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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 PRX.org 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 FolkAlley.com, TuneIn, iTunes, Live 365 and more. :: for more information contact Linda Fahey at 518-354-8077: Linda@folkalley.com

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 FolkAlley.com

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.

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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 FolkAlley.com

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.

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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), FolkAlley.com

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.

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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 FolkAlley.com

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.

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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 FolkAlley.com

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!

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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 FolkAlley.com

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 FolkAlley.com

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.''

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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 PRX.org 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 FolkAlley.com, TuneIn, iTunes, Live 365 and more. :: for more information contact Linda Fahey at 518-354-8077: Linda@folkalley.com

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 FolkAlley.com

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 PRX.org 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 FolkAlley.com, TuneIn, iTunes, Live 365 and more. :: for more information contact Linda Fahey at 518-354-8077: Linda@folkalley.com

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 FolkAlley.com

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 FolkAlley.com

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.


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**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 FolkAlley.com

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 PRX.org 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 FolkAlley.com, TuneIn, iTunes, Live 365 and more. :: for more information contact Linda Fahey at 518-354-8077: Linda@folkalley.com

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 FolkAlley.com

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 (0)

A Q & A with Caitlin Canty

January 27, 2015

Canty-Guitar-Stairs-Jay-Sansone 400.jpgby Kelly McCartney for FolkAlley.com

Making her way from the clear and easy backroads of small-town Vermont to the rough and tumble streets of New York City, singer/songwriter Caitlin Canty took the long way around... through a job at the Artists' Den. Eventually, though, she started to explore the various rooms of her own artistry. Between side gigs with Down Like Silver and Darlingside, Canty carved out time for her own projects, including 2012's 'Golden Hour' and the recently released 'Reckless Skyline.' And, even though she still has many miles yet to travel in order to get where she's going, Canty is certainly headed in the right direction.

What's your first memory of writing a song that you knew was good?

I clearly remember writing "The Brightest Day" in one sitting in my New York City apartment. I used to be more of a librarian when it came to writing -- a good line or melody might hit me and I'd file it away for a better time when I could focus. When I felt this song coming on, I flew to the paper and my guitar, ignored all calls, forgot to eat, and finished it in the moment. Most of the songs for this record were written in that kind of heat. Later I can sculpt them and share them with my band and get feedback on arrangements or approaches, but writing in heat helps me follow where the song wants to go, and is honestly just more satisfying. It's harder to know in my bones if anything is good once I've left it on the shelf for too long -- finishing it becomes a chore, and it'll feel like some old song a younger version of myself wrote.

As a solo artist who collaborates an awful lot, what is it about working with other artists (including Jeffrey Foucault) that gets you going?

I learn so much from touring alongside or writing with other artists. When I'm cowriting a song, I'm learning my cowriter's tricks, how he thinks about songs, what tools he uses to make it work better. When I'm playing with a band backing me up, I'm hearing how the songs works, where its weak points are, where it moves beautifully. I can't do it all alone. And where's the fun in that?

This can be a pretty lonely life -- and there's so much to be learned and so much you have to do to keep it all afloat. So when there's a chance for a good symbiotic relationship, I'll jump at it. For instance, this year, I've opened a few tours for Jeffrey Foucault and Billy Conway. They back me up on my set, and I'll sing backing vocals on their set. It's been a really wonderful way to tour.

The guys who played on your record are some of the best New England has to offer. What does playing with such high caliber musicians bring out in you... confidence, insecurity, excitement, nervousness...?

Joy! It's a thrill to play good music with good people. The majority of my time is spent traveling to shows, working on the homely business side of this job (emails, logistics), and writing songs while imagining in my mind how the band will sound playing them. My perspective is probably a bit different than most touring musicians -- I spent five years of my life working in a beige cubicle chained to a computer. When I finally get to jump onstage with my friends or sit around the kitchen table with our guitars, it's pure joy. When talented musicians bring their goods to my songs, it feels like a party.

What's the artistic distance between 'Golden Hour' and 'Reckless Skyline?' And where are you setting your coordinates next?

When I made 'Golden Hour,' I had just started touring with my trio. I was only beginning to understand how the records I love are made. I had spent a lot of time in studios, but that was my first stab at producing my own full-length album in a pro studio. It was a cold January in icy Maine.

