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Album Review: Gretchen Peters, 'Blackbirds'

January 31, 2015

Gretchen Peters Blackbirds cover.jpgby Kelly McCartney, for FolkAlley.com

Gretchen Peters - 'Blackbirds' (Scarlet Letter Records)

In 1914, Robert Frost wrote in his "A Servant to Servants" that "The best way out is always through." A hundred years later, Gretchen Peters sees his bet and ups the ante just a little bit more by adding that not one of us gets out of here alive. Still, we all must pass through this thing called life, even though the only "out" is, well... not alive.

And that is the tale Peters tells on 'Blackbirds' as she explores both the death of life and the death of life as we know it. Here, the victimized murderer of the title track is handled with just as much compassion and care as is the returning soldier of "When All You Got Is a Hammer."

Sonically and thematically, the album employs a fragile friction between the elements in order to mirror the delicate dance that is life and, indeed, death. From the oil-stained banks of Louisiana in "Black Ribbons" to the "cliffs at Echo Bay" in "Everything Falls Away," the songs are melancholic and mournful, somber and sober -- a glorious collocation of noir themes tempered by gorgeous melodies. The roughly hewn guitars cut in just the right ways and the sweeping strings tug at all the right places, making the whole work feel effortless, timeless. On top of it all, Peters' voice is like a tender kiss that seems to make a wound hurt just a little bit less, even though it doesn't really.

In both style and substance, Peters has more in common with Shawn Colvin and Kim Richey, despite having hits by Martina McBride and Faith Hill. (Richey even makes a guest appearance on the set.) And, despite being infamous as a solo writer, Peters paired up with Irish singer/songwriter Ben Glover for three cuts, as well as Matraca Berg and Suzy Bogguss for one.

Yes, there's a lot of darkness on 'Blackbirds,' but the light is never shut out completely. It's still there, at the end of the tunnel, showing us the the way. Because, even though not one of us gets out of here alive, who would really want to?

Posted by Linda Fahey at 11:52 AM | Comments (1)

A Q & A with Caitlin Canty

January 27, 2015

Canty-Guitar-Stairs-Jay-Sansone 400.jpgby Kelly McCartney for FolkAlley.com

Making her way from the clear and easy backroads of small-town Vermont to the rough and tumble streets of New York City, singer/songwriter Caitlin Canty took the long way around... through a job at the Artists' Den. Eventually, though, she started to explore the various rooms of her own artistry. Between side gigs with Down Like Silver and Darlingside, Canty carved out time for her own projects, including 2012's 'Golden Hour' and the recently released 'Reckless Skyline.' And, even though she still has many miles yet to travel in order to get where she's going, Canty is certainly headed in the right direction.

What's your first memory of writing a song that you knew was good?

I clearly remember writing "The Brightest Day" in one sitting in my New York City apartment. I used to be more of a librarian when it came to writing -- a good line or melody might hit me and I'd file it away for a better time when I could focus. When I felt this song coming on, I flew to the paper and my guitar, ignored all calls, forgot to eat, and finished it in the moment. Most of the songs for this record were written in that kind of heat. Later I can sculpt them and share them with my band and get feedback on arrangements or approaches, but writing in heat helps me follow where the song wants to go, and is honestly just more satisfying. It's harder to know in my bones if anything is good once I've left it on the shelf for too long -- finishing it becomes a chore, and it'll feel like some old song a younger version of myself wrote.

As a solo artist who collaborates an awful lot, what is it about working with other artists (including Jeffrey Foucault) that gets you going?

I learn so much from touring alongside or writing with other artists. When I'm cowriting a song, I'm learning my cowriter's tricks, how he thinks about songs, what tools he uses to make it work better. When I'm playing with a band backing me up, I'm hearing how the songs works, where its weak points are, where it moves beautifully. I can't do it all alone. And where's the fun in that?

This can be a pretty lonely life -- and there's so much to be learned and so much you have to do to keep it all afloat. So when there's a chance for a good symbiotic relationship, I'll jump at it. For instance, this year, I've opened a few tours for Jeffrey Foucault and Billy Conway. They back me up on my set, and I'll sing backing vocals on their set. It's been a really wonderful way to tour.

The guys who played on your record are some of the best New England has to offer. What does playing with such high caliber musicians bring out in you... confidence, insecurity, excitement, nervousness...?

