Folk Alley now includes both an Android application as well as the Folk Alley iPhone app.
Our high-quality iPhone stream offers amazing audio quality, with a lower-quality option available for older phones or slower networks.
Some musicians churn out music as fast as possible - they're in the studio almost the day after they've released a new album, working on their next greatest hit. Amilia K Spicer is not one of those musicians.
Case in point: after decades spent in the music biz, as a producer and backup singer and instrumentalist (specializing in keys...of all sorts), she has only just released her third solo studio album. 'Wow and Flutter' is her best work, she says, both as an artist and as a producer.
'Wow and Flutter' is also a body of work several years in the making. Besides being in demand as a studio musician, Spicer also set herself a new challenge before this album: she stepped away from the keyboard bench to learn all sorts of new instruments (guitars, lap steel, banjo) and those new instruments kept inspiring new songs - a blessing and a curse, she admits.
And "inspiring" is not a bad way to describe the album. Sliding from note to note, letting the piano or organ or guitar or choose-your-favorite-instrument-here shine through in each track, Spicer's fearless, mellow alto shares intimate stories of characters who approach life with a hopeful, almost naïve optimism. The roadblocks of bad relationships and challenging environments ("Train Wreck," "Shotgun"), though numerous, aren't permanent, and Spicer's characters wade through with a gritty resolve, determined to make it through, to come out on top, and (as she sings in my favorite track), to "Shine."
'Wow and Flutter' is a compendium of influences; Spicer's "red dirt noir" sound comes from a childhood spent in rural Pennsylvania and an adult life split between the dichotomy of the bustling and tightly packed environs of Los Angeles and the more wide-open spaces of Austin, Texas. But whatever influences a particular song (rural life, for example, in "Harlan," or the hopeful fortitude in "What I'm Saying"), it's Spicer's writing that makes these songs come alive.
On my second or third trip through 'Wow and Flutter,' it finally hit me: yeah, Spicer's creating a catchy sound. Yeah, she uses interesting harmonies and instrumentation. And, yeah, her voice is compelling, in a laid-back kind of way. But the words she chooses, the tiny images - the tiny movies - she creates, with unexpected turns of phrase and the kind of poetry that tells a story you want to be a part of - that's where she really shines. And that is why 'Wow and Flutter' (and Amilia K Spicer) is an album (and a musician) you want to hear.
Whether we care to admit it or not, addiction afflicts everyone, in some way or another, because it comes in many guises. Even pursuing good health can turn can be addictive. To be sure, not being personally caught up in chasing a high, lightening a dark, or numbing a pain doesn't mean we are immune. And those who miraculously escape addiction's grasp no doubt know someone held by it.
With "My Portion,"I Draw Slow addresses the issue head on, begging love to hold the storyteller's hand. "With the rising sun, there's a hunger born again. Put out the flame," Dave Holden gently begs, offering his daily prayer for strength. He recognizes his challenges, sketches them in metaphorical visions. "The shortest road to the sunset doesn't turn," he sings, adding, "That's what I gotta learn. Every day."
Holden's sister Louise comes in to lift the choruses with harmonies that feel rather like his better angel tapping on his shoulder to remind him not to let the destructive devil drag him down: "Oh, love, you give me what you need. You take like a one-armed bandit. Oh, be my strength. Be my portion." We're all in this together, after all.
"My Portion" is the first single from I Draw Slow's new release, 'Turn Your Face To the Sun' due out on April 21 via Compass Records, available for pre-order at iTunes and Amazon.com.
