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folk alley's open mic Horatio James 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 Horatio James  from London, England.
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Folk Alley Sessions: Ana Egge & the Sentimentals - 'He's A Killer Now'

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Hear It First: Dietrich Strause, 'How Cruel That Hunger Binds'

August 22, 2016

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

Dietrich How Cruel That Hungr Binds 400.jpgWhen Dietrich Strause decided he wanted to make a new record, he recruited a bunch of the most talented folks in the New England indie-folk scene, including Alec Spiegelman, Lyle Brewer, Amy Correia, and Mark Erelli, then got Zachariah Hickman and Sam Kassirer to helm the whole thing at Great North Sound Society in Parsonsfield, Maine. The result, 'How Cruel That Hunger Binds,' is an artistic work that feels simultaneously big and small: It has a broad vision coupled with an intimate execution.

Punctuated with horns here, vibes there, and woodwinds elsewhere, the aural landscape expands and contracts to suit the needs of each piece. Though much of the overarching production credit surely goes to Hickman, it all begins with the songs with which Strause has an intriguing relationship.

"The songs I write are some of my closest friends -- which is why, in the past, recording music was a type of grieving. Committing to an approach or a particular take of a song was saying goodbye to an old friend for the last time, like waving from the window of a car you're not driving," Strause says. "But throughout recording 'How Cruel That Hunger Binds,' I felt like I was making new friends; I was on the other end of the cycle. I didn't dwell on what I was losing, but embraced all that I was gaining. I think it's a fitting musical backdrop for the lyrics, which revolve around desire, love, lust, and adventurous hearts."

Highlights of the set include "The Beast That Rolls Within," "Spring Has Sprung," and "Boy Born to Die." According to Strause, "The album's title comes from 'Boy Born to Die,' but the song that holds the essence of the album is 'Lying in Your Arms.' There's a cruelty in the cycle of our nature -- we destroy to survive. We say goodbye to old friends to make way for new ones. The Beatles sang, 'All You Need is Love,' but I suppose these songs are about how all you need is to love."


'How Cruel That Hunger Binds' will be released August 26 and is available for pre-order at iTunes and HERE.

Upcoming Tour Dates

Posted by Linda Fahey at 12:29 PM

A Q & A with Sara Watkins

August 21, 2016

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

Sara Watkins 400sq.jpgA lot of roots music lovers have watched Sara Watkins (and her brother Sean) grow up, personally and professionally, over the past couple of decades. As members of Nickel Creek and the Watkins Family Hour band, the two are bound together in many hearts and minds. But they both have solo careers, as well, and Sara's new set, 'Young in All the Wrong Ways,' does much to establish her singular, crystalline voice, literally and musically. The impressive collection marks a stepping out for her... and a coming of age.

Kelly McCartney: What was different about your songwriting approach on this set?

Sara Watkins: There was a point that I started to become aware that songs were starting to come out, and I could feel that I still had more to say. This led to a chunk of time in which, whenever I could, I'd wake up around 7:30 or 8, make coffee, and -- without looking at my phone to check email, texts or news -- sit outside at a table with a guitar and some paper. I got some good work done out there.

Did you have a sonic vision going in or did that evolve?

The sonic vision was pretty broad strokes. It was more about getting the right musicians in the room together. That was the primary focus. I knew this wouldn't be a solo-heavy record. I knew there wouldn't be a ton of fiddle on it, but wanted it to feel more orchestral.

There are quite a few different styles on this thing, but it comes off as cohesive. What conscious choices did you make to tie them together?

Thank you. This is the first of my records on which I wrote or co-wrote all the songs. I think it helps that the lyrical voice is consistent throughout. Even though the album covers a lot of subjects over time, it all came through me.

"Move Me" feels like the biggest curve ball of the collection. How does it feel to push yourself -- and your voice -- to that edge? And how do people respond to it?

Interesting. I love singing "Move Me." It comes out pretty naturally live. Audiences have been receptive to this new material -- it's been great touring so far and there is much more to do.

Because you regularly collaborate with Sean, do you guys strategize together on the timing of all your various projects, or do you each just go with the flow?