Joy! It's a thrill to play good music with good people. The majority of my time is spent traveling to shows, working on the homely business side of this job (emails, logistics), and writing songs while imagining in my mind how the band will sound playing them. My perspective is probably a bit different than most touring musicians -- I spent five years of my life working in a beige cubicle chained to a computer. When I finally get to jump onstage with my friends or sit around the kitchen table with our guitars, it's pure joy. When talented musicians bring their goods to my songs, it feels like a party.

What's the artistic distance between 'Golden Hour' and 'Reckless Skyline?' And where are you setting your coordinates next?

When I made 'Golden Hour,' I had just started touring with my trio. I was only beginning to understand how the records I love are made. I had spent a lot of time in studios, but that was my first stab at producing my own full-length album in a pro studio. It was a cold January in icy Maine.

'Reckless Skyline' is more raw and alive. The sound is warmer, the images more elemental and fiery. Where 'Golden Hour' is full of sorrow, 'Reckless Skyline' feels more wild and defiant.

And the songwriting is better. I met my match in an old Recording King guitar a month or two before Jeffrey Foucault signed on to produce and he quickly lined up the band. I felt like I was cowriting with this old guitar, and writing songs for the band of my dreams. And the band tracked this record live, in one cavernous room. We could see each other, and were making music in real time together.

I met Jeffrey when I opened a show for him and he gave me a copy of his 'Horse Latitudes' which just about knocked me over. I asked a million questions about how he produced it (live over a few days in California with a lights-out band). Foucault's philosophy of recording live in a room with the right players made all the difference in the production of 'Reckless Skyline.'

What's next? Well, I need to give 'Reckless Skyline' its day in the sun and tour behind that record as hard as I can. I have shows with The Stray Birds, Pieta Brown, and Peter Bradley Adams on the horizon. I am getting to know my new electric guitar -- it's been exciting to start writing with it. Also, in our original session for 'Reckless Skyline,' we tracked 19 songs -- so I have an EP waiting in the wings that I'll release soon as I can.

You bounce between three very disparate landscapes -- Nashville, Idaho, and New England. How does geography inform or influence your writing?

The imagery and pulse of my songs are certainly influenced by the ground I'm standing on. I absorb experiences from all of the places I love and that seeps into my music. The tactile and elemental quality of the environment bleeds into my lyrics, for sure. And the pulse or the drift of my surroundings drives the feel of the songs.

And the practical side of how the writing gets done is dependent on where I am. I'm happy and have space in Idaho, so I do a lot of writing there. My people are condensed in the Northeast, so I tour and collaborate a lot there.

Idaho is golden and masculine and wide open, and I feel strong and healthy there. New York City / New England is the adrenaline-flooded homeland where my favorite people are gathered and where I get the good work done, but can't stay for too long. Nashville still feels new to me. It marries the best parts of the small town living that I love with the convenience of the city. I dig the relaxed but passionate attitudes of the makers and artists who live happily there. I'm moving myself and my guitars to Nashville next month and putting some roots in the ground. There's also a spontaneity to the music community there. Everyone I know lives roughly 20 minutes away -- when you feel a song coming on or need a backing vocal or want to grab a beer, it doesn't take weeks of coordinating schedules -- you just do it.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 5:39 PM

PLAYLIST - Folk Alley nationally syndicated weekly radio show #150122

Folk-Alley-Logo_medium.jpgPLAYLIST: Folk Alley nationally syndicated radio show #150122. Aired between January 23 - 29, 2015. Hosted by Elena See

Artist - Title - Album - Label

Hour 1

Kieran Kane & Kevin Welch - Mellow Down Easy - Lost John Dean - Compass

Reeltime - Bulgarian Bash - Reeltime - Green Linnet

The Rails - Bonnie Portmore - Fair Warning - Island

Caitlin Canty - Get Up -
Reckless Skyline - Caitlin Canty

Dave Alvin - King Of California - King Of California - Hightone

The Stray Birds - San Antonio (live) - Folk Alley in-studio session recording (2014) - The Stray Birds

The Stray Birds - Best Medicine (live) - Folk Alley in-studio session recording (2014) - The Stray Birds

The Stray Birds - Black Hills (live) - Folk Alley in-studio session recording (2014) - The Stray Birds

Slaid Cleaves - Millionaire - Unsung - Rounder

Laura Cortese - Mulqueen's - Even The Lost Creek - Cortese

Kristin Andreassen - The New Ground - Gondolier - Yellowcar Music

New Grass Revival - When The Storm is Over - Fly Through the Country - New Grass Revival

