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Album Review: Lord Huron, 'Strange Trails'

March 27, 2015

Lord Huron Strange Trails 300.jpgby Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

On the new 'Strange Trails,' Lord Huron picks up right where 'Lonesome Dreams' left off... with impossibly catchy melodies, emphatically fanciful lyrics, and intriguingly hazy production. Lord Huron has a very specific, radio-ready sound that emerges somewhere between the crisp acoustic guitars and Ben Schneider's layered vocals, and which owes a solid debt to My Morning Jacket, Fleet Foxes, and Animal Collective.

As on that predecessor, the songs here find their singer traversing the land and brooding about love in the most cheerful way imaginable. Heck, even their titles betray that underlying theme -- "Meet Me in the Woods," "The Yawning Grave," "Frozen Pines," and "Way Out There." To really drive it home on songs like "La Belle Fleur Sauvage," "The World Ender," and "Cursed," chunky guitars chug like steam engines headed out of western towns in search of big, blue skies and wide open plains to help that same singer forget about the loveliest little gal either side of the Rio Grande.

To be sure, 'Strange Trails' is a pleasant and pleasing record, an easy, folk-rock listen teeming with potential singles and gleaming platitudes. And, maybe, that's enough. It was certainly enough for 'Lonesome Dreams' to catch on like wildfire. After all, not everyone has to be Neil Young or even Justin Vernon -- indeed, not everyone can be Neil Young or Justin Vernon. Some people get to be Ben Schneider.

'Strange Trails' comes out April 7 and can be ordered HERE.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 5:14 PM | Comments (0)

Album Review: Laura Marling, 'Short Movie'

March 27, 2015

Laura Marling Short Movie cover 300.jpgby Kelly McCarthy (@theKELword) for

Laura Marling, the British songstress who released four records in five years, returns with her fifth, 'Short Movie.' After the earlier flurry of activity, Marling spent a couple of years in a self-imposed exile in Los Angeles surrounded by people who made art for art's sake and nothing more. The experience recalibrated and renewed her dedication to her own art, and resulted in this album.

Marling admits that she's not a skilled enough musician to craft exquisitely simple songs. That's why her exquisitely complex compositions meander to and fro through intricate arrangements and varied signatures. Because of that, Marling has, in the past, drawn comparisons to Joni Mitchell. Here, that influence is evidenced on songs like "I Feel Your Love" and "Easy," though Marling's interpolation of Mitchell's style is not as true as on, say, Eva Cassidy's records. Marling uses Mitchell as a mere starting point before veering off in all manner of directions.

Once she gets going, Marling channels her inner Chrissie Hynde on "False Hope" and "Gurdjieffs's Daughter," then does her best Lou Reed-inspired talk-sing on "Strange" to craft some of her edgiest pieces. A little further in, "Don't Let Me Bring You Down" feels like classic Ani DiFranco (though not without a small injection of Hynde-style swagger). That song's opening lines sum up so much of what L.A. life was like for Marling -- and anyone else, for that matter: "Living here is a game I don't know how to play. Are you really not anybody until somebody knows your name?"

On the folkier, acoustic bits, Marling readily allows Nick Drake's ghost to haunt "Warrior" and "How Can I" to great effect. Wonderful songs, both. Plugging in, Marling puts a plodding pulse and a tempered electric vibe on "Walk Alone," "Howl," and "Worship Me" -- all of which recall M. Ward or, maybe, Iron & Wine. They are moody and muted, and some of Marling's best works. As a follow-up to 2013's critically acclaimed 'Once I Was an Eagle,' this set may not clear that record's bar, but it holds its own.

'Short Movie' was released through Ribbon Music on March 24 and is available HERE.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 4:25 PM | Comments (0)

Important information about your Folk Alley account

March 24, 2015

Dear Folk Alley Listener,

On March 23, 2015, Folk Alley confirmed a breach in the security of the Folk Alley website. This unauthorized access resulted in the exposure of your information stored on the site. This information contained email addresses and passwords used to register with the site. There is no evidence that names, addresses and phone numbers were accessed. It did not contain data such as credit card numbers, as we do not store this on our site.

The unauthorized access was suspected during a routine review of logs. After further investigation, the scope of the breach was identified. The vulnerability that was exploited in order to gain access to the server has been corrected.

For the safety of your account, and to protect other accounts for which you may use the same information, we advise that you change your password at sites using the same email and password. We will soon be sending correspondence with instructions on how to regain access to your account.

Ele Ellis
Director of Programming

Posted by admin at 5:31 PM | Comments (0)

Album Review: Brandi Carlile, 'The Firewatcher's Daughter'

March 23, 2015

Carlile Album cover 300.jpgby Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

Sometimes, on a record, individual tracks stand out on the very first listen -- for better or worse -- but the collection, as a whole, takes a few more spins to really sink in. Even then, it might not fully come together as a cohesive listening experience although it might still be enjoyable when taken in fits and starts. Such is the case with Brandi Carlile's 'The Firewatcher's Daughter' (and, indeed, her last two records, as well). There are some absolutely, immediately stellar pixels on this album, but the bigger picture takes a minute to come into view.

Buzzing with excitement -- like their parents are out of town -- Carlile and the twins (Tim and Phil Hanseroth) get things going with the wildly insistent "Wherever Is Your Heart." But, just as quickly, they rein it all back in on the very next cut. If "Wherever Is Your Heart" is their Saturday night, then "The Eye" is their Sunday morning. With three-fold harmonies that stick together for the entire piece,"The Eye" holds in it so much of what makes Carlile and the twins so very special, in both style and substance. Lyrically, it digs into one of the band's recurring themes, that of drinking as an escape and an excuse, but always written with the hand of forgiveness and the hope of redemption.

A little further in, "Mainstream Kid" stands as the edgiest thing Carlile and company have ever done. Gritty, vintage guitars (including a blazing solo) drop off about halfway through, but the petulant kick drum keeps the drive going as Carlile brings it down just enough to then let everything cut loose and carry on. It's going to be a thrill seeing them rock this one live. Though "Beginning to Feel the Years" has the unenviable job of following it in the sequence, it gets its job done, serving as a respite, a recovery from the pummeling -- albeit a pleasing one -- that is "Mainstream Kid."

On the proverbial side two, "Blood Muscle Skin & Bone" and "Alibi" pick up, somewhat, where "Mainstream Kid" left off, while, deeper still, "The Stranger at My Door," from which the album's title is drawn, may well be the musical synthesis of Carlile's influences. Here, a dusty, cowboy bluster collides with Queen-esque background vocals that come out of nowhere -- and somehow still work -- proving that Carlile really is the musical love child of Johnny Cash and Freddie Mercury. And proudly, rightfully so.

Though there's an awful lot of heart on this album, the last entry, a cover of the Avett Brothers' "Murder in the City," is pretty magical, particularly when comes Carlile's subtle injection of emotion on the last few lines about her wife and daughter. That moment will surely resonate with so many who are only just beginning to enjoy the ability to share their name with the ones they love.

As on her previous efforts, Carlile uses 'The Firewatcher's Daughter' to explore the various closing and opening of doors that make up a life worth living. And, as always, she does so with an obvious gratitude for both.

'The Firewatcher's Daughter' was released on March 3 via ATO Records, and is available - HERE.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 9:23 PM | Comments (0)

A Q & A with Martin Sexton

March 14, 2015

Sexton Mixtape Open Road 300.jpgby Kelly McCartney (@the KELword) for Folk

Martin Sexton is one of those guys who has been slugging it out on the singer/songwriter circuit for 25 years. Though he dangled his toe in the major label waters in the late 1990s, Sexton has been, by and large, a fiercely independent artist. Defying anyone and everyone's attempts to pin him down -- and confounding those who might expect him to be a typical folkie -- Sexton has long-asserted his artistic independence by being one of the most soulful cats to ever sling an acoustic guitar. And, on his new 'Mixtape of the Open Road,' he takes that dismissal of genres to a whole new level.

KM: There's a lot of talk lately about middle-class creatives -- musicians who can make a decent living without ever "breaking." Seems like you fit in there. Has that always/ever been enough? Or would you have preferred to go big?

MS: I don't think I quite fit that category. I am blessed with, and continue to be amazed by, the fans who keep coming and growing in number... and, yes, what a wonderful time it is to be an independent artist. To call it a "decent" living is not only inaccurate, but does not honor the gift I'm so grateful to have.

You've been a pretty consistent road dog for the past 20 years. Does it get to a point, somewhere in there, that the road feels more like home than home does?

As a recording artist and a touring artist, I feel very at home on the road, naturally, but nothing could compare with being with my family on the Upper Saranac Lake in the Adirondack Mountains. That's where my heart lives. And although our house recently burned down, it's like church -- the hallowed ground remains and we will rebuild our beloved camp.

The varied conceit for your Mixtape record... did it come before or after you had the songs?

It came after I had the songs. The songs dictated to me that the concept of this record would be that of a mixtape as they were pulling me in 12 different directions. There are some throwback-feeling tunes on Mixtape that recall a simpler, seemingly more joyful time in the world.

Do you feel like we, collectively, need to be reminded to just slow down and enjoy life? Music is certainly a great way to communicate things like that, even subliminally.

Yes. I made this record in a joyful space and, if that reminds people to stop and smell the roses, then that's a beautiful thing. While I kept some of the subject matter light or simple, I also wanted to retain the message -- unity, hope, and dream chasing -- what I've always strived to convey through my music.

People describe you and your music in all sorts of ways. How do you describe what you do?

To describe myself... hmm... I'd have to say soul music, as the music is coming from my heart and soul. It comes from an honest place, and I genuinely mean it.