April 19: Chestnut House Concerts, Lancaster, PA
April 20: Philadelphia Folksong Society, Philadelphia PA
April 21: Rockwood Music Hall Stage 3, New York, NY
April 22: Winter Village and La Tourelle, Ithaca, NY
April 23: Nelson Odeon, Cazenovia, NY
April 25: Davidson College, Davidson, NC
April 26: ISIS Restaurant & Music Hall, Asheville, NC
April 27: City Winery Nashville Nashville, TN
April 29: MerleFest, Wilkesboro, NC
April 30: Hill Center's American Roots Music Series, Washington, DC
Singer/songwriter John Craigie grew up in Southern California, which easily explains his breezy, bright folk-rock sensibilities. After graduating with a degree in mathematics from UC Santa Cruz, Craigie took to the road and the recording studio, which readily explains his existential musical explorations. Craigie's latest release -- 'No Rain, No Rose' -- finds him folding both of those components into one wonderful set of songs which he recorded in the old Victorian house he now calls home in Portland, Oregon.
Kelly McCartney: You're a California native, and a Portland resident. And your sense of place is all over this record. As a traveling musician, how important is having a set home base? Or does the road fill that role, to a certain extent?
John Craigie: For me, the road is home. Or, more specifically, the stage. When you are touring, the show is the one moment of the day that you feel at home. You are singing your songs, telling your stories, and playing your guitar. Having a home base was something that I avoided for years. That's what makes this record so special. I think my move to Portland was significant in the sense that it brought me out of my comfort zone, in the same way that traveling does for others. This record is the sound of a traveler dealing with a home base and using his time at home wisely. Bringing together the community that he found there and having them add to the songs that he wrote in that same house.
How did you decide to write a tribute song to Michael Collins, the Apollo 11 astronaut who didn't get to moon walk?
My father went to school with Buzz Aldrin and was also friends with Neil Armstrong. I met both growing up and my father used to always talk about the space program. We talked about Apollo 11 a lot and about how most people don't know about the third guy, Michael Collins. I always thought about him and how fame sometimes comes so close to you but slips past. It stuck with me for a long time, until I finally let it out in song last year.
Is the secret to a throwback sound all about the production and performance or is there something in the songwriting and arranging that helps out?
It's in all of those things, for sure. It's all about what you're listening to when you write the albums and who you pick for your engineer. Who you tell them that you want to sound similar to. Mostly, it's in how you play the songs while you record them. Lots of people these days like to play it safe and multi-track so they can get the cleanest sound. One instrument at a time. But that's not how the people who I listen to did it. They played it all together in the same room. And that's what we did.
You play in all kinds of venues and situations. How do you shift what you do in order to win over whatever audience you're in front of?
I tend to feel out the audience during the opener, or as they are walking in. See how they are responding. Sometimes, it takes me a few songs and stories before I can get a read on them. But, in general, I just do my thing. It is what it is and it seems that, if you are honest up there and genuine, people will pick up on that. People have seen so much in entertainment, at this point. They don't need anything flashy or crazy. They just want the truth, someone to be honest with them.
Since your debut in 2003, you've released a record damn near every year, save 2006 and 2014. Is that a product of being super-prolific or of needing an excuse to stay on the road?
It's hard to say where the inspiration comes from. The songs are there, and I feel like getting them out while they are relevant to me, while they make sense. There's nothing worse than writing a song and then having to wait a couple years to record it and then maybe it's not how you feel anymore. Or sometimes I think it's like a shark. People say that, if a shark stops swimming, it dies. Maybe the shark doesn't even know that. Maybe he just really likes swimming. He's in a big ass ocean. What else is he gonna do?
John Craigie's latest album, 'No Rain, No Rose' is available at iTunes and CD Baby.
Sean Rowe joins Cindy Howes for a Guest DJ set on Folk Alley to mark the release of his new EP, New Lore. His fifth album was inspired and supported by a passionate community of fans cultivated through years and years of touring and playing house concerts. House concerts especially made it possible for Rowe to build authentic connections with his fans who generously funded the new album via Kickstarter. Rowe reached his Kickstarter goal within two weeks of the campaign's launch.
In his Folk Alley set, Sean shares some of his favorite songs by artists who have clearly inspired his writing and his performance style from Leonard Cohen to Nina Simone to John Lee Hooker. Listen for his selections and commentary in his hour-long Guest DJ set.