'Reckless Skyline' is more raw and alive. The sound is warmer, the images more elemental and fiery. Where 'Golden Hour' is full of sorrow, 'Reckless Skyline' feels more wild and defiant.

And the songwriting is better. I met my match in an old Recording King guitar a month or two before Jeffrey Foucault signed on to produce and he quickly lined up the band. I felt like I was cowriting with this old guitar, and writing songs for the band of my dreams. And the band tracked this record live, in one cavernous room. We could see each other, and were making music in real time together.

I met Jeffrey when I opened a show for him and he gave me a copy of his 'Horse Latitudes' which just about knocked me over. I asked a million questions about how he produced it (live over a few days in California with a lights-out band). Foucault's philosophy of recording live in a room with the right players made all the difference in the production of 'Reckless Skyline.'

What's next? Well, I need to give 'Reckless Skyline' its day in the sun and tour behind that record as hard as I can. I have shows with The Stray Birds, Pieta Brown, and Peter Bradley Adams on the horizon. I am getting to know my new electric guitar -- it's been exciting to start writing with it. Also, in our original session for 'Reckless Skyline,' we tracked 19 songs -- so I have an EP waiting in the wings that I'll release soon as I can.

You bounce between three very disparate landscapes -- Nashville, Idaho, and New England. How does geography inform or influence your writing?

The imagery and pulse of my songs are certainly influenced by the ground I'm standing on. I absorb experiences from all of the places I love and that seeps into my music. The tactile and elemental quality of the environment bleeds into my lyrics, for sure. And the pulse or the drift of my surroundings drives the feel of the songs.

And the practical side of how the writing gets done is dependent on where I am. I'm happy and have space in Idaho, so I do a lot of writing there. My people are condensed in the Northeast, so I tour and collaborate a lot there.

Idaho is golden and masculine and wide open, and I feel strong and healthy there. New York City / New England is the adrenaline-flooded homeland where my favorite people are gathered and where I get the good work done, but can't stay for too long. Nashville still feels new to me. It marries the best parts of the small town living that I love with the convenience of the city. I dig the relaxed but passionate attitudes of the makers and artists who live happily there. I'm moving myself and my guitars to Nashville next month and putting some roots in the ground. There's also a spontaneity to the music community there. Everyone I know lives roughly 20 minutes away -- when you feel a song coming on or need a backing vocal or want to grab a beer, it doesn't take weeks of coordinating schedules -- you just do it.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 5:39 PM | Comments (0)

PLAYLIST - Folk Alley nationally syndicated weekly radio show #150122

Folk-Alley-Logo_medium.jpgPLAYLIST: Folk Alley nationally syndicated radio show #150122. Aired between January 23 - 29, 2015. Hosted by Elena See

Artist - Title - Album - Label

Hour 1

Kieran Kane & Kevin Welch - Mellow Down Easy - Lost John Dean - Compass

Reeltime - Bulgarian Bash - Reeltime - Green Linnet

The Rails - Bonnie Portmore - Fair Warning - Island

Caitlin Canty - Get Up -
Reckless Skyline - Caitlin Canty

Dave Alvin - King Of California - King Of California - Hightone

The Stray Birds - San Antonio (live) - Folk Alley in-studio session recording (2014) - The Stray Birds

The Stray Birds - Best Medicine (live) - Folk Alley in-studio session recording (2014) - The Stray Birds

The Stray Birds - Black Hills (live) - Folk Alley in-studio session recording (2014) - The Stray Birds

Slaid Cleaves - Millionaire - Unsung - Rounder

Laura Cortese - Mulqueen's - Even The Lost Creek - Cortese

Kristin Andreassen - The New Ground - Gondolier - Yellowcar Music

New Grass Revival - When The Storm is Over - Fly Through the Country - New Grass Revival

Tom Waits - Take It With Me - Mule Variations - Epitaph


Hour 2

Steep Canyon Rangers - Lay Myself Down - Tell the Ones I Love - Rounder

The Honey Dewdrops - 1918 - If the Sun Will Shine - The Honey Dewdrops

The Once - The Town Where You Lived - Departures - Nettwerk Music Group

The Rails - William Taylor - Fair Warning - Island

Thompson - That's Enough - Family - Fantasy

Gretchen Peters - When All You Got Is A Hammer - Blackbirds - Scarlet Letter

Jackson Browne - Crow On the Cradle - The FolkScene Collection Volume III - Red House

