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Postcards from Folk Alliance 2017, Episode 5

February 18, 2017

Thumbnail image for 2017 Conf Launch Poster copy.jpgby Elena See, Folk Alley

Friday, February 17, 11:45am - Friday, February 17, 11:30pm

I admit it, I failed. Badly. I'm back in my hotel room and it's not even midnight. It's 11:30pm. I could make all sorts of excuses (and that is exactly what I am doing, in my head) but instead, I'll just be honest and tell you the truth: I'm tired. So, without further ado, let's get to the good stuff.

It was another amazing day at the 2017 Folk Alliance International Conference. Things started off strongly with a special presentation by Ani DiFranco. Before she even opened her mouth to speak, the audience was on its feet, cheering and clapping. It's praise that's well deserved, as she has spent her entire life fighting to get people to realize that staying back and not standing up against greed, hatred and intolerance is wrong. Today's presentation focused on resistance and persistence: resist what you know is wrong and persist in the fight against it, even when you don't think it's worthwhile. It was a message that resonated with a lot of people, I think.

After the presentation, I spent some time this afternoon at a couple of different panel discussions, including one called "Take Me to Your Leader." Executive directors and other higher ups from the IBMA, the Blues Foundation, FAI, and the Americana Association sat together on a panel and talked about the challenges and opportunities each of their genres face in 2017. What struck me most? The absolutely genuine love each panelist seems to have for the music. These are people not in it for money or fame but because they genuinely believe in the power of music. It was the kind of conversation that makes you feel really happy with your choice of career, that's for sure.

gallie.jpgBefore the "A New Look at Radio" panel started, I trotted up to the 6th floor to catch an afternoon showcase with an Irish musician who performs as Gallie. (Born in Ireland, he now lives and works mostly in Melbourne, Australia.) He had bronchitis, poor guy, but, in spite of that and in spite of the fact that I was the only one in the room for the first half of his performance, he put on one helluva show. Sometimes the simplest songs and sounds are the most affective, the most compelling and Gallie proved it as he shared musical stories about his little boys and about the trials and tribulations that come with trying to stay in love in the face of the real-world realities. One thing I wish he would have done? Given the names of the songs he played. But, seeing as how he was pushing through an illness, I suppose I'll let it slide. Seriously, his performance was tender, charming, and heartfelt and I'm glad I got to hear it and meet him.

After the "A New Look at Radio" panel, it was down to the hotel bar for some networking with old and new friends. And it was there that I had my first geek/nerd/I-am-13-years-old moment of the day (yeah, there was more than one moment today). As I was talking with Folk Alley's Linda Fahey and the Minnesota Music Coalition's Ellen Stanley (aka Mother Banjo), the guy next to us turned around to ask Linda if she was having a good time and OMDOUBLEG it was Ellis Paul. Ellis Paul. I was cool, though. I swear I was. I did not tell him I was a fan, I did not blush furiously when he shook my hand.

Can I say the same when Linda waved Jeff Black over? I cannot. I've met him before and he's delightful - if you haven't listened to the exclusive session he did for us awhile back, you should. He was also the first showcase of the evening and I was, once again, blown away by how the simple things are the most compelling. After all, he's just a guy with a guitar (and sometimes a banjo and sometimes a keyboard) but there is magic in how he's able to put words and phrases together to create a story. The rest of the audience seemed to agree: there was a standing ovation when he finished his set and the applause was very, very loud when he announced that he's "allegedly" working on a new album. Fingers crossed.

After Jeff Black, it was time to head upstairs to catch Caitlin Canty's showcase. She made my best of 2015 list with her album Reckless Skyline and I was really curious to hear what she has been up to in the past two years. She made the move to Nashville and I think there definitely is a more country-rock esque sound and vibe to her music. That's not to say it's not good music - it is, most definitely. She's a good performer with a strong voice and a charming stage presence. I loved hearing her "hit" - "Get Up" - and the two new songs she played (for an album to be released in August) were fun to hear, too.

Next up - OSOG. That's On the Shoulders of Giants, an 8-piece Israeli folk and roots band from Tel Aviv. They've got a heavy blues vibe, one that got the whole room cheering out loud from the very beginning of their set. They're a young band; I want to hear what they sound like in a year or two. Right now, they're a band absolutely brimming with potential. Frankly, the music mix for their performance wasn't great - there was too much percussion and not enough volume on the vocal microphones. Plus, the harmonica, fiddle and even the guitar got a little lost. Still, I loved getting to hear something different and unexpected. That's what Folk Alliance is all about, really - getting to hear music you might not have heard otherwise.

Phoebe Hunt FAI.JPGThe party moved right along to the official showcase for Laura Cortese and the Dance Cards. I kept thinking to myself: "this band is all about strings and harmonies." Front woman Laura Cortese plays a mean fiddle and she was more than adequately backed up by another violin, a double bass and a cello. This is a high energy quartet, one that takes the traditional string band feel and amps it up with interesting arrangements. The band played a few tracks off of their soon-to-be-released new album California Calling (it'll be out this fall, they said).

Keeping the jam band mood alive, it was on to Phoebe Hunt and the Gatherers. If you were a fan of The Belleville Outfit, then you are familiar with this powerhouse singer and fiddler. This performance was easily one of my favorites of the conference: high energy, perfectly crafted musicianship, a charming stage presence and the fact that each of the 6 musicians seemed to be having a great time on stage. The 5 band members provide a gorgeous cradle for Hunt's intricate fiddling and strong vocals and I was glad to hear that they've got a new album coming out in early June.

I'd planned on heading up to the 7th floor to see and hear Portland, Oregon based singer/songwriter John Craigie but unfortunately (for me, not for him), his showcase room was absolutely packed with people. So, sadly, I didn't get to hear him tonight.

Other bands I wanted to hear but did not? Harrow Fair; Trout Steak Revival; Front Country, and Max Hatt and Edda Glass. I could share a more extensive list of bands/musicians I wanted to hear but didn't (if you want that list, just let me know), too. All in all, though, I was impressed with the level of talent that waited for me at the 2017 FAI Conference in Kansas City, Missouri. What a trip!

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Posted by Linda Fahey at 12:52 PM


Postcards from Folk Alliance 2017, Episode 4

February 17, 2017

Thumbnail image for 2017 Conf Launch Poster copy.jpgby Elena See, Folk Alley

Thursday, February 16, 9:15pm - Friday, February 17 1:45am

The great thing about an event like Folk Alliance
is that it gives you a chance to connect with people you might not normally connect with. For example: I got to speak with the talented team from Bluegrass Situation, I introduced myself to musicians Sam Lee and Sam Gleaves, I was introduced to Lindsay Lou of Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys (and made an idiot of myself, too - "Did you do something different with your hair? You look different than you do on your website." Oh Elena), I shook hands with Kaia Kater and stared longingly after Jimmy LaFave as he wandered through the hotel lobby.

Plus, I saw a great shirt. And sometimes a great shirt can just make your day.

Besides that, I heard brand spanking new music from the very talented Suzie Ungerleider, aka Oh Susanna. She's working on a new album, one inspired by her childhood in Vancouver and the songs she played tonight were, indeed, absolutely filled with the longing, lust, heartbreak and heartache that only a teenager can feel. Her voice is strong and clear, the kind of voice you hear and the kind of voice that makes you think to yourself, "This woman absolutely OWNS this room." She did - she had the audience singing along with her off and on throughout her set and it was clear that she could have played for much longer than she did and kept our rapt attention.

fun shirt.jpgIt was a tough act to follow, but I jumped headlong into the Thursday night fray and went to hear a band called Hermitage Green. This 5-piece band from Limerick bills itself as a group playing "Irish acoustic folk rock." Take out the "acoustic" and the "folk" and you've got what I heard tonight. "It's going to be loud," I said to myself as they finished up their sound check. They were fun - and clearly talented, playing lots of different kinds of guitars and percussion instruments - but since I did not bring earplugs and wasn't at a bar with 200 of my closest friends, I wasn't too keen on the vibrations I could feel rumbling through my chest when they started. I left halfway through their set.

For a complete change of pace after my Irish rockers, I climbed the stairs to the 5th floor - one of the designated "music floors" - and went to hear William Prince. Swoon, hearts, flowers, sighs. From Winnipeg, Manitoba, this guy has a sound that will destroy you if you let it. Not only does Prince has an absolutely gorgeous, pitch perfect, baritone-bass voice, a voice that sounds like fine-grit sandpaper coated in velvet, he sings about the harsh realities of life in such a way that your heart longs to reach out to comfort his. Singing songs from his most recent recording, Earthly Day, he encouraged his audience to eat out of his hand...I mean sing along with him. Does he want us to participate, to feel connected to him and his music, to be moved? If so, he succeeds.

Banjoist and singer/songwriter Kaia Kater played tonight, too. Here's what I kept thinking during her entire set: "How in the world can someone this young have the kind of life experience and knowledge that she has? How does she KNOW about these things?" She's utterly convincing in everything she does - the phrase "older than her years" is definitely appropriate when it comes to Kaia Kater and the incredibly mature view she has of the world. I did notice that she either wasn't mic'ed properly or maybe isn't quite sure exactly how to use the mic to her best advantage but, frankly, who cares? She's awesome, in every sense of the word and if you HAVEN'T checked out Folk Alley's exclusive session with her - do it right now. Immediately. Don't waste another moment NOT knowing about Kaia Kater.

Other acts of note that I heard and saw tonight: the sister act Annie Oakley, a band that has a very interesting back story (check out the video - HERE) and a band that I'll be curious to hear again in a couple of years and Portland, Maine based singer Caroline Cotter, who has a voice that doesn't sound like anyone else's, a voice that makes you want to lean in real close to hear what she has to say.

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Posted by Linda Fahey at 11:28 AM

Postcards from Folk Alliance 2017, Episode 3

Thumbnail image for 2017 Conf Launch Poster copy.jpgby Elena See, Folk Alley

Thursday, February 16, 4:33pm.

Staying up until 2:45 in the morning? Not something this folk dj does on a regular basis. So therefore, we got off to a rather later than anticipated start this morning.

I did make it to one of the panels I wanted to attend - "Radio and Folk Brand Awareness." It was a fascinating discussion headed by four very engaging presenters: Mike Pengra from Radio Heartland/Minnesota Public Radio; Linda Fahey from (yay!) Folk Alley/WKSU; Joe Swank from Swank Promotions and Michael Park from The International Americana Music Show.