'Mixtape of the Open Road' was released on February 10th on Kitchen Table Records and is available - HERE

Posted by Linda Fahey at 12:30 AM | Comments (1)

Win Tickets To See Shakey Graves at the Beachland Ballroom

March 11, 2015

Shakey hats 300 sq.jpgShakey Graves
w/ Nikki Lane
Wednesday, April 1
8:30 (doors at 7:30)\in the Ballroom
More info HERE

Beachland Ballroom
15711 Waterloo Rd
Cleveland, OH 44110
(216) 383-1124

Austin's Alejandro Rose-Garcia is professionally known as Shakey Graves, and with his new record, 'And the War Came,' he extends the ground - emotionally and sonically - broken by his 2011 self-released debut album, 'Roll the Bones.' That album brought him national acclaim and, three years later, still ranks near the top of Bandcamp's digital best-seller charts.

"The first album was me wanting to burn down my life, cut my hair off, and run screaming into the woods," says Rose-Garcia. "This (new) album is the trials and tribulations of becoming domesticated, letting people into your world and letting go of selfishness-the story of becoming a pair, losing that, and reconciling with the loss and gain of love."

Rose-Garcia knew that he wanted the follow-up to achieve something different. "With the first album, I didn't have any expectations except my own," he says. "This time, I was making something people were going to listen to out of the gate. I tried to maintain everything I enjoy about recording, the weird homemade aspect, but I was seeking a new, shining sound quality. The concepts for the songs are a little bigger. This is not the 'Mr, Folk, Hobo Mountain' album - it's more of the Cyborg Shakey Graves. It's definitely the next step in the staircase."

NPR Music's Ann Powers called 'And the War Came' one of the Top 15 Albums of 2014.

**To ENTER for a chance to WIN one of five pairs of tickets, simply leave a comment in the comments area below telling us why you want to go to the show.**

(If you are viewing this on our mobile app, you need to leave your comment at - HERE.)

(You must be at least 18 years old to enter; one entry per household, please; winners will be selected randomly and notified via email on Tuesday, March 24th.)

Posted by Linda Fahey at 4:57 PM | Comments (15)

Hear It First - The Pine Hill Project, 'Tomorrow You're Going'

March 9, 2015

The Pine Hill Project 1 (Photo credit- Joe del Tufo) 250.jpgby Kelly McCartney (@theKELword), for

Lucy Kaplansky and Richard Shindell have both enjoyed lengthy, prolific, and acclaimed careers in the singer/songwriter world. Even as solo artists, though, they shared an artistic kinship that neither could deny... nor could their fans. So, when the two finally realized their long-time dream of collaborating as a duo, the Pine Hill Project was born. Gathering up some Kickstarter funds and Larry Campbell as producer, the two were off to the races. The result? 'Tomorrow You're Going,' their new album of cover tunes that will be released on March 17 via Signature Sounds.

How did it feel to raise more than twice your Kickstarter goal? That must have signaled that you were on to something.

LK: Based on the turnouts when we perform together, and emails from fans asking when we were going to record together, we knew there was interest from our audiences in us working together, but we didn't have a clear idea how MUCH interest there was. I mean, it's not an easy thing to measure. And, honestly, we were nervous that we wouldn't meet our Kickstarter goal at all. After we launched the campaign, we sat by our computers for the next 24 hours and watched the numbers come in (pretty exciting and very addictive). When we met our goal after 27 hours, we felt a combination of amazed, relieved, and very grateful to our fans for supporting us.

When the numbers continued to climb over the next 30 days, it told us a few important things: it meant we had enough money to make exactly the album we wanted to make and to promote it and not have to skimp on anything; it confirmed for us that there really was a sizable audience for a duo project from us; and it told us that the landscape of our musical world had truly changed since we both started out more than 20 years ago. That is, in a world of streaming services where fewer and fewer people are buying CDs and where record companies have little money to offer for recording budgets, people who do what we do can still make the records we want to and get them out to the world. It's really a new paradigm.

You guys have thought and talked about doing a project for over 20 years. Was it always going to be covers? Or was that just where you landed at this juncture in time and space?

RS: Yes, it was always going to be covers. We love wallowing in other people's songs! Always have.

LK: And we've always loved the same kinds of songs. It's kind of uncanny. Over the years, when one of us brought a cover song to the other, like when we've done occasional shows together, almost invariably the other one would like it just as much. Not always, but mostly. So making an album of songs we love was always the project we wanted to do.

The statement that your "voices have always understood each other" is such a thoughtful appreciation of your shared artistry. Let's get into that a bit more... is it an emotional understanding or a more technical, tone thing? Or, maybe, a bit of both?

RS: The voices naturally try to accommodate each other. Technically speaking, it's a really complex phenomenon. But it mostly comes down to note choice, phrasing, vocal weight, and timbre. With two-part harmony (as opposed to, say, three), the question of note choice is fairly open. There's lots of room for the second part to jump around in the intervals. Our harmonic choices each make sense to the other -- even if sometimes there are surprises... especially when there are surprises.

As for timbre, I can't explain how that happens (when it does happen). But it's something we're both looking for: a certain kind of unity in the blend. The only thing I can compare it to is the effect that vacuum tubes will have on the sound of an electric guitar. I think the word is saturation. That happens with voices, too. Adjusting vocal weight is also something that happens naturally. In our case, the person singing the harmony will adjust in order to not overwhelm the melody voice. As for phrasing... well, that's the tough part. We're both used to singing lead vocal, where one can phrase away with impunity. Not so if there's a second voice. A consensus has to be reached! We're working on it. My people are talking to her people. In general, we just come from a very similar place in terms of the kind of music we grew up on. What sounds good to one generally sounds good to the other.

LK: I heard Emmylou Harris, one of the great singers and harmony singers, say something once: that the harmony is really another melody. That's so true and is part of how I think about singing harmony with Richard -- the harmony part is not just adding to the main vocal; it's a whole other, central musical element in and of itself. That's part of why singing harmony with Richard is so fun and so creative -- the sky's the limit in terms of what I can choose to sing. I've had plenty of experiences being hired to sing harmony with other people when they told me the specific notes to sing. That was no fun at all.

When you're doing cover songs, how do you decide which way to lean it... which elements to stir up in a particular tune and how to make it your own?

RS: It happens naturally. We have our own way of doing things. I'll play a song over and over again -- usually beginning with an approximation of the original (or another version). At the start, I'm usually uncomfortable with the song. I know I like it, but can't find a way in. So I play it over and over, trying different approaches (tempo, key, meter signature, instrumentation, etc). Little by little, I move away from the original. Without evening knowing it, I'm moving toward something that makes sense to me -- how I might have played it had I written it. Not only is this the only way I can go about covering a song, it's also more interesting than simply copying someone else's version. What's the point of that?

LK: I started singing songs I thought were great when I was a kid, at the piano after school, songs from that book Great Songs of the Sixties. Singing songs I love has always been one of my very favorite things to do. From the start, I've never given much thought to how to sing it or play a song. I just did it. If I eventually recorded the song, that's when I started to think about how to do it differently from the original. And often that's where my producer and my band came in with arrangement ideas. And, also, I've tended to cover songs written and recorded by men. It hasn't been planned; it's just sort of happened. So, immediately, my version will sound different than the original by default.

Now that you've realized this dream collaboration, where do you set your sights next? Will there be more PHP to come?

RS: Right now we have no specific plans for any other projects together. We'll see what happens with this album and take it from there. Whether or not there's another Pine Hill Project album, I'm sure we will keep singing together.


'Tomorrow You're Going,' will be released on March 17 on Signature Sounds. You can stream the album in its entirety in the player below until then.

Click HERE to pre-order the album at Amazon.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 10:42 PM | Comments (2)

Album Review: The Decemberists, 'What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World'

Decemberists What A Terrible Beautiful 200.jpgby Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

Few artists have as sly and sardonic a musical wit as the Decemberists' Colin Meloy. That point is evidenced so clearly on 'What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World' in which Meloy delivers a simultaneous acknowledgment and confession in "The Singer Addresses His Audience": "We know, we know, we belong to ya. We know you threw your arms around us in the hopes we wouldn't change. But we had to change some, you know, to belong to you."

And change they did. Some. Just enough, it would seem. That bit of change comes in the fact that, even though they continue to gather elements of folk, jazz, blues, and pop, the band, this time, wrapped everything up in concise little musical packages. Previously casual listeners taken back by the meandering baroque escapades may well become devoted fans, with this album. That's how on point it is. In a roundabout, Decemberists kind of way.

Colin and company recorded 'What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World' over the course of 18 months starting with "Lake Song," a schedule which could easily have made for a disjointed and disoriented record. But, even as the peppier numbers ("Calvary Captain," "Philomena," "Make You Better") get sprinkled betwixt and between some lower-key moments ("12-17-12," "Till the Water Is All Long Gone," "Carolina Low"), the overall set feels perfectly cohesive and coherent. Wonderfully, shockingly so. It's dynamic, but never jarring -- a mark not everyone hits even with a more focused process.

Quite simply, no one sounds like the Decemberists... and it's not just that Meloy has a thoroughly distinct voice, literally and figuratively. It's that they have fun with their music, wandering to and fro across an incredibly wide artistic gap, while never forsaking the homeland that is good songs and interesting production.

'What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World' is out now on Capitol Records and available HERE.