Tom Waits - Take It With Me - Mule Variations - Epitaph


Hour 2

Steep Canyon Rangers - Lay Myself Down - Tell the Ones I Love - Rounder

The Honey Dewdrops - 1918 - If the Sun Will Shine - The Honey Dewdrops

The Once - The Town Where You Lived - Departures - Nettwerk Music Group

The Rails - William Taylor - Fair Warning - Island

Thompson - That's Enough - Family - Fantasy

Gretchen Peters - When All You Got Is A Hammer - Blackbirds - Scarlet Letter

Jackson Browne - Crow On the Cradle - The FolkScene Collection Volume III - Red House

Pete Seeger - Which Side Are You On? - Greatest Hits - CBS - Sony

Nanci Griffith - If I Had a Hammer - Other Voices Too - Elektra

John Gorka - The Water is Wide - The Songs of Pete Seeger - Appleseed

Grateful Dead - Monkey and the Engineer - Reckoning - Arista

Grateful Dead - Ripple - Reckoning - Arista

Dave Ray - Wild About Her - Legacy - Red House

Roni Stoneman - Lonesome Road Blues - Classic Banjo - Smithsonian Folkways

Bruce Springsteen - Oh Mary Don't You Weep - We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions - Columbia


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 PRX.org 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 FolkAlley.com, TuneIn, iTunes, Live 365 and more. :: for more information contact Linda Fahey at 518-354-8077: Linda@folkalley.com

Posted by Linda Fahey at 1:47 PM

PLAYLIST - Folk Alley nationally syndicated weekly radio show #150115

January 19, 2015

Folk-Alley-Logo_medium.jpgPLAYLIST: Folk Alley nationally syndicated radio show #150115. Aired between January 16 - 22, 2015. Hosted by Elena See

Artist - Title - Album - Label

Hour 1

Leftover Salmon - Get Up and Go - High Country - LoS Records

Tommy Emmanuel - Train to Dusseldorf (live) - Center Stage - Favored Nation

Bill Morrissey - Ice Fishing - North - Rounder

Pieta Brown - Letter In Hand (In-Studio) - Exclusive Folk Alley Recording - Folk Alley exclusive

Karan Casey - Freedom Song - Chasing The Sun - Shanachie

Pieta Brown - All My Rain (In-Studio) - Exclusive Folk Alley Recording - Folk Alley exclusive

Delbert McClinton - Watchin' The Rain - Nothing Personal - New West

Pete Seeger, The Vanever Kids Chorus - Take it From Dr. King - SEEDS: Songs of Pete Seeger Vol 3 - Appleseed

Eilen Jewell - How Long - Letters From Sinners & Strangers - Signature Sounds

Pieta Brown - Back to You (In-Studio) - Exclusive Folk Alley Recording - Folk Alley exclusive

Greg Brown - Good Morning Coffee - Newport Folk Festival - Red House

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

Patty Griffin - Up to the Mountain (MLK Song) - Children Running Through - ATO


Hour 2

The Greencards - Weather And Water - Weather And Water - Dualtone

Bela Fleck, Zakir Hussain & Edgar Meyer - Bubbles - The Melody of Rhythm - E1 Entertainment

Gretchen Peters - When You Comin' Home (feat. Jimmy Lafave) - Blackbirds - Scarlet Letter

Jimmy Lafave - Buffalo Return to the Plains - Favorites 1992-2001 - Music Road

The Holmes Brothers - Shine - Simple Truths - Alligator

Odetta (w/ Holmes Brothers) - Down By The Riverside - Gonna Let It Shine - M.C.

Rhiannon Giddens - Black Is the Color - Tomorrow is My Turn - Nonesuch

The New Basement Tapes - Florida Key - Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes - Electromagnetic

T Bone Burnett - It's Not Too Late - The Criminal Under My Own Hat - CBS - Sony

Blackie & the Rodeo Kings - Blow Me A Kiss - South - Blackie & the Rodeo Kings

Kristin Andreassen - Kiss Me Hello - Kiss Me Hello - Kristin Andreassen

Justin Townes Earle - My Baby Drives - Single Mothers - Vagrant

John Williams & Dean Magraw - Twin's Dance Party - Sylvia & Mikey's - Raven - Compass