The questions from the moderator came fast and furious - what makes folk music folk music? How do we market or sell ourselves to other stations and listeners? How do we program, how do we choose what to play, how can we combat the perception of the word "folk" with the reality of what it is? Single versus full album, what does "international really mean"? It was an interesting conversation with some very perceptive questions from the audience, too.

gtr2 copy.jpgAfter the panel, more coffee of course. (Maybe too much today. Will consider this tomorrow.) I wandered through the merchandise area and drooled over some guitars. Then I decided it was time for more music so up to the British Underground room I went to try and catch another performance from The Changing Room, a band from Cornwall. I saw them last night and mused that perhaps they'd be more impressive and affective in a smaller room. Guess what. I was right. In this space, you could really hear how well their voices mesh together. AND - they answered the question I had about their name. Why are they called The Changing Room? Because they envisioned a sort of rotating cast of musicians joining them on tour and in the recording studio, leading to different instrumentation and different vocal harmonies that would back up the two lead voices of Tanya Brittain and Sam Kelly. Answer!

After that satisfying discovery, I wandered down to room #529, the "Break Out West" room. And, once again, magic happened.

It was sort of a Canadian round robin this afternoon - several talented musicians from Canada taking turns performing for a very appreciative crowd. There were two standouts for me:

jp hoe copy.jpgJP Hoe. He's a youngish guy from Winnipeg and he played a song called "Run Away From Me." The whole time, I just kept thinking: "What a beautiful voice this guy has." It's clear but not thin, rich and warm, but not muddy. It was a joy to listen to him...plus, the song was a sort of kiss off/heartbreak song which always drags me in.

Belle Plaine is a musician from Saskatchewan and she's got a voice that's filled with blues and soul. When she sings, she sounds absolutely effortless - and that's a real treat for a listener. Playing guitar with a double bassist friend of hers (I didn't catch her name, unfortunately), she had the audience swaying along to one of her songs called "Good Heart." I snagged one of her CDs on the way out and cannot wait to listen to it when I get home.

Oh, as a postscript:
You want to know why the Edinburgh duo The Jellyman's Daughter is called The Jellyman's Daughter? I asked them. You can hear what they said.

And I got to nerd it out a little and chat with a musician I've admired for a very long time - since I first heard her at my last Folk Alliance International Conference, as a matter of fact. Corrine West. I'm going to try and catch her performance tonight!

Stay tuned...

Posted by Linda Fahey at 10:46 AM

Postcards from Folk Alliance 2017, Episode 2

February 16, 2017

Thumbnail image for 2017 Conf Launch Poster copy.jpgby Elena See, Folk Alley

Wednesday, February 15, 9:15pm - Thursday, February 16, 1:40am (CST)

There are two kinds of music performances here at the Folk Alliance Conference. There's the "Official Showcase" and there's the "Private Showcase." Some musicians do one or the other. Some do both. Night one of Folk Alliance started with three Official Showcases: Ellis Paul, The Changing Room, and The Railsplitters. After that, I wandered up to the 5th floor of the Westin (where the conference is being held) and ventured into two Private Showcases: Amilia K. Spicer and The Jellyman's Daughter.

Being slightly intimidated by the breadth and scope of this enormous music lovers' conference, I decided I should start things off with an old favorite, Ellis Paul. As always, he was a consummate musician. He knows exactly what consonants to stress and which vowels to elongate, he shapes his lyrics gracefully, his guitar playing is technically flawless...in short, Ellis Paul is a delight to listen to. That said: part of me wishes he were performing in a smaller room, one where he didn't need a microphone. The details of his voice get lost in a larger space, I think, and so I missed some of the warm intimacy that I was expecting.

There were three standouts in his performance: First, a tribute to Johnny Cash called "Kick Out the Lights." It's inspired by an experience Cash had at the Grand Ol Opry where he really did - you guessed it - kick out the stage lights. He was banned from the Opry for life after that performance. Ellis Paul got his audience to sing along - and enthusiastically, too! - during the chorus. It was fun. (Not that I sang along, of course. Being from Minnesota...singing in public isn't something we generally feel comfortable doing.)

The second highlight was a new song called, I think, "Scarecrow in a Corn Maze." THIS is where Ellis Paul shines. Moving over to a keyboard, he created a cast of characters who participate in what turned out to be a very compelling story. Classic Ellis Paul, for sure.

The last highlight wasn't actually a musical one. As he was preparing to do one final song, he started doing what he does - telling a story. It was the story of the absolutely gorgeous guitar he was playing tonight, a guitar he calls "Guinness" because of its beautiful multi-toned wood. Ellis Paul had the whole audience laughing with him as he wrapped up his set.

Act two of tonight was a performance I've been looking forward to for a couple of weeks now. The Changing Room is a band from a seaside fishing town in Cornwall called Looe. It's a five-piece ensemble featuring Celtic harp, accordion, guitar, banjo, and bodhran (in addition to vocals). While I wouldn't say I was disappointed in the performance, I would say that it wasn't quite as high energy as I was expecting/hoping for. This may well be because the band only arrived in Kansas City 2 hours before they took the stage...and that's after traveling for something like 23 hours. No wonder they were tired! changing room.jpg

I imagine it's a real challenge to mic a band like this: two primary vocalists with very different ranges and two vocalists who provide harmony vocals, a Celtic harp, an accordion, a guitar, a banjo and a (so awesomely fantastic) bodhran. The band's sound was muddy at times, which makes me think they might be better suited for a smaller venue. There were, however, moments of sheer beauty when the two musicians who lead the band (and who founded it, incidentally, a few years ago), Tanya Brittain and Sam Kelly, traded verses back and forth. If I had one wish, it would be to hear more of Tanya and to hear how the band sounds in a smaller space. Ok, here's another wish: to figure out why they call themselves The Changing Room.

Act three. In a word: Whoa. The Railsplitters are a 5-piece bluegrass band from Boulder, Colorado and they blew me away. Now, when you hear someone describing a "hot young bluegrass band," there's a certain image that comes to your mind. And it's not a bad image - not at all. But it's a sort of "oh, haven't we heard this kind of thing before" image. I wasn't too terribly excited about the band initially, I admit. Their online videos are fine, the music I've heard from recordings is definitely interesting and technically well played. But where they really shine? Live in concert. That's where they bring the kind of energy that makes the hairs on your arms stand straight up.

Headed by a woman with an absolute powerhouse of a voice, Lauren Stovall, this band takes incredible chances when it comes to harmonies and rhythms. They seem to delight in sudden changes that should seem jarring but somehow are not and there was not a weak moment in their 30 minute set. As of this moment, The Railsplitters are in the number one slot on my "Favorite Acts From Folk Alliance 2017" list.

Act 4 was the first of the two private showcases I attended tonight: Amilia K. Spicer. Her voice is compelling in a way that's kind of hard to describe. Think Aimee Mann...but not as intense. It's this strange mix of delicacy and husky grit - a sound that's so different that it makes you want to hear more. She performed with a percussionist and a (most amazing) mandolin player tonight and all in all it was a decent performance. I will say it was hard to hear her; there was a lot of music making in the hallway and in the other rooms so it was a challenge to catch all the details of her songs.

What did come through, though, was the fact that Amilia K. Spicer is a master when it comes to creating vivid visuals for her audience. Lines like "vines around my ankles" and "chased by lions and dreaming of the Serengeti" make me want to hear more of her music.

jellymans daughter sm.jpgThe final act of the night, Act 5, was an absolute delight from start to finish. Tired, sleepy, hungry, and ready for some quiet, I almost blew off seeing The Jellyman's Daughter. I am so glad I didn't.

This is a duo from Edinburgh (which tonight was a trio, with the addition of a double bassist): two vocalists who play cello, mandolin and guitar. They started a few minutes late and so the audience was chit-chatting as audiences do. However, as soon as Emily Kelly opened her mouth and started to sing, every single person in the audience shut up. I'm not exaggerating - it really happened.

She and Graham Coe traded verses back and forth on their three songs and it was a delight to hear how comfortable they sound with each other. Interesting harmonies, interesting interplay between voice and various instruments, and this kind of cool old-yet-new feel (contemporary Celtic music with a torch song influence? Is that a thing?). This is a band that's poised for something big and I can't wait to hear more.

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Posted by Linda Fahey at 9:24 AM

Postcards from Folk Alliance 2017, Episode 1

2017 Conf Launch Poster copy.jpgby Elena See, Folk Alley

Wednesday, February 25, 2017. 7:08pm (CST).

Here I am at the 2017 Folk Alliance International Conference, in Kansas City, Missouri. Airport code MCI, in case you like knowing things like that - I do. 29th floor, lovely view of the old part of downtown (according to the friendly lady who checked me in). I've discovered there's a fitness center on the E level ("That's for Executive Level and, ma'am, no. You do not need a special card or key to access it. Your regular key will work.") and there appears to be a coffee shop and a couple of bars within strolling distance. Bathroom stuff unpacked. Suitcase opened and arranged. Computer on and internet code typed in.

Do you know how long it has been since I've been to one of these things? "Things" being a real, honest to goodness, folk conference? It's been 9 years, that's how long. 9. Years. Some things you never forget and I will never forget how much fun I had 9 years ago at the Folk Alliance International Conference in Memphis.

Something I did forget? How many people show up to these things. I mean, sure, you've got musicians (amazing musicians - have you seen the line up? Here it is. But you also have "Industry" people and "Press" people - each of us has our own special name badge, by the way, color coded to go with whatever category we fall into. (Mine, if you're curious, is "Press" and it's a purpley-reddish color.)

Walking into the hotel to register before walking over to the other hotel to check in, I was assaulted by a barrage of...noise. Laughing, shouting, echoing, yelling, talking, glasses clinking. There are guitars everywhere. I mean, everywhere. It's an assault on the senses, for sure. And, to be honest, it's kind of overwhelming, especially for a radio person with, shall we say, rather introverted tendencies. There's a reason we work in closed off studios, you know.

But. I just downloaded the official Folk Alliance app. And I just added the musicians I want to see to my calendar. And I can feel myself getting excited to experience some amazing new music which I will, hopefully, get to share with you very soon.

So, let's do this. Notebook? Check. Pens (4)? Check. Fresh batteries in the recorder? Check. Water bottle, gum, phone, ID, cash, room key. I am ready.

