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Album Review: Robert Earl Keen, Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions
PLAYLIST: Folk Alley nationally syndicated radio show #150219
Song Premiere: Joe Pug, "The Measure"
Album Review: The Bros. Landreth, 'Let It Lie'
A Q & A with Nora Jane Struthers
Album Review: Andrew Combs, 'All These Dreams'
A Q & A with Rhiannon Giddens
Album Review: Caroline Spence, 'Somehow'
Hear It First - Elana James, 'Black Beauty'
PLAYLIST - Folk Alley nationally syndicated weekly radio show #150212
It Takes Two - Ten Classic Duets for Valentine's Day
PLAYLIST - Folk Alley nationally syndicated weekly radio show #150205
Song Premiere: Ryan Culwell, 'I Think I'll Be Their God"
Hear It First - Jorma Kaukonen, 'Ain't In No Hurry'
Album Review: Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors, 'Medicine'
PLAYLIST - Folk Alley nationally syndicated weekly radio show #150129
Album Review: Gretchen Peters, 'Blackbirds'
A Q & A with Caitlin Canty
PLAYLIST - Folk Alley nationally syndicated weekly radio show #150122
PLAYLIST - Folk Alley nationally syndicated weekly radio show #150115
Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King
PLAYLIST - Folk Alley nationally syndicated weekly radio show #150108
A Q & A with Pieta Brown
Folk Alley's Best of 2014 - Jon Nungesser's Top Picks of the Year
Folk Alley's Best of 2014 - Chris Dudley's Top Picks of the Year
Folk Alley's Best of 2014 - Barb Heller's Top Picks of the Year
Folk Alley's Best of 2014 - Matt Reilly's Top Picks of the Year
Folk Alley's Best of 2014 - Kelly McCartney's Top Picks of the Year
Folk Alley's Best of 2014 - Linda Fahey's Top Picks of the Year
Folk Alley's Best of 2014 - Cindy Howes' Top Picks of the Year


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Mandolin Orange - "Old Ties & Companions" from 'Such Jubilee'

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Album Review: Robert Earl Keen, Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions

March 2, 2015

REK Happy Prisoner 300.jpgby Elena See for

Oh, bluegrass. There's nothing better if you're feeling good about your life - that fast picking guitar fills you with all sorts of positive energy. There's also nothing better if your whole world is falling apart - just listen to a murder ballad or two and you'll realize that, hey, life COULD be a lot worse. It's an awesome genre, bluegrass. And it's a genre that has inspired Texas country legend Robert Earl Keen for decades.

REK grew up listening to the likes of Bill Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs, the Carter Family, the Stanley Brothers - the list goes on. The technical virtuosity of some of those players inspired him to push himself toward becoming the great musician he is today. That same virtuosity, he says, is one reason why he has waited this long to try his own hand at bluegrass. During a recent interview with the Amarillo Globe-News, he said that while he loved the music, he didn't have the chops to be "a true bluegrass player." Now, while technically that may be true, his genuine enthusiasm and respect for the genre more than makes up for any technical - or, I suppose, traditional - skills he may be lacking. And, he's got an amazing cast of musicians along for this bluegrass ride, too. (Among others, banjo player Danny Barnes and fiddler Sara Watkins, in addition to his own remarkable touring band.)

Now, when I listened to the album through the first time, I admit I was a little...startled. REK still sounds like REK - gritty, twangy, almost surly at times...a legend of outlaw country music. But then I listened again. And again. The more I listened, the more I enjoyed REK's interpretations of these songs - they're stories, after all. And REK is a masterful storyteller.

'Happy Prisoner' IS a tribute recording, sure - but at the same time, REK very clearly puts his own stamp on classics every bluegrass fan has probably heard - "Hot Corn, Cold Corn," "Poor Ellen Smith," and "Walls of Time" (with harmonies by Peter Rowan and a little bit of a "story hour" from Peter Rowan, too). And his duet with Natalie Maines on "Wayfaring Stranger"? Wow. REK's tenacious twang, twining with Maines' rather strident voice - it's shiver-inducing.