Posted by Linda Fahey at 12:59 AM | Comments (0)

PLAYLIST: Folk Alley nationally syndicated radio show #150305

March 8, 2015

Thumbnail image for Folk-Alley-Logo_medium.jpgPLAYLIST: Folk Alley nationally syndicated radio show #150305. Aired between March 6 - March 12, 2015. Hosted by Elena See

Hour 1 (a recap of the 2015 Folk Alliance International Conference)

Ray Bonneville - Rough Luck - Rough Luck - Stonefly

Mollie O'Brien & Rich Moore - Sunday Street - Love Runner - Remington Road

The Bombadils - Heave Away - Grassy Roads, Wandering Feet - The Bombadils Music

The East Pointers - Ken the Hen - The East Pointers (EP) - The East Pointers

Rose Cousins - What I See - We Have Made a Spark - Old Farm Pony

Peggy Seeger - Gonna Be An Engineer - The Folkways Years 1955-1992 - Folkways

Tom Paxton - Leaving London - The Best of Tom Paxton - Elektra

Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys - Hot Hands - Ionia - Lindsay Lou Music

The Steel Wheels - The Race (In-Studio) - Exclusive Folk Alley in-studio recording - The Steel Wheels

Sam Baker - Isn't Love Great - Say Grace -

Trad.Attack! - Precious Cream (Kooreke) - Trad.Attack (EP) - Trad.Attack

Quinn Bachand - Lady Be Good - Brishen - Beacon Ridge Productions

I Draw Slow - Goldmine - Redhills - Pinecastle

Madisen Ward & the Mama Bear - Silent Movies - (single) - Glassnote Entertainment

Natalia Zukerman - Little Bird - Gas Station Roses - Weasel Records

Hour 2

The Gibson Brothers - Long Gone - Brotherhood - Rounder

Nashville Mandolin Ensemble - Star Trek-where no mandolin has gone before - Plectrasonics - CMH

Alison Krauss - Gentle River - Too Late to Cry - Rounder

The Pine Hill Project - Lately - Tomorrow You're Going - Signature Sounds

The Pine Hill Project - Wichita - Tomorrow You're Going - Signature Sounds

Robert Earl Keen - I'm Troubled, I'm Troubled - Happy Prisoner - The Bluegrass Sessions - Dualtone

Tara Nevins - Troubles - Mule to Ride - Sugar Hill

June Tabor & Oysterband - Bonnie Bunch of Roses - Ragged Kingdom - Topic

Rhiannon Giddens - Up Above My Head - Tomorrow is My Turn - Nonesuch

Joe Pug - The Measure - Windfall - Lightning Rod

Kate Rusby - The Outlandish Knight - Ghost - Pure Records

Martin Simpson - Ghost In The Pines - Righteousness & Humidity - Red House

Passenger - Start A Fire - Whispers - Nettwerk - Black Crow

Andrew Combs - Rainy Day Song - All These Dreams - Coin Records (Thirty

The Weepies - Please Speak Well of Me - Be My Thrill - Nettwerk

Folk Alley's weekly, syndicated radio show is produced by WKSU (NPR-affiliate in Kent, OH). The show is available for free to stations via or via FTP for non-PRX members. Stations may air the show as either a one-, or two-hour program. The Folk Alley Radio Show is presently carried by over 36 stations nationally. Folk Alley also presents a 24/7 hosted Internet channel available at, TuneIn, iTunes, Live 365 and more. :: for more information contact Linda Fahey at 518-354-8077:

Posted by Linda Fahey at 7:16 PM | Comments (0)

Hear It First - Pharis & Jason Romero, 'A Wanderer I'll Stay'

March 6, 2015

Pharis and Jason Romero Wanderer 200.jpgWhen you're putting together your list of the best duos in folk and roots music, it will probably include names like Johnny & June, Emmylou & Gram, and Gillian & David. Well, here's another for your short list: Pharis & Jason Romero. The couple from Horsefly, British Columbia (pop. 1000, in the foothills of the Cariboo Mountains) writes and sings modern day folk ballads - tales of wandering, loneliness and "local characters" with an independent spirit - that will challenge you to identify which are original compositions and which come from long-forgotten songbooks off a dusty shelf. All this deftly played on vintage and newly handcrafted instruments (Pharis plays a c. 1943 Gibson J-45; Jason plays his J. Romero banjo #10250, a gourd banjo and a c.1934 Gibson L-00) and sung with sublime vocal harmonies that blend and intertwine effortlessly. Seriously. What more could you ask for?

On the heels of their acclaimed 2013 release, 'Long Gone Out West Blues,' Pharis & Jason are now set to release 'A Wanderer I'll Stay.' It's their third album together as duo, and once again they deliver. The new 12-song collection was recorded at their rural home studio - where they also build finely crafted custom made banjos in their J. Romero Banjo Co. shop - and was co-produced by David Travers-Smith (The Wailin' Jennys, Jayme Stone, Oh Susanna, Jaron Freeman-Fox and The Opposite of Everything).

'A Wanderer I'll Stay' will be released in the U.S. on Thursday, March 12 and you can stream the album in its entirety until then in the player below.

Click HERE to pre-order at iTunes or order directly from Pharis and Jason's website - HERE.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 11:32 AM | Comments (5)

Folk Alley Presents 'Heaven Adores You' at the Cleveland International Film Festival

heaven.jpg"His heart would be broken to know that people discover him and just think that he's super bummed - it was only a small fraction of who he really was." That's a quote from Dorien Garry, Elliot Smith's former publicist, in Heaven Adores You. Her sentiment is shared by director Nickolas Rossi, who focuses his riveting documentary on celebrating Smith's personal and musical accomplishments, rather than zeroing in on the tabloid drama that still surrounds his alleged suicide. It's a refreshing approach that gives fans a deeper look at who he was as a person, told through intimate interviews with his peers and loved ones. What's revealed here is a more balanced view of an ordinary guy who struggled with his demons, but was loved for his generosity, kindness, and sense of humor.

Heaven Adores You will be screened two times:
Sunday, March 22 at 9:30 p.m. at Tower City Cinemas
Monday, March 23 at 5:45 p.m. at the Beachland Ballroom (part of the Neighborhood Screenings series)

Regular ticket prices are $13 for CIFF members and $15 for non-members. By using the code "FOLK," station members can receive a $2 discount on their CIFF tickets good for any Festival Film (unless otherwise specified). Members can purchase tickets online at, through the Ulmer & Berne Film Festival Box Office in the lobby of Tower City Cinemas, or by phone at 877-304-FILM (3456).

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 10:20 AM | Comments (0)

Video Premiere: Joel Rafael, "Thanks for the Smiles"

March 5, 2015

Baladista Joel 200.jpgThe saying is - the best writing comes from writing what you know, and based on Joel Rafael's life experiences and 50 or so years of making music, he has a deep well from which to draw. He's been an avocado farmer, political activist and a draft dodger. He got busted in Portland, Oregon in the 60s. He's among the best Woody Guthrie students, proponents and interpreters we have. And he's a loving husband and a father. With his new album, 'Baladista,' his ninth, Joel presents us with ten new ballads that look back on and are influenced by those rich life experiences. The album was recorded in his studio at his ranch in North San Diego County, California, accompanied by Greg Leisz, James "Hutch" Hutchinson, John Inmon and Terry "Buffalo" Ware.

The song "Thanks for the Smiles" is a sweet reflection on the love of his life over many years and many miles. Joel says, "When you've spent half a century of your life with another person, there's a lot to look back on, and when you're on the road, those memories of times spent with loved ones make the best company."

'Baladista' is due out on April 14th on the Inside Recordings label, and is available for pre-order HERE at iTunes and HERE at

Posted by Linda Fahey at 9:31 AM | Comments (0)

PLAYLIST: Folk Alley nationally syndicated radio show #150226

March 3, 2015

Thumbnail image for Folk-Alley-Logo_medium.jpgPLAYLIST: Folk Alley nationally syndicated radio show #150226. Aired between February 27 - March 5, 2015. Hosted by Elena See

Artist - Title - Album - Label

Hour 1

John Prine - Please Don't Bury Me - Great Days: The John Prine Anthology - Rhino

Elephant Revival - Lexington - Break In The Clouds - Ruff Shod

Eric Bibb (live) - Don't Ever Let Your Spirit Down - An Evening With Eric Bibb - M.C. Records

Rhiannon Giddens - Shake Sugaree - Tomorrow is My Turn - Nonesuch

Canadafrica: Mike Stevens and Okaidja Afroso - Abifao - Where's the One? - Borealis

Caroline Spence - Whiskey Watered Down - Somehow - Caroline Spence

Mandolin Orange - Waltz About Whiskey - This Side of Jordan - Yep Roc

Gretchen Peters - Black Ribbons - Blackbirds - Scarlet Letter

Guy Clark - Magdalene - Workbench Songs - Dualtone

Marcia Ball - The Squeeze Is On - The Tattooed Lady And The Alligator Man - Alligator

Red June - Gabriel's Storm - Ancient Dreams - Organic Records

Joe Pug - Bright Beginnings - Windfall - Lightning Rod

Martin & Eliza Carthy - Died For Love - The Moral of the Elephant - Topic

Jake Bugg - Pine Trees - Shangri La - Island

Hour 2

Justin Townes Earle - Wanna Be Strangers - Single Mothers - Vagrant

Altan - Seamus O'Shanahan's - Harvest Storm - Green Linnet

Asleep at the Wheel - House of Blue Lights - Very Best Of - Relentless

Neil Young (live) - Ohio - Massey Hall 1971 - Reprise

Sultans of String (feat. Dala) - Heart of Gold - Move - McKhool

Caitlin Canty - Unknown Legend - Reckless Skyline - Caitlin Canty

Robinella & The CC Stringband - Honeybee - 2003 37th Kent St. Folk Festival - WKSU exclusive recording