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Posted by Linda Fahey at 8:54 AM

Hear It First: Blair Crimmins & the Hookers, 'You Gotta Sell Something'

February 14, 2017

by Cindy Howes, FolkAlley.com

Blair Crimmins Gotta Sell 300x300.jpgTen years ago, the music of Blair Crimmins was extremely different than his cheery modern take on 1920's Dixieland Jazz. Crimmins, the lead singer and guitarist for Atlanta alternative rock band Bishop Don, suffered a concussion in a skateboarding accident and everything kind of changed from there. He was drawn to swing, jazz and ragtime because it was fun and inclusive in nature. After ten years and two full-length albums, the new release You Gotta Sell Something is a culmination in Crimmins' careful study and practice of this specialized music. Says Crimmins:

"You Gotta Sell Something is the most focused record I've ever done. I had ten songs that I thought were really strong so we didn't need to develop the album in the studio. There were a few improvised sections but for the most part the band knew exactly what to do when the mic's were on. I also took more solos than on previous albums. I feel like I got to shine as a songwriter and an instrumentalist while also showcasing a damn tight band. For those reasons I'm really proud of what we've done."

While this music is a throwback to 1920's nostalgia (all I can see are 'Boardwalk Empire' and 'Downton Abbey' characters when listening!), there are moments where Crimmins puts his own twist on things. "Beautiful Thang" sounds like he's channeling a theatrical ragtime Elton John with that amazing piano work and the dramatic song structure. All in all, get your dancing shoes on and slam down an energy drink because you will be itching to move.

To give credit where credit is due, it is not easy to create this style of nostalgic Dixieland jazz and not have it seem inauthentic or uncool. Crimmins, a multi-instrumentalist, has surrounded himself with players who are not only tight, but have a cool swing.

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'You Gotta Sell Something' is out on February 17 and is available for pre-order at iTunes and Amazon.com

Upcoming tour dates



Posted by Linda Fahey at 12:03 PM

WATCH: River Whyless' Special Video in Support of America's National Wildlife Refuges

January 31, 2017

ASHEVILLE, N.C. - Folk-rock band River Whyless has released a special new song and music video, inspired by a trip to Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in southwestern Wyoming. The band, along with a variety of nonprofit partners, intends to generate support for National Wildlife Refuges and other public lands across the country. A portion of the proceeds of song sales will be donated to the National Wildlife Refuge Association to support National Wildlife Refuges across the country.

"National Wildlife Refuges, along with our state and national parks and forests, are vital parts of our continued effort to preserve America's natural beauty and essential ecosystems. They also happen to inspire our music," said River Whyless' Alex McWalters.

The song, "Hold Me To Ya," is the result of a collaboration with the nonprofit group Sustain Music and Nature through their Songscapes program.

In an effort to access new audiences and support public lands, Songscapes provide musicians with the opportunity to travel into, learn about, and create music inspired by protected landscapes.

For this most recent Songscape, River Whyless partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to spend a week enjoying Seedskadee NWR in southwest Wyoming. The refuge protects a vast sagebrush landscape, ribboned by 36 miles of the Green River and the lush riparian areas lining its banks. During their visit, River Whyless experienced the unique beauty of the landscape and the wildlife that call the it home, including moose, pronghorn, cutthroat trout and the iconic greater sage-grouse.

Greater sage-grouse, which have dramatically declined due to the loss of healthy sagebrush habitat, inspired the band to create a new instrument for their Songscape. When listening closely to "Hold Me To Ya", audiences will hear the sound of the grouse's display dance mimicked with a mason jar and water.

The stunning beauty of Seedskadee and the band's songwriting journey were brought to life on film by National Geographic Young Explorer Corey Robinson.

To learn more about the project, download "Hold Me To Ya", and support the National Wildlife Refuge Association, visit the project's home page: Songscape.refugeassociation.org


Posted by Linda Fahey at 1:39 PM

In Review: Guest DJ Hour with Kim Ruehl, MLK Day

January 19, 2017

by Cindy Howes, Folk Alley

-Luther-King-Jr.jpgIn honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, No Depression Editor-in-Chief, Kim Ruehl joined us in the guest DJ seat for a special hour of music from the Civil Rights Era and beyond. You'll hear songs that were the soundtrack to Martin Luther King's Civil Rights marches from Joan Baez, Mavis Staples and Odetta. Also included in this hour are examples of modern artists creating music inspired by King's message like Rhiannon Giddens, The Roots and Common.

LISTEN:







Posted by Linda Fahey at 9:41 AM

Hear It First: Rayna Gellert, 'Workin's Too Hard'

January 17, 2017

by Elena See, Folk Alley

Rayna Gellert Workin.jpgThey say the devil's in the details and when it comes to storytelling, those devilish details are especially important. The difference between a great storyteller and a ho-hum storyteller? The great storyteller knows exactly which details to include in his or her story...and which details to leave out. With a voice that's as warm as a crackling fire on a sub-zero January day, Rayna Gellert's detail-filled songs on her new album Workin's Too Hard represent storytelling at its finest.

After listening through Workin's Too Hard just once, it's clear that Rayna Gellert, for all her technical virtuosity as an instrumentalist (she's a first-rate fiddler), has a deep and profound appreciation and respect for the simplicity of old-time American music. Her original songs sound like they could have been written decades earlier, probably a nod to Gellert's childhood, growing up steeped in the traditions of Appalachian ballads and stringband sounds. And the way she delivers those songs? Sheer perfection: she knows exactly when to step back in a story to give it a little room, to give the listener a chance to catch up (the fiddle break in "Perry" serves as a good example).

Gellert admits reaching into her own life experiences for inspiration in Workin's Too Hard, but, again, there's simply no escaping her respect for musical traditions of the past. These are characters we've all met or known before: your down on his luck character, just trying to make it through each day in the title track, your character who warns that going through life not making any decisions is, actually, a decision ("River Town"), and the character with arms and eyes wide open to any experiences that might come his or her way ("I'm Bound for the Promised Land").

Recording with Kieran Kane and engineer Charles Yingling (and other talented friends, including Kai Welch and Jamie Dick) in one room, Gellert pours her heart and soul into these seven tracks. Her voice is intimate and it immediately grabs your attention because it's not TRYING to grab your attention. Instead, the quality of Gellert's vocals forces you to lean in to really understand the story she's telling. And by the time you do that, well, that's it. Rayna Gellert has you by the heartstrings and she isn't letting go.

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Workin's Too Hard is out on January 20th via StorySound Records and available at iTunes and Amazon.com

Upcoming tour dates


LISTEN:


Posted by Linda Fahey at 2:39 PM

Folk Alley's Best of 2016 - Kelly McCartney's Ten Best Singer/Songwriter Records

December 21, 2016

Kelly McCartney headshot 12.2016 400x400.jpgby Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for FolkAlley.com

Once upon a time, singer/songwriter records involved little more than an artist, a guitar, and some songs. But producers like Dave Cobb, Joe Henry, Gary Paczosa, and John Paul White have taken the form to new heights, adding textures and tones that enhance the music without ever overpowering it. Long story short: These aren't your mama's folk records.


Listen on Spotify







shires 300.jpgAmanda Shires: My Piece of Land (BMG Music)

Having a way with words is a gift not all songwriters wield well. Too often, they take the low road of easy emotion and simple sentiment. Amanda Shires runs right past those without looking twice, headed straight for the high hills of poetry with lyrical lines that carve themselves into the hearts of their listeners. iTunes . Amazon.com






cobb 300.jpgBrent Cobb: Shine on Rainy Day (Elektra Records)

One of three Dave Cobb productions to make the cut, Brent Cobb's Shine on Rainy Day takes a similar tack to Andrew Combs' All These Dreams last year, in that it harkens back to the early '70s when country music collided with folk-rock in the music of Glen Campbell, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Gram Parsons, and others. It's a stellar set the Cobb cousins have offered up. iTunes . Amazon.com







chely300.jpgChely Wright: I Am the Rain (Painted Red Music Group)

Not all albums stand up to a deep, deep listen, while some get better and better the more you linger inside them. I Am the Rain is a lingerer. On first blush, it's lovely enough. But spend a bit more time with eyes closed and headphones on and its beauty will find its way to you. And what beauty it is. iTunes . Amazon.com







honest-life 300.jpgCourtney Marie Andrews: Honest Life (Mama Bird Recordings)

Sometimes a record comes along and captivates your ears within the first few bars. This is one of those times. So much more than just a girl with a guitar, Courtney Marie Andrews has made a virtually flawless LP with Honest Life. Yes, she tips her hat to early Joni Mitchell in a big, big way; but she does so with such grace and gravitas that any comparisons are well-warranted. iTunes . Amazon.com







layus 300.jpgDan Layus: Dangerous Things (Plated Records)

Coming out fairly quietly this Fall, Dan Layus's Dangerous Things made a late-stage, dark horse run to get on this list. Nevertheless, it's a worthy entry, showcasing the kind of music Layus has long wanted to make. The wonder of Dangerous Things lies in its sparseness. It is what it is. And what it is is a beautiful, beautiful record. iTunes . Amazon.com







leblanc 300.jpgDylan LeBlanc: Cautionary Tale (Single Lock Records )

This was my first favorite record of 2016 and stood its ground all year to remain tied for the number one spot with two others. Every song on the set is a stunner, as Dylan LeBlanc dives in to deconstruct his demons and set them to music. Addiction, depression, and hard Southern living are the threads running through Cautionary Tale and LeBlanc alternately cuts and ties them as he sees fit. iTunes . Amazon.com







beulah 300.jpegJohn Paul White: Beulah (Single Lock Records)

If John Paul White has an artistic chip on his shoulder, let's hope it stays there because he has shown us something special with Beulah. There's a dark, almost Southern Gothic vibe to this set. Part of that is embedded in White's plaintive voice. The rest of it comes from the somewhat haunted quality of his writing and production. iTunes . Amazon.com







mckenna 300.jpgLori McKenna: The Bird & the Rifle (CN Records/Thirty Tigers)

A mainstay of the folk circuit for the past 15 years, Lori McKenna has always displayed a rare deftness with detail. And it's wonderful to see her get recognized and rewarded for her gifts on a much bigger stage. The Bird & the Rifle brings together everything folkies have long-loved about McKenna and packages it in a way that a broader audience can also appreciate it - Grammy voters, included. iTunes . Amazon.com







watkins 300.jpgSara Watkins: Young in All the Wrong Ways (New West Records)

Sara Watkins upped her artistic ante on this release delivering a set of songs that is absolutely mesmerizing. "Like New Year's Day" and "Without a Word," in particular are so beautiful, you'll want to crawl inside them, never to return to normal life ever again. That's just what happens when melody and magic mingle. iTunes . Amazon.com







jarosz 300.jpgSarah Jarosz: Undercurrent (Sugar Hill Records)

The second Grammy nominee on the list, Sarah Jarosz has also taken a big step forward with Undercurrent. And casual fans might well become dedicated followers because of it. This is another case of still waters running very deep, demanding and deserving a little extra effort on the part of listeners who will, in turn, be handsomely rewarded. iTunes . Amazon.com






Posted by Linda Fahey at 10:22 AM

Folk Alley's Best of 2016 - Elena See's Top 10 Albums

December 17, 2016

elena see 1 square crop 250.jpgBy Elena See, FolkAlley.com

Bluegrass, country, rock'n'roll, good old-fashioned folk music - 2016 had it all. I found myself gravitating toward slower, more melancholy music this year...not sure why - the state of the world, maybe. Or maybe that's just what caught my ear at the right time. As always, there was way too much great music to choose just 10 albums...but these are the 10 albums I kept coming back to. Enjoy!