Pete Seeger - Which Side Are You On? - Greatest Hits - CBS - Sony

Nanci Griffith - If I Had a Hammer - Other Voices Too - Elektra

John Gorka - The Water is Wide - The Songs of Pete Seeger - Appleseed

Grateful Dead - Monkey and the Engineer - Reckoning - Arista

Grateful Dead - Ripple - Reckoning - Arista

Dave Ray - Wild About Her - Legacy - Red House

Roni Stoneman - Lonesome Road Blues - Classic Banjo - Smithsonian Folkways

Bruce Springsteen - Oh Mary Don't You Weep - We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions - Columbia


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 PRX.org 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 FolkAlley.com, TuneIn, iTunes, Live 365 and more. :: for more information contact Linda Fahey at 518-354-8077: Linda@folkalley.com

Posted by Linda Fahey at 1:47 PM | Comments (0)

PLAYLIST - Folk Alley nationally syndicated weekly radio show #150115

January 19, 2015

Folk-Alley-Logo_medium.jpgPLAYLIST: Folk Alley nationally syndicated radio show #150115. Aired between January 16 - 22, 2015. Hosted by Elena See

Artist - Title - Album - Label

Hour 1

Leftover Salmon - Get Up and Go - High Country - LoS Records

Tommy Emmanuel - Train to Dusseldorf (live) - Center Stage - Favored Nation

Bill Morrissey - Ice Fishing - North - Rounder

Pieta Brown - Letter In Hand (In-Studio) - Exclusive Folk Alley Recording - Folk Alley exclusive

Karan Casey - Freedom Song - Chasing The Sun - Shanachie

Pieta Brown - All My Rain (In-Studio) - Exclusive Folk Alley Recording - Folk Alley exclusive

Delbert McClinton - Watchin' The Rain - Nothing Personal - New West

Pete Seeger, The Vanever Kids Chorus - Take it From Dr. King - SEEDS: Songs of Pete Seeger Vol 3 - Appleseed

Eilen Jewell - How Long - Letters From Sinners & Strangers - Signature Sounds

Pieta Brown - Back to You (In-Studio) - Exclusive Folk Alley Recording - Folk Alley exclusive

Greg Brown - Good Morning Coffee - Newport Folk Festival - Red House

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

Patty Griffin - Up to the Mountain (MLK Song) - Children Running Through - ATO


Hour 2

The Greencards - Weather And Water - Weather And Water - Dualtone

Bela Fleck, Zakir Hussain & Edgar Meyer - Bubbles - The Melody of Rhythm - E1 Entertainment

Gretchen Peters - When You Comin' Home (feat. Jimmy Lafave) - Blackbirds - Scarlet Letter

Jimmy Lafave - Buffalo Return to the Plains - Favorites 1992-2001 - Music Road

The Holmes Brothers - Shine - Simple Truths - Alligator

Odetta (w/ Holmes Brothers) - Down By The Riverside - Gonna Let It Shine - M.C.

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

The New Basement Tapes - Florida Key - Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes - Electromagnetic

T Bone Burnett - It's Not Too Late - The Criminal Under My Own Hat - CBS - Sony

Blackie & the Rodeo Kings - Blow Me A Kiss - South - Blackie & the Rodeo Kings

Kristin Andreassen - Kiss Me Hello - Kiss Me Hello - Kristin Andreassen

Justin Townes Earle - My Baby Drives - Single Mothers - Vagrant

John Williams & Dean Magraw - Twin's Dance Party - Sylvia & Mikey's - Raven - Compass

Laurie Lewis - Black Waters - Laurie Lewis & Her Bluegrass Pals - Rounder



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 PRX.org 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 FolkAlley.com, TuneIn, iTunes, Live 365 and more. :: for more information contact Linda Fahey at 518-354-8077: Linda@folkalley.com

Posted by Linda Fahey at 7:37 PM | Comments (0)

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King

January 18, 2015

dr-martin-luther-king-1 300.jpgBy Kelly McCartney

On January 15, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have been 86, if not for the bullet that cut short his life in 1968. Today, Folk Alley remembers his life, his legacy, and his lessons as documented in song by some of the great roots artists of our time, from Pete Seeger to Patty Griffin, from Bruce Springsteen to Ben Harper. Now, almost more than ever, our world is at a crossroads, with love and peace down one road, fear and hatred down the other. It's easy to wish we still had Dr. King around to show us which way to go, but he already did that. We just have yet to follow him.

