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A Q & A with Courtney Marie Andrews

December 5, 2016

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

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.


Upcoming Tour Dates

Honest Life is available now directly from Mama Bird Recording Co., or at 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.


'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,

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.


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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 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

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"


Posted by Linda Fahey at 1:27 PM

Guest DJ Hour: Kelly McCartney Recaps AmericanaFest 2016

October 8, 2016

by Cindy Howes,

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"


Posted by Linda Fahey at 12:20 PM

A Q & A with Dar Williams

October 7, 2016

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

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

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

Upcoming Tour Dates

Posted by Linda Fahey at 2:10 PM

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

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

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

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 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, TuneIn, iTunes and more. :: for more information contact Linda Fahey at 518-354-8077:

Posted by Linda Fahey at 3:28 PM

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

September 13, 2016

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

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

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

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

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 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, TuneIn, iTunes and more. :: for more information contact Linda Fahey at 518-354-8077:

Posted by Linda Fahey at 4:07 PM

Hear It First: Dietrich Strause, 'How Cruel That Hunger Binds'

August 22, 2016

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

Dietrich How Cruel That Hungr Binds 400.jpgWhen Dietrich Strause decided he wanted to make a new record, he recruited a bunch of the most talented folks in the New England indie-folk scene, including Alec Spiegelman, Lyle Brewer, Amy Correia, and Mark Erelli, then got Zachariah Hickman and Sam Kassirer to helm the whole thing at Great North Sound Society in Parsonsfield, Maine. The result, 'How Cruel That Hunger Binds,' is an artistic work that feels simultaneously big and small: It has a broad vision coupled with an intimate execution.

Punctuated with horns here, vibes there, and woodwinds elsewhere, the aural landscape expands and contracts to suit the needs of each piece. Though much of the overarching production credit surely goes to Hickman, it all begins with the songs with which Strause has an intriguing relationship.

"The songs I write are some of my closest friends -- which is why, in the past, recording music was a type of grieving. Committing to an approach or a particular take of a song was saying goodbye to an old friend for the last time, like waving from the window of a car you're not driving," Strause says. "But throughout recording 'How Cruel That Hunger Binds,' I felt like I was making new friends; I was on the other end of the cycle. I didn't dwell on what I was losing, but embraced all that I was gaining. I think it's a fitting musical backdrop for the lyrics, which revolve around desire, love, lust, and adventurous hearts."

Highlights of the set include "The Beast That Rolls Within," "Spring Has Sprung," and "Boy Born to Die." According to Strause, "The album's title comes from 'Boy Born to Die,' but the song that holds the essence of the album is 'Lying in Your Arms.' There's a cruelty in the cycle of our nature -- we destroy to survive. We say goodbye to old friends to make way for new ones. The Beatles sang, 'All You Need is Love,' but I suppose these songs are about how all you need is to love."


'How Cruel That Hunger Binds' will be released August 26 and is available for pre-order at iTunes and HERE.

Upcoming Tour Dates

Posted by Linda Fahey at 12:29 PM

A Q & A with Sara Watkins

August 21, 2016

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

Sara Watkins 400sq.jpgA lot of roots music lovers have watched Sara Watkins (and her brother Sean) grow up, personally and professionally, over the past couple of decades. As members of Nickel Creek and the Watkins Family Hour band, the two are bound together in many hearts and minds. But they both have solo careers, as well, and Sara's new set, 'Young in All the Wrong Ways,' does much to establish her singular, crystalline voice, literally and musically. The impressive collection marks a stepping out for her... and a coming of age.

Kelly McCartney: What was different about your songwriting approach on this set?

Sara Watkins: There was a point that I started to become aware that songs were starting to come out, and I could feel that I still had more to say. This led to a chunk of time in which, whenever I could, I'd wake up around 7:30 or 8, make coffee, and -- without looking at my phone to check email, texts or news -- sit outside at a table with a guitar and some paper. I got some good work done out there.

Did you have a sonic vision going in or did that evolve?

The sonic vision was pretty broad strokes. It was more about getting the right musicians in the room together. That was the primary focus. I knew this wouldn't be a solo-heavy record. I knew there wouldn't be a ton of fiddle on it, but wanted it to feel more orchestral.