Something else special about REK's Happy Prisoner? There are 5 extra tracks he recorded for the vinyl version of the album. The stand out for me? "I'm Troubled, I'm Troubled." There are lots of versions of this song (Flatt and Scruggs, Doc Watson, Jerry Garcia...) and this one might be my favorite of them all. REK enunciates the lyrics so clearly it's like he's right there in the room with you and the blend between his voice and the banjo - well, it's darn near perfect. And, in true REK fashion, he manages to infuse enough heartache and sorrow into his voice that you just want to put an arm around his shoulder and tell him it'll be ok. Someday.


Robert Earl Keen's 'Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions' was released Febraury 10th on Dualtone Records and is available HERE for CD or HERE for vinyl with five bonus tracks.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 10:59 AM | Comments (0)

PLAYLIST: Folk Alley nationally syndicated radio show #150219

February 28, 2015

Thumbnail image for Folk-Alley-Logo_medium.jpgPLAYLIST: Folk Alley nationally syndicated radio show #150219. Aired between February 20 - February 26, 2015. Hosted by Elena See

Artist - Title - Album - Label

Hour 1 (feat. our in-studio session with Kristin Andreassen w/ Jefferson Hamer and Alec Spiegelman)

David Francey - Wanna Be Loved - The Waking Hour - Red House

Wendy MacIsaac - Dear Christy - Off the Floor - Wendy MacIsaac

The Sparrow Quartet - Taiyang Chulai - Abigail Washburn & The Sparrow Quartet - Nettwerk

Martin Sexton - Pine Away - Mixtape of the Open Road - Kitchen Table

Barnstar! - Darling - Sit Down! Get Up! Get Out! - Signature Sounds

Kristin Andreassen - The New Ground (in-studio) - Folk Alley in-studio session recording - Kristin Andreassen

Kristin Andreassen - 'Simmon (in-studio) - Folk Alley in-studio session recording - Kristin Andreassen

Kristin Andreassen - Daybreak (in-studio) - Folk Alley in-studio session recording - Kristin Andreassen

Old Crow Medicine Show - Sweet Amarillo - Remedy - ATO

The Earls of Leicester - Shuckin' the Corn - The Earls of Leicester - Rounder

Rosanne Cash - When the Master Calls the Roll - The River & The Thread - Blue Note

Steve Earle & The Dukes - Ain't Nobody's Daddy Now - Terraplane - New West

Brandi Carlile - Touching The Ground - Give Up The Ghost - Sony​

Hour 2

Elana James - High Upon A Mountain - Black Beauty - Snarf Records

Denis Murphy - The Mountain Road - Classic Celtic Music - Smithsonian Folkways

Ollabelle - High on a Mountain - Ollabelle - Riverside Battle Songs - Verve

Lake Street Dive (live) - You Go Down Smooth - Another Day Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis - Nonesuch

The Avett Brothers (live) - Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise - Another Day Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis - Nonesuch

The Punch Brothers - My Oh My - The Phosphorescent Blues - Nonesuch

Catherine Maclellan - Winter Spring - The Raven's Sun - Catherine Maclellan

The Oh Hellos - Hello My Old Heart - The Oh Hellos EP - F-Stop Music

The Secret Sisters - Lonely Island - Put Your Needle Down - Universal Republic

Bob Dylan - Why Try To Change Me Know - Shadows In the Night - Columbia

Pokey LaFarge - Something In the Water - Something In the Water - Rounder

Stefan Grossman - Lottie's Blues - Yazoo Basin Boogie - Shanachie

Caroline Spence - Trains Cry - Somehow - Caroline Spence

John Cowan - Why Are You Crying - Sixty - Compass

New Grass Revival - One Love - People Get Ready - On the Boulevard - Sugar Hill​

Folk Alley's weekly, syndicated radio show is produced by WKSU (NPR-affiliate in Kent, OH). The show is available for free to stations via or via FTP for non-PRX members. Stations may air the show as either a one-, or two-hour program. The Folk Alley Radio Show is presently carried by over 36 stations nationally. Folk Alley also presents a 24/7 hosted Internet channel available at, TuneIn, iTunes, Live 365 and more. :: for more information contact Linda Fahey at 518-354-8077:

Posted by Linda Fahey at 8:30 AM | Comments (0)

Song Premiere: Joe Pug, "The Measure"

February 27, 2015

Joe Pug Windfall cover 300.jpgby Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

Though he hails from Maryland, singer/songwriter Joe Pug has bounced from Chicago to Nashville to Austin in his search for a place in the world. But that's just geography. Pug, long ago, found where he fits artistically, and it's somewhere down the line from Bob Dylan, John Prine, Steve Earle, and John Hiatt. Like those musical influences -- and literary ones like Raymond Carver and John Steinbeck -- Pug is a storyteller. He's proven that, already, with two EPs and two albums, but his new 'Windfall' should sway any lingering doubts.

KM: The new record is produced very simply. Financial constraints for everyone being what they are these days, how much of that decision was artistic versus practical?

JP: Our original vision for the record was of a painting with only three or four primary colors. And we accomplished that, which I'm proud of. Because the ease of modern recording has actually made it a lot harder to keep things OFF an album than to put them ON. Choose a Bandcamp page at random and you'll likely hear an album that is, in the scheme of things, amazingly recorded with string sections and the full complement. In the age of the Internet, everybody can play the musical saw and everybody has a weird friend from high school that plays pedal steel. But that doesn't mean it all belongs on a single album or a single song. Unless, of course, that's someone's vision... their terrible, terrible vision.

Even in its simplicity, it never feels short-changed. If the songs can stand up in that setting -- and they seem to -- then you're onto something. Were there tunes you had to set aside for a rainy day? Songs you wanted to save for a more formal affair?

Thanks, I feel the same way. And, no, we didn't pull any punches. Anything that ended up on the cutting room floor was either thematically inconsistent with the album or plainly not good.

I don't know what makes a recording session a more formal affair. A famous name behind the console? A studio cabinet that has the obligatory "Sinatra-sang-through-this" microphone? A bunch of guys splicing two-inch tape while they disagree about vintage compressors? This is just what the music I enjoy sounds like.

Each songwriter has a slightly different approach to the creative process. Do you feel like songs come to you or from you?

I feel like there's a constant stream of melody and lyric right below the conscious surface. When it's time to write, you just try to put yourself in a mental state where you can dip your cup into that stream and bring it back to waking life.

There's a line in "The Measure" that's "All we've lost is nothing to what we've found." Unpack that a little more for us. It seems like a reminder to be grateful rather than greedy.

That was the original kernel for the song. It comes from a quote from Frederick Buechner's 'Godric,' which we've actually made the epigram for the album: "The secret that we share I cannot tell in full. But this much I will tell. What's lost is nothing to what's found, and all the death that ever was, set next to life, would scarcely fill a cup." I thought it was a beautiful phrase and tried to write a song that did justice to it.

The theme of resilience comes through in a number of the songs. What's the distinction, for you, between being resilient and being resigned?

Great question. In fact, I think you've really discerned the crux of the album. The difference lies in the personal choice between one and the other, between resignation and grateful acceptance. You can't change your lot in life but you can change how you experience it.


Joe Pug's 'Windfall' comes out March 10th on Lightning Rod Records and is available - HERE

Posted by Linda Fahey at 8:05 AM | Comments (0)

Album Review: The Bros. Landreth, 'Let It Lie'

February 26, 2015

Bros Landreth Let It Lie.jpgby Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

It's a little hard to believe that the Bros. Landreth hail from Winnipeg, Manitoba, because of how well they carry the Southern rock mantle of the Allman Brothers on their debut album, 'Let It Lie.' Led by David and Joey Landreth, the foursome does an admirable job of copping a style and a sensibility foreign to their own environs. After all, the Manitoba prairie is a long way from the Mississippi delta.