Tedeschi Trucks Band.jpg1. Tedeschi Trucks Band: Let Me Get By (Fantasy Records)

As if from a distance, the music starts, slowly getting louder and louder until at last you have no choice but to acknowledge that it's there, in front of you, demanding your attention. That's what "Anyhow," one of the stand out tracks on the Tedeschi Trucks Band's 2016 release Let Me Get By does. This album came out in early 2016 - January - and it's one I've gone back to over and over for the past 11 months. If I had to pick a number one album for the year, this would be it. iTunes . Amazon.com







Infamous Stringdusters 2016.jpg2. Infamous Stringdusters: Ladies and Gentlemen (Compass Records)

It takes a lot of confidence to stand in the back and let someone else take center stage. Well, a lot of confidence and, in this particular case, a lot of respect. Nashville's Infamous Stringdusters invited some of their favorite female musicians to take center stage for their 2016 release Ladies and Gentlemen. What better way to show off their musicianship and their ability to weave and blend with the vocals of some of folk music's finest? "Old Whiskey Bottle" features Della Mae's Celia Woodsmith. iTunes . Amazon.com






HoneyCutters.jpg3. The Honeycutters: On the Ropes (Orgainic Records)

2016 was a big year for Asheville, NC based band The Honeycutters. Lots of touring and a new release - On the Ropes. Their 2015 release, Me Oh My, made my best of list last year and so I was really happy they came back again in 2016 with an album that's equally as engaging. And who doesn't love a song about never giving up, never quitting, and never letting anyone keep you down? That's what "On the Ropes" is all about. iTunes . Amazon.com





Mavis Livin On A Highnote.jpg4. Mavis Staples: Livin' on a High Note (Anti/Epitaph)

If ever there was a musician who deserved the title "living legend," it's the great Mavis Staples. 2016 showed the world that she has a lot left to say and do - "I think about this album as a new beginning in my career," she said when she released Livin' on a High Note. Merrill Garbus of The Tune Yards says she wrote "Action" for Mavis...and also for audiences who might need some inspiration to be brave. iTunes . Amazon.com





Shindell Careless.jpg5. Richard Shindell: Careless (Amalgamated Balladry)

I've been a Richard Shindell fan for as long as I can remember. There's something warm and cozy about his voice and something almost overly poetic and yet very, very human about his lyrics. In Careless, he pulls no punches, sugarcoats nothing, and puts his own unique spin on topics you already thought you knew about. Nature, for example, seems to take second place to the needs and demands of humanity in "The Deer on the Parkway" and, as Richard Shindell reminds us, that's not necessarily right. iTunes . Amazon.com






Dori Freeman.jpg6. Dori Freeman: Dori Freeman (Trade Root Music Group)

When Virginia based musician Dori Freeman sent a Facebook message and a video of one of her songs to Teddy Thompson, she wasn't really expecting him to respond...but he did. He told her he liked her sound and the two struck up a correspondence which culminated in Teddy Thompson serving as producer for her 2016 self-titled debut album. Lots of her songs are sad, she says, and "Fine, Fine, Fine" is no different - you feel like you're eavesdropping on an intimate relationship...one that is coming to an end. iTunes . Amazon.com







Robert Ellis.jpg7. Robert Ellis: Robert Ellis (New West Records)

In any relationship, there are issues that come up and you have to decide whether or not you're going to address them. Do you bring everything into the open? Or do you choose to ignore certain things? It's a question Houston, TX based musician Robert Ellis explores in "Elephant," a song that's almost uncomfortable in its honesty and a song you'll find on his 2016 self-titled release. iTunes . Amazon.com






Courtney Marie Andrews.jpg8. Courtney Marie Andrews: Honest Life (Mama Bird Recording Co)

Expecting the unexpected: that's the overarching theme Courtney Marie Andrews explores on her 2016 release Honest Life. During the years she spent touring as a guitarist and backup singer for a huge roster of musicians, she also developed her own voice as a songwriter and Honest Life gives that voice a chance to shine. "Rookie Dreaming," one of the stand out tracks on the album, is what Andrews describes as "essentially a coming of age song." So, heartbreak, despair, confusion, mourning? Yep, all here. iTunes . Amazon.com







Lori McKenna 2016.jpg9. Lori McKenna: The Bird and the Rifle (CN Records, Thirty Tigers)

Lori McKenna. You might not be familiar with her name but you're probably familiar with her work. She writes hit songs for some mega superstars in the country and pop music worlds (think: Tim McGraw, Alison Krauss, Little Big Town) and all the while quietly keeps back a few well-chosen gems for herself which she releases every few years. 2016's The Bird and the Rifle is her 10th solo recording and there's not a weak track on the album. "Wreck You" touches ground McKenna is more than familiar with - worrying about a relationship, doubting whether or not it's going to last - but there's nothing tired or boring about it. It's a gorgeous lament. iTunes . Amazon.com






Parker Millsap 2016.jpg10. Parker Millsap: The Very Last Day (Okrahoma Records/Thirty Tigers)

Oklahoma native Parker Millsap offers some sage advice on his 2016 release The Very Last Day: Whatever life throws at you? Open your arms wide and embrace it. After all, he seems to say, what, if anything, can you actually control? With a gruff blues and gospel tinged voice that sounds much older and wiser than his actual years, a guitar that seems capable of near impossible musical feats and simple words that tell a powerful story, Parker Millsap considers the end of the world...or, in "Pining," the end of a relationship. iTunes . Amazon.com






Posted by Linda Fahey at 9:32 PM

Folk Alley's Best of 2016 - Cindy Howes' Top 10 Albums

Cindy Howes headshot 300x300.jpgby Cindy Howes, FolkAlley.com

2016 was a rollercoaster of a year that ends with many vowing to better themselves and their community and to reach outside of their comfort zones. I wanted to express my desire to be better in my year-end list. I don't think it's out of the question to assume that we want harmony through a unified, diverse and loving world. The best thing I can do is listen to people whose experiences are different than mine. Music is a starting point and this practice definitely includes, but is not limited to folk music, whether it be Kaia Kater, Frank Ocean, Anohni or Mitski. I have been attempting to slow down, buy more records, stay off Facebook and take in the messages these songwriters are sending us. I will be reaching out and looking for faces and experiences that do not look like my own.






01_22,_A_Million_cover.jpg1. Bon Iver - 22 A Million (Jagjaguwar)

Bon Iver (Justin Vernon) has again reinvented their sound on their third record, but the core of emotional, infectiously heartbreaking melody remains. Vernon uses religious imagery and numerology to convey a study of deep self-exploration. Using samples galore (Paolo Nutini, Stevie Nicks, Fionn Reagan just to name a few), Vernon's experimental and digital approach marvelously captures the human heart on this exceptional album. iTunes . Amazon.com

Song: "33 "GOD""



02_Michael Kiwanuka Love and Hate.jpg2. Michael Kiwanuka - Love & Hate (UMGRI Interscope)

Although not an outright folk record, UK singer Michael Kiwanuka's second LP deserves to be set alongside the great soul music songwriter Marvin Gaye. Love & Hate is an epic listen that leaves an impression on the first song (Cold Little Heart) that runs almost 10 minutes. The striking "Black Man in a White World", demands your attention. Sonically, this record lives in that classic 1970's lushly produced soul records, thanks in part to producer Danger Mouse. iTunes . Amazon.com

Song: "Black Man In A White World"




03_Case Lang Veirs.jpg3. Case/Lang/Veirs - Case/Lang/Veirs (Anti/Epitaph)

Super groups make me nervous, so I tamped down my expectations when I heard Neko Case, kd Lang and Laura Veirs were making a record. Well, turns out I'm an idiot. These three monster talents did not call it in. It sounds like they are aiming to make the record of their lives together. Sweeping harmonies, lush production (thank you Tucker Martine) and poignant songwriting make this collaboration one of the top super groups of modern music. iTunes . Amazon.com

Song: "Atomic Number"



04_Aoife O'Donovan In the Magic Hour.jpg4. Aoife O'Donovan - In The Magic Hour (Yep Roc)

Aoife O'Donovan's profile has been rising for over a decade and In The Magic Hour is taking her to the next level. Best known for fronting Crooked Still, O'Donovan's phrasing is her own, but encompasses the best in Olde English and Irish folk of yore. Produced by Tucker Martine (who worked on her last album Fossils), this record has expanded experimentation with a little bit more (good) weirdness not heard from her output previously. It seems as though, no matter how much dissonance Martine tosses in there, Aoife's lead is strong, steady and completely captivating. iTunes . Amazon.com

Song: "The King of All Birds"




05_Mavis Staples.jpg5. Mavis Staples - Livin' on a High Note (Anti)

Oh my God, do we need Mavis Staples now! Her spirit, her history, her voice, her energy are all gathered on this beautiful album. Produced by M. Ward (She & Him) it includes songs written specifically for Mavis by a new generation of songwriters. Ben Harper, Valerie June, Neko Case and Justin Vernon are a few of the musicians who have thoughtfully written songs for the legendary Staples, whose lively interpretations make it clear that this great woman has more to say and thank God for that. iTunes . Amazon.com

Song: "High Note"




06_For A Song Erellicolor1hires 500sq.jpg6. Mark Erelli - For a Song (Mark Erelli)

C'mon! "I am just a Yankee boy/born and bred in Boston" is your record's opening line!? Mark Erelli, I love you. It doesn't get more classic New England folk-nostalgic than Mark Erelli singing about being in Boston, trying to get home Boston or just being reminded you're from Boston. He can do that with his magic voice and songs, which are among some of the finest he's written. Erelli has spent the last six years as a member of Barnstar and playing sideman for Lori McKenna and Paula Cole. The influence of those side projects have pleasantly made themselves in his own music making For a Song his strongest release to date. iTunes . Amazon.com