There are quite a few different styles on this thing, but it comes off as cohesive. What conscious choices did you make to tie them together?

Thank you. This is the first of my records on which I wrote or co-wrote all the songs. I think it helps that the lyrical voice is consistent throughout. Even though the album covers a lot of subjects over time, it all came through me.

"Move Me" feels like the biggest curve ball of the collection. How does it feel to push yourself -- and your voice -- to that edge? And how do people respond to it?

Interesting. I love singing "Move Me." It comes out pretty naturally live. Audiences have been receptive to this new material -- it's been great touring so far and there is much more to do.

Because you regularly collaborate with Sean, do you guys strategize together on the timing of all your various projects, or do you each just go with the flow?

You know, we actually do a little bit. We had to take a five-month break from our monthly Watkins Family Hour residency in L.A. because our tours were directly opposite from each other. He'd come home from his tour and the next day I'd leave for my tour. It was ridiculous. Now we have started to try and coordinate a few breaks here and there in our touring so we can keep the Family Hour fairly consistent.

'Young In All the Wrong Ways' is out now on New West Records and available at iTunes and

Upcoming Tour Dates

Posted by Linda Fahey at 10:00 PM

Hear It First: The Stray Birds, 'Magic Fire'

August 11, 2016

by Cindy Howes,

The Stray Birds Magic Fire cover400.jpgAnyone worried about the legacy of Levon Helm and The Band need not worry; the first 10 seconds of The Stray Birds' new album, Magic Fire will ease your mind in more ways than one. Produced by Larry Campbell, a man who was actually in Levon Helm's band (and who also has worked with the likes of Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and Willie Nelson), the record was created in 10 days in New York State's Hudson Valley. Campbell's studio served as a retreat for the group, who had never worked with an outside producer. His vision aligned with theirs, plus he offered to play on whatever song they wanted. His production-lead and contributions on pedal steel, fiddle, mandolin, acoustic and electric guitar have taken this band to the next level.

Magic Fire - The Stray Birds' fourth full-length album - sees the band expanding and broadening their sound while adding Shane Leonard (drums/percussion/vocals) as a new member. Leonard heightens that rhythmic quality that the group always had and his groove settles right in on record. He'll be bringing it out on the road too, as he's now an official member of the band in concert as well as in the studio.

The first thing that strikes you when listening to The Stray Birds is the voice of Maya de Vitry, who also plays acoustic guitar and fiddle. In the past, her vocal style was the center the band, with Oliver Craven (vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, fiddle, slide guitar, mandolin) and Charlie Muench (vocals, upright bass) as important supporting roles. The depths that de Vitry's voice reaches are quite unusual and extremely captivating. You could write an entire essay on the emotions this woman is able to encompass on just one song. However, discounting the contributions of the very talented Craven and Muench would be unwise. Craven's smart writing and sharp playing abilities are incomparable, while Muench's steady bass beat and vocals add to the distinct character of The Stray Birds. This album proves to be their most collaborative release with songwriting contributions from each member, including Muench's first complete composition "Where You Come From."

Something that has remained constant through their change in sound is The Stray Birds sweeping and massive harmonies. The band has masterfully crafted their choruses, which bring to mind those amazing refrains you'd hear from The Band in songs like "The Weight" and "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down." If the late Levon Helm were still around, you know he'd be hosting this young band at one of his famous Midnight Rambles at his barn in Woodstock, NY.


The Stray Birds' Magic Fire is out via Yep Roc Records on Friday, August 19 and is available for pre-order HERE!

Upcoming Tour Dates


Posted by Linda Fahey at 4:17 PM

Video Premiere: Parsonsfield, "Stronger"

July 26, 2016

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

Parsonsfield_Press ps resize.jpgA lot of string bands like to talk about how they are innovating, but Parsonsfield actually delivers on that promise. Not only does their sound kick out the windows of what most people think of folk and bluegrass, but their new video raises a flag for the millennial generation. In it, a couple texts the lyrics of the song "Stronger" back and forth, as if in a dialogue.

The on-point simplicity of the opening lines sets the stage: "When you were mine and I was yours, when both of our keys opened up the same door, there was love in our hearts, in our clothes on the floor," Chris Freeman sings over a gently picked guitar, adding, "Love used to be fun. It became such a chore." From there, the track builds in the typically fierce Parsonsfield fashion.

