoroughly appealing as anything in her arsenal. At the heart of that mini-set is the sweet-but-not-saccharin "Late to the Party" which serves very nicely as the free-wheeling Millennial's version of a love song. It also provides a wonderful counterpoint to the snappy repartee of "Dimestore Cowgirl," "Pageant Material," and "This Town."

But, then, in the number six slot is "Biscuits." The album's first single can't help but be compared to the high watermark of Musgraves' career that is "Follow Your Arrow." In fact, a casual listener would be forgiven for confusing the two -- that's how similar they are in style and substance. Throughout the second half of the cycle, the comparisons could easily continue, but taking a step back allows "Somebody to Love," "Miserable," and "Good Ol' Boys Club" to shine on their own merits, in their own lights. Trouble is, albums in an artist's career don't exist in a vacuum, so a lot of these tunes make the whole feel like 'Same Trailer, Another Different Park.'

No question, Musgraves is a talented and spirited artist who is shaking things up in the best of ways. Here's hoping she applies some of that boundary pushing to album number three.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 3:15 PM

Album Review: Eilen Jewell, 'Sundown Over Ghost Town'

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

Sundown Over Ghost Town 300x300.jpgWith a title like 'Sundown over Ghost Town' and cover art of a silhouetted figure with an acoustic guitar in front of a vast, star-filled horizon, Eilen Jewell's new album sends a signal that what lies therein could easily be simple and spacious country-folk songs. Uh, not quite. Yes, there are some simple and spacious country-folk songs here -- "Half-Broke Horse," "Green Hills," and "Songbird," at the very least. Otherwise, Jewell takes the theme of coming home and has fun with it. After all, you can come home again, but it may or may not be what you remember.

In Jewell's case, the story unfolds from the point of her return to Idaho after living in Boston. Oh, and having a baby, too. Most of the lyrical content draws from those endlessly deep wells. On the whole, the set is more refined and more restrained than Jewell records past, but no less creative, in its own way. From the gentle, mandolin-filled folk of "Worried Mind" to the delightful, Tex-Mex rockabilly of "Rio Grande" to the high lonesome torch balladry of "Here with Me," the album alternately lopes and lilts in all the right places.

For instance, Jewell isn't the first artist this year to set surf rock against a spaghetti western backdrop as she does on the spirited "Hallelujah Band" -- Lord Huron, too, makes that mix on 'Strange Trails' -- but it works well and shows just how many different colors Jewell has on her artist's palette.


'Sundown Over Ghost Town' is out now on Signature Sounds, and is available at iTunes and

Posted by Linda Fahey at 12:55 PM

Video Premiere: The Stray Birds, "Never For Nothing"

July 21, 2015

by Elena See, for

Stray Birds platform-black-and-white 300.jpgYou might not make a lot of money. You might not win awards or accolades. You might not make new friends or establish important new connections. But sometimes, following your heart and doing what you KNOW is right, what you FEEL is right - well, that's reward enough.

Maya de Vitry of The Stray Birds says this song is "an homage to music as an offering--on a back porch, singing for nobody but the birds--on a subway platform, tossed as a rope for anyone to hold--around a campfire, shared between friends and the stars." In other words, music is enough of a reason to make music.

The Stray Birds - they're a band known for their tight harmonies, their impeccable instrumentation and their ability to make their audience feel completely involved in the music they make. With "Never for Nothing," the Birds also prove how capable they are of creating incredibly vivid stories and characters with their music.

Lyrics like "I'm dripping from the rivers I never meant to cross/But I like the things I'm learning more than anything I've lost/And, oh, I have lost...but not for nothing," let the band paint a very clear picture of complicated and oh-so-human emotions. The gorgeous music video that accompanies the song, featuring Fish & Bird's Taylor Ashton and filmed and edited by Jacob Blumberg, only helps us better understand those emotions - the contradictions of hope and heartbreak, longing and gratitude, that we are all capable of feeling at the same time.


The Stray Birds' 'Best Medicine' is available via YepRoc Records at iTunes and

Tour Dates

Posted by Linda Fahey at 8:41 AM

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