But the Bros. Landreth get it done with the chunky groove of "Our Love," the Dobro and harmonies of "Firecracker," and the gritty blues of "I Am the Fool" and "Runaway Train." When they turn it down a bit, songs like "Let It Lie" and "Greenhouse" are stark enough to put the frailty of Joey's voice front and center. While it works well enough in those settings, it can't quite get where it's trying to go on some of the bolder cuts. Luckily, though, 'Let It Lie' is chock full of far gentler melodies and a much smoother approach than blues-rock bands usually chart.

Yes, these brothers draw from those other brothers, but that's just a starting point. From there, they wander off into styles more reminiscent of bands like the Eagles, Gov't Mule, Little Feat, and others. Heck, the melodic progression and vocal phrasing on "Tappin' on the Glass" is right out of the Jackson Browne playbook. Even still, the Bros. Landreth meld it all into a sound that works for them... and pretty much anyone else who appreciates a solid roots-rock set. There's just a whole lot to like about this record.

'Let It Lie' is out now on Slate Creek Records and is available - HERE.


Posted by Linda Fahey at 1:05 PM | Comments (0)

A Q & A with Nora Jane Struthers

February 25, 2015

Nora Jane Struthers Wake cover 300.jpgby Kelly McCartney (@theKELword),

With her latest outing, singer/songwriter Nora Jane Struthers is shaking things up. Not only did she recruit a new backing band -- the Party Line -- but she also took cues from the records of Americana stalwarts Hayes Carll and Jason Isbell when she went into the studio. Those two decisions melded together in her 'Wake,' a self-produced, rougher-edged work bristling with energy and enthusiasm more so than any album she's previously issued. Road-testing the songs and fine-tuning the arrangements first helped, but, really, the main difference was that Struthers was in love.

KM: A lot of artists say they don't write as well when they are happy, that they need the suffering and sorrow of heartbreak as a muse. But you've sort of come alive in the midst of a new love, right?

NJS: Yes, surprisingly! In love, I reached new depths of vulnerability and empowerment. I find inspiration in newness.

Is there a difference in your creative process for this new album or was it strictly an emotional shift, switching to the autobiographical perspective?

Well, there was definitely an emotional shift. I was also able to unbridle the creative process -- to stop editing and judging while creating. This was very freeing.

When you write very personal songs, how do you leave space for listeners to insert themselves into the stories? Or do you just have to set that concern aside?

I think the more personal a song is, the more universal it can be. I'm not concerned with how other people will interpret a song when I am writing it; after all, we all bring our own life experiences to our interpretation of art.

What's the trick for bridging the gap between the pairs of opposites in your life -- "bluegrass and Pearl Jam" or, even, Brooklyn and Nashville?

I spent many years trying to compartmentalize the seemingly contrary elements of my life; it seemed simpler at the time. But, when I fell in love, I wanted to be known fully, and in order to allow that to happen, I needed to allow all the parts of myself to exist simultaneously. It was incredibly freeing. I had no idea how much energy I was using to keep all the parts of myself separated. Now I have so much more energy to spend in far more valuable ways.

How did you know the players who form the Party Line were THE players for you? Did the players come first and the sound emerge from there... rather than you having a vision and seeking out folks to fit it?

How did you know?! Yes, I picked the people and the people happened to play these instruments and that's how the sound was born. Music is made by people... without wonderful people, I cannot make wonderful music.


Nora Jane Struthers & the Party Line, 'Wake' was released on February 24 and is available - HERE.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 10:59 AM | Comments (0)

Album Review: Andrew Combs, 'All These Dreams'

February 23, 2015

All These Dreams cover 300.jpgby Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

Prince was right: Albums still matter. And Andrew Combs seems to know that. He also seems to know that songs and production also matter, if the album is to be worth its weight in vinyl. On 'All These Dreams,' it's obvious -- even with a casual listen -- that Combs put his focus on the songs first and everything else followed from there. The model is the same as the one employed by the singer/songwriters of the late '60s and early '70s to which this album nods and winks -- guys like Glen Campbell, Jim Croce, Paul Simon, Mickey Newbury, James Taylor, and Harry Nilsson.