One of the best things about modern roots music is its conflation and innovation, of traditions and of visions. And many of the artists making the greatest strides in that regard are Black artists, including Alabama Shakes, Rhiannon Giddens, Son Little, and Valerie June. Each brings an inimitable style and an indelible spirit to their work, offering listeners a ticket to ride along on their artistic adventure. That's surely what June has done with her utterly captivating new release, 'The Order of Time.'
As the title suggests, there's a somewhat structured disposition to the set that comes courtesy of its blues and folk artistic ancestors. But there's also something otherworldly about it that is pure June. This study of contrasts is made evident in the push-pull of her phrasing, the lull of her lilt. It's also there in the way she uses the instruments, her voice included. She alternately bends them to her will and bows herself to theirs. On "If And," horns and harmonium patiently drone underneath her melodic exploration, while on "Man Done Wrong," she eagerly follows her banjo's mystical lead.
From the swagger and sway of "Shake Down" to the lush love of "With You," 'The Order of Time' proves that Valerie June is in command of her craft in a way very few artists are.
'The Order of Time' is out now on Concord Records and is available at iTunes and Amazon.com.
Milwaukee singer-songwriter Peter Mulvey joined Cindy Howes on Folk Alley to talk about his new album 'Are You Listening?' on Righteous Babe Records and play guest DJ for the hour. Mulvey's new LP was produced in New Orleans by folk giant Ani DiFranco, of which he has been a fan for years. The two became friends after Mulvey opened some of her shows years back. They grew to become collaborators in 2015 when, in the wake of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, Ani covered and helped spread the word of Peter's protest song "Take Down Your Flag."
Mulvey spoke of his 25 years as a professional musician in addition to commenting on what it was like to make the new record with DiFranco.
Listen below for the entire hour of conversation and Peter Mulvey's guest DJ selections.
Posted by Linda Fahey at 8:02 PM
Folk Alley Sponsors 'September 12th' at CIFF 41
Folk Alley presents three screenings of September 12th at the Cleveland International Film Festival. Folk Alley listeners can use the code "FOLK" to receive a $2 ticket discount for screenings on April 1 and April 3 at Tower City Cinemas in Cleveland and on April 2 at the Beachland Ballroom (this is a small venue and this screening will quickly sell out). Director David Heinz will be at screenings to answer questions and Joe Purdy will perform (Amber Rubarth joins on April 3).
September 12th will be screened at these times at Tower City in Cleveland:
Saturday, April 01, 2017 at 7:05 PM
Monday, April 03, 2017 at 8:30 PM
Neighborhood Screening at the Beachland Ballroom & Tavern:
Sunday, April 02, 2017 at 6:00 PM (includes a performance by Joe Purdy)
American folk singers Joe Purdy and Amber Rubarth star as Elliott and Joni, two lost souls trying to make it across the country during one of our nation's most trying times. Filmed over 3,500 miles in 14 states, SEPTEMBER 12TH is an intimate look into our nation's heart. The story is told from the perspective of two people unknowingly holding the key to unlocking the love we needed after 9/11: the gift of music. Driving a beat-up touring van filled with instruments, Elliott and Joni--strangers who met on a plane diverted on its way to NYC--meet a cavalcade of Americans hurting, looking for answers, and wanting to help each other out. Bonding through their love of folk music, Elliott and Joni's road trip becomes a back roads tour of the U.S., visiting the small towns that dot our country from coast to coast. At times SEPTEMBER 12TH is a sobering look into dark times, while also serving as a reminder of the power of art and love to shine a light and unite us--it's a love story of music and compassion.
Regular ticket prices are $14 for CIFF members and $16 for non-members. By using the code "FOLK," you can receive a $2 discount on their CIFF tickets good for any Festival Film (unless otherwise specified). Members can purchase tickets online at www.clevelandfilm.org, through the Ulmer & Berne Film Festival Box Office in the lobby of Tower City Cinemas, or by phone at 877-304-FILM (3456).