You know, we actually do a little bit. We had to take a five-month break from our monthly Watkins Family Hour residency in L.A. because our tours were directly opposite from each other. He'd come home from his tour and the next day I'd leave for my tour. It was ridiculous. Now we have started to try and coordinate a few breaks here and there in our touring so we can keep the Family Hour fairly consistent.

'Young In All the Wrong Ways' is out now on New West Records and available at iTunes and

Upcoming Tour Dates

Posted by Linda Fahey at 10:00 PM

Hear It First: The Stray Birds, 'Magic Fire'

August 11, 2016

by Cindy Howes,

The Stray Birds Magic Fire cover400.jpgAnyone worried about the legacy of Levon Helm and The Band need not worry; the first 10 seconds of The Stray Birds' new album, Magic Fire will ease your mind in more ways than one. Produced by Larry Campbell, a man who was actually in Levon Helm's band (and who also has worked with the likes of Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and Willie Nelson), the record was created in 10 days in New York State's Hudson Valley. Campbell's studio served as a retreat for the group, who had never worked with an outside producer. His vision aligned with theirs, plus he offered to play on whatever song they wanted. His production-lead and contributions on pedal steel, fiddle, mandolin, acoustic and electric guitar have taken this band to the next level.

Magic Fire - The Stray Birds' fourth full-length album - sees the band expanding and broadening their sound while adding Shane Leonard (drums/percussion/vocals) as a new member. Leonard heightens that rhythmic quality that the group always had and his groove settles right in on record. He'll be bringing it out on the road too, as he's now an official member of the band in concert as well as in the studio.

The first thing that strikes you when listening to The Stray Birds is the voice of Maya de Vitry, who also plays acoustic guitar and fiddle. In the past, her vocal style was the center the band, with Oliver Craven (vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, fiddle, slide guitar, mandolin) and Charlie Muench (vocals, upright bass) as important supporting roles. The depths that de Vitry's voice reaches are quite unusual and extremely captivating. You could write an entire essay on the emotions this woman is able to encompass on just one song. However, discounting the contributions of the very talented Craven and Muench would be unwise. Craven's smart writing and sharp playing abilities are incomparable, while Muench's steady bass beat and vocals add to the distinct character of The Stray Birds. This album proves to be their most collaborative release with songwriting contributions from each member, including Muench's first complete composition "Where You Come From."

Something that has remained constant through their change in sound is The Stray Birds sweeping and massive harmonies. The band has masterfully crafted their choruses, which bring to mind those amazing refrains you'd hear from The Band in songs like "The Weight" and "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down." If the late Levon Helm were still around, you know he'd be hosting this young band at one of his famous Midnight Rambles at his barn in Woodstock, NY.


The Stray Birds' Magic Fire is out via Yep Roc Records on Friday, August 19 and is available for pre-order HERE!

Upcoming Tour Dates


Posted by Linda Fahey at 4:17 PM

Video Premiere: Parsonsfield, "Stronger"

July 26, 2016

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

Parsonsfield_Press ps resize.jpgA lot of string bands like to talk about how they are innovating, but Parsonsfield actually delivers on that promise. Not only does their sound kick out the windows of what most people think of folk and bluegrass, but their new video raises a flag for the millennial generation. In it, a couple texts the lyrics of the song "Stronger" back and forth, as if in a dialogue.

The on-point simplicity of the opening lines sets the stage: "When you were mine and I was yours, when both of our keys opened up the same door, there was love in our hearts, in our clothes on the floor," Chris Freeman sings over a gently picked guitar, adding, "Love used to be fun. It became such a chore." From there, the track builds in the typically fierce Parsonsfield fashion.

Sometimes, the breeze whispers a message of meaning, quiet and true. And, sometimes, the barn needs to be burned to the ground in order to get the point across. On "Stronger" (found on their upcoming release Blooming Through the Black) Parsonsfield takes both tacks to deliver their dispatch... and one helluva song.


Blooming Through the Black will be released via Signature Sounds on September 9th.

Upcoming Tour Dates

Posted by Linda Fahey at 8:59 AM

PLAYLIST: Folk Alley nationally syndicated radio show #160721

July 24, 2016

Thumbnail image for Folk-Alley-Logo_medium.jpgPLAYLIST: Folk Alley nationally syndicated radio show #160721. Aired between July 22 - July 28, 2016. Hosted by Elena See

This episode (#160721) is a rebroadcast of a show first heard in July of 2015 featuring our in-studio Folk Alley Session with Amy Helm & Handsome Strangers.