From the opening steel strains of "Rainy Day Song" on through the closing coda that is "Suwannee County," Combs' melodies and voice, coupled with Jordan Lehning and Skylar Wilson's production, manage to look back while facing forward. It's a fairly miraculous musical feat the team has achieved here. Even though Combs hasn't even hit 30 yet, "Nothing to Lose" is straight out of 40 years ago; "Long Gone Lately" -- with its timpani, tremolo, and castanets -- would make Roy Orbison proud, if not jealous; and "In the Name of You" rivals all the best Jackson Browne piano ballads.

The comparatively rollicking romp of "Foolin'" also recalls Orbison even as it takes on the falsity of lives presented on social media. That's the beauty of contrasting worlds at play, right there. While the chipper ditty that is "Strange Bird," the country yarns of "Pearl" and "Suwannee County," and the mildly defiant heartbreak in "Bad Habits" all call from different corners, Combs, Lehning, and Wilson do a superb job of coaxing them into the fold. As more nuanced part of the intricate arrangements, even Combs' lazy diction and casual delivery lend themselves to the vintage vibe. He doesn't attack these songs; he leads them, ever so gently to where they need to be. Tack on Steelism's Jeremy Fetzer (guitars) and Spencer Cullum Jr. ( pedal steel) along with bassist Mike Rinne and drummer Ian Fitchuk, and you have yourself one hell of a record.


Andrew Combs' 'All These Dreams' will be released on March 3 on Coin Records and is available HERE:

Posted by Linda Fahey at 9:18 PM | Comments (0)

A Q & A with Rhiannon Giddens

Rhiannon 250 sq.jpgby Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

From her gig with the Carolina Chocolate Drops to her gigs with T Bone Burnett (The New Basement Tapes and Inside Llewyn Davis), Rhiannon Giddens has always held her own. In fact, she's held so firmly, so fiercely, that she's been added to a lineage of singers that includes Nina Simone, Rosetta Tharp, Odetta, and others. From the first time he heard her, Burnett, for one, knew that lineage needed to -- and would -- live on in Giddens. "We need that person in our culture," he said. "She is, in fact, that person in our culture." Now, Giddens has a new solo album, 'Tomorrow Is My Turn,' that finds her holding her own and living on one step further.

KM: With your work -- and that of the CCDs -- you're more than just a singer. You're also an educator and a historian. Did you realize that going in? Or have you had to re-calibrate along the way?

RG: My first real experience in music as a potential career was in the classical world -- and, in that world, you have a lot of layers to uncover and examine -- the language, the history, the emotional content, and all this beyond the vocals. So I got used to approaching a song from the research point of view first. I then started to explore Celtic and Gaelic music and, again, started with the research as it was a different culture and history to mine, and I never want to sing a song I haven't at least tried to understand. So, when I got into the banjo, I was already in that mode -- and got even deeper!

How does it feel to be mentioned in the same breath as legends like Odetta, Mahalia Jackson, and Nina Simone?

Unreal. I will just say that I will do my best to answer to the responsibility I was given along with this voice. I was put here to do something, as we all were, and I strive to do my best to do it.

Tell me about the Cornbread Duet collaboration with Twyla Tharp.

Twyla was an absolute peach. She has done so much in the world of dance. It was quite an honor to work with her. We learned a lot, as a band, to perform those songs for those dancers -- such a different form than the vernacular clogging that we are used to... very broadening.

Your repertoire is wide and deep, from country to gospel and back again. What's your song selection process?

I have a real organic feel for picking songs. There's so much music to listen to in the world, you'll never get to it all, so I let things come in as they will. And when inspiration hits, upon listening to a particular track, it's instantaneous.

How has the transition been from band member to solo artist? More freedom, more pressure?

Well, I'm cheating a bit, really, because I have all my band mates joining me on this tour, which is super exciting. There is more pressure, though, because all the interviews come to me, the tour is under my name, etc. But i'm ready for it!