The David Wax Museum - Beekeeper - Carpenter Bird - The David Wax Museum

Robert Earl Keen - East Virginia Blues - Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions - Dualtone

Martin Sexton - Doin' Something Right - Mixtape of the Open Road - Kitchen Table

Elana James - Only You - Black Beauty - Snarf Records

Elana James - Ripple - Black Beauty - Snarf Records

Ben Howard - She Treats Me Well - I Forget Where We Were - Republic

Fiddlers 4 - Pickin' The Devil's Eye - Fiddlers 4 - Compass

Tom Waits - Long Way Home - Orphans (Bawlers) - ANTI

Folk Alley's weekly, syndicated radio show is produced by WKSU (NPR-affiliate in Kent, OH). The show is available for free to stations via or via FTP for non-PRX members. Stations may air the show as either a one-, or two-hour program. The Folk Alley Radio Show is presently carried by over 36 stations nationally. Folk Alley also presents a 24/7 hosted Internet channel available at, TuneIn, iTunes, Live 365 and more. :: for more information contact Linda Fahey at 518-354-8077:

Posted by Linda Fahey at 5:55 PM | Comments (0)

Album Review: Robert Earl Keen, Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions

March 2, 2015

REK Happy Prisoner 300.jpgby Elena See for

Oh, bluegrass. There's nothing better if you're feeling good about your life - that fast picking guitar fills you with all sorts of positive energy. There's also nothing better if your whole world is falling apart - just listen to a murder ballad or two and you'll realize that, hey, life COULD be a lot worse. It's an awesome genre, bluegrass. And it's a genre that has inspired Texas country legend Robert Earl Keen for decades.

REK grew up listening to the likes of Bill Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs, the Carter Family, the Stanley Brothers - the list goes on. The technical virtuosity of some of those players inspired him to push himself toward becoming the great musician he is today. That same virtuosity, he says, is one reason why he has waited this long to try his own hand at bluegrass. During a recent interview with the Amarillo Globe-News, he said that while he loved the music, he didn't have the chops to be "a true bluegrass player." Now, while technically that may be true, his genuine enthusiasm and respect for the genre more than makes up for any technical - or, I suppose, traditional - skills he may be lacking. And, he's got an amazing cast of musicians along for this bluegrass ride, too. (Among others, banjo player Danny Barnes and fiddler Sara Watkins, in addition to his own remarkable touring band.)

Now, when I listened to the album through the first time, I admit I was a little...startled. REK still sounds like REK - gritty, twangy, almost surly at times...a legend of outlaw country music. But then I listened again. And again. The more I listened, the more I enjoyed REK's interpretations of these songs - they're stories, after all. And REK is a masterful storyteller.

'Happy Prisoner' IS a tribute recording, sure - but at the same time, REK very clearly puts his own stamp on classics every bluegrass fan has probably heard - "Hot Corn, Cold Corn," "Poor Ellen Smith," and "Walls of Time" (with harmonies by Peter Rowan and a little bit of a "story hour" from Peter Rowan, too). And his duet with Natalie Maines on "Wayfaring Stranger"? Wow. REK's tenacious twang, twining with Maines' rather strident voice - it's shiver-inducing.

Something else special about REK's Happy Prisoner? There are 5 extra tracks he recorded for the vinyl version of the album. The stand out for me? "I'm Troubled, I'm Troubled." There are lots of versions of this song (Flatt and Scruggs, Doc Watson, Jerry Garcia...) and this one might be my favorite of them all. REK enunciates the lyrics so clearly it's like he's right there in the room with you and the blend between his voice and the banjo - well, it's darn near perfect. And, in true REK fashion, he manages to infuse enough heartache and sorrow into his voice that you just want to put an arm around his shoulder and tell him it'll be ok. Someday.


Robert Earl Keen's 'Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions' was released Febraury 10th on Dualtone Records and is available HERE for CD or HERE for vinyl with five bonus tracks.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 10:59 AM | Comments (0)

PLAYLIST: Folk Alley nationally syndicated radio show #150219

February 28, 2015

Thumbnail image for Folk-Alley-Logo_medium.jpgPLAYLIST: Folk Alley nationally syndicated radio show #150219. Aired between February 20 - February 26, 2015. Hosted by Elena See

Artist - Title - Album - Label

Hour 1 (feat. our in-studio session with Kristin Andreassen w/ Jefferson Hamer and Alec Spiegelman)

David Francey - Wanna Be Loved - The Waking Hour - Red House

Wendy MacIsaac - Dear Christy - Off the Floor - Wendy MacIsaac

The Sparrow Quartet - Taiyang Chulai - Abigail Washburn & The Sparrow Quartet - Nettwerk

Martin Sexton - Pine Away - Mixtape of the Open Road - Kitchen Table

Barnstar! - Darling - Sit Down! Get Up! Get Out! - Signature Sounds

Kristin Andreassen - The New Ground (in-studio) - Folk Alley in-studio session recording - Kristin Andreassen

Kristin Andreassen - 'Simmon (in-studio) - Folk Alley in-studio session recording - Kristin Andreassen

Kristin Andreassen - Daybreak (in-studio) - Folk Alley in-studio session recording - Kristin Andreassen

Old Crow Medicine Show - Sweet Amarillo - Remedy - ATO

The Earls of Leicester - Shuckin' the Corn - The Earls of Leicester - Rounder

Rosanne Cash - When the Master Calls the Roll - The River & The Thread - Blue Note

Steve Earle & The Dukes - Ain't Nobody's Daddy Now - Terraplane - New West

Brandi Carlile - Touching The Ground - Give Up The Ghost - Sony​

Hour 2

Elana James - High Upon A Mountain - Black Beauty - Snarf Records

Denis Murphy - The Mountain Road - Classic Celtic Music - Smithsonian Folkways

Ollabelle - High on a Mountain - Ollabelle - Riverside Battle Songs - Verve

Lake Street Dive (live) - You Go Down Smooth - Another Day Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis - Nonesuch

The Avett Brothers (live) - Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise - Another Day Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis - Nonesuch

The Punch Brothers - My Oh My - The Phosphorescent Blues - Nonesuch

Catherine Maclellan - Winter Spring - The Raven's Sun - Catherine Maclellan

The Oh Hellos - Hello My Old Heart - The Oh Hellos EP - F-Stop Music

The Secret Sisters - Lonely Island - Put Your Needle Down - Universal Republic

Bob Dylan - Why Try To Change Me Know - Shadows In the Night - Columbia

Pokey LaFarge - Something In the Water - Something In the Water - Rounder

Stefan Grossman - Lottie's Blues - Yazoo Basin Boogie - Shanachie

Caroline Spence - Trains Cry - Somehow - Caroline Spence

John Cowan - Why Are You Crying - Sixty - Compass

New Grass Revival - One Love - People Get Ready - On the Boulevard - Sugar Hill​

Folk Alley's weekly, syndicated radio show is produced by WKSU (NPR-affiliate in Kent, OH). The show is available for free to stations via or via FTP for non-PRX members. Stations may air the show as either a one-, or two-hour program. The Folk Alley Radio Show is presently carried by over 36 stations nationally. Folk Alley also presents a 24/7 hosted Internet channel available at, TuneIn, iTunes, Live 365 and more. :: for more information contact Linda Fahey at 518-354-8077:

Posted by Linda Fahey at 8:30 AM | Comments (0)

Song Premiere: Joe Pug, "The Measure"

February 27, 2015

Joe Pug Windfall cover 300.jpgby Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

Though he hails from Maryland, singer/songwriter Joe Pug has bounced from Chicago to Nashville to Austin in his search for a place in the world. But that's just geography. Pug, long ago, found where he fits artistically, and it's somewhere down the line from Bob Dylan, John Prine, Steve Earle, and John Hiatt. Like those musical influences -- and literary ones like Raymond Carver and John Steinbeck -- Pug is a storyteller. He's proven that, already, with two EPs and two albums, but his new 'Windfall' should sway any lingering doubts.

KM: The new record is produced very simply. Financial constraints for everyone being what they are these days, how much of that decision was artistic versus practical?

JP: Our original vision for the record was of a painting with only three or four primary colors. And we accomplished that, which I'm proud of. Because the ease of modern recording has actually made it a lot harder to keep things OFF an album than to put them ON. Choose a Bandcamp page at random and you'll likely hear an album that is, in the scheme of things, amazingly recorded with string sections and the full complement. In the age of the Internet, everybody can play the musical saw and everybody has a weird friend from high school that plays pedal steel. But that doesn't mean it all belongs on a single album or a single song. Unless, of course, that's someone's vision... their terrible, terrible vision.

Even in its simplicity, it never feels short-changed. If the songs can stand up in that setting -- and they seem to -- then you're onto something. Were there tunes you had to set aside for a rainy day? Songs you wanted to save for a more formal affair?

Thanks, I feel the same way. And, no, we didn't pull any punches. Anything that ended up on the cutting room floor was either thematically inconsistent with the album or plainly not good.

I don't know what makes a recording session a more formal affair. A famous name behind the console? A studio cabinet that has the obligatory "Sinatra-sang-through-this" microphone? A bunch of guys splicing two-inch tape while they disagree about vintage compressors? This is just what the music I enjoy sounds like.

Each songwriter has a slightly different approach to the creative process. Do you feel like songs come to you or from you?

I feel like there's a constant stream of melody and lyric right below the conscious surface. When it's time to write, you just try to put yourself in a mental state where you can dip your cup into that stream and bring it back to waking life.