Sometimes, the breeze whispers a message of meaning, quiet and true. And, sometimes, the barn needs to be burned to the ground in order to get the point across. On "Stronger" (found on their upcoming release Blooming Through the Black) Parsonsfield takes both tacks to deliver their dispatch... and one helluva song.


Blooming Through the Black will be released via Signature Sounds on September 9th.

Upcoming Tour Dates

Posted by Linda Fahey at 8:59 AM

PLAYLIST: Folk Alley nationally syndicated radio show #160721

July 24, 2016

Thumbnail image for Folk-Alley-Logo_medium.jpgPLAYLIST: Folk Alley nationally syndicated radio show #160721. Aired between July 22 - July 28, 2016. Hosted by Elena See

This episode (#160721) is a rebroadcast of a show first heard in July of 2015 featuring our in-studio Folk Alley Session with Amy Helm & Handsome Strangers.

Artist - Title - Album - Label

(Hour ONE)

Mavis Staples - Fight - Your Good Fortune (EP) - ANTI

Son Little - The River - The River (Single) - Anti

The Earnest Lovers - San Andeas' Fault - Sing Sad Songs (EP) - Elko

Norman Blake - Savannah Rag - Wood, Wire & Words - Plectrofone

Bob Dylan - Someday Baby - Tell Tale Signs - Columbia

Amy Helm & the Handsome Strangers (in-studio) - Sky's Falling - Folk Alley in-studio session - Folk Alley/WKSU exclusive

Amy Helm & the Handsome Strangers (in-studio) - Deep Water - Folk Alley in-studio session - Folk Alley/WKSU exclusive

Amy Helm & the Handsome Strangers (in-studio) - Rescue Me - Amy Helm & the Handsome Strangers (in-studio) - Folk Alley in-studio session - Folk Alley/WKSU exclusive

Kacey Musgraves - Somebody To Love - Pageant Material - Mercury Nashville

Jefferson Airplane - Embryonic Journey - Surrealistic Pillow - RCA/BMG

Charlie Parr - Delia - Stumpjumper - Red House

Patty Griffin - Love Throw a Line - Impossible Dream - ATO/BMG

Nick Drake - Which Will - Pink Moon - Hannibal

(Hour TWO)

John Hartford - Gum Tree Canoe - Gum Tree Canoe - FlyingFish

Black Prairie - For the Love of John Hartford - A Tear In the Eye Is A Wound In the Heart - Sugar Hill

Robert Earl Keen - Steam Powered Aeroplane - Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions - Dualtone

Rod Picott - Elbow Grease - Fortune - Welding Rod

Kasey Chambers - Heaven or Hell - Bittersweet - Sugar Hill

Brindl - Just What I Needed - Love It Up - Brindl

Maria Muldaur - Somebody Was Watching Over Me - I'm A Woman - ShoutFact.

Hot Rize - Clary Mae - When I'm Free - Ten In Hand

Tim O'Brien - I've Endured - Traveler - Sugar Hill

Old Man Luedecke - Wait A While - Domestic Eccentric - True North

Samantha Crain - Kathleen - Under Branch & Thorn & Tree - Ramseur Records (Thirty

Kaia Kater - Valley Forge - Sorrow Bound - Kingswood

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

The Steeldrivers - Long Way Down - The Muscle Shoals Recordings - Rounder

The Honey Dewdrops - Lowlands - Tangled Country - The Honey Dewdrops

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 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, TuneIn, iTunes and more. :: for more information contact Linda Fahey at 518-354-8077:

Posted by Linda Fahey at 11:38 PM

Album Review: Lori McKenna, 'The Bird & The Rifle

July 21, 2016

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

Lori McKenna 300x300 The Bird & the Rifle copy.jpgWhen talents as enormous as Lori McKenna and Dave Cobb come together in a studio, the resulting record is bound to be special. Exhibit A: The Bird & The Rifle. Both music-makers have been riding high lately, with hit records and Grammy Awards to spare. But, if any two folks ever deserved such accolades, it's these two.