Rhiannon Giddens' 'Tomorrow Is My Turn' was released on February 10 and is available HERE:

Posted by Linda Fahey at 6:38 PM | Comments (0)

Album Review: Caroline Spence, 'Somehow'

February 18, 2015

Caroline Spence .jpgBy Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

Equal parts torch and twang, Caroline Spence's 'Somehow' falls squarely into the Americana wonderland between folk and country. The songs here capture the heart ache and heart break so thoroughly associated with traditional country, but they do so in a deeply introspective manner more reminiscent of the folk world. It's an unpretentious set, content to be just that -- nothing more, but certainly nothing less.

The first half of the collection stays pretty close to home, stylistically, with Spence's timeless timbre leading the way. Hers is a voice you feel you've always known, with a high lonesome wallop to rival Patty Griffin's, though it's tempered by an air of sweetness that takes just enough of the edge off. The opening stunner, "Trains Cry," details the toll the road takes on relationships of all kinds. Travelers, like trains, keep moving ever-forward and the pain of always leaving is a heavy one to bear: "I know how to hit the road, know how to go it alone, down some dark highway."

Another classic country theme rears its head in "Whiskey Watered Down," a drinking song that manages to sidestep banality in favor of a self-assuredness that also stands its ground into the plaintive pleading of "One Man" and the feisty shrug-off that is "Don't Call." Even though Spence's voice is almost too delicate to cut through and cut loose, she gets the job done on that last one by writing lines like, "I'm so sick of your tired excuses. Every empty word you say is so damn useless. You say you've got half a mind to leave here, half a heart to stay. If you put them together, you still can't find your way." Of course, it's all fun and games until the bills are due as on "Hello Tomorrow," the tale of growing up and looking back. Ah, to be young and in love...

Some of Nashville's best (Andrew Combs, Erin Rae, Kris Donegan, et al) contributed to the project and Michael Rinne produced with a thoughtful touch that never overpowers Spence's voice or her songs.

'Somehow' comes out on March 3.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 9:48 PM | Comments (0)

Hear It First - Elana James, 'Black Beauty'

February 17, 2015

Elana James BB BW 250 cover.jpgElana James officially releases her second solo album 'Black Beauty' on Tuesday, February 24th. You can stream the album in its entirety until then in the player below!

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

Elana James has been playing music since she was four years old. At that very young age, she took up her mother's instrument -- classical violin -- and continued those studies while getting a degree in comparative religion at Columbia University. Along the way from there to here, James switched over to fiddle, worked as a horse wrangler, traveled to India, founded a Western swing band (the Hot Club of Cowtown), moved to Texas, toured with Bob Dylan, and all sorts of other fun things, though not necessarily in that order. Now that she's here, she's releasing a new solo album, 'Black Beauty'.

KM: You've traveled the world as a musical ambassador, officially and otherwise, and are also something of a religious scholar. What's it like, using music to build bridges that wouldn't otherwise be built?

EJ: Music has always thrilled me because of that very thing. It's like a drug that goes directly into the bloodstream of whatever culture you may enter. Many times in my life I've played with people and we don't speak a word of the same language, or are from completely different cultural backgrounds, and sitting down together and playing feels like being with old friends after just a few moments. Ghyorge Angel from [the Romanian Gypsy band] Taraf de Haidouks was like that, also people I met in India when I was studying over there so many years ago -- Mongolia, Azerbaijan, the American West. Even just now in Samois, France, this summer for the Django Reinhard festival. The song begins and that's it. Also, being female, there is a way in which you get a sort of "honorary male" reception in some places and are outside the usual boundaries of what's considered culturally appropriate.

Music and religion are these extremely powerful forces that are thrumming beneath the surface of everything, at all times. You just have to scratch the surface a tiny bit and see how much they reflect and illuminate what is going on socially, spiritually, morally, in everything around you.

Draw a line between Texas Western swing and North Indian classical music. Are you the only connecting dot?