Pete Seeger: "Take It from Dr. King"

Written in 2002, "Take It from Dr. King" was one of so many songs by Pete Seeger that called for peace. Here, in the wake of 9/11, he urges against a rush to war: "Don't say it can't be done. The battle's just begun. Take it from Dr. King. You, too, can learn to sing so drop the gun."




Otis Spann: "Blues for Martin Luther King"

On April 5, 1968, only a day after Dr. King's assassination as the city burned around him, the great blues pianist Otis Spann performed in a storefront church in Chicago, unveiling two MLK tributes -- "Blues for Martin Luther King" and "Hotel Lorraine": "Oh did you hear the news happened down in Memphis, Tennessee, yesterday? Yeah, fellas, I know you had to heard the news that happened down in Memphis, Tennessee, yesterday. There came a sniper, wiped Dr. Luther King's life away."




Old Crow Medicine Show: "Motel in Memphis"

Focusing on Dr. King's death, Old Crow Medicine Show lays it all out in "Motel in Memphis," even name-checking the CIA. "Were you there when the man from Atlanta was murdered in Memphis? Did you see him layin' at the Lorraine motel? Did you hear them say that the CIA is witness to the murder of a man at a motel in Memphis?"




Patty Griffin: "Up to the Mountain (MLK Song)"

Inspired by Dr. King's "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech, which he gave the day before his assassination, Patty Griffin's "Up to the Mountain (MLK Song)" was first recorded by Solomon Burke in 2006. Other artists have also tackled it, but Griffin makes it ache: "The peaceful valley just over the mountain, the peaceful valley few come to know. I may never get there ever in this lifetime. But sooner or later, it's there I will go."




Daddy: "The Ballad of Martin Luther King"

Written by Mike Millius in 1968 and brought back around by Daddy, the band with Will Kimbrough and Tommy Womack at its heart, in 2009, "The Ballad of Martin Luther King" serves as a clarion call to never forget: "Gather 'round me, friends, I have a song to sing about a hero of our time named Martin Luther King; Martin Luther King was born to a sharecropper's son and ev'ry racist feared him, and he never owned a gun. And I've been to the mountain top, and today I have a dream. Don't you ever forget the words of Martin Luther King."




Ben Harper: "Like A King"

Ben Harper, in response to the 1991 beating by police officers of Rodney King, drew a direct line between the two Kings in "Like a King" to highlight how far we had not come: "So if you catch yourself thinking it has changed for the best, you better second guess, 'cause Martin's dream has become Rodney's worst nightmare. Like a King, like a King, like a King."




Dion: "Abraham, Martin & John"

This 1968 composition by Dick Holler emerged from that year's deaths of both Dr. King and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., but also incorporates two other fallen civil rights heroes, Abraham Lincoln and John Kennedy. Although Andy Williams, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, and others recorded the ballad, Dion made it his own: "Has anybody here seen my old friend Martin? Can you tell me, where he's gone? He freed a lot of people, but it seems the good die young. I just looked around and he was gone."




Bruce Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions Band: "We Shall Overcome"

First published in 1948, the gospel-inspired "We Shall Overcome" has served as a protest anthem for more than one generation standing up for more than one cause. A lot of folk singers have called out and on its message of hope: "We shall overcome, we shall overcome. We shall overcome someday; Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome someday."




Eileen Jewell: "How Long"

Also inspired by Dr. King's words, Eileen Jewell's "How Long" holds tight to a faith in the arc of the moral universe that, Dr. King says, bends toward justice: "The darkness is deep, but night will end 'cause truth crushed to earth will rise again. How long will it take, you want to know? How long, not long because you reap just what you sow."




Paul Simon: "So Beautiful or So What"

On his 2011 'So Beautiful or So What' album, Paul Simon used the title track to shine light where there is darkness, offer hope where this is none. Because he invoked Dr. King's message, he thought it also fitting to include his memory, as well: "Four men on the balcony overlooking the parking lot pointing at a figure in the distance. Dr. King has just been shot."