The secret to McKenna's success is that she understands that life -- and, therefore, art -- is all about the details. The real stuff happens in the space between the breaths, the calm between the storms, and the quiet between the words. That's where she lives (along with her husband and five children) so it's also where she creates. In McKenna's hands, the often arduous daily toil gets sculpted into magnificent vignettes.

Even when McKenna takes a hard look at long-term commitment, as she does so wondrously in the album's opener, "Wreck You," she makes the lack of romanticism somehow romantic. And Cobb's intuitive production -- the gently soaring strings, in particular -- lets the piece lean over and peer into the abyss of what a collapsing marriage can be, while still keeping it from falling into any sort of despair. The story's resolution is left for another day, but the listener might easily imagine that the singer's resolve will get the couple through the darkness and back to the light.

That same matter-of-fact handling works to great effect as McKenna prattles off the poignant check-list that is "Humble and Kind." With another singer -- let's say Tim McGraw, just for argument's sake -- the tune could go from sentimental to saccharin in four bars flat. But McKenna packs the punch of several decades as a mother and each line was written for one of her kids, so her grasp of the material is steeped in authenticity.

Other highlights include the breezy vibe of "We Were Cool," the Mary Chapin Carpenter feel of "All These Things," the thoughtful sway of "Old Men Young Women," and the telling shuffle of "Giving Up on Your Hometown." Really, though, there's nary a missed shot anywhere in the set.


'The Bird & the Rifle' is out on July 29 via CN Records/Thirty Tigers and available now for pre-order at iTunes and

Upcoming tour dates

Posted by Linda Fahey at 3:32 PM

PLAYLIST: Folk Alley nationally syndicated radio show #160714

July 18, 2016

Thumbnail image for Folk-Alley-Logo_medium.jpgPLAYLIST: Folk Alley nationally syndicated radio show #160714. Aired between July 15 - July 21, 2016. Hosted by Elena See

Artist - Title - Album - Label

(Hour One)

Sara Watkins - Say So - Young In All The Wrong Ways - New West

Bela Fleck - Katmandu - Tales From An Acoustic Planet Volume 2 - Warner Bros

Sam Bush (w/ Allison Krauss) - Lefty's Song - Storyman - Sugar Hill

Bryan Sutton - Walkin' Across This Land - The More I Learn - Sugar Hill

The Earls of Leicester - The Train That Carried My Girl From Town - Rattle & Roar - Rounder

John Gorka - I Know - Before Beginning: The Unreleased I Know - Nashville, 1985 - Red House Records

John Gorka - I Saw A Stranger With Your Hair - Before Beginning: The Unreleased I Know - Nashville, 1985 - Red House Records

Lula Wiles - Traveling On - Lula Wiles - Lula Wiles

Robert Earl Keen - The Traveling Storm - What I Really Mean - Koch

Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell - The Traveling Kind - The Traveling Kind - Nonesuch Records

Lori McKenna - The Bird & The Rifle - The Bird & The Rifle - CN Records/Thirty Tigers

Leo Kottke - The Driving of the Year Nail - 6 and 12 String Guitar - Takoma

David Francey - Big Texas Moon - Empty Train - Laker Music

Sarah Jarosz - Jaqueline - Undercurrent - Sugar Hill

The Milk Carton Kids - Snake Eyes - The Ash & Clay -Anti

(Hour Two)

Miss Tess - Little Lola - Baby, We All Know - Miss Tess Music

Fiddle & Banjo (Karrnel Sawitsky & Daniel Koulack) - Lullaby - Fiddle & Banjo Tunes From North, Songs From The South - Sawitsky & Koulack

The Alt - What Put The Blood - The Alt - Under The Arch

Grant Dermody - So Sorry To Leave You - Sun Might Shine On Me - Grant Dermody

The Honeycutters - Let's Get Drunk - On The Ropes - Organic Records

Neko Case, kd lang, and Laura Veirs - Georgia Stars - case/lang/veirs - Anti/Epitaph

Hurray For The Riff Raff - Little Black Star - Look Out Mama - Born To Win

Nick Drake - Hanging On A Star - Made to Love Magic - Island

Linda Ronstadt/Ann Savoy - Walk Away Renee - Adiue False Heart - Vanguard

Linda Ronstadt/Ann Savoy - Adiue False Heart - Adiue False Heart - Vanguard

Mountain Heart - I Can't Get Over You - Blue Skies - Compass

Darrell Scott - Alton Air - A Crooked Road - Full Light

Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley - Friend of the Devil - The Country Blues.