There's a line in "The Measure" that's "All we've lost is nothing to what we've found." Unpack that a little more for us. It seems like a reminder to be grateful rather than greedy.

That was the original kernel for the song. It comes from a quote from Frederick Buechner's 'Godric,' which we've actually made the epigram for the album: "The secret that we share I cannot tell in full. But this much I will tell. What's lost is nothing to what's found, and all the death that ever was, set next to life, would scarcely fill a cup." I thought it was a beautiful phrase and tried to write a song that did justice to it.

The theme of resilience comes through in a number of the songs. What's the distinction, for you, between being resilient and being resigned?

Great question. In fact, I think you've really discerned the crux of the album. The difference lies in the personal choice between one and the other, between resignation and grateful acceptance. You can't change your lot in life but you can change how you experience it.


Joe Pug's 'Windfall' comes out March 10th on Lightning Rod Records and is available - HERE

Posted by Linda Fahey at 8:05 AM | Comments (0)

Album Review: The Bros. Landreth, 'Let It Lie'

February 26, 2015

Bros Landreth Let It Lie.jpgby Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

It's a little hard to believe that the Bros. Landreth hail from Winnipeg, Manitoba, because of how well they carry the Southern rock mantle of the Allman Brothers on their debut album, 'Let It Lie.' Led by David and Joey Landreth, the foursome does an admirable job of copping a style and a sensibility foreign to their own environs. After all, the Manitoba prairie is a long way from the Mississippi delta.

But the Bros. Landreth get it done with the chunky groove of "Our Love," the Dobro and harmonies of "Firecracker," and the gritty blues of "I Am the Fool" and "Runaway Train." When they turn it down a bit, songs like "Let It Lie" and "Greenhouse" are stark enough to put the frailty of Joey's voice front and center. While it works well enough in those settings, it can't quite get where it's trying to go on some of the bolder cuts. Luckily, though, 'Let It Lie' is chock full of far gentler melodies and a much smoother approach than blues-rock bands usually chart.

Yes, these brothers draw from those other brothers, but that's just a starting point. From there, they wander off into styles more reminiscent of bands like the Eagles, Gov't Mule, Little Feat, and others. Heck, the melodic progression and vocal phrasing on "Tappin' on the Glass" is right out of the Jackson Browne playbook. Even still, the Bros. Landreth meld it all into a sound that works for them... and pretty much anyone else who appreciates a solid roots-rock set. There's just a whole lot to like about this record.

'Let It Lie' is out now on Slate Creek Records and is available - HERE.


Posted by Linda Fahey at 1:05 PM | Comments (0)

A Q & A with Nora Jane Struthers

February 25, 2015

Nora Jane Struthers Wake cover 300.jpgby Kelly McCartney (@theKELword),

With her latest outing, singer/songwriter Nora Jane Struthers is shaking things up. Not only did she recruit a new backing band -- the Party Line -- but she also took cues from the records of Americana stalwarts Hayes Carll and Jason Isbell when she went into the studio. Those two decisions melded together in her 'Wake,' a self-produced, rougher-edged work bristling with energy and enthusiasm more so than any album she's previously issued. Road-testing the songs and fine-tuning the arrangements first helped, but, really, the main difference was that Struthers was in love.

KM: A lot of artists say they don't write as well when they are happy, that they need the suffering and sorrow of heartbreak as a muse. But you've sort of come alive in the midst of a new love, right?

NJS: Yes, surprisingly! In love, I reached new depths of vulnerability and empowerment. I find inspiration in newness.

Is there a difference in your creative process for this new album or was it strictly an emotional shift, switching to the autobiographical perspective?

Well, there was definitely an emotional shift. I was also able to unbridle the creative process -- to stop editing and judging while creating. This was very freeing.

When you write very personal songs, how do you leave space for listeners to insert themselves into the stories? Or do you just have to set that concern aside?

I think the more personal a song is, the more universal it can be. I'm not concerned with how other people will interpret a song when I am writing it; after all, we all bring our own life experiences to our interpretation of art.

What's the trick for bridging the gap between the pairs of opposites in your life -- "bluegrass and Pearl Jam" or, even, Brooklyn and Nashville?

I spent many years trying to compartmentalize the seemingly contrary elements of my life; it seemed simpler at the time. But, when I fell in love, I wanted to be known fully, and in order to allow that to happen, I needed to allow all the parts of myself to exist simultaneously. It was incredibly freeing. I had no idea how much energy I was using to keep all the parts of myself separated. Now I have so much more energy to spend in far more valuable ways.

How did you know the players who form the Party Line were THE players for you? Did the players come first and the sound emerge from there... rather than you having a vision and seeking out folks to fit it?

How did you know?! Yes, I picked the people and the people happened to play these instruments and that's how the sound was born. Music is made by people... without wonderful people, I cannot make wonderful music.


Nora Jane Struthers & the Party Line, 'Wake' was released on February 24 and is available - HERE.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 10:59 AM | Comments (0)

Album Review: Andrew Combs, 'All These Dreams'

February 23, 2015

All These Dreams cover 300.jpgby Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

Prince was right: Albums still matter. And Andrew Combs seems to know that. He also seems to know that songs and production also matter, if the album is to be worth its weight in vinyl. On 'All These Dreams,' it's obvious -- even with a casual listen -- that Combs put his focus on the songs first and everything else followed from there. The model is the same as the one employed by the singer/songwriters of the late '60s and early '70s to which this album nods and winks -- guys like Glen Campbell, Jim Croce, Paul Simon, Mickey Newbury, James Taylor, and Harry Nilsson.

From the opening steel strains of "Rainy Day Song" on through the closing coda that is "Suwannee County," Combs' melodies and voice, coupled with Jordan Lehning and Skylar Wilson's production, manage to look back while facing forward. It's a fairly miraculous musical feat the team has achieved here. Even though Combs hasn't even hit 30 yet, "Nothing to Lose" is straight out of 40 years ago; "Long Gone Lately" -- with its timpani, tremolo, and castanets -- would make Roy Orbison proud, if not jealous; and "In the Name of You" rivals all the best Jackson Browne piano ballads.

The comparatively rollicking romp of "Foolin'" also recalls Orbison even as it takes on the falsity of lives presented on social media. That's the beauty of contrasting worlds at play, right there. While the chipper ditty that is "Strange Bird," the country yarns of "Pearl" and "Suwannee County," and the mildly defiant heartbreak in "Bad Habits" all call from different corners, Combs, Lehning, and Wilson do a superb job of coaxing them into the fold. As more nuanced part of the intricate arrangements, even Combs' lazy diction and casual delivery lend themselves to the vintage vibe. He doesn't attack these songs; he leads them, ever so gently to where they need to be. Tack on Steelism's Jeremy Fetzer (guitars) and Spencer Cullum Jr. ( pedal steel) along with bassist Mike Rinne and drummer Ian Fitchuk, and you have yourself one hell of a record.


Andrew Combs' 'All These Dreams' will be released on March 3 on Coin Records and is available HERE:

Posted by Linda Fahey at 9:18 PM | Comments (0)

A Q & A with Rhiannon Giddens

Rhiannon 250 sq.jpgby Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

From her gig with the Carolina Chocolate Drops to her gigs with T Bone Burnett (The New Basement Tapes and Inside Llewyn Davis), Rhiannon Giddens has always held her own. In fact, she's held so firmly, so fiercely, that she's been added to a lineage of singers that includes Nina Simone, Rosetta Tharp, Odetta, and others. From the first time he heard her, Burnett, for one, knew that lineage needed to -- and would -- live on in Giddens. "We need that person in our culture," he said. "She is, in fact, that person in our culture." Now, Giddens has a new solo album, 'Tomorrow Is My Turn,' that finds her holding her own and living on one step further.

KM: With your work -- and that of the CCDs -- you're more than just a singer. You're also an educator and a historian. Did you realize that going in? Or have you had to re-calibrate along the way?

RG: My first real experience in music as a potential career was in the classical world -- and, in that world, you have a lot of layers to uncover and examine -- the language, the history, the emotional content, and all this beyond the vocals. So I got used to approaching a song from the research point of view first. I then started to explore Celtic and Gaelic music and, again, started with the research as it was a different culture and history to mine, and I never want to sing a song I haven't at least tried to understand. So, when I got into the banjo, I was already in that mode -- and got even deeper!

How does it feel to be mentioned in the same breath as legends like Odetta, Mahalia Jackson, and Nina Simone?

Unreal. I will just say that I will do my best to answer to the responsibility I was given along with this voice. I was put here to do something, as we all were, and I strive to do my best to do it.

Tell me about the Cornbread Duet collaboration with Twyla Tharp.

Twyla was an absolute peach. She has done so much in the world of dance. It was quite an honor to work with her. We learned a lot, as a band, to perform those songs for those dancers -- such a different form than the vernacular clogging that we are used to... very broadening.

Your repertoire is wide and deep, from country to gospel and back again. What's your song selection process?

I have a real organic feel for picking songs. There's so much music to listen to in the world, you'll never get to it all, so I let things come in as they will. And when inspiration hits, upon listening to a particular track, it's instantaneous.

How has the transition been from band member to solo artist? More freedom, more pressure?

Well, I'm cheating a bit, really, because I have all my band mates joining me on this tour, which is super exciting. There is more pressure, though, because all the interviews come to me, the tour is under my name, etc. But i'm ready for it!