Music from the 1963 March on Washington

Including performances by Joan Baez, Odetta, Bob Dylan, Mahalia Jackson, Peter, Paul & Mary, and others, this compilation brings it all home.

1. Joan Baez: "We Shall Overcome"
2. Peter, Paul & Mary: "Blowin' in the Wind"
3. Peter, Paul & Mary: "If I Had a Hammer (Part)"
4. Odetta: "I'm on My Way"
5. Bob Dylan and Joan Baez: "When the Ship Comes In"
6. The Freedom Singers: "We Shall Not Be Moved" (Cordell Reagon, Bernice Johnson Reagon, Charles Neblett, and Rutha Mae Harris)
7. Peter, Paul, & Mary: "If I Had a Hammer"
8. Joan Baez: "All My Trials"
9. Bob Dylan: "Only a Pawn in Their Game"
10. Len Chandler, Joan Baez, Stuart Scharf, and Bob Dylan: "Rally Song"/"Keep Your Eyes On The Prize (Hold On)"
11. Marian Anderson: "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands"
12. Eva Jessye Choir: "Freedom Is a Thing Worth Thinking About"
13. Mahalia Jackson: "How I Got Over"
14. Eva Jessye Choir: "We Shall Overcome"


Posted by Linda Fahey at 9:32 AM | Comments (0)

PLAYLIST - Folk Alley nationally syndicated weekly radio show #150108

January 11, 2015

Folk-Alley-Logo_medium.jpgPLAYLIST: Folk Alley nationally syndicated radio show #150108. Aired between January 9 - 15, 2015. Hosted by Elena See

Artist - Title - Album - Label

Hour 1

The Decemberists - January Hymn - The King Is Dead - Capitol

John Whelan - Reels: January's Journey Medley - Flirting with the Edge - Narada

John Doyle - The Month of January - Wayward Son - Compass Records

Claire Lynch - How Many Moons - Dear Sister - Compass

Hal Ketchum - Devil Moon - I'm the Troubadour - Music Road Records

Bob Dylan & Joan Baez - Mama You've Been On My Mind - LIVE 1964 - Columbia

Joan Baez - Farewell, Angelina(Live) - Rare, Live, and Classic - Vanguard

The Punch Brothers - I Blew It Off - The Phosphorescent Blues - Nonesuch

Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn - Banjo Banjo - Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn - Rounder

Heather Styka - Birch Log - While This Planet Spins Beneath Our Feet - Kite Stripe

Mumford & Sons - Winter Winds - Sigh No More - Island

David Francey - A Winter Night - Skating Rink - Laker

Claudia Schmidt - Winter Love - It Looks Fine From Here - Red House

The Earls of Leicester - I'll Go Stepping Too - The Earls of Leicester - Rounder

Flatt & Scruggs - Old Leather Britches - Live at Vanderbilt University - Columbia

Earl Scruggs w - Family & Friends - Step It Up and Go - The Ultimate Collection (live) - Rounder


Hour 2

Lucinda Williams - Stowaway In Your Heart - Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone - Highway 20 Records (Thirty Tiger)

Cindy Cashdollar(Mike Auldridge) - Keep My Heart - Slide Show - Silvershot

Passenger - Heart's On Fire - Whispers - Nettwerk - Black Crow

Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley - Workin' Man Can't Get Nowhere Today - Before the Sun Goes Down - Compass

Blue Highway - Remind Me of You - The Game - Rounder

Ellis Paul - Drive In Movie - Chasing Beauty - Black Wolf

Ellis Paul (live) - The World Ain't Slowin' Down - Live - Philo

Christine Albert - Old New Mexico (feat. Eliza Gilkyson & Jerry Jeff Walker) - Everything's Beautiful Now - Moon House

Jerry Jeff Walker - Ramblin', Scramblin' - Driftin' Way of Life - Vanguard

Amelia Curran - The Reverie - They Promised You Mercy - Six Shooter

Wendy MacIsaac - Magnificent 7 - Off the Floor - Wendy MacIsaac

The Duhks - Rock Of Ages - Your Daughters & Your Sons - Sugar Hill

The New Basement Tapes - Diamond Ring - Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes - Electromagnetic

Bob Dylan - I'll Be Your Baby Tonight - Original Mono Recordings (Best Of) - Columbia Legacy