Laurie Lewis - Black Waters - Laurie Lewis & Her Bluegrass Pals - Rounder



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 PRX.org 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 FolkAlley.com, TuneIn, iTunes, Live 365 and more. :: for more information contact Linda Fahey at 518-354-8077: Linda@folkalley.com

Posted by Linda Fahey at 7:37 PM

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King

January 18, 2015

dr-martin-luther-king-1 300.jpgBy Kelly McCartney

On January 15, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have been 86, if not for the bullet that cut short his life in 1968. Today, Folk Alley remembers his life, his legacy, and his lessons as documented in song by some of the great roots artists of our time, from Pete Seeger to Patty Griffin, from Bruce Springsteen to Ben Harper. Now, almost more than ever, our world is at a crossroads, with love and peace down one road, fear and hatred down the other. It's easy to wish we still had Dr. King around to show us which way to go, but he already did that. We just have yet to follow him.

Pete Seeger: "Take It from Dr. King"

Written in 2002, "Take It from Dr. King" was one of so many songs by Pete Seeger that called for peace. Here, in the wake of 9/11, he urges against a rush to war: "Don't say it can't be done. The battle's just begun. Take it from Dr. King. You, too, can learn to sing so drop the gun."




Otis Spann: "Blues for Martin Luther King"

On April 5, 1968, only a day after Dr. King's assassination as the city burned around him, the great blues pianist Otis Spann performed in a storefront church in Chicago, unveiling two MLK tributes -- "Blues for Martin Luther King" and "Hotel Lorraine": "Oh did you hear the news happened down in Memphis, Tennessee, yesterday? Yeah, fellas, I know you had to heard the news that happened down in Memphis, Tennessee, yesterday. There came a sniper, wiped Dr. Luther King's life away."




Old Crow Medicine Show: "Motel in Memphis"

Focusing on Dr. King's death, Old Crow Medicine Show lays it all out in "Motel in Memphis," even name-checking the CIA. "Were you there when the man from Atlanta was murdered in Memphis? Did you see him layin' at the Lorraine motel? Did you hear them say that the CIA is witness to the murder of a man at a motel in Memphis?"




Patty Griffin: "Up to the Mountain (MLK Song)"

Inspired by Dr. King's "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech, which he gave the day before his assassination, Patty Griffin's "Up to the Mountain (MLK Song)" was first recorded by Solomon Burke in 2006. Other artists have also tackled it, but Griffin makes it ache: "The peaceful valley just over the mountain, the peaceful valley few come to know. I may never get there ever in this lifetime. But sooner or later, it's there I will go."




Daddy: "The Ballad of Martin Luther King"

Written by Mike Millius in 1968 and brought back around by Daddy, the band with Will Kimbrough and Tommy Womack at its heart, in 2009, "The Ballad of Martin Luther King" serves as a clarion call to never forget: "Gather 'round me, friends, I have a song to sing about a hero of our time named Martin Luther King; Martin Luther King was born to a sharecropper's son and ev'ry racist feared him, and he never owned a gun. And I've been to the mountain top, and today I have a dream. Don't you ever forget the words of Martin Luther King."




Ben Harper: "Like A King"

Ben Harper, in response to the 1991 beating by police officers of Rodney King, drew a direct line between the two Kings in "Like a King" to highlight how far we had not come: "So if you catch yourself thinking it has changed for the best, you better second guess, 'cause Martin's dream has become Rodney's worst nightmare. Like a King, like a King, like a King."




Dion: "Abraham, Martin & John"

This 1968 composition by Dick Holler emerged from that year's deaths of both Dr. King and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., but also incorporates two other fallen civil rights heroes, Abraham Lincoln and John Kennedy. Although Andy Williams, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, and others recorded the ballad, Dion made it his own: "Has anybody here seen my old friend Martin? Can you tell me, where he's gone? He freed a lot of people, but it seems the good die young. I just looked around and he was gone."




Bruce Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions Band: "We Shall Overcome"

First published in 1948, the gospel-inspired "We Shall Overcome" has served as a protest anthem for more than one generation standing up for more than one cause. A lot of folk singers have called out and on its message of hope: "We shall overcome, we shall overcome. We shall overcome someday; Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome someday."




Eileen Jewell: "How Long"

Also inspired by Dr. King's words, Eileen Jewell's "How Long" holds tight to a faith in the arc of the moral universe that, Dr. King says, bends toward justice: "The darkness is deep, but night will end 'cause truth crushed to earth will rise again. How long will it take, you want to know? How long, not long because you reap just what you sow."