Rhiannon Giddens' 'Tomorrow Is My Turn' was released on February 10 and is available HERE:

Posted by Linda Fahey at 6:38 PM | Comments (0)

Album Review: Caroline Spence, 'Somehow'

February 18, 2015

Caroline Spence .jpgBy Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

Equal parts torch and twang, Caroline Spence's 'Somehow' falls squarely into the Americana wonderland between folk and country. The songs here capture the heart ache and heart break so thoroughly associated with traditional country, but they do so in a deeply introspective manner more reminiscent of the folk world. It's an unpretentious set, content to be just that -- nothing more, but certainly nothing less.

The first half of the collection stays pretty close to home, stylistically, with Spence's timeless timbre leading the way. Hers is a voice you feel you've always known, with a high lonesome wallop to rival Patty Griffin's, though it's tempered by an air of sweetness that takes just enough of the edge off. The opening stunner, "Trains Cry," details the toll the road takes on relationships of all kinds. Travelers, like trains, keep moving ever-forward and the pain of always leaving is a heavy one to bear: "I know how to hit the road, know how to go it alone, down some dark highway."

Another classic country theme rears its head in "Whiskey Watered Down," a drinking song that manages to sidestep banality in favor of a self-assuredness that also stands its ground into the plaintive pleading of "One Man" and the feisty shrug-off that is "Don't Call." Even though Spence's voice is almost too delicate to cut through and cut loose, she gets the job done on that last one by writing lines like, "I'm so sick of your tired excuses. Every empty word you say is so damn useless. You say you've got half a mind to leave here, half a heart to stay. If you put them together, you still can't find your way." Of course, it's all fun and games until the bills are due as on "Hello Tomorrow," the tale of growing up and looking back. Ah, to be young and in love...

Some of Nashville's best (Andrew Combs, Erin Rae, Kris Donegan, et al) contributed to the project and Michael Rinne produced with a thoughtful touch that never overpowers Spence's voice or her songs.

'Somehow' comes out on March 3.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 9:48 PM | Comments (0)

Hear It First - Elana James, 'Black Beauty'

February 17, 2015

Elana James BB BW 250 cover.jpgElana James officially releases her second solo album 'Black Beauty' on Tuesday, February 24th. You can stream the album in its entirety until then in the player below!

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

Elana James has been playing music since she was four years old. At that very young age, she took up her mother's instrument -- classical violin -- and continued those studies while getting a degree in comparative religion at Columbia University. Along the way from there to here, James switched over to fiddle, worked as a horse wrangler, traveled to India, founded a Western swing band (the Hot Club of Cowtown), moved to Texas, toured with Bob Dylan, and all sorts of other fun things, though not necessarily in that order. Now that she's here, she's releasing a new solo album, 'Black Beauty'.

KM: You've traveled the world as a musical ambassador, officially and otherwise, and are also something of a religious scholar. What's it like, using music to build bridges that wouldn't otherwise be built?

EJ: Music has always thrilled me because of that very thing. It's like a drug that goes directly into the bloodstream of whatever culture you may enter. Many times in my life I've played with people and we don't speak a word of the same language, or are from completely different cultural backgrounds, and sitting down together and playing feels like being with old friends after just a few moments. Ghyorge Angel from [the Romanian Gypsy band] Taraf de Haidouks was like that, also people I met in India when I was studying over there so many years ago -- Mongolia, Azerbaijan, the American West. Even just now in Samois, France, this summer for the Django Reinhard festival. The song begins and that's it. Also, being female, there is a way in which you get a sort of "honorary male" reception in some places and are outside the usual boundaries of what's considered culturally appropriate.

Music and religion are these extremely powerful forces that are thrumming beneath the surface of everything, at all times. You just have to scratch the surface a tiny bit and see how much they reflect and illuminate what is going on socially, spiritually, morally, in everything around you.

Draw a line between Texas Western swing and North Indian classical music. Are you the only connecting dot?

I know Bob Livingston (Jerry Jeff Walker's long-time bass player and a great performer in his own right) had a project going for years out of Austin where he blended South Indian Classical music with American traditional music and cowboy songs. He called it Cowboys and Indians. For some reason, there's not more cross-pollination between these kinds of cultures.

But one thing that absolutely influenced me when I was studying Dhrupad in India right after college was that my teacher, who was a true bohemian and also very religious, would take three or four of us on these adventures in the countryside where we would have picnics with these forest-dwelling renunciates and sing and play devotional songs, or take a little boat down the Yamuna River at sunset and we'd play these devotional songs or bhajans as the sun was going down. And, invariably, he would eventually turn to me and say, "American Git!" (American music), and want me to play a hoedown on my viola. And, of course, I would!

That turned out to be a guiding point for me -- that the music I came from and could call my own was as exotic and exciting to him as his music was to me. It's all relative. And that really gave me more confidence to give myself over to the fiddle and Western swing, fiddle tunes -- to reflect where I come from and the richness of it. As Johnny Gimble likes to say, "If you try to sound like someone else, who will sound like you?"

Of all the people you've played with, who has been -- not your favorite, necessarily -- but the most memorable or most striking?

Too many come to mind to name just one: Bob Dylan, Whit and Jake (my Hot Club of Cowtown Bandmates), Willie Nelson, Erik Hokkanen, Johnny Gimble, an old-timer Gypsy accordion player I played with on the street in Bergen, Norway, once, playing duets with my mom or my sister. Just last summer, sitting around a table late at night at a caravan in Samois with Tchavolo Schmitt there singing and playing his guitar, singing traditional Gypsy tunes, a campfire.

Last month I got to sit in with a wonderful band on St. John in the Virgin Islands -- the Hot Club of Coral Bay -- and Terre Roche sat in and did a few of her new songs with the band. It was amazing to hear her sing and play right next to me. I have always been a huge, huge fan of the Roches. Of course the Bob Dylan tours, when he would be playing harmonica or his keyboard and we're trading riffs, call and response. Playing cowboy songs with Don Edwards next to a swimming pool in Southern California a few years ago. Willie Nelson singing "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone" every night for a month as our encore when we did that minor league ballparks tour. Getting to play twin fiddles with so many of the Texas Playboys over the years and, as we're playing these tunes together, watching each other, watching each other's bows, knowing that this is how it was in 1942 when they'd play the huge dances throughout Texas and the Southwest with Bob Wills right there, hollering and waving his bow.

You played with the Hot Club of Cowtown for a long time before going it alone. How was that transition? And do you have a preference -- band or solo?

Oh, I'm for sure still playing with the Hot Club of Cowtown. Putting out my own album (This is the second one.) is a simultaneous thing, not instead of. There are differences in each, absolutely. I'd say going it alone is generally more terrifying, since you feel like the weight of the show rests on your own shoulders. And it does! And, at the same time, there's more room to make artistic decisions and try things that are maybe outside the artistic "charter" agreed upon by the band members when you're in an actual band.

One of the things I appreciate about being in a band is that, whatever you have to say musically, it has to go through the gauntlet of the other band members -- the taste police -- and everything gets the "treatment" which is the sound of the band. In our case, it really is greater than the sum of its (three) parts. But playing solo is thrilling. I love to sing, and it's fun to sing every song every set, or just think of songs you haven't played in a while, or that you love, and just call them for the sheer joy of it, not worrying if it's okay with anyone else because... not breaking up the energy of the set as you want it to unfurl because... you know, it's your own show!

When you've done the amazing things you've done, played with the legendary talents you've played with, how do you set goals that could possibly surpass those experiences?

It's all relative. I would just like to continue to be able to play, to be a musician. As Isaac Stern said so beautifully (This is from his obituary in the New York Times from 2001.), ''I have been very fortunate in 60 years of performance,'' he said in 1995, ''to have learned what it means to be an eternal student, an eternal optimist -- because you hope the next time will always be a little better -- and eternally in love with music. Also, as I said to a young player the other day, you have no idea of what you don't know. Now it's time that you begin to learn. And you should get up every morning and say thank God, thank the Lord, thank whomever you want, thank you, thank you, for making me a musician.''


Elana James' new album, 'Black Beauty' will be officially released on February 24th. Until then, you can stream the album in its entirety below and pre-order the album at HERE.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 7:24 PM | Comments (0)

PLAYLIST - Folk Alley nationally syndicated weekly radio show #150212

Thumbnail image for Folk-Alley-Logo_medium.jpgPLAYLIST: Folk Alley nationally syndicated radio show #150212. Aired between February 13 - February 19, 2015. Hosted by Elena See

Artist - Title - Album - Label

Hour 1

John Fullbright - Daydreamer - From the Ground Up - Blue Dirt

Bryan Sutton - The High Road - Bluegrass Guitar - Sugar Hill

Nanci Griffith - Do Re Me - Other Voices Other Rooms - Elektra

Jorma Kaukonen - Where There's Two There's Trouble - Ain't In No Hurry - Red House

Jorma Kaukonen - Ain't In No Hurry - Ain't In No Hurry - Red House

The Rails - The Jealous Sailor - Fair Warning - Island

Laura Marling - Rambling Man - I Speak Because I Can - Virgin

The Bros. Landreth - Greenhouse - Let It Lie - Slate Creek Records/Thirty Tigers

Red Moon Road - Qu'allons-nous Faire? - Red Moon Road - Manitoba Film and Music

The Duhks - Camptown Races - Beautiful Dreamer: The Songs of Stephen Foster (compilation) - Amer.Roots

Kate Rusby - Martin Said - Ghost - Pure Records

The Fretless - Lulu - The Fretless - The Fretless

Asylum Street Spankers - Be Like You - Mommy Says NO! - SpanksALot

Nora Jane Struthers & The Party Line - The South - Wake - Blue Pig

Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys - That's What I Like 'Bout The South - Legends of Country Music - Columbia