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 PRX.org 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 FolkAlley.com, TuneIn, iTunes, Live 365 and more. :: for more information contact Linda Fahey at 518-354-8077: Linda@folkalley.com

Posted by Linda Fahey at 8:55 PM | Comments (0)

A Q & A with Pieta Brown

January 7, 2015

PietaBrown 400sq.jpgby Kelly McCartney for FolkAlley.com

Anyone writing about Pieta Brown would be remiss to not mention that her father is the incredibly prolific and thoroughly respected singer/songwriter Greg Brown. But for the writing to stop there, would be negligent because the younger Brown has certainly made a name for herself with five albums and three EPs. On her latest studio set, 'Paradise Outlaw,' she churns through 14 tunes that are more than just well-crafted and well-produced; they are also interesting -- captivating, even. For her Folk Alley Session, Pieta sets three of those gems in a spare, duo setting accompanied by guitarist Bo Ramsey. (Click HERE to watch videos from that session.) Her father's shadow may be long and wide, but Pieta Brown shines just fine.

Kelly McCartney: You grew up in Iowa and Alabama, the daughter of a noted singer/songwriter. How would you say both nurture and nature have influenced your work?

Pieta Brown: Hopefully the songs and the music speak to that directly. I had a lot of time around people playing music together, as a kid. I also spent a whole lot of time alone as a kid and a teenager, too. I felt the music and heard the internal voices early on. The way that all converged -- and continues to -- has led me this far.

KM: Even though you've been around music and musicians your whole life, what's it like to work with legends like John Prine, Emmylou Harris, Mavis Staples, and Mark Knofler? Does it ever not feel surreal?

PB: The music doesn't feel surreal to me. And working with great musicians doesn't feel surreal to me. It feels very real and charged. It's fun and deeply inspiring, and always an honor to work with great musicians and great artists. The songs and music and writing have become my life's work and the artists/legends you mentioned have all become masters in some way. They have all remained dedicated and driven and vibrant. That is an endless inspiration.

KM: What led you to self-produce the new album? And what differences do you think that made?

PB: The vision I had for 'Paradise Outlaw' was very strong and, though it shifted a bit here and there, it really was a clear vision and was easy to follow. The songs and the music were driving me and I just went with it. Because I felt so close to the songs and what I was hearing inside, it made taking the reins as the main producer easy. I didn't have to think about it much. It just seemed natural. April Base (the studio) and the players I called on for the session all felt right. Besides just the obvious line of having some experience in the studio to lean on, the songs and vision gave me a lot of confidence which over-rode some of my natural shyness that has been a factor, at times, during other recordings. It was freeing. Hopefully that comes through in the music and the way the record sounds.

Pieta Brown Paradise Outlaw.jpegKM: As with a lot of projects over the years, 'Paradise Outlaw' found inspiration in the Beat Poets. What's different about your take on that genre?

PB: I don't feel like 'Paradise Outlaw' is a take on the Beat Poets or that genre. If anything, it's just a "hats off" or "three cheers" for all the sparks those writers and that movement created... in poetry, music, and beyond. I feel like the Beats were part of a continuous collective, you know? Go back to William Blake and others and you can feel that fervent quest! So, I'm just chiming in with my own variations and explorations of all of that here and now.

KM: You've said that this record is about "artistic activism" rather than "political activism." What's the distinction there?

PB: The lines are blurry for sure, but I think the "artistic activism" thing came out of someone's questions to me about some of the songs on 'Paradise Outlaw.' The interviewer described feeling/hearing political undercurrents in some of the messages of the songs. Now, I don't really understand politics, but "political activism" seems to me to be acted out in the political realm... through demonstrations, laws, meetings. It seems direct and specific and action-oriented. "Artistic activism" seems to me to be about calling names, about calling things into view, about making sure all the questions keep getting asked. I reckon maybe all art and music is artistic activism in one way or another.

For more from Pieta, see Folk Alley's in-studio video session and hear the interview - HERE

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

Folk Alley's Best of 2014 - Jon Nungesser's Top Picks of the Year

December 29, 2014

Top Picks of 2014 by Jon Nungesser

2014, what a year! A vibrant and diverse year for music with releases from First Aid Kit, Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn, Nickel Creek, Rodney Crowell and many more that I don't have time to list here. The list I chose below passed a crucial test for me - am I still playing them in my car's CD player? I got hooked on these albums this year and am finding it hard to give them up. Surely, they will be playing in my car well into 2015!