Song: "For a Song"



07_Leonard Cohen - You Want It Darker.jpg7. Leonard Cohen - You Want It Darker (Columbia)

Leonard Cohen's final album is perfect. Cohen, who died the week of the U.S. Presidential Election, gave us one final gift of morose, haunting and beautiful poetry. His magnificent words are accompanied by sparse instrumentation, which, of course, includes a monk-like choir. Leonard's musician son Adam Cohen produced the album and followed his father's wishes in terms of musical direction. What a hell of a goodbye. iTunes . Amazon.com

Song: "You Want It Darker"




08_Kaia Kater-nine-pin-cover-high-res.jpg8. Kaia Kater - Nine Pin (Kingswood Records)

Kaia Kater is sharp young woman who creates meaningful folk music with a message. Nine Pin, her second LP, centers on the experience and struggle people of color face daily in North America, both from personal experience and from current events. Her roots lay in the folk music of Canada (she grew up in Toronto) and West Virginia Appalachia where she spent time studying the music of the people. Kater's style is strongly grounded in traditional folk banjo accompanied by her deep beautiful tenor voice. iTunes . Amazon.com

Song: "Paradise Fell"




09_the-lumineers-cleopatra-album.jpg9. The Lumineers - Cleopatra (Dualtone Music)

The Lumineers are not a college-bro band. They were just as surprised as everyone when their "Ho Hey" song ended up being a big radio hit for the Denver based folk band. Cleopatra serves as a reaction to that success by showcasing the depth and seriously smart side of the band. Who better to guide them into the world of deep dark feelings than Simone Felice (formerly of The Felice Brothers)? Felice, who produced the album, has almost died at least twice and it often reflects in his work. The Lumineers signature hooks and snappy percussion still shines through on the first few songs. The second half proves to be mostly Wesley Schultz playing solo acoustic with just touches of Jeremiah Fraites' percussion. iTunes . Amazon.com

Song: "Cleopatra"




10_Andrew Bird.jpeg10. Andrew Bird - Are You Serious (Loma Vista)

My most re-visited album of 2016 is Andrew Bird's first traditional pop release since 2012. This is Andrew Bird post-marriage, post-child and post-spouse-living-though-cancer, which is a lot to process, so it takes a lot of listens to soak in. Luckily, at least for an Andrew Bird record, it's easy to digest and this a musician who is not always so straightforward. This record changes every time you put it on: the lyrics pop, the strings pluck and sway and the beats are sweet where they need to be. I don't want the smart and experimental Andrew Bird to make such an easy record every time, but it feels so good when he does. iTunes . Amazon.com

Song: "Roma Fade"



Posted by Linda Fahey at 6:46 PM

A Q & A with Courtney Marie Andrews

December 5, 2016

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for FolkAlley.com

CMA_Promo-2_Standard-768x514.jpgWhen you leave home at 16 to pursue music, there's no denying that it's a calling even more than it is a career. Such is the case for Courtney Marie Andrews who has spent the past 10 years touring with Damien Jurado and Jimmy Eat World, while also making records of her own. Back in August, Andrews released her sixth album, Honest Life, which is a captivating collection of Laurel Canyon-era folk. Self-produced, the set stacks vocals and plumbs depths in order to get where it needs to go which is right to the heart of the matter... and the listener.

Kelly McCartney: This record feels rather much like a rite of passage -- you stepping away from old, bad habits and into a more solid sense of self. Is that about right?

Courtney Marie Andrews: Honest Life is a record about striving to be your best person, in spite of life's circumstances. It's about finding peace with your flaws and the flaws of the world, and not letting those flaws define you. It's truly a record about acceptance, and realizing that life's not a linear line, but a crooked highway.

Quite a few of your songs are very cinematic, lyrically, in the scenes that they set. Are you a visual writer? Do you watch an image of the story play out as you write?

I'm definitely a visual writer. I'm a film photography hobbyist and, in every sense, I'm always dreaming different lines, depending on where I am. Imagery and words blend naturally for me. I'm always striving to connect a feeling to a story, so it feels more human and relatable. You can write a line like "I loved him," but there's not weight to that until you give that line life. Where did you love him? Why? What's the point? That's where visual lines and imagery come in.

One of the most striking aspects of your songs is how you use your phrasing to make things fit, rather than filler words. "Table for One" has some great examples of that, like the way you draw out "Ohio." Is that a conscious engagement on your part? Are there singers you admire with a similar approach?

That's probably a skill I subconsciously developed over time. I've done some time at the figurative school of songwriting -- the school you never stop attending -- and studied the best: Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, Woody Guthrie, Hank Williams, Joni Mitchell. I owe it to those songs. They almost never have filler.

Obviously, you're getting lots of (much-deserved) comparisons to early Joni Mitchell and Emmylou Harris. There certainly seem to be quite a few winks and nods in that direction -- the vocal stack near the end of "Put the Fire Out," for one. But nothing you do comes off as the act of a hackneyed copycat. What's the secret to honoring without stealing?

Those comparisons are both such an honor, and both those women have taught me so much. There's no secret other than that, at the end of the day, I strive to be my own artist and I'm not going to try and fail to emulate another's career because I have my own story to write that's unique and different. It all comes back to owning your own story and not drawing career and life comparisons to others, no matter how great they are.

In what ways does having been a support player make you a better band leader, singer, and producer?

Playing with other groups has given me great confidence as my own performer. It's also taught me about respect and love. Respect yourself to make the right decisions within a group, and respect others. They are your roommates, family, co-workers, and friends, and you spend ALL your time with them, so treat them with love, support, and respect. Also, it's taught me a lot about the business side of things, which I've never been the best at. But I've learned to let that go, and just try to TCB.

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Upcoming Tour Dates

Honest Life is available now directly from Mama Bird Recording Co., or at Amazon.com and iTunes.





Posted by Linda Fahey at 9:20 PM

Song Premiere: Billy Bragg & Joe Henry, "If We Make It Through December"

November 19, 2016

by Elena See, Folk Alley

Bragg and Henry.jpgIn 1973, the late great Merle Haggard, one of the many music superstars who died this year (shakes-fist-in-anger-at-2016), bravely called into question the idea that Christmas actually is NOT the happiest time of year. It can be, sure. But, as Haggard notes in his song "If We Make It Through December," Christmas can be stressful, too...especially when the circumstances of our lives are less than ideal, for whatever reason.

Joe Henry and Billy Bragg decided to take on Haggard's holiday classic and you'll find it on a new playlist from Amazon Music called 'Acoustic Christmas.' The 29 all-new acoustic holiday recordings, by 29 different musicians, add up to a playlist that promises to add a little splash of spirit and a dash of cheer to your holiday season.

And this version of "If We Make It Through December"? It's a good one - definitely a stand-out on the playlist. A bit slower than Haggard's original, the harmonies and slightly reverberant guitar that Joe Henry and Billy Bragg add to the song make it even more heartbreaking.

Somehow, however, the poignancy of a father's wish to give his family a beautiful holiday, one filled with "Christmas cheer," and being unable to do so, takes a backseat to the overall hopefulness of the song, the thought that if we can just hold on for a little bit longer, if we can just make it through this month of December, then everything will be ok.

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'Acoustic Christmas,' an Amazon Music original playlist will be available exclusively for streaming on Amazon Music - both Amazon Music Unlimited and Prime Music - beginning November 22.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 12:23 PM

Hear It First - 'Christmas On the Lam and Other Songs from the Season'

November 14, 2016

by Elena See, FolkAlley.com

Xmas on Lam 290 300x300.jpgWhat does winter mean to you? Maybe you get snowed in...and you like it. Maybe romance knocks at your door every time the temperature falls. Maybe winter, for you, is a magical, holiday time of year, the time of year when things that don't normally happen...happen.

Whatever best describes your feelings about winter, 'Christmas on the Lam and Other Songs from the Season' has the perfect song, just for you. There are familiar holiday favorites, intertwined with songs you've probably never heard before, and the ghosts of Christmases past, present, and future all co-exist pretty peacefully over the course of 12 delightful tracks.

From the horn-heavy version of "Santa Bring My Baby Back to Me" done by Davina and the Vagabonds, to the dreamy, acoustic version of Gordon Lightfoot's "Song for a Winter's Night" offered up by The Pines, from the classic heartbreak of "Blue Christmas," delivered by one of folk music's power couples, Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams, to the playful catch-me-under-the-mistletoe vibe Robin and Linda Williams share in "Together All Alone," 'Christmas on the Lam and Other Songs from the Season' helps you celebrate all aspects of winter.

This is the first collection to honor the winter holiday season that Red House Records, home to a truly amazing roster of folk, roots, and Americana artists, has ever released. And what a way to jump onto the winter holiday bandwagon! With performances by The Wailin' Jennys, Jorma Kaukonen, Charlie Parr, Suzzy Roche and John Gorka, among so many others, it's definitely an album that'll make its way to the top of your holiday pile.

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'Christmas On the Lam and Other Songs from the Season' is out now and available directly from Red House Records, iTunes, or Amazon.com.


Posted by Linda Fahey at 10:01 AM

'HOOT Thursday' Video Premiere: Tracy Bonham, "In the Pines"

November 10, 2016

By Susan Bibeau/Beehive Productions for FolkAlley.com

Tracy Bonham Home of the Hoot 200x200.jpgFor this Thurdsay's HOOT offering, I give you Tracy Bonham performing the trad tune, "In the Pines."

While so many of us are familiar with this song, I guarantee you haven't heard it in quite this way. Bonham used looping fiddle lines that build and eventually give the effect of a backing ensemble that she then solos over. It's haunting and stunning. While we were setting up to shoot and before any of the crowd had gathered in the room, she laid down the very first fiddle line that you'll hear open the song.

"In the Pines," also known as
"Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" and "Black Girl," is a traditional American folk song which dates back to at least the 1870s, and is believed to be Southern Appalachian in origin. Famous versions of the tune include those by Lead Belly, Bill Monroe and Nirvana. If you are a traditional folk music enthusiast like myself, I encourage you to do some research on your own about this song's origins. It's fascinating and timely. Bonham is a Grammy nominated singer-songwriter of whom I was a huge fan, "back in the day," and I'm happy to say - five albums and many years later - that hasn't changed for me.

Her most recent record, 'Waxing Gold' is a gem. Check it out at TracyBonham.com.

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Beehive Productions will be back filming the Pewter Sessions at the 2017 Winter Hoot! -- February 3-5th at the Ashokan Center in Olivebridge, New York.