Steve Martin & Edie Brickell - Another Round - So Familiar - Rounder/Compass

Paul Simon - In A Parade - Stranger to Stranger - Concord

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 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, TuneIn, iTunes and more. :: for more information contact Linda Fahey at 518-354-8077:

Posted by Linda Fahey at 4:39 PM

Hear It First: John Gorka, 'Before Beginning: The Unreleased 'I Know' - Nashville, 1985'

July 15, 2016

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

Gorka Before Beginning.jpgIt's a fascinating exercise to step back in time some 31 years to a now-iconic artist's humble beginnings. But such is the case with John Gorka's "new" release -- Before Beginning: The Unreleased I Know -- which collects the 1985 recordings Gorka did over the course of five days in Nashville at Cowboy Jack Clements' studio with producer Jim Rooney. At Nanci Griffith's suggestion, the 25-year-old folkie ventured into his first sessions with some of the top players in Music City. The resulting work was never released, and Gorka would spend another two years making what would become his debut, I Know, which includes nine of the same songs.

The original record featured Kenny Malone on drums/percussion, Dave Pomeroy on bass, Jay Patten on saxophone, Mike Dugan on electric guitar, Ralph Vitello and Biff Watson on keyboards, Stuart Duncan on fiddle and mandolin, and Shawn Colvin and Lucy Kaplansky on backing vocals.

Looking back from here, Gorka confesses, "I can only say that I was finding my way. I had played solo live almost exclusively and I had not made an album or ever done a studio recording with other players. I guess I just didn't know what I wanted to hear. I know now that there is more than one right way to present a song. In that way songs are bigger than any one recording of a song. It was good. It just wasn't the good I wanted at the time."


Before Beginning: The Unreleased 'I Know' will be out on July 22 via Red House Records and is available for pre-order at iTunes and at

Upcoming Tour Dates

Posted by Linda Fahey at 9:10 AM

Album Review: Ana Egge & the Sentimentals, 'Say That Now'

July 13, 2016

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

AnaEgge_400_SayThatNow_albumcover-copy copy.jpgAna Egge is no stranger to collaboration. On her last outing, 2015's 'Bright Shadow,' she partnered with the Stray Birds. On her new set, 'Say That Now,' she nabbed The Sentimentals, a folk-rock band from Denmark. The Danes provide a wonderfully complementary mooring for Egge's buoyant voice, whether they're working through the bluesy rock of "Take Off My Dress" and "Spider" or the folkish country of "Promises to Break" and "Still Waters Run Deep."

There's a lot to love about this record, and there's also a good bit to think about. "He's a Killer Now" takes the perspective of the 2015 Copenhagen terrorist's mother in the wake of his death and killing of two others. Further into the set, "Away We Go" reflects on the 2014 killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, by a police officer. And she's not pulling any punches: "You're a real-life villain. Yeah, you definitely killed him. Then you took everything that he was and broke it on the TV channel. Justice won't do it, if you're not born into it. You can put up your hands behind your back upon the ground and shut your mouth."

In an era when so many folk singers focus more on the personal than the political, Egge has tied the two strands together in ways that recall Joan Baez from the past and Hurray for the Riff Raff from the present. That, alone, is worth supporting, but Say That Now offers even more.

'Say That Now' is available at iTunes and CD Baby.

Upcoming Tour Dates

Posted by Linda Fahey at 9:30 AM

Video Premiere: Lula Wiles, "Traveling On"

July 6, 2016

300 sq Lula Wiles.jpgAll the members of Lula Wiles - Isa Burke, Ellie Buckland, and Mali Obomsawin - grew up in Maine in musical families, and they began playing music together as kids at Maine Fiddle Camp. One by one, they each found their way to Boston to study at Berklee College of Music. Isa and Ellie (both on vocals, fiddle, and guitar) began performing as a duo in April 2013, and Lula Wiles was born when Mali (bass, vocals) joined the band a year later.

Their effervescent vocal harmonies, musical chemistry and evocative arrangements create a dynamic and spirited live show as they pass around instruments and frontwoman duties with style and ease.