Artist - Title - Album - Label

(Hour ONE)

Mavis Staples - Fight - Your Good Fortune (EP) - ANTI

Son Little - The River - The River (Single) - Anti

The Earnest Lovers - San Andeas' Fault - Sing Sad Songs (EP) - Elko

Norman Blake - Savannah Rag - Wood, Wire & Words - Plectrofone

Bob Dylan - Someday Baby - Tell Tale Signs - Columbia

Amy Helm & the Handsome Strangers (in-studio) - Sky's Falling - Folk Alley in-studio session - Folk Alley/WKSU exclusive

Amy Helm & the Handsome Strangers (in-studio) - Deep Water - Folk Alley in-studio session - Folk Alley/WKSU exclusive

Amy Helm & the Handsome Strangers (in-studio) - Rescue Me - Amy Helm & the Handsome Strangers (in-studio) - Folk Alley in-studio session - Folk Alley/WKSU exclusive

Kacey Musgraves - Somebody To Love - Pageant Material - Mercury Nashville

Jefferson Airplane - Embryonic Journey - Surrealistic Pillow - RCA/BMG

Charlie Parr - Delia - Stumpjumper - Red House

Patty Griffin - Love Throw a Line - Impossible Dream - ATO/BMG

Nick Drake - Which Will - Pink Moon - Hannibal

(Hour TWO)

John Hartford - Gum Tree Canoe - Gum Tree Canoe - FlyingFish

Black Prairie - For the Love of John Hartford - A Tear In the Eye Is A Wound In the Heart - Sugar Hill

Robert Earl Keen - Steam Powered Aeroplane - Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions - Dualtone

Rod Picott - Elbow Grease - Fortune - Welding Rod

Kasey Chambers - Heaven or Hell - Bittersweet - Sugar Hill

Brindl - Just What I Needed - Love It Up - Brindl

Maria Muldaur - Somebody Was Watching Over Me - I'm A Woman - ShoutFact.

Hot Rize - Clary Mae - When I'm Free - Ten In Hand

Tim O'Brien - I've Endured - Traveler - Sugar Hill

Old Man Luedecke - Wait A While - Domestic Eccentric - True North

Samantha Crain - Kathleen - Under Branch & Thorn & Tree - Ramseur Records (Thirty

Kaia Kater - Valley Forge - Sorrow Bound - Kingswood

The Decemberists - The Wrong Year - What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World - Capitol

The Steeldrivers - Long Way Down - The Muscle Shoals Recordings - Rounder

The Honey Dewdrops - Lowlands - Tangled Country - The Honey Dewdrops

Folk Alley's weekly, syndicated radio show, hosted by Elena See, is produced by WKSU (NPR-affiliate in Kent, OH). The show is available for free to stations via or directly from WKSU 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 approximately 50 stations nationally. Folk Alley also presents a 24/7 hosted Internet channel available at, TuneIn, iTunes and more. :: for more information contact Linda Fahey at 518-354-8077:

Posted by Linda Fahey at 11:38 PM

Album Review: Lori McKenna, 'The Bird & The Rifle

July 21, 2016

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

Lori McKenna 300x300 The Bird & the Rifle copy.jpgWhen talents as enormous as Lori McKenna and Dave Cobb come together in a studio, the resulting record is bound to be special. Exhibit A: The Bird & The Rifle. Both music-makers have been riding high lately, with hit records and Grammy Awards to spare. But, if any two folks ever deserved such accolades, it's these two.

The secret to McKenna's success is that she understands that life -- and, therefore, art -- is all about the details. The real stuff happens in the space between the breaths, the calm between the storms, and the quiet between the words. That's where she lives (along with her husband and five children) so it's also where she creates. In McKenna's hands, the often arduous daily toil gets sculpted into magnificent vignettes.

Even when McKenna takes a hard look at long-term commitment, as she does so wondrously in the album's opener, "Wreck You," she makes the lack of romanticism somehow romantic. And Cobb's intuitive production -- the gently soaring strings, in particular -- lets the piece lean over and peer into the abyss of what a collapsing marriage can be, while still keeping it from falling into any sort of despair. The story's resolution is left for another day, but the listener might easily imagine that the singer's resolve will get the couple through the darkness and back to the light.