This is a "pay-what-you-can" festival and proceeds from the event fund Ashokan Center program scholarships for thousands of regional children.

More information and line-up details are at HomeOfTheHoot.com


Posted by Linda Fahey at 3:13 PM

'HOOT Thursday' Video Premiere: Dom Flemons and Brian Farrow,"Polly Put the Kettle On"

November 3, 2016

By Susan Bibeau/Beehive Productions for FolkAlley.com

Dom Flemons 200x200.jpgWatching multi-instrumentalist Dom Flemons and fiddle player Brian Farrow perform trad tune, "Polly Put the Kettle On" was a little like stepping back in time. Flemons, also know as "The American Songster" is one of the most well versed performers in the old-time folk music scene today. His sets are always part history lesson leaving audiences equally enlighten and entertained, the perfect fit for the vibe of The Hoot. It was not hard to imagine Pete Seeger in the room with us for this session. He would have been pleased.

Beehive Productions will be back filming the Pewter Sessions at the 2017 Winter Hoot! -- February 3-5th at the Ashokan Center in Olivebridge, New York.

This is a "pay-what-you-can" festival and proceeds from the event fund Ashokan Center program scholarships for thousands of regional children.

More information and line-up details are at HomeOfTheHoot.com



Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 1:17 PM

'HOOT Thursday' Video Premiere: The Brother Brothers,"Cairo, Illinois"

October 27, 2016

By Susan Bibeau/Beehive Productions for FolkAlley.com

brothers 200 x200.pngThere is something inherently mesmerizing about watching musicians perform live in the intimate confines of the Pewter Shop. The brothers Moss - Adam (fiddle) and David (guitar, cello) - aka The Brother Brothers upped the ante on this vibey feeling with their dreamy harmonies and the way in which they seem to finish each other's musical sentences. I love the way that this song in particular feels as if it was meant to be heard in this 100 year-old room.

Beehive Productions will be back filming the Pewter Sessions at the 2017 Winter Hoot! -- February 3-5th at the Ashokan Center in Olivebridge, New York.

This is a "pay-what-you-can" festival and proceeds from the event fund Ashokan Center program scholarships for thousands of regional children.

More information and line-up details are at HomeOfTheHoot.com


Posted by Linda Fahey at 4:09 PM

'HOOT Thursday' Video Premiere: Lula Wiles, "Leave Me Now"

October 20, 2016

By Susan Bibeau/Beehive Productions for FolkAlley.com

Pewter Sessions 300.jpgIn my opinion, the most exciting part about filming a live performance is capturing an artist in the moment of creating something entirely unique. Each performance is its own little work of art. Add to that a live audience and the results can be magical.

For the past three years, Beehive Productions has been the lucky host of the 'Pewter Sessions' -- 3-song sets, that we film and record in front of a live audience in the historic, 100 plus-year-old Pewter Shop on the grounds of the Ashokan Center, near Woodstock, NY. The tiny one-room space is only big enough to seat 50 or so, giving the sessions a special intimacy all their own.

These sessions take place during The HOOT -- a down-to-earth music festival held twice a year at the Ashokan Center. Produced by folk-roots duo, Mike + Ruthy, with help from a large volunteer crew, this sweet little fest is the epitome of grass-roots, community spirit and features local and world-class traveling performers along with family activities, local food and beer vendors, and on-site hiking and camping.

Here is the Boston-based trio, Lula Wiles performing a brand new song "Leave Me Now" filmed live during the Pewter Sessions at the 2016 Summer Hoot. It was about 100 degrees inside the little room during this set!

We are excited to be releasing a selection of this past summer's sessions here on the FolkAlley.com blog every Thursday leading up to the 2017 Winter Hoot which will be held February 3-5th, and headlined by Natalie Merchant.

Admission is to the festival is "pay-what-you-can" and proceeds from the event fund Ashokan Center program scholarships for thousands of regional children.

For more info visit HomeOfTheHoot.com

Posted by Linda Fahey at 2:22 PM

Guest DJ Hour: Kim Ruehl

October 18, 2016

speak-up-front-cover_large.jpgKim Ruehl, editor of the quarterly roots music journal No Depression, joined Cindy Howes for a guest DJ hour on Folk Alley to talk about the new in-print issue. No Depression starting printing quarterly editions last year, each having its own theme. The Fall 'Speak Up!' issue focuses on musicians who are known for speaking up about injustices around the world.

Kim shared music from artists who are featured in the latest edition and talked about their various contributions.

Kim Ruehl's Guest DJ selections:

Indigo Girls - "Rise of the Black Messiah"
John Prine - "Paradise"
The Weavers - "Goodnight Irene"
Woody Guthrie - "This Land Is Your Land"
Ani DiFranco - "Woe Be Gone"
Fantastic Negrito - "Working Poor"
Hamell on Trial - "Happiest Man in the World"
Anais Mitchell - "Why We Build the Wall"
Kaia Kater - "Rising Down"
Aki Kumar - "Bombay Stroll"

Listen:


Posted by Linda Fahey at 1:27 PM

Guest DJ Hour: Kelly McCartney Recaps AmericanaFest 2016

October 8, 2016

by Cindy Howes, FolkAlley.com

Kelly McCartney headshot.jpgIn our latest Guest DJ hour, Kelly McCartney, Folk Alley's music writer/critic/interviewer/blogger, joins Folk Alley host, Cindy Howes, for a recap of this year's Americana Music Association Festival and Conference. McCartney attended AmericanaFest - which is the premiere Americana music conference, festival and awards show - in Nashville from September 20th - 25th. Kelly, who is also the managing editor at the Bluegrass Situation, held about a dozen "Hangin' & Sangin'" interviews and performance sessions via FaceBook Live.

In her Guest DJ hour, she describes the events of the festival and talks about highlights from her interview sessions.

Set List:

Amanda Shires - "Pale Fire"
Jason Isbell - "Flagship"
Indigo Girls - "Spread the Pain Around"
Chely Wright - "You Are the River"
Marlon Williams - "Lonely Side of Her"
The Cactus Blossoms - "Powder Blue"
Teddy Thompson & Kelly Jones - "As You Were"
Rose Cousins - "What's Love Got to Do with It"
Sara Watkins - "Without a Word"
Kaia Kater - "Paradise Fell"
Applewood Road - "Applewood Road"
Dylan LeBlanc - "Look How Far We've Come"

LISTEN:


Posted by Linda Fahey at 12:20 PM

A Q & A with Dar Williams

October 7, 2016

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for FolkAlley.com

DarW.jpgTime marches on, even as music stands still... at least in its recorded form. Even so, a certain generation of artists is starting to mark their musical milestones with re-issues, re-imaginings, and more. For Dar Williams, Mortal City represents her breakthrough on the folk circuit. So, for the album's 20th anniversary, she's taking the show back on the road.

Kelly McCartney: A number of artists are revisiting their milestone recordings. Natalie Merchant, for one, did a whole new version of Tigerlily. How did you decide your method of honoring Mortal City should be a tour?

Dar Williams: More than any other of my albums, this was the one that people say they listened to as an album. I'm a social creature. I'm looking forward to seeing how this album has traveled and evolved, collectively, over the last 20 years. It will be like a reunion.

If you could remake the record, how might you reimagine it as the artist/person you are now?

I did go back and re-record some songs, just to see them in the light of the present. I think the songs are the same. I have such a clear memory of writing them. But who I know is much different, so the songs are differently populated, which reflects my favorite part of this whole career -- the collegial part. Being on the road drew me out and challenged me every day.

When you look at the list of folks who played on Mortal City, who's still out there fighting the good fight? Who have you continued to collaborate with?

Such a good question, because it's great to see that so many of us have continued to play out, even in the changed environment. And when you play at some New England venue you've been playing at for 20 years, with an old friend coming up for a song, on a certain kind of cold October night, time stands still. Look at the liner notes: I think every person is still playing, with the exception of Jeff Golub, who passed away last year and who gave the album so much life.

What are the biggest lessons you've learned or changes you've undergone in the past 20 years?

The only constant is that there are people who tell you "The only constant is change," and I don't get that! There are things that don't change and they get twisted up, in a good way, with things that do. Roots grow deep, plants blossom. This career has given me continuity, as well as change. Some dressing rooms have the same plaid couches they did when I first played there. And I sit on them at the end of the night with promoters who tell me the numbers and ask if I know how to get to the hotel. And now we have GPS, so the answer is always yes.

Flip that perspective: Where and who do you hope to be in another 20 years?

I was invited to teach a college course, and then a friend, seeing how much I loved it, told me I had to lead a songwriting retreat. Teaching has brought gravity to my life. I was like a busy bee flitting around from flower to flower, writing a line here and a line there, and now I get to land in one place from time to time and really appreciate how wonderful and important music itself is. I look forward to buzzing around for the rest of my life, but I hope to continue teaching for just as long.

###

'Mortal City' 20th Anniversary Tour dates.


Posted by Linda Fahey at 12:30 PM

Album Review: Chely Wright, 'I Am the Rain'

October 6, 2016

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for FolkAlley.com

Chely Wright I Am the Rain.jpgThere comes a time in all great artists' careers when they release their masterpiece. Sometimes, it's their debut, as with Shawn Colvin's Steady On and Patty Griffin's Living with Ghosts. Other times, it comes considerably further into their careers. Rosanne Cash's Interiors and Jason Isbell's Southeastern both land there, as does Chely Wright's new -- and thoroughly stunning -- I Am the Rain.

Produced by Joe Henry, the collection completes Wright's transition from her contemporary country beginnings to her Americana present and future, as cameos by Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, and the Milk Carton Kids surely attest. With help from some of the best players in the business, Henry crafts a sophisticated but never slick sound, both anchored and buoyed by his son Levon's captivating woodwind work.

At the heart of it all, though, is Wright and the most mesmerizing, magical batch of songs she's ever culled or composed. While there have been signposts in Wright's songwriting past ("Picket Fences" and "Broken," for instance) pointing to a deftness with the craft, I Am the Rain takes it to the next level, top-to-bottom. She's credited on 12 of the 13 tracks, but if you didn't already know that "Tomorrow Is a Long Time" is a Bob Dylan song, you wouldn't know "Tomorrow Is a Long Time" was a Bob Dylan song. That's how comfortably it sits within the cycle.

Anyone who has seen her 'Wish Me Away' documentary or read her Like Me autobiography knows that fearlessness is a classic Wright trait. This time out, she applies that tactic to her songwriting and singing. From "Inside" all the way through "See Me Home," she lays it all on the line for the whole world to hear. The fear, doubt, remorse, and sorrow she's endured over the past 10 years are all in there. Even still, it's an incredibly triumphant piece of work, with all of those emotions and experiences close enough to the surface to be raw, but never paralyzing.