Hour 2

Lucinda Williams - Big Red Sun Blues - Lucinda Williams - Lucinda Williams

Peter Ostroushko - Prairie Sunrise - Heart Of The Heartland - Red House

Annabelle Chvostek - Racing With The Sun - Resilience - MQGV

Barnstar! - Delta Rose - Sit Down! Get Up! Get Out! - Signature Sounds

Abigail Washburn - Song Of The Traveling Daughter - Song Of The Traveling Daughter - Nettwerk

Carolina Chocolate Drops - Milwaukee Blues - Exclusive Folk Alley recording 9-21-11 - Folk Alley Sessions

Leyla McCalla - When I Can See the Valley - Vari-Colored Songs: A Tribute to Langston Hughes - Music Maker Relief

Robert Earl Keen - Hot Corn, Cold Corn - Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions - Dualtone

Baka Beyond - Canya Jam - Spirit of the Forest - Hannibal

Dave Van Ronk - How Long - Down In Washington Square: The Smithsonian Collection - Smithsonian Folkways

Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors - Shine Like Lightning - Medicine - Magnolia Music

Bela Fleck & The Flecktones - Fugue From Prelude & Fugue No. 20. - The Hidden Land - Columbia

Cathie Ryan - In the Wishing Well - Through Wind and Rain - Mo Leanbh

Levon Helm - Rag Mama Rag (live) - Ramble At The Ryman - Vanguard

The Band - The Weight - Music from Big Pink - Capitol

Folk Alley's weekly, syndicated radio show is produced by WKSU (NPR-affiliate in Kent, OH). The show is available for free to stations via or via FTP for non-PRX members. Stations may air the show as either a one-, or two-hour program. The Folk Alley Radio Show is presently carried by over 36 stations nationally. Folk Alley also presents a 24/7 hosted Internet channel available at, TuneIn, iTunes, Live 365 and more. :: for more information contact Linda Fahey at 518-354-8077:

Posted by Linda Fahey at 8:39 AM | Comments (0)

It Takes Two - Ten Classic Duets for Valentine's Day

February 14, 2015

I Pick You 2.jpgby Kelly McCartney (@the KELword) for

In love, as in war, it takes two to really get anything done. So, for this Valentine's Day, we collected a batch of classic duets about love in its myriad forms. Quite a few of the picks have a healthy dose of humor because a couple that laughs is a couple that lasts.

Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash - "If I Were a Carpenter"

Leave it to Johnny and June to have a tune about loving each other no matter what. Luckily for all of us, Johnny was a lot more than a carpenter and a tinker, and June gave him quite a few tomorrows: "Save your love through loneliness. Save your love through sorrow. I gave you my onliness. Give me your tomorrow."

Dolly Parton & Porter Wagoner - "The Right Combination"

Oh, Dolly and Porter... what a wonderfully strange and twisted tale they lived. At the heart of it, though, was a real, true love that played out in their songs: "Some folks spend a lifetime searching for the right one and they'll grasp at any one of love's sensations. But you and I will search the most, for we have found it. You and I have found the right combination."

Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell - "If I Needed You"

One of the simplest, sweetest love songs out there, this Townes Van Zandt gem has long been a staple in Emmy's catalog, no matter who her duet partner is: "If I needed you would you come to me, would you come to me, and ease my pain? If you needed me, I would come to you. I'd swim the seas for to ease your pain."

John Prine & Iris DeMent - "In Spite of Ourselves"

Of course, John and Iris would take things in a completely different direction. The couple in this little ditty is so perfectly paired that the joke's on the rest of us: "He ain't got laid in a month of Sundays. I caught him once and he was sniffin' my undies. He ain't too sharp but he gets things done. Drinks his beer like it's oxygen. He's my baby and I'm his honey. Never gonna let him go."

Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn - "Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man"

As told by Conway and Loretta, the geographically challenged lovers of this country classic refuse to let the Big Muddy get in their way: "Louisiana woman, Mississippi man, we get together every time we can. The Mississippi River can keep us apart. There's too much love in the Mississippi heart. Too much love in this Louisiana heart."

Bonnie Raitt & Richard Thompson - "Dimming of the Day"

Not unlike "If I Needed You," this Richard Thompson stunner is a song of questioning, of longing, of hoping. And nobody brings all of that emotion to bear so easily and gracefully as does Bonnie Raitt. Added together, the whole is so much greater than that mere sum: "You pull me like the moon pulls on the tide. You know just where I keep my better side."

Jessi Colter & Waylon Jennings - "Storms Never Last"

Another real-life couple tell a tale of a hard-fought love. Here, Jessi and Waylon let us all know that, sometimes, the calm comes after the storm: "Storms never last, do they baby? Bad times all pass with the wind. Your hand in mine stills the thunder and you make the sun want to shine."

Hayes Carll & Cary Ann Hearst - "Another Like You"

On this contemporary Hayes Carll classic, the odd couple finds themselves headed for a one-night stand, and calling each other out for their shortcomings is just part of the courtship: "I'm having trouble breathing. I probably should be leaving. Well, I'm up in room 402. I gotta hand it to you. There's a chance I'm gonna screw you. I have never seen another like you."

Kay Starr & Tennessee Ernie Ford - "You're My Sugar"

Here's another couple at odds, this time brought to life by Kay Starr and Tennessee Ernie Ford. Although they bicker a bit, it all works out in the end: "I'm getting tired of fighting, been at it all my life. Well, the way we always get along, we should be man and wife. You're my sugar. You're my sugar. You're my sugar. But I am sweet on you."

George Jones & Tammy Wynette - "Golden Ring"

And, because one in two marriages end in divorce, one in 10 Valentine's Day videos can, too... especially if it's sung by George and Tammy: "Golden ring with one tiny little stone. Shining ring, now at last it's found a home. By itself, it's just a cold metallic thing. Only love can make a golden wedding ring."

One in 10 videos didn't allow embedding in this blog post, but CLICK HERE to WATCH.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 8:40 AM | Comments (0)

PLAYLIST - Folk Alley nationally syndicated weekly radio show #150205

February 12, 2015

Thumbnail image for Folk-Alley-Logo_medium.jpgPLAYLIST: Folk Alley nationally syndicated radio show #150205. Aired between February 6 - February 12, 2015. Hosted by Elena See

Artist - Title - Album - Label

Hour 1

The Avett Brothers - February Seven - The Carpenter - Universal Republic

The Early Mays - Cold Frosty Morning - Out Under The Sky - The Early Mays

The Fretless - Lonesome Scene of Winter (feat. Oliver Swain & Ruth Moody) - The Fretless

Josh Ritter - A Certain Light - Acoustic Live Vol. 1 - Josh Ritter

Kerfuffle - Down by the Greenwood Side - To The Ground - Root Beat

Sarah Jarosz - Can't Hide - Song Up In Her Head - Sugar Hill

Crooked Still - Orphan Girl - Hop High - Footprint

Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors - Tightrope - Medicine - Magnolia Music

Varttina - Kylan Kavija - Vihma - BMG

Sean Rowe - My Little Man - Madman - ANTI

Norman Blake - The Incident at Condra's Switch - Wood, Wire & Words - Plectrofone

Tara Nevins - Hell Broke Loose in Georgia - Mule to Ride - Sugar Hill

Alison Krauss - It Don't Matter Now - Forget About It - Rounder

Del Barber - Tell Me Where To Start - Prairieography - True North

Ruthie Foster - Hole In My Pocket - Runaway Soul - Blue Corn

Hour 2

Emmylou Harris - Red Dirt Girl - Red Dirt Girl (2000) - Nonesuch

Nickel Creek - Stumptown - Why Should The Fire Die? - Sugar Hill

The Decemberists - Make You Better - What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World - Capitol

Steve Earle & The Dukes - You're the Best Lover That I Ever Had - Terraplane - New West

Muddy Waters - You Gonna Need My Help - Folk Singer - MCA - Chess

Hurray for the Riff Raff - Look Out Mama - Look Out Mama - Born To Win

Townes Van Zandt - To Live Is To Fly (demo) - Sunshine Boy: The Unheard Studio Sessions & Demos 1971-1972 - Omnivore

Nora Jane Struthers & The Party Line - Lovin' You - Wake - Blue Pig

Qristina & Quinn Bachand - The Bachand Jigs - Little Hinges - Beacon Ridge

Tim O'Brien & Darrell Scott - Keep Your Dirty Lights On - Memories and Moments - Full Skies

Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors - Here We Go - Medicine - Magnolia Music

Rayna Gellert - Old Bangum - Old Light: Songs from My Childhood & Other Gone Worlds - Story Sound

Kathy Mattea - Calling Me Home - Calling Me Home - Sugar Hill

Jorma Kaukonen - Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out - Ain't In No Hurry - Red House

Levon Helm - I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free - Electric Dirt - Vanguard

Folk Alley's weekly, syndicated radio show is produced by WKSU (NPR-affiliate in Kent, OH). The show is available for free to stations via or via FTP for non-PRX members. Stations may air the show as either a one-, or two-hour program. The Folk Alley Radio Show is presently carried by over 36 stations nationally. Folk Alley also presents a 24/7 hosted Internet channel available at, TuneIn, iTunes, Live 365 and more. :: for more information contact Linda Fahey at 518-354-8077:

Posted by Linda Fahey at 9:15 AM | Comments (0)

Song Premiere: Ryan Culwell, 'I Think I'll Be Their God"

February 11, 2015

rc_serendipity_hill_josh-240.jpgby Kelly McCartney (@theKELword), for

Ah, Texas. The Lone Star State. The land of long, lonesome highways and dreams as wide as the horizon that meets them. With all that space, outside and in, it's no wonder Texas has birthed so many great songwriters singing so many great songs. Songs crafted by the likes of Rodney Crowell, Robert Earl Keen, Lyle Lovett, Butch Hancock, and others leave indelible marks on the hearts and minds of all who hear them. And they serve as a way for the stories to get out, even if the people who live them can't.