That same matter-of-fact handling works to great effect as McKenna prattles off the poignant check-list that is "Humble and Kind." With another singer -- let's say Tim McGraw, just for argument's sake -- the tune could go from sentimental to saccharin in four bars flat. But McKenna packs the punch of several decades as a mother and each line was written for one of her kids, so her grasp of the material is steeped in authenticity.

Other highlights include the breezy vibe of "We Were Cool," the Mary Chapin Carpenter feel of "All These Things," the thoughtful sway of "Old Men Young Women," and the telling shuffle of "Giving Up on Your Hometown." Really, though, there's nary a missed shot anywhere in the set.


'The Bird & the Rifle' is out on July 29 via CN Records/Thirty Tigers and available now for pre-order at iTunes and

Upcoming tour dates

Posted by Linda Fahey at 3:32 PM

PLAYLIST: Folk Alley nationally syndicated radio show #160714

July 18, 2016

Thumbnail image for Folk-Alley-Logo_medium.jpgPLAYLIST: Folk Alley nationally syndicated radio show #160714. Aired between July 15 - July 21, 2016. Hosted by Elena See

Artist - Title - Album - Label

(Hour One)

Sara Watkins - Say So - Young In All The Wrong Ways - New West

Bela Fleck - Katmandu - Tales From An Acoustic Planet Volume 2 - Warner Bros

Sam Bush (w/ Allison Krauss) - Lefty's Song - Storyman - Sugar Hill

Bryan Sutton - Walkin' Across This Land - The More I Learn - Sugar Hill

The Earls of Leicester - The Train That Carried My Girl From Town - Rattle & Roar - Rounder

John Gorka - I Know - Before Beginning: The Unreleased I Know - Nashville, 1985 - Red House Records

John Gorka - I Saw A Stranger With Your Hair - Before Beginning: The Unreleased I Know - Nashville, 1985 - Red House Records

Lula Wiles - Traveling On - Lula Wiles - Lula Wiles

Robert Earl Keen - The Traveling Storm - What I Really Mean - Koch

Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell - The Traveling Kind - The Traveling Kind - Nonesuch Records

Lori McKenna - The Bird & The Rifle - The Bird & The Rifle - CN Records/Thirty Tigers

Leo Kottke - The Driving of the Year Nail - 6 and 12 String Guitar - Takoma

David Francey - Big Texas Moon - Empty Train - Laker Music

Sarah Jarosz - Jaqueline - Undercurrent - Sugar Hill

The Milk Carton Kids - Snake Eyes - The Ash & Clay -Anti

(Hour Two)

Miss Tess - Little Lola - Baby, We All Know - Miss Tess Music

Fiddle & Banjo (Karrnel Sawitsky & Daniel Koulack) - Lullaby - Fiddle & Banjo Tunes From North, Songs From The South - Sawitsky & Koulack

The Alt - What Put The Blood - The Alt - Under The Arch

Grant Dermody - So Sorry To Leave You - Sun Might Shine On Me - Grant Dermody

The Honeycutters - Let's Get Drunk - On The Ropes - Organic Records

Neko Case, kd lang, and Laura Veirs - Georgia Stars - case/lang/veirs - Anti/Epitaph

Hurray For The Riff Raff - Little Black Star - Look Out Mama - Born To Win

Nick Drake - Hanging On A Star - Made to Love Magic - Island

Linda Ronstadt/Ann Savoy - Walk Away Renee - Adiue False Heart - Vanguard

Linda Ronstadt/Ann Savoy - Adiue False Heart - Adiue False Heart - Vanguard

Mountain Heart - I Can't Get Over You - Blue Skies - Compass

Darrell Scott - Alton Air - A Crooked Road - Full Light

Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley - Friend of the Devil - The Country Blues.