Paul Simon: "So Beautiful or So What"

On his 2011 'So Beautiful or So What' album, Paul Simon used the title track to shine light where there is darkness, offer hope where this is none. Because he invoked Dr. King's message, he thought it also fitting to include his memory, as well: "Four men on the balcony overlooking the parking lot pointing at a figure in the distance. Dr. King has just been shot."




Music from the 1963 March on Washington

Including performances by Joan Baez, Odetta, Bob Dylan, Mahalia Jackson, Peter, Paul & Mary, and others, this compilation brings it all home.

1. Joan Baez: "We Shall Overcome"
2. Peter, Paul & Mary: "Blowin' in the Wind"
3. Peter, Paul & Mary: "If I Had a Hammer (Part)"
4. Odetta: "I'm on My Way"
5. Bob Dylan and Joan Baez: "When the Ship Comes In"
6. The Freedom Singers: "We Shall Not Be Moved" (Cordell Reagon, Bernice Johnson Reagon, Charles Neblett, and Rutha Mae Harris)
7. Peter, Paul, & Mary: "If I Had a Hammer"
8. Joan Baez: "All My Trials"
9. Bob Dylan: "Only a Pawn in Their Game"
10. Len Chandler, Joan Baez, Stuart Scharf, and Bob Dylan: "Rally Song"/"Keep Your Eyes On The Prize (Hold On)"
11. Marian Anderson: "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands"
12. Eva Jessye Choir: "Freedom Is a Thing Worth Thinking About"
13. Mahalia Jackson: "How I Got Over"
14. Eva Jessye Choir: "We Shall Overcome"


Posted by Linda Fahey at 9:32 AM

PLAYLIST - Folk Alley nationally syndicated weekly radio show #150108

January 11, 2015

Folk-Alley-Logo_medium.jpgPLAYLIST: Folk Alley nationally syndicated radio show #150108. Aired between January 9 - 15, 2015. Hosted by Elena See

Artist - Title - Album - Label

Hour 1

The Decemberists - January Hymn - The King Is Dead - Capitol

John Whelan - Reels: January's Journey Medley - Flirting with the Edge - Narada

John Doyle - The Month of January - Wayward Son - Compass Records

Claire Lynch - How Many Moons - Dear Sister - Compass

Hal Ketchum - Devil Moon - I'm the Troubadour - Music Road Records

Bob Dylan & Joan Baez - Mama You've Been On My Mind - LIVE 1964 - Columbia

Joan Baez - Farewell, Angelina(Live) - Rare, Live, and Classic - Vanguard

The Punch Brothers - I Blew It Off - The Phosphorescent Blues - Nonesuch

Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn - Banjo Banjo - Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn - Rounder

Heather Styka - Birch Log - While This Planet Spins Beneath Our Feet - Kite Stripe

Mumford & Sons - Winter Winds - Sigh No More - Island

David Francey - A Winter Night - Skating Rink - Laker

Claudia Schmidt - Winter Love - It Looks Fine From Here - Red House

The Earls of Leicester - I'll Go Stepping Too - The Earls of Leicester - Rounder

Flatt & Scruggs - Old Leather Britches - Live at Vanderbilt University - Columbia

Earl Scruggs w - Family & Friends - Step It Up and Go - The Ultimate Collection (live) - Rounder


Hour 2

Lucinda Williams - Stowaway In Your Heart - Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone - Highway 20 Records (Thirty Tiger)

Cindy Cashdollar(Mike Auldridge) - Keep My Heart - Slide Show - Silvershot

Passenger - Heart's On Fire - Whispers - Nettwerk - Black Crow

Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley - Workin' Man Can't Get Nowhere Today - Before the Sun Goes Down - Compass

Blue Highway - Remind Me of You - The Game - Rounder

Ellis Paul - Drive In Movie - Chasing Beauty - Black Wolf

Ellis Paul (live) - The World Ain't Slowin' Down - Live - Philo

Christine Albert - Old New Mexico (feat. Eliza Gilkyson & Jerry Jeff Walker) - Everything's Beautiful Now - Moon House