A lot of artists get compared to Jason Isbell these days and very few deserve it. But, thanks to its breadth and depth, its vulnerability and its transparency, I Am the Rain feels very much like Chely Wright's Southeastern. It's just that good.

###

I Am the Rain is out now and available at iTunes and Amazon.com

Upcoming Tour Dates




Posted by Linda Fahey at 2:10 PM

Album Review: Amanda Shires, 'My Piece of Land'

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for FolkAlley.com

Amanda Shires My Piece of Land.jpgHaving Dave Cobb produce an Amanda Shires record was inevitable, considering the superlative work he's done on her husband Jason Isbell's last couple of albums. Alternately playful and poised, My Piece of Land is the wonderful result of that collaboration. Written and recorded as stared motherhood right in the eye, My Piece of Land documents the contemplations and considerations Shires had on her mind and in her heart, from her husband's sobriety to her own shifting worldview.

On one of the album's many highlights, "Pale Fire," Shires teams up with Isbell for one of their first-ever co-writes. The picture they paint together is remarkable for its eccentricity and elasticity, and it's hard to imagine anyone other than Shires pulling it off with such unabashed aplomb. "She took her lover on a road trip. Turned out to be a bad idea. She lost his eagle-feather roach clip, present from some sad Maria," she sings over a steady acoustic strum and a percussive marking of time. "Things never made it back to normal. He was the wrong kind of naïve. She stopped for gas in Oklahoma. Left him alone on Saint John's Eve." That kind of evocative imagery litters My Piece of Land, song after song.

From her looking back to "Mineral Wells" to her gazing forward in "You Are My Home, there's simply no one else doing what Amanda Shires does, from the songs to the singing -- let alone the fiddling, to boot.

###

My Piece of Land is out now and available at iTunes and Amazon.com

Upcoming Tour Dates


Posted by Linda Fahey at 1:30 PM

A Q & A with Glen Phillips

October 5, 2016

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for Folk Alley

Glen Phillips.jpgSince bursting onto the pop-rock scene
some 25 years ago with Toad the Wet Sprocket's third album, fear, Glen Phillips has established himself as one of the most heartfelt songwriters on the folk-rock block. His solo albums, and Toad reunions, all showcase the work of someone who feels passionately and thinks deeply. Over the past few years, Phillips's feelings and thoughts have been put to the test with a near-crippling accident and an emotion-testing divorce. As most artists do, he filtered it all through music and emerged with his latest release, Swallowed by the New.

Kelly McCartney: You've been through a lot in the past few years. How important was songwriting to your emotional processing and physical healing?

Glen Phillips: I was just thinking the other day about how easy it is to get to the other side of a process -- or at least a new chapter in the process -- and forget about the work you did to get there and the states you passed through on the way. A songwriter leaves a crumb trail of songs along the way, marking the path. It's hard to say how much the songs move me through and how much they are simply a byproduct of the journey. I'm sure it's a bit of both.

I like to use songs as a mnemonic device to remind me of what my higher self is telling me. It's not always that way -- some of these songs are just about states of feeling, and I think that is a worthy and universal thing to write about, as well. Most of them, or at least the most important ones to me, are letters to myself reminding me to choose a better path than the one I might be attracted to at the moment. Life hands pretty much everyone some major curveballs. It's up to us to decide if we want to simply be injured or if we want to learn.

You really pour a lot out of you on this record -- listening merely to "Go" evidences that. Writing the songs is one outlet; performing them is another. Compare and contrast those two aspects, in terms of what you get from each.

I waited a year after recording this album to release it. I was deep in the middle of the subject matter when we recorded Swallowed by the New -- trying to be hopeful and accept my new life, but still deep in pain and mourning about the loss of my home and my identity. There was a period of time when I couldn't sing a lot of these songs without breaking down. A year later, I'm happier than I've been in years. It's kind of miraculous. I can still get into these songs, still learn from them, but they don't overwhelm me like they used to.

"Go" was important for me to write. Kris Orlowski came over to write with me and he had this beautiful start of a melody with the single line "You know which way to go." I had recently listened to a podcast talking about lighthouses. The gist of it was that most things that say "I love you" ask you to come closer. Lighthouses say "I love you. Go away." They want you to keep a safe distance for the good of everyone involved. I was thinking about both my former wife and a woman I dated after separation. My former wife really loved me, but knew we weren't serving each other any more. It was a great act of love for her to say she was done -- one that I don't think I would have been strong or brave enough to do. It took me a while to see how generous it was, how it was the kindest thing she could do for us both. When I started dating after the separation, I found myself pushing someone away in a similar fashion. Being on the other end of that equation helped me understand how a breakup can be driven by love more than by rejection.

You've always been able to craft beautiful ballads that easily steer clear of being overly sentimental or saccharin. "There's Always More" is a great example. What's the key to that?

That song was written with Neilson Hubbard, who produced the Mr. Lemons album and co-wrote "Everything But You," and Amber Rubarth, who I'm going to be collaborating more with in the coming year. A three-way write usually starts with a long talk, and this was no exception. We found ourselves talking about the importance of silence, or sitting with a feeling or thought instead of needing to talk it do death or try and fix everything. There's not as much silence as there used to be. It's still there to access, but it's much more of a conscious practice -- the Western world is a very noisy, distracting place to live.

The other idea in that song is about the inherent limitations of language. We can't describe things unless we name them, but as soon as we name them, we limit our perception. Words end up being these tiny stepping stones in a vast lake.

"The Easy Ones" offers up some pretty sage advice that, I presume, you were pointing at yourself. But it applies to the entire songwriting community and beyond. You proved, with Toad, that "pop" songs can have both style and substance. So why do you think so many don't?

"The Easy Ones" was written for the Santa Barbara chapter of the Bushwick Book Club. They have a bunch of songwriters read a book and write a song or two about it. Our book was The Art of Happiness by HH the Dalai Lama. It's loosely based on the idea of Tonglen, as described in the book, which is a meditation where you breathe in while concentrating on a troubling individual or situation and breathe out compassion and love toward that same point of focus. It's recommended that you don't focus on the easy people in your life, that you will go deeper if you practice unconditional love for the ones that aren't so easy.

I like that song. It's fairly universally applicable. As far as pop songs with style and substance... who knows?! I've always been drawn to the thornier questions. My family liked to talk about politics and religion around the table, so it came as a shock when I found out that those are the two things you're not supposed to address in polite conversation. I just write about what I'm interested in.

In addition to your new solo album, this year also marked the 25th anniversary of Fear. What's the overriding lesson or perspective gleaned when you look back from now to then?

Over and over, the lesson is that a little more gratitude would always have been a good idea. Then again, I am where I am. I wouldn't be here, happy in the way I am right now, unless I lived the life I lived. I lost a couple decades to severe depression. It was hard on the people around me, particularly my former wife and bandmates. I was kind of a wreck. Nothing was even particularly wrong in my life; it was just an exercise in self-inflicted pain. I can look back at it now and see it as a waste or as an extended master course in developing compassion. It means I can serve others and be present for the ones I love in a way I wouldn't be able to otherwise. Still -- a little more gratitude always is never a bad thing.

###
Swallowed By the New is available now at iTunes or directly from Glen Phillips' Bandcamp site or online store.

Upcoming Tour Dates






Posted by Linda Fahey at 10:08 PM

Laura Cortese Guest DJs with Cindy Howes

Laura Cortese & the Dance Cards Official by Patrik Bonnet[5] copy.jpgInnovative Boston fiddle quartet, Laura Cortese and The Dance Cards are currently working on a new album with the help of producer Sam Kassirer (Josh Ritter, Lake Street Dive). Although Cortese has released several albums under her own name, including two solo albums, she has been touring as Laura Cortese and The Dance Cards for the past few years. The lineup, along with Cortese, is made up of Valerie Thompson (cello/vocals), fiddler Jenna Moynihan (fiddle/vocals), and bassist Natalie Bohrn. Cortese joined Cindy Howes on Folk Alley recently for a Guest DJ set and to talk about the band's Pledge Music campaign in order to fund the album, which is due out in the first half of 2017.

{{**Note: In the interview with Laura, it's mentioned that her Pledge Music campaign to fund the new record ends September 26th, however that deadline has been extended to October 13th.**}}

Laura Cortese's Guest DJ selections:

1. Kris Drever, "When We Roll In the Morning," from If Wishes Were Horses

2. The Roches, "Hammond Song," from The Roches

3. Khari Wendell Mcclelland, "Roll On," from Fleeting Is The Time

4. Tim O'Brien, "Farewell Angelina," from Red on Blonde

5. Anais Mitchell, "Why We Build The Wall," from XOA

###

Listen to Laura Cortese's Guest DJ set here:

Posted by Linda Fahey at 6:26 PM

PLAYLIST: Folk Alley nationally syndicated radio show #160929

Thumbnail image for Folk-Alley-Logo_medium.jpgPLAYLIST: Folk Alley nationally syndicated radio show #160929. Aired between September 30 - October 6, 2016. Hosted by Elena See

Artist - Title - Album - Label

(Hour One)

Leonard Cohen - Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye - The Best Of - Columbia

Sam Bush - Greenbrier - Storyman - Sugar Hill

Gillian Welch - Red Clay Halo - Time (The Revelator) - Acony

Carolina Chocolate Drops (in studio) - Pretty Little Girl - Exclusive Folk Alley in-studio recording - Exclusive Folk Alley recordings

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

Jason Isbell - 24 Frames - Jason Isbell - Something More Than Free - Southeastern

Margo Price - Hands of Time - Midwest Farmer's Daughter - Third Man

Chris Stapleton - Traveller - Traveller - Mercury Nashville

Sara Watkins - Frederick (instrumental) - Sara Watkins - Nonesuch

Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell - If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home By Now - The Traveling Kind - Nonesuch

Greensky Bluegrass - Fixin' To Ruin - Shouted, Written Down and Quoted - Big Blue Zoo (Thirty Tigers)

Jim Kweskin & Geoff Muldaur - Sweet to Mama - Penny's Farm - Kingswood

Mollie O'Brien & Rich Moore w/ Brigid & Lucy Moore - The Day I Die - Daughters - Remington Road

Mavis Staples - History, Now - Livin' On A High Note - Anti

Taj Mahal - Take a Giant Step - The Essential - Columbia

(Hour Two)