Steve Martin & Edie Brickell - Another Round - So Familiar - Rounder/Compass

Paul Simon - In A Parade - Stranger to Stranger - Concord

Folk Alley's weekly, syndicated radio show, hosted by Elena See, is produced by WKSU (NPR-affiliate in Kent, OH). The show is available for free to stations via or directly from WKSU 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 approximately 50 stations nationally. Folk Alley also presents a 24/7 hosted Internet channel available at, TuneIn, iTunes and more. :: for more information contact Linda Fahey at 518-354-8077:

Posted by Linda Fahey at 4:39 PM

Hear It First: John Gorka, 'Before Beginning: The Unreleased 'I Know' - Nashville, 1985'

July 15, 2016

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

Gorka Before Beginning.jpgIt's a fascinating exercise to step back in time some 31 years to a now-iconic artist's humble beginnings. But such is the case with John Gorka's "new" release -- Before Beginning: The Unreleased I Know -- which collects the 1985 recordings Gorka did over the course of five days in Nashville at Cowboy Jack Clements' studio with producer Jim Rooney. At Nanci Griffith's suggestion, the 25-year-old folkie ventured into his first sessions with some of the top players in Music City. The resulting work was never released, and Gorka would spend another two years making what would become his debut, I Know, which includes nine of the same songs.

The original record featured Kenny Malone on drums/percussion, Dave Pomeroy on bass, Jay Patten on saxophone, Mike Dugan on electric guitar, Ralph Vitello and Biff Watson on keyboards, Stuart Duncan on fiddle and mandolin, and Shawn Colvin and Lucy Kaplansky on backing vocals.

Looking back from here, Gorka confesses, "I can only say that I was finding my way. I had played solo live almost exclusively and I had not made an album or ever done a studio recording with other players. I guess I just didn't know what I wanted to hear. I know now that there is more than one right way to present a song. In that way songs are bigger than any one recording of a song. It was good. It just wasn't the good I wanted at the time."


Before Beginning: The Unreleased 'I Know' will be out on July 22 via Red House Records and is available for pre-order at iTunes and at

Upcoming Tour Dates

Posted by Linda Fahey at 9:10 AM

Album Review: Ana Egge & the Sentimentals, 'Say That Now'

July 13, 2016

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

AnaEgge_400_SayThatNow_albumcover-copy copy.jpgAna Egge is no stranger to collaboration. On her last outing, 2015's 'Bright Shadow,' she partnered with the Stray Birds. On her new set, 'Say That Now,' she nabbed The Sentimentals, a folk-rock band from Denmark. The Danes provide a wonderfully complementary mooring for Egge's buoyant voice, whether they're working through the bluesy rock of "Take Off My Dress" and "Spider" or the folkish country of "Promises to Break" and "Still Waters Run Deep."

There's a lot to love about this record, and there's also a good bit to think about. "He's a Killer Now" takes the perspective of the 2015 Copenhagen terrorist's mother in the wake of his death and killing of two others. Further into the set, "Away We Go" reflects on the 2014 killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, by a police officer. And she's not pulling any punches: "You're a real-life villain. Yeah, you definitely killed him. Then you took everything that he was and broke it on the TV channel. Justice won't do it, if you're not born into it. You can put up your hands behind your back upon the ground and shut your mouth."

In an era when so many folk singers focus more on the personal than the political, Egge has tied the two strands together in ways that recall Joan Baez from the past and Hurray for the Riff Raff from the present. That, alone, is worth supporting, but Say That Now offers even more.

'Say That Now' is available at iTunes and CD Baby.

Upcoming Tour Dates

Posted by Linda Fahey at 9:30 AM

Video Premiere: Lula Wiles, "Traveling On"

July 6, 2016

300 sq Lula Wiles.jpgAll the members of Lula Wiles - Isa Burke, Ellie Buckland, and Mali Obomsawin - grew up in Maine in musical families, and they began playing music together as kids at Maine Fiddle Camp. One by one, they each found their way to Boston to study at Berklee College of Music. Isa and Ellie (both on vocals, fiddle, and guitar) began performing as a duo in April 2013, and Lula Wiles was born when Mali (bass, vocals) joined the band a year later.

Their effervescent vocal harmonies, musical chemistry and evocative arrangements create a dynamic and spirited live show as they pass around instruments and frontwoman duties with style and ease.

As part of Beehive Production's 'Ear To the Ground' mini-documentary style video series, Lula Wiles recently paid a visit to Saranac Lake, NY for a session taping featuring songs from their self-titled debut album (available here) released in May, 2016.

Lula Wiles - Traveling On from Beehive Productions on Vimeo.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 9:55 PM

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