Signup for a folk alley account


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

September 25, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Linda Fahey at 9:45 PM

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

September 4, 2015

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for FolkAlley.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

###

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

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

Upcoming Tour:

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


Posted by Linda Fahey at 2:05 PM

Support Folk Alley During Our Spring Fund Drive!

 

Recent Topics

Hear It First: Amilia K Spicer, 'Wow and Flutter'
Video Premiere: I Draw Slow, "My Portion"
A Q & A with John Craigie
In Review: Guest DJ Sean Rowe
Album Review: Valerie June, 'The Order of Time'
In Review: Guest DJ, Peter Mulvey
Folk Alley Sponsors 'September 12th' at CIFF 41
Album Review: Rhiannon Giddens, 'Freedom Highway'
In Review: Guest DJ Kelly McCartney from The Bluegrass Situation
Video Premiere: The Steel Wheels, "Scrape Me Off The Ceiling"
Song Premiere: Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors, "Rowdy Heart, Broken Wing"
Video Premiere: Phoebe Hunt & The Gatherers, "Lint Head Gal"
In Review: Guest DJ Kim Ruehl previews the Spring Heartland Edition of 'No Depression'
A Q & A with Catie Curtis
Postcards from Folk Alliance 2017, Episode 5
Postcards from Folk Alliance 2017, Episode 4
Postcards from Folk Alliance 2017, Episode 3
Postcards from Folk Alliance 2017, Episode 2
Postcards from Folk Alliance 2017, Episode 1
Hear It First: Blair Crimmins & the Hookers, 'You Gotta Sell Something'
WATCH: River Whyless' Special Video in Support of America's National Wildlife Refuges
In Review: Guest DJ Hour with Kim Ruehl, MLK Day
Hear It First: Rayna Gellert, 'Workin's Too Hard'
Folk Alley's Best of 2016 - Kelly McCartney's Ten Best Singer/Songwriter Records
Folk Alley's Best of 2016 - Elena See's Top 10 Albums
Folk Alley's Best of 2016 - Cindy Howes' Top 10 Albums
A Q & A with Courtney Marie Andrews
Song Premiere: Billy Bragg & Joe Henry, "If We Make It Through December"
Hear It First - 'Christmas On the Lam and Other Songs from the Season'
'HOOT Thursday' Video Premiere: Tracy Bonham, "In the Pines"

 

 

April 2017
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
                  1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30                  


April 2017


March 2017


February 2017


January 2017


December 2016


November 2016


October 2016


September 2016


August 2016


July 2016


May 2016


April 2016


March 2016


February 2016


January 2016


December 2015


November 2015


October 2015


September 2015


August 2015


July 2015


June 2015


May 2015


April 2015


March 2015


February 2015


January 2015


December 2014


October 2014


September 2014


August 2014


July 2014


June 2014


April 2014


March 2014


February 2014


January 2014


December 2013


November 2013


October 2013


September 2013


August 2013


July 2013


June 2013


May 2013


April 2013


March 2013


February 2013


December 2012


November 2012


October 2012


September 2012


August 2012


July 2012


June 2012


May 2012


April 2012


March 2012


February 2012


January 2012


December 2011


November 2011


October 2011


September 2011


August 2011


July 2011


June 2011


May 2011


April 2011


March 2011


February 2011


January 2011


December 2010


November 2010


October 2010


September 2010


August 2010


July 2010


May 2010


April 2010


March 2010


February 2010


January 2010


December 2009


November 2009


October 2009


September 2009


August 2009


July 2009


June 2009


May 2009


April 2009


March 2009


February 2009


January 2009


December 2008


November 2008


October 2008


September 2008


August 2008


July 2008


June 2008


May 2008


April 2008


March 2008


February 2008


January 2008


December 2007


November 2007


October 2007


September 2007


August 2007


July 2007


June 2007


May 2007


April 2007


March 2007


February 2007


January 2007


December 2006


November 2006


October 2006


September 2006


August 2006


July 2006


June 2006


May 2006


April 2006


March 2006


February 2006


January 2006


December 2005


November 2005


October 2005


September 2005


August 2005


July 2005


June 2005


May 2005


April 2005


March 2005


February 2005


January 2005


December 2004


November 2004


October 2004


September 2004


August 2004


July 2004


June 2004


May 2004


April 2004


March 2004


February 2004


January 2004


December 2003


November 2003


October 2003


September 2003


August 2003