Tom Waits - Step Right Up - Small Change - Asylum

The Devil Makes Three - Come On Up To the House - Redemption & Ruin - New West

Sierra Hull - Black River - Weighted Mind - Rounder

The Earls of Leicester - Flint Hill Special - Rattle & Roar - Rounder

Steep Canyon Rangers - Radio - Radio - Rounder

River Whyless - Life Crisis - We Are the Light - Roll Call

Neko Case, kd lang and Laura Veirs - I Want To Be Here - case/lang/veirs - Anti/Epitaph

John Prine (w/ Alison Krauss) - Falling In Love Again - For Better, Or Worse - Oh Boy (Thirty Tigers)

Willie Nelson (feat. Alison Krauss) - No Mas Amor - To All the Girls.... - Sony Legacy

Robert Plant & Alison Krauss - Killing the Blues - Raising Sand - Rounder

Jonah Tolchin - I Wonder - Thousand Mile Night - Yep Roc

Martin Simpson - Molly As She Swings - Vagrant Stanzas - Topic

Jimmy Lafave - Shining On Through - Blue Nightfall - Red House

Bob Weir - Ghost Towns - Blue Mountain - Columbia/Legacy

Laura Marling - Ghosts - Alas I Cannot Swim - Ribbon



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

Posted by Linda Fahey at 3:28 PM

Hear It First: Tom Brosseau, 'North Dakota Impressions'

September 13, 2016

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for FolkAlley.com

Tom Brosseau ND Impressions.jpgSinger/songwriter Tom Brosseau moves through the world and comes to his art at a pace and a pitch unlike most others. Maybe it's that he's from North Dakota. Maybe it's that he's an old-school folkie. Maybe it's both. Maybe it's neither. Doesn't matter, really. What he offers up, musically, is something special. His latest release, North Dakota Impressions, completes the trilogy started with Grass Punks and Perfect Abandon, and continues his partnership with Sean Watkins as producer. It's an interesting and introspective song cycle, in typical Brosseau fashion.

Kelly McCartney: Quaint small towns and simple, humble lives are very often the punchlines of jokes -- except in election years when those values get waved around on flagpoles. Why do you think we have such a push-pull relationship with the Heartland way of life?

Tom Brosseau: Local news reporter and family friend, Marilyn Hagerty, was over to my parents' house for dinner the other week when I was home visiting. My father grilled, my mother made her famous "don't scare the cabbage" coleslaw, and we all drank a cold Grain Belt beer. It was a nice evening. We ate on the back deck.

Ever inquisitive and interested in relation to my new album, North Dakota Impressions, Marilyn wondered what I thought was so funny to non-North Dakotans about North Dakota. That was her particular take on the meaning of my new album title, anyway, and to be honest, I didn't quite know how to respond. But I could see what she was getting at. In the past, while on tour, I've been asked where I'm from and when I say North Dakota, people seem to be so caught up in the idea of a state that far north that they'll let out a little laugh, like their funny button just got brushed.

The search for community and connection are at the heart of social media... which often pulls people away from their actual communities and connections. What role do you see your music -- or music, in general -- playing to help tether folks to what's true?

One of the more interesting aspects of music these days is vinyl. You might say it's made a comeback. I used to be a record store hound at Budget Music in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Vinyl had, at the point I started buying music, been phased out. Completely. Today, half the store is devoted to it.

The vinyl enthusiasts appreciate the physicality of music. The relative expansiveness of the album artwork, the actual weight of the vinyl itself, and, since it seems vinyl manufacturers are boutique, they piece it all together bit by bit, and feature special colors and packaging. There's much to marvel at.

As a recording artist, it's a pleasure to have my music on vinyl. It makes me feel like I'll never die. Vinyl is like stone.

Home, for many people, is equated with a specific place. But it can also be a state of mind and heart that is carried along. Which is it for you? Or is it something else entirely?

When I'm away from North Dakota, I can feel it in my heart and, when I'm in North Dakota, I can feel it in my heart. It's better to be in North Dakota.

Talk to me about working with Sean Watkins. How'd that feel? What did he bring, as an artist/producer, that someone else might not have offered?

Sean Watkins produced my 2014 Crossbill Records release, Grass Punks. The work ethic we created for that album transferred to North Dakota Impressions. But then, it was a whole new deal. A whole new deal because this time around we knew just what to expect from one another, and that meant we needed to figure out a way to stay distracted enough in order to be magical.

Folk music can be very much like the Bible. So much of everything -- literature, art, culture, quoting -- is based on the Bible. In music -- pop, country, rock -- so much goes back to folk music, and Sean grew up with folk music. So it's like he has these laws instilled in him that he follows. Ask me how it feels to work with Sean, and I have to say it feels very truthful.

This album is the final installment of a trilogy, so where do you go next, artistically speaking?

Home, identity and local. These are at the heart of Grass Punks, Perfect Abandon, and North Dakota Impressions. But my work here is just beginning! I'll continue to explore these themes. In the work of others, like the Carter Family, for a covers album, and in my own work, too. Maybe for my next solo album, I'll head west for new material, to the oil fields, and see what else I can find.

###

North Dakota Impressions is out on September 16th via Crossbill Records and available at iTunes and Amazon.com.

Upcoming Tour Dates


Posted by Linda Fahey at 2:50 PM

Video Premiere: Gregory Alan Isakov, "The Stable Song"

August 30, 2016

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for FolkAlley.com

Thumbnail image for gregory_alan_isakov4_400x400by-blue-caleel_wide-8b534600d6c0ffd89e0b2b9a21fc9088b985f8b2-s900-c85 copy.jpgMore so than many of his peers, Gregory Alan Isakov has a magical, mystical way with a folk song. There's a tenderness to his approach that never tips into the abyss of corniness that befalls so many others. His new collaborative album, Gregory Alan Isakov and the Colorado Symphony, is a perfect example, as the orchestra so easily floats under, around, and above his compositions.

"One of the things we were really going for, making this record, was a symphonic element that allowed the songs to breathe and maintain a sense of space," Isakov says. "And I love how it came out -- so many hands were involved with the arrangements, scores, mixing, artwork, and video work."

On its own, "The Stable Song" epitomizes what sets Isakov apart. Add on the Colorado Symphony and a throwback video, and the die is cast. Isakov turned to his bassist, John Grigsby, to make the video using a combination of vintage footage and live "actors" folded into each other through animation and editing. As Isakov tells it, "John Grigsby is one of the most creative animators and musicians I know. I love how our collaboration with this video took shape. I think that's why I love playing with John in the band, as well. Songs, for me, don't really exist in the literal world. I love how this video allows the viewer to dream up their own take on the song."

###

Gregory Alan Isakov and the Colorado Symphony is out now and available at iTunes and Amazon.com

Upcoming Tour Dates


Posted by Linda Fahey at 10:32 PM

PLAYLIST: Folk Alley nationally syndicated radio show #160825

August 28, 2016

Thumbnail image for Folk-Alley-Logo_medium.jpgPLAYLIST: Folk Alley nationally syndicated radio show #160825. Aired between Aug 26 - Sept 1, 2016. Hosted by Elena See

Artist - Title - Album - Label

(Hour ONE) - featuring our in-studio session with Ani DiFranco from the 2016 30A Songwriters Festival

John Prine (feat. Susan Tedeschi) - Color of the Blues - For Better, Or Worse - Oh Boy / Thirty Tigers

Jerry Douglas - Monroe's Hornpipe - Under The Wire - Sugar Hill

Amos Lee - Spirit - Spirit - Republic

Gary Clark Jr. - Take Me Down - Gary Clark Jr. - Warner Bros.

Steve Earle - The Gulf Of Mexico - I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive - New West

Ani DiFranco - Allergic To Water (in-studio) - Folk Alley Exclusive - Live from the 30A Songwriters Festival - Folk Alley Exclusive

Ani DiFranco - Play God (in-studio) - Folk Alley Exclusive - Live from the 30A Songwriters Festival - Folk Alley Exclusive

Ani DiFranco - Binary (in-studio) - Folk Alley Exclusive - Live from the 30A Songwriters Festival - Folk Alley Exclusive

Pete Seeger (w/ B.Bragg,Ani D,S.Earle) - Bring Them Home - SEEDS:Songs of Pete Seeger Vol 3 - Appleseed

Pete Seeger - If I Had a Hammer - Sing-A-Long - Smithsonian

(Hour TWO)

Martin Sexton - Shut Up and Sing - Mixtape of the Open Road - Kitchen Table

We Banjo 3 - Good Time Old Time - String Theory - We Banjo 3

Uncle Earl - Bony on the Isle of St. Helena - Waterloo, Tennessee - Rounder

Norah Jones - Carry On - Day Breaks - Blue Note

The Little Willies - I Gotta Get Drunk - The Little Willies - Milking Bull

Dietrich Strause - Rainy Days - How Cruel That Hunger Binds - Dietrich Strause

Shawn Colvin - Not A Drop Of Rain - Uncovered - Fantasy/Concord

The Foghorn Stringband - Columbus Stockade Blues - Devil In the Seat - Foghorn Music

Anna & Elizabeth - Heap of Horses - Sun To Sun - Free Dirt

O'Connor Band with Mark O'Connor - Always Do - Coming Home - Rounder

Bob Weir - Only A River - Blue Mountain - Columbia/Legacy

Grateful Dead Tribute - Friend of the Devil - Pickin' on the Grateful Dead: Tribute - CMH

Grateful Dead - Monkey and the Engineer - Reckoning - Arista

The Stray Birds - All the News - Magic Fire - Yep Roc

Amy Helm - Good News - Didn't It Rain - Entertainment One




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

Posted by Linda Fahey at 4:07 PM

Support Folk Alley During Our Spring Fund Drive!

 

Recent Topics

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
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'HOOT Thursday' Video Premiere: Tracy Bonham, "In the Pines"
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'HOOT Thursday' Video Premiere: The Brother Brothers,"Cairo, Illinois"
'HOOT Thursday' Video Premiere: Lula Wiles, "Leave Me Now"
Guest DJ Hour: Kim Ruehl
Guest DJ Hour: Kelly McCartney Recaps AmericanaFest 2016
A Q & A with Dar Williams
Album Review: Chely Wright, 'I Am the Rain'
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PLAYLIST: Folk Alley nationally syndicated radio show #160929
Hear It First: Tom Brosseau, 'North Dakota Impressions'
Video Premiere: Gregory Alan Isakov, "The Stable Song"
PLAYLIST: Folk Alley nationally syndicated radio show #160825

 

 

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