Passenger Whispers.jpgPassenger - 'Whispers'
(Nettwerk)

Mike Rosenberg aka Passenger ditched the band and went solo for 2012's release 'All the Little Lights' which produced the memorable hit "Let Her Go." Now he is back with 'Whispers' which builds on the last album's momentum. It features strong writing that really comes out in tracks like "Scare Away the Dark", providing a blatantly true look on our modern society.




First Aid Kit Gold 100.jpgFirst Aid Kit - 'Stay Gold'
(Columbia Records)

This album is a bit more amped up sonically for the sisters than their last release, but the addition of an orchestra on tracks like "My Silver Lining" only adds to the haunting vocals and vivid imagery featured in this 10-song set. It's an album that's hard to put down for sure!




Rodrigo y Gabriela.jpegRodrigo y Gabriela - '9 Dead Alive'
(ATO Records)

Flamenco cranked up to 11! That is how I describe the release from this Mexican duo. Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero grew up on a mix of flamenco, jazz, and heavy metal with one of their biggest influences being Metallica. It really should be no wonder this record is pure energy and driving rhythms that would be at home in either a rock stadium or coffee shop.




Nickel Creek Dotted 100.jpgNickel Creek - 'A Dotted Line'
(Nonesuch)

The trio (Chris Thile, Sara Watkins and Sean Watkins) reunited for this much-anticipated 2014 release. I had the pleasure of seeing them live this past year on their tour through Cleveland, and I can tell you, they haven't lost a step! This album features tight harmonies that truly complement each other. Take a listen to the track "Destination" to see what I mean.


JTE SIngle Mothers.jpegJustin Townes Earle - 'Single Mothers'
(Vagrant Records)

Back for his fifth studio album, 'Single Mothers' features tracks with a mixture of country-tinged soul as present on the title track and emotional ballads like "Picture In a Drawer." He takes the concerns and problems of the millennial generation and puts them to song - much like his dad did in his.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 12:50 PM | Comments (0)

Folk Alley's Best of 2014 - Chris Dudley's Top Picks of the Year

Top Picks of 2014 by Chris Dudley

It's pretty easy to say that we've had some excellent albums 2014. While my tastes are constantly changing, I chose five (okay, six actually) that were my favorites, that I kept going back to more consistently. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of other albums that aren't on this list that could be on any other given day. I chose these albums not only because of how often I listen to them, but because of how they stretch the genre of what we consider folk. All of these albums have songs that we play on Folk Alley, but the albums themselves expand outward into other realms that challenge the listener and that challenge me. Whether it be through production, instrumentation, lyrically, or harmonically, these albums have something in them that have stood out.


Noah Gundersen.jpgNoah Gundersen - 'Ledges'
(Dualtone)


With its warm and earthy tones, 'Ledges' strips down the songwriting elements to its bare bones. The songs are spacious and allow the lyrics to shine. It seems like a very minimalist setup, but it allows for his words to remain dynamic and carry most of the weight. The lyrics are introspective and evoke those tugging internal conflicts that we experience daily-- the struggle of living without or having baggage that constantly weighs on us. With its tentative moments that slowly bloom and burst into public confessions, 'Ledges' deals a heartfelt punch for those who are living a struggle.


Nickel Creek Dotted 100.jpgNickel Creek - 'A Dotted Line'
(Nonesuch)


What isn't there to be thrilled with in this album? With power that continuously drives, their harmonies and technical excellence is enough to make your ear swoon and beg for more. This album is chalked full of memorable melodies. It's an exceptionally well produced album with musicianship that is articulate and interesting. You can't help but love the fun way it catches you by surprise. I love occasions in the album where the chords are peculiar and the melodies are even a littler stranger. There is enough oddity to challenge you, but enough familiarity to keep grasp of what's going on.


Ryan Adams 100.jpegRyan Adams - 'Ryan Adams'
(PaxAm Records/Blue Note)


The gritty and raw sounds from 'Ryan Adams' are quick to shake you up. I adore the raspy guitar tone and the crunchy vocals. Every time I listen to this album, I get my "aww yeah" face on. While not quite folk in a traditional sense, the acoustic songs