I know Bob Livingston (Jerry Jeff Walker's long-time bass player and a great performer in his own right) had a project going for years out of Austin where he blended South Indian Classical music with American traditional music and cowboy songs. He called it Cowboys and Indians. For some reason, there's not more cross-pollination between these kinds of cultures.

But one thing that absolutely influenced me when I was studying Dhrupad in India right after college was that my teacher, who was a true bohemian and also very religious, would take three or four of us on these adventures in the countryside where we would have picnics with these forest-dwelling renunciates and sing and play devotional songs, or take a little boat down the Yamuna River at sunset and we'd play these devotional songs or bhajans as the sun was going down. And, invariably, he would eventually turn to me and say, "American Git!" (American music), and want me to play a hoedown on my viola. And, of course, I would!

That turned out to be a guiding point for me -- that the music I came from and could call my own was as exotic and exciting to him as his music was to me. It's all relative. And that really gave me more confidence to give myself over to the fiddle and Western swing, fiddle tunes -- to reflect where I come from and the richness of it. As Johnny Gimble likes to say, "If you try to sound like someone else, who will sound like you?"

Of all the people you've played with, who has been -- not your favorite, necessarily -- but the most memorable or most striking?

Too many come to mind to name just one: Bob Dylan, Whit and Jake (my Hot Club of Cowtown Bandmates), Willie Nelson, Erik Hokkanen, Johnny Gimble, an old-timer Gypsy accordion player I played with on the street in Bergen, Norway, once, playing duets with my mom or my sister. Just last summer, sitting around a table late at night at a caravan in Samois with Tchavolo Schmitt there singing and playing his guitar, singing traditional Gypsy tunes, a campfire.

Last month I got to sit in with a wonderful band on St. John in the Virgin Islands -- the Hot Club of Coral Bay -- and Terre Roche sat in and did a few of her new songs with the band. It was amazing to hear her sing and play right next to me. I have always been a huge, huge fan of the Roches. Of course the Bob Dylan tours, when he would be playing harmonica or his keyboard and we're trading riffs, call and response. Playing cowboy songs with Don Edwards next to a swimming pool in Southern California a few years ago. Willie Nelson singing "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone" every night for a month as our encore when we did that minor league ballparks tour. Getting to play twin fiddles with so many of the Texas Playboys over the years and, as we're playing these tunes together, watching each other, watching each other's bows, knowing that this is how it was in 1942 when they'd play the huge dances throughout Texas and the Southwest with Bob Wills right there, hollering and waving his bow.

You played with the Hot Club of Cowtown for a long time before going it alone. How was that transition? And do you have a preference -- band or solo?

Oh, I'm for sure still playing with the Hot Club of Cowtown. Putting out my own album (This is the second one.) is a simultaneous thing, not instead of. There are differences in each, absolutely. I'd say going it alone is generally more terrifying, since you feel like the weight of the show rests on your own shoulders. And it does! And, at the same time, there's more room to make artistic decisions and try things that are maybe outside the artistic "charter" agreed upon by the band members when you're in an actual band.

One of the things I appreciate about being in a band is that, whatever you have to say musically, it has to go through the gauntlet of the other band members -- the taste police -- and everything gets the "treatment" which is the sound of the band. In our case, it really is greater than the sum of its (three) parts. But playing solo is thrilling. I love to sing, and it's fun to sing every song every set, or just think of songs you haven't played in a while, or that you love, and just call them for the sheer joy of it, not worrying if it's okay with anyone else because... not breaking up the energy of the set as you want it to unfurl because... you know, it's your own show!

When you've done the amazing things you've done, played with the legendary talents you've played with, how do you set goals that could possibly surpass those experiences?

It's all relative. I would just like to continue to be able to play, to be a musician. As Isaac Stern said so beautifully (This is from his obituary in the New York Times from 2001.), ''I have been very fortunate in 60 years of performance,'' he said in 1995, ''to have learned what it means to be an eternal student, an eternal optimist -- because you hope the next time will always be a little better -- and eternally in love with music. Also, as I said to a young player the other day, you have no idea of what you don't know. Now it's time that you begin to learn. And you should get up every morning and say thank God, thank the Lord, thank whomever you want, thank you, thank you, for making me a musician.''