Sometimes, a voice comes along at the exact moment in history that it very much needs to be heard. Though Rhiannon Giddens first stepped up to the mic as part of the Sankofa Strings and Carolina Chocolate Drops in 2005, it's on her truly stunning new album, 'Freedom Highway,' that she truly finds her voice and offers it to the voiceless so that we may, perhaps, finally hear them.
Throughout the song cycle, Giddens inhabits and interpolates various characters from across Black history. There's the young slave girl in "At the Purchaser's Option" who clings to herself and the child born from, presumably, a master's rape. There are the four young victims immortalized in Richard Fariña's "Birmingham Sunday" about the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church by the Ku Klux Klan. There's the man who represents far too many shot by police for [insert action here] while Black in "Better Get It Right the First Time."
While many of the threads Giddens weaves together here represent victims, there is a palpable defiance in each strand. The fists of these characters aren't clinched for revenge; they are raised in power and in solidarity. Their gaze is focused not on their oppressors, but on the justice that looms out on the distant horizon, just barely in sight, but in sight, nonetheless. And, by keeping these stories alive, Giddens is doing her part to make sure that justice is not a mirage. In a year offering an embarrassment of roots music riches, Rhiannon Giddens' glorious 'Freedom Highway' is set to be one of the most important and, indeed, one of the most potent.
'Freedom Highway' is out now on Nonesuch Records and is available at iTunes and Amazon.com.
In Review: Guest DJ Kelly McCartney from The Bluegrass Situation
March 22, 2017
Kelly McCartney, Editorial Director at The Bluegrass Situation, joined Cindy Howes on Folk Alley for a new music preview for the month of March. McCartney shared new songs from familiar favorites like Hurray for The Riff Raff, Sera Cahoone and Aimee Mann and a lot of great newer acts like Juile Byrne and Mipso.
Listen below to the entire hour of selections from Kelly and hear what's been catching her ear lately.
Posted by Linda Fahey at 6:38 PM
Video Premiere: The Steel Wheels, "Scrape Me Off The Ceiling"
Can getting bad news be...a good thing? Well, no. Of course not. But it can help to shine the spotlight on the things in our lives that need work, that need to be changed. And shining the light on things that need to be changed is what The Steel Wheels' new song and video, "Scrape Me Off the Ceiling," is all about.
Hailing from the Blue Ridge Mountains region in Virginia, the four band members first branded themselves as The Steel Wheels in 2010, though they've been making music since three of them first met at Eastern Mennonite University in 2004. In the seven years since they officially became The Steel Wheels, Trent Wagler, Eric Brubaker, Brian Dickel, and Jay Lapp have developed an easy, comfortable rapport that lends itself to the kind of intimate recording environment that worked so well for their new recording 'Wild As We Came Here.'
Working with an outside producer for the first time, the band recorded in Maine at producer Sam Kassirer's rural farmhouse/recording studio. Band member Trent Wagler (banjo, guitar) says making the album was, more than anything else, just "like a bunch of friends hanging out making some hits and having fun."
And, boy, do these musicians have fun. Whether they're mixing martinis, editing lyrics, or playing for a crowd of music lovers, the band talks, laughs and makes music with an intense kind of joy.
That intense joy comes to life in the video for "Scrape Me Off the Ceiling"- the bandmates and friends look like they're having a blast in between shots of chickens wandering around and the kind of technicolor leaves you only ever see in the Northeast. Trent Wagler, who wrote the song and presented it to the band, says it's "a celebration of bad news and how it clarifies what we need to work on...I'm a little suspicious of success and more able to get my bearings when there's a problem to work on."
"The video," Wagler continues, "is a mix of studio moments in Maine and a lot of candid shots on and off stage - a lot of which comes from our festival, Red Wing Roots Music Festival in Mt. Solon, Virginia. I think this video gives you a chance to see the real musician doing really real things with other very real people. It has an authentic feel."
'Wild As We Came Here' is due out May 5th and is available for pre-order, HERE.