Jerry Jeff Walker - Ramblin', Scramblin' - Driftin' Way of Life - Vanguard

Amelia Curran - The Reverie - They Promised You Mercy - Six Shooter

Wendy MacIsaac - Magnificent 7 - Off the Floor - Wendy MacIsaac

The Duhks - Rock Of Ages - Your Daughters & Your Sons - Sugar Hill

The New Basement Tapes - Diamond Ring - Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes - Electromagnetic

Bob Dylan - I'll Be Your Baby Tonight - Original Mono Recordings (Best Of) - Columbia Legacy

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 PRX.org 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 FolkAlley.com, TuneIn, iTunes, Live 365 and more. :: for more information contact Linda Fahey at 518-354-8077: Linda@folkalley.com

Posted by Linda Fahey at 8:55 PM

A Q & A with Pieta Brown

January 7, 2015

PietaBrown 400sq.jpgby Kelly McCartney for FolkAlley.com

Anyone writing about Pieta Brown would be remiss to not mention that her father is the incredibly prolific and thoroughly respected singer/songwriter Greg Brown. But for the writing to stop there, would be negligent because the younger Brown has certainly made a name for herself with five albums and three EPs. On her latest studio set, 'Paradise Outlaw,' she churns through 14 tunes that are more than just well-crafted and well-produced; they are also interesting -- captivating, even. For her Folk Alley Session, Pieta sets three of those gems in a spare, duo setting accompanied by guitarist Bo Ramsey. (Click HERE to watch videos from that session.) Her father's shadow may be long and wide, but Pieta Brown shines just fine.

Kelly McCartney: You grew up in Iowa and Alabama, the daughter of a noted singer/songwriter. How would you say both nurture and nature have influenced your work?

Pieta Brown: Hopefully the songs and the music speak to that directly. I had a lot of time around people playing music together, as a kid. I also spent a whole lot of time alone as a kid and a teenager, too. I felt the music and heard the internal voices early on. The way that all converged -- and continues to -- has led me this far.

KM: Even though you've been around music and musicians your whole life, what's it like to work with legends like John Prine, Emmylou Harris, Mavis Staples, and Mark Knofler? Does it ever not feel surreal?

PB: The music doesn't feel surreal to me. And working with great musicians doesn't feel surreal to me. It feels very real and charged. It's fun and deeply inspiring, and always an honor to work with great musicians and great artists. The songs and music and writing have become my life's work and the artists/legends you mentioned have all become masters in some way. They have all remained dedicated and driven and vibrant. That is an endless inspiration.

KM: What led you to self-produce the new album? And what differences do you think that made?

PB: The vision I had for 'Paradise Outlaw' was very strong and, though it shifted a bit here and there, it really was a clear vision and was easy to follow. The songs and the music were driving me and I just went with it. Because I felt so close to the songs and what I was hearing inside, it made taking the reins as the main producer easy. I didn't have to think about it much. It just seemed natural. April Base (the studio) and the players I called on for the session all felt right. Besides just the obvious line of having some experience in the studio to lean on, the songs and vision gave me a lot of confidence which over-rode some of my natural shyness that has been a factor, at times, during other recordings. It was freeing. Hopefully that comes through in the music and the way the record sounds.

Pieta Brown Paradise Outlaw.jpegKM: As with a lot of projects over the years, 'Paradise Outlaw' found inspiration in the Beat Poets. What's different about your take on that genre?

PB: I don't feel like 'Paradise Outlaw' is a take on the Beat Poets or that genre. If anything, it's just a "hats off" or "three cheers" for all the sparks those writers and that movement created... in poetry, music, and beyond. I feel like the Beats were part of a continuous collective, you know? Go back to William Blake and others and you can feel that fervent quest! So, I'm just chiming in with my own variations and explorations of all of that here and now.

KM: You've said that this record is about "artistic activism" rather than "political activism." What's the distinction there?

PB: The lines are blurry for sure, but I think the "artistic activism" thing came out of someone's questions to me about some of the songs on 'Paradise Outlaw.' The interviewer described feeling/hearing political undercurrents in some of the messages of the songs. Now, I don't really understand politics, but "political activism" seems to me to be acted out in the political realm... through demonstrations, laws, meetings. It seems direct and specific and action-oriented. "Artistic activism" seems to me to be about calling names, about calling things into view, about making sure all the questions keep getting asked. I reckon maybe all art and music is artistic activism in one way or another.

For more from Pieta, see Folk Alley's in-studio video session and hear the interview - HERE

Posted by Linda Fahey at 5:14 PM

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