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Album Review: Valerie June, 'The Order of Time'

March 28, 2017

by Kelly McCartney (@the KELword) for Folk Alley

Valerie June Time 500.jpgOne 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

Upcoming Tour Dates

Posted by Linda Fahey at 10:07 AM

In Review: Guest DJ, Peter Mulvey

March 24, 2017

Peter Mulvey pr sq.jpgMilwaukee 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.

Audio for this Guest DJ hour is no longer available.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 8:02 PM

Folk Alley Sponsors 'September 12th' at CIFF 41

Sept-12-200.jpgFolk 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, through the Ulmer & Berne Film Festival Box Office in the lobby of Tower City Cinemas, or by phone at 877-304-FILM (3456).

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 5:17 PM

Album Review: Rhiannon Giddens, 'Freedom Highway'

March 23, 2017

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for Folk Alley

Rhiannon Giddens Freedom Highway.jpgSometimes, 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

Upcoming Tour Dates

Posted by Linda Fahey at 1:03 PM

In Review: Guest DJ Kelly McCartney from The Bluegrass Situation

March 22, 2017

Kelly McCartney headshot.jpgKelly 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.

Audio for this Guest DJ hour is no longer available.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 6:38 PM

Video Premiere: The Steel Wheels, "Scrape Me Off The Ceiling"

by Elena See, Folk Alley

The Steel Wheels 500.jpgCan 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.

Upcoming Tour Dates

Posted by Linda Fahey at 9:25 AM

Song Premiere: Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors, "Rowdy Heart, Broken Wing"

March 14, 2017

Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors cropsq.jpgby Elena See, Folk Alley

If ever there were a "Hardest Working Band" award, Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors might well be nominated to take it home: in 2015, after more than a decade of making music together, this hard working, East Nashville based band released Medicine, an album that made several "best of the year" lists and an album that was, according to front man Drew Holcomb, their "arrival record."

And now that they've "arrived," Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors don't plan on leaving anytime soon, as they prove with their brand new release, out March 24, Souvenir. Produced by Joe Pisapia and Ian Fitchuk, the same team that helped bring Medicine to life, Souvenir is, Holcomb says, "probably my favorite album I've ever made."

And with a song like "Rowdy Heart, Broken Wing" it's not hard to understand why he feels that way.

It's a deceptively simple song, only about two and a half minutes long, with a single voice and a few nicely reverbed instruments (banjo, guitar, pedal steel) that gradually build up to a lush swell of sound.

There are no complicated harmonies here, no virtuosic guitar riffs. Instead, interspersed with short sentences about loss and desire, Holcomb's rough and rumbly voice repeats a single plaintive phrase over and over again: "Got a rowdy heart and a broken wing."

A catchy phrase, for sure. But think about it more closely: a rowdy heart and a broken wing. You want to do so much, to feel so much, to experience so much - that's your nature. And can't. You are unable to fulfill your own heart's desires and there's not a thing you can do about it.

It's heartbreaker.


Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors, 'Souvenir' is out on March 24 on Magnolia Music and is available for pre-order at iTunes and

Upcoming Tour Dates

Posted by Linda Fahey at 11:00 PM

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