As part of Beehive Production's 'Ear To the Ground' mini-documentary style video series, Lula Wiles recently paid a visit to Saranac Lake, NY for a session taping featuring songs from their self-titled debut album (available here) released in May, 2016.

Lula Wiles - Traveling On from Beehive Productions on Vimeo.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 9:55 PM

A Q & A with Sarah Jarosz

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

275 squ Sarah Jarosz pr2016 500 copy.jpgThe talent that Sarah Jarosz wields is truly something to behold. Like some of her peers -- Sierra Hull, Parker Millsap, Mipso, and others -- the width and depth of what she has done and will yet do is a little bit mind-boggling. And her gorgeous new album, Undercurrent, warrants even further acclaim as it plumbs depths not previously explored by the roots music phenom.

Kelly McCartney: The new record has been cited by critics as being a bit darker, perhaps a bit heartier, than records past. Is that a fair estimation? Why or why not?

Sarah Jarosz: Yes, I would say that is a fair estimation. Even though this is my fourth record, it feels like there were a lot of firsts for me, in terms of the process of writing and recording this time around. For one, it's the first record I've made while not also simultaneously being in high school or college. It's the first record I've made since moving to New York City. And it's the first record of mine that doesn't have any covers on it. The fact that it's all original music makes it feel like the most personal album I've made so far.

I went into the studio with this batch of songs wanting to capture them in as sparse of a manner as we could, and to me the record feels like it's anchored around the four solo performances throughout. A lot of the imagery on the record is inspired by my time in New York City, but also there are themes of water throughout. This sense of the tide changing, feeling one way and then another, grappling with the desire to look back but ultimately wanting to look forward. There's a darkness in there, for sure, but I think the record also contains a sense of hopefulness in trying to push through those ever-changing feelings.

Considering the rave reviews 'Bones' received, what kinds of pressure -- internal or external -- did you feel going into the making of this record?

After touring the music from Build Me Up from Bones for a couple of years, it became apparent that I needed to have the chance to step away from my own project for a bit and get involved in some really exciting collaborations. I did a collaborative tour with the Milk Carton Kids at the end of 2014. Singing three-part harmonies with those guys every night was quite the transcendent experience.

From there, I was honored to get to perform on A Prairie Home Companion quite often, which eventually led to being invited to sing on Garrison's America the Beautiful tour which lasted a whole month last August. Getting to work with Garrison in that close proximity for an entire month was priceless. Our shows on that tour would often be three-plus hours long, and they were never the same twice. He was constantly writing and revising and trying to make things better, and I was just ultra inspired by that.

And on top of that, I started a new band with Sara Watkins and Aoife O'Donovan called I'm With Her which has truly been a joy to dive into and write and perform with those women, whom I just hold in the highest regard. All of those collaborations allowed me to approach my own music in a refreshed, inspired way. Especially with Sara and Aoife, having the opportunity to suddenly be a team member, an equal player in a band, really pushed me as a singer, and I think made me a better listener on stage and in the writing and arranging process.

So, going into this album, I didn't really feel pressure, I just felt renewed with this new-found sense of inspiration from having the opportunity to take a step away and think, "What is it I really want to write about?!" With school, my schedule hadn't really allowed for that kind of full-time level of attention to my music, and I think because I was able to have that, I felt more present for the making of this record than ever before.

Which song, to you, is the head of the set and which one the heart?

That's a tough one... hard to narrow it down to just two because this whole record really feels like one concise statement to me. But, I suppose that "House of Mercy" would have to be the head and "Jacqueline" would be the heart. "House of Mercy" was a co-write with Jedd Hughes, who will now be joining me on the road to play guitar and sing harmony, which I couldn't be more thrilled about! There's a darkness in that song -- a headstrong sensibility throughout. "Jacqueline" is inspired by my time spent walking around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park. I was reading about her and, on the Central Park website, it says that that was the last place she was ever seen in public before she passed away. I was really inspired by that image of her, combined with all of my time spent by the water there. At the end of the song, there's a glimmer of hope: "Maybe in a little while I'll feel alright." To me, that felt like the appropriate sentiment to end on.

What did attending the New England Conservatory of Music bring to your work?