Elana James' new album, 'Black Beauty' will be officially released on February 24th. Until then, you can stream the album in its entirety below and pre-order the album at HERE.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 7:24 PM | Comments (0)

PLAYLIST - Folk Alley nationally syndicated weekly radio show #150212

Thumbnail image for Folk-Alley-Logo_medium.jpgPLAYLIST: Folk Alley nationally syndicated radio show #150212. Aired between February 13 - February 19, 2015. Hosted by Elena See

Artist - Title - Album - Label

Hour 1

John Fullbright - Daydreamer - From the Ground Up - Blue Dirt

Bryan Sutton - The High Road - Bluegrass Guitar - Sugar Hill

Nanci Griffith - Do Re Me - Other Voices Other Rooms - Elektra

Jorma Kaukonen - Where There's Two There's Trouble - Ain't In No Hurry - Red House

Jorma Kaukonen - Ain't In No Hurry - Ain't In No Hurry - Red House

The Rails - The Jealous Sailor - Fair Warning - Island

Laura Marling - Rambling Man - I Speak Because I Can - Virgin

The Bros. Landreth - Greenhouse - Let It Lie - Slate Creek Records/Thirty Tigers

Red Moon Road - Qu'allons-nous Faire? - Red Moon Road - Manitoba Film and Music

The Duhks - Camptown Races - Beautiful Dreamer: The Songs of Stephen Foster (compilation) - Amer.Roots

Kate Rusby - Martin Said - Ghost - Pure Records

The Fretless - Lulu - The Fretless - The Fretless

Asylum Street Spankers - Be Like You - Mommy Says NO! - SpanksALot

Nora Jane Struthers & The Party Line - The South - Wake - Blue Pig

Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys - That's What I Like 'Bout The South - Legends of Country Music - Columbia

Hour 2

Lucinda Williams - Big Red Sun Blues - Lucinda Williams - Lucinda Williams

Peter Ostroushko - Prairie Sunrise - Heart Of The Heartland - Red House

Annabelle Chvostek - Racing With The Sun - Resilience - MQGV

Barnstar! - Delta Rose - Sit Down! Get Up! Get Out! - Signature Sounds

Abigail Washburn - Song Of The Traveling Daughter - Song Of The Traveling Daughter - Nettwerk

Carolina Chocolate Drops - Milwaukee Blues - Exclusive Folk Alley recording 9-21-11 - Folk Alley Sessions

Leyla McCalla - When I Can See the Valley - Vari-Colored Songs: A Tribute to Langston Hughes - Music Maker Relief

Robert Earl Keen - Hot Corn, Cold Corn - Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions - Dualtone

Baka Beyond - Canya Jam - Spirit of the Forest - Hannibal

Dave Van Ronk - How Long - Down In Washington Square: The Smithsonian Collection - Smithsonian Folkways

Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors - Shine Like Lightning - Medicine - Magnolia Music

Bela Fleck & The Flecktones - Fugue From Prelude & Fugue No. 20. - The Hidden Land - Columbia

Cathie Ryan - In the Wishing Well - Through Wind and Rain - Mo Leanbh

Levon Helm - Rag Mama Rag (live) - Ramble At The Ryman - Vanguard

The Band - The Weight - Music from Big Pink - Capitol

Folk Alley's weekly, syndicated radio show is produced by WKSU (NPR-affiliate in Kent, OH). The show is available for free to stations via or via FTP for non-PRX members. Stations may air the show as either a one-, or two-hour program. The Folk Alley Radio Show is presently carried by over 36 stations nationally. Folk Alley also presents a 24/7 hosted Internet channel available at, TuneIn, iTunes, Live 365 and more. :: for more information contact Linda Fahey at 518-354-8077:

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