The latest torchbearer in that tradition seems to be Ryan Culwell, whose upcoming 'Flatlands' album is a testament to his time in Texas. Throughout the song cycle, Culwell delves into the various voids he felt and observed in his homeland. His tales evidence the absence of people and purpose in life and, even further, the absence of place. These lives of these people in these town, they are filled with emptiness, they are overflowing with nothing much at all. Coming, going, staying... none of that means anything when you live in a vacuum.

From "Amarillo" on down, these songs describe life as they know it in the Texas panhandle working with their "blood-stained hands" just to scrape by in towns that are viewed as "just a waste of time." Whether resigned or resilient, Culwell's characters do what they do in search of some semblance of peace.

'Flatlands', on the whole, feels suitably dusty and dark, though there are certainly tracks -- "I Think I'll Be Their God" and "Piss Down In My Bones," among them -- that break from the languid timbre to strike a thornier tone. Even still, the listen-through experience remains intact. And, while it might not be an easy listen, 'Flatlands' is certainly a pleasant one... in the same way that driving those long, lonesome highways can be, if you surrender to the experience rather than fight it.

Texas forever.

'Flatlands' drops on March 3 via Lightning Rod Records. Here's an exclusive premiere of "I Think I'll Be Their God."

Posted by Linda Fahey at 8:27 AM | Comments (0)

Hear It First - Jorma Kaukonen, 'Ain't In No Hurry'

February 10, 2015

Jorma 2015 400.jpgby Kelly McCartney (@theKELword), for

At 74 years old, guitarist Jorma Kaukonen shows no signs of letting up. One might think that founding two legendary bands (Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna) and being in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as well as one of Rolling Stone's "Top 100 Guitarists of All Time," would be enough for a guy, but Kaukonen is about to release his 15th solo album - 'Ain't In No Hurry' (Red House Records) and embark on a tour to go with it. This year -- the year in which he'll turn 75 -- also marks the 50th anniversary of Jefferson Airplane's founding, so why not celebrate by doing what he does best and loves best... play music.

KM: So, 50 years in, what is it about this thing called music that keeps you going after all this time?

JK: I'm guessing it's the same thing that gives us a reason to have this conversation. I believe music is in the DNA of our souls. No matter what kind of music one likes, one has to have it. You might have a favorite period, a favorite genre, but it never gets old and there is always something new to set you on fire.

The songs on the new album cover a wide swath of time and topics. What's your philosophy on balancing preservation of old forms and innovation of new ones?

For better or worse, the landscape of this album simply reflects the way I think. I guess, for me, it's alway about the 'tell.' I never have a surplus of material when I do a project. Even though some of the songs here are from another time, the subject matter reflects aspects of the human condition that never seem to get old. To put it more simply... it's just part of the story I would tell if we were having a conversation rather than listening to music.

Do you have a preference for either playing solo or with a band? Or do they fulfill different parts of your artistry?

Good question. I love both, obviously. There is something deeply satisfying about being able to perform as a solo... I learned to do it a long time ago. That said, when a band configuration works, the whole is definitely greater than the sum of the parts. You just can't beat that experience, so yeah... in the last analysis, they fulfill different parts of my artistry.

If you could jam with anyone -- living or dead -- who would it be and what would you play?

I have gotten to a point in my life when the process of jamming reflects a deep, personal conversation. With that in mind, this is a hard question to answer and probably not a great response for an interview, but the truth is that I am jamming with the people I would like to in reality and they are all alive. Jack Casady, Larry Cambell, G.E.Smith... My door is always open, but right now the living room is full.

Will there come a time when you'll hop off the road and just focus on Fur Peace? Or will you just keep on keeping on?

Obviously, a time will come for all of us when we will no longer be able to do what we love to do. I look to Segovia... Pablo Casals... great artists who performed well into their later years. I am reminded of a question a friend asked me at the Fur Peace Ranch last year. "Do you ever think about retiring?" he asked. "Why?" I said. "So I can spend more time playing the guitar?"

"I'm in it for the long haul... so far, so good!"

'Ain't In No Hurry' will be released on February 17th. Until then, you can stream the album in its entirety below and pre-order the album at Red House Records - HERE.

**Audio for this feature is no longer available.**

Posted by Linda Fahey at 9:18 AM | Comments (34)

Album Review: Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors, 'Medicine'

February 5, 2015

Drew Holcomb Medicine 400.jpgby Kelly McCartney, for

Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors - 'Medicine' (Good Time Records)

When you start a record out with a track as fantastic as "American Beauty," you've set yourself a very high bar to clear on whatever cuts must follow. Luckily enough for Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, they have the talent and the songs to do it -- not every time, but enough to make their Medicine go down nice and easy.

The real, well, beauty of "American Beauty" is its simplicity. For the most part, it's a gentle, acoustic ballad with some ambient guitars and muted drums. But Holcomb's handling of the song's heartache is what really makes it work. He leans into the gratitude for what he once had, rather than the sorrow for what he's now lost. That's not a stance often taken in music... or life. And it makes that track a standout.

Further in, Holcomb and company pump up the volume and energy to great effect on "Tightrope," "Shine Like Lightning," and "I've Got You." To be sure, these aren't a bunch of laid-back, shoe-gazing folkies. In the middle of the set, the tempered soul of "Avalanche," the throwback folk-rock of "Heartbreak," and the acoustic waltz of "You'll Always Be My Girl" are at once fresh and familiar. You've heard something like this before, but not quite. Along with "American Beauty," that trio of tunes really serves as the tonic of Medicine, for they will cure what ails you.

( follow Kelly on Twitter at @theKELword )

Posted by Linda Fahey at 9:18 AM | Comments (0)

PLAYLIST - Folk Alley nationally syndicated weekly radio show #150129

February 2, 2015

Folk-Alley-Logo_medium.jpgPLAYLIST: Folk Alley nationally syndicated radio show #150129. Aired between January 30 - February 5, 2015. Hosted by Elena See

Artist - Title - Album - Label

Hour 1

John McCutcheon - Groundhog Day - Wintersongs - Rounder

Sam Amidon - Groundhog - Bright Sunny South - Nonesuch

Blackmore's Night - For the Sake of the Song - Fires at Midnight - Steamhammer

Gretchen Peters - Pretty Things - Blackbirds - Scarlet Letter Records

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - Codeine - Here We Rest - Lightening Rod

The Gibson Brothers - Bye Bye Love - Brotherhood - Rounder

The Haden Triplets - My Baby's Gone - The Haden Triplets - Third Man

Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley - Before the Sun Goes Down - Before the Sun Goes Down - Compass

Pine Leaf Boys - Blues de Musicien - Blues de Musicien - Arhoolie

The Heartbeats - All I Want To Do - Spinning World - Green Linnet

Caitlin Canty - Enough About Hard Times - Reckless Skyline - Caitlin Canty

Jim Croce w/ Ingrid Croce - Hard Times Be Over - Facets - Sony

Gillian Welch - Hard Times - The Harrow & The Harvest - Acony

Jorma Kaukonen - Suffer Little Children To Come Unto Me - Ain't In No Hurry - Red House

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

Chris Smither - Frankie & Albert - Avalon Blues A Tribute to the Music of Mississippi John Hurt - Vanguard

Hour 2

Ryan Adams - Invisible Riverside - Ashes & Fire - Capitol

Scott Nygaard - The Idlers of Belltown - Scott Nygaard and Crow Molly - Fret Soup

Qristina & Quinn Bachand - What You Do With What You've Got - Little Hinges - Beacon Ridge Productions

Christine Albert - Lean My Way (feat. Troupe Gammage) - Everything's Beautiful Now - Moon House

Albert & Gage - Hell or High Water - Dakota Lullaby, The Songs of Tom Peterson - Moon House

Passenger - Rolling Stone - Whispers - Nettwerk - Black Crow

Ottmar Liebert/Luna Negra - Caballada - La Semana - Spiral Sub

Mavis Staples - You Are Not Alone - You Are Not Alone - ANTI-

The Earls of Leicester - Till the End of the World Rolls 'Round - The Earls of Leicester - Rounder

Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs - Down The Road - The Vintage Years - Columbia

Kristin Andreassen - Lookout - Gondolier - Yellowcar Music

Ry Cooder - Cherry Ball Blues - Boomer's Story - Warner Brothers

The Barr Brothers - Little Lover - Sleeping Operator - Secret City

John Prine - Linda Goes To Mars - Great Days: The John Prine Anthology - Rhino

Roger McQuinn - Mr. Spaceman - Live from Mars - Hollywood

Folk Alley's weekly, syndicated radio show is produced by WKSU (NPR-affiliate in Kent, OH). The show is available for free to stations via or via FTP for non-PRX members. Stations may air the show as either a one-, or two-hour program. The Folk Alley Radio Show is presently carried by over 36 stations nationally. Folk Alley also presents a 24/7 hosted Internet channel available at, TuneIn, iTunes, Live 365 and more. :: for more information contact Linda Fahey at 518-354-8077:

Posted by Linda Fahey at 4:39 PM | Comments (0)

Album Review: Gretchen Peters, 'Blackbirds'

January 31, 2015

Gretchen Peters Blackbirds cover.jpgby Kelly McCartney, for

Gretchen Peters - 'Blackbirds' (Scarlet Letter Records)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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