NEC really gave me the chance to expand my musical palette. I listened to a lot of music growing up, but hadn't really dipped my toes into most things jazz-oriented or world music-leaning. I had done a little bit of that at the Mandolin Symposium, studying Choro mandolin songs with Mike Marshall and Irish tunes with Tim O'Brien, but that only made me more curious to want to learn new things.

I think there was also this feeling, after high school, of wanting something to be a bridge between high school and life, and not necessarily immediately hit the road full-time. So, I decided to head to Boston, where, even aside from NEC, there was, and still is, a thriving music scene. When I wasn't in school learning Abbey Lincoln tunes with Ran Blake or writing a 16th-century counterpoint line, I was writing music or traveling to play a gig or record. In retrospect, it was a lot on my plate at one time, but I'm so thankful for it all, and I think I came away from it with a more assured sense of my own work and a deeper musical pool to swim around in.


'Undercurrent' is out now on Sugar Hill Records and available at iTunes and

Upcoming Tour Dates

Posted by Linda Fahey at 7:10 PM

A Q & A with Sean Watkins

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

300 sq SEAN-WATKINS-PRESS-PHOTO-449x303 copy 2.jpgMost folks in the roots music world are very familiar with Sean Watkins, if not through his years as one-third of Nickel Creek (alongside Chris Thile and his sister Sara) or his ongoing Watkins Family Hour project, then certainly through his solo records. The guitarist/singer/songwriter always seems to have new music pouring out. His latest solo set, What to Fear, adds yet another notch to his artistic belt. On it, he explores stories and themes previously uncharted in his career, and he does so with the same deft skill that he brings to all of his work.

Kelly McCartney: You sketch stories from a number of different characters on this album. What's your process for stepping out of yourself and into another?

Sean Watkins: It's always fun writing from another perspective. I don't know that I have a process; they just kind of tumble out that way sometimes. I think it's healthy to let go of all your own feelings, issues, and emotions every now and then and try to take on someone else's. I tend to write autobiographically, so lyrics like those in "What to Fear" and "I Am What You Want" give me a bit of a thrill and are really fun to sing.

Alternately, mining a song from a phrase, like you did with "Last Time for Everything," does that tap into a different approach?

Yeah, I've been writing song titles first a lot lately. It's fun to go about constructing a song in reverse order of what is typically done. I heard someone use that phrase -- "There's a last time for everything" -- and thought to myself, "Surely that phrase must have made its way into a (probably) cheesy sentimental country ballad." But upon some inspection, I didn't find much, so I started working on it. But I wanted to take it the opposite way of sad sentimentality and endings stuff. I wanted to celebrate the good endings and last times.

What does a solo record feed in you creatively that Family Hour, Nickel Creek, and your various other projects don't?

It's healthy and constructive to stand on your own two feet in art as in life. It's good because it reminds you who you are and lets the people around you know where you're at, too. And every time I've gone back into a band situation from a solo situation, it's always felt better because of the personal work I've done.

You've had record releases three years in a row now, plus touring. Is this an especially prolific, energized time for you? What would you do with a whole year off?

It doesn't feel prolific so much as it feels like I'm finally where I should be, creatively. I don't want to spread myself too thin, but I have a lot to say and many musical experiments on my list of things to try. I'm going to keep up this pace, whatever that means. I wouldn't know what to do with a year off. That sounds like hell to me. Ha!

Did you have an artistic vision going into the studio that you, then, recruited bassist Mike Elizondo and drummer Matt Chamberlain plus the Bee Eaters to fulfill? Or was it more collaborative once you got in the room with them?

I had two very different visions of what this record could be, going into making it. One was to make the whole record with the Bee Eaters, an amazing string band from Northern California whom I love playing with. The other was to do it with the rhythm section of Matt Chamberlain on drums and Mike Elizondo on bass. Individually, they are both huge heroes of mine and, playing together, they are just insane.

So I picked four songs that I felt would represent the whole album and recorded them in both scenarios. After that, I overdubbed the Bee Eaters onto the versions I did with Mike and Matt. The combined version ended up being the best, and that vibe and aesthetic ended up shaping how I made the rest of the record.


Sean Watkins' 'What To Fear' is out now on Family Hour Records and is available at iTunes and

Upcoming Tour Dates

Posted by Linda Fahey at 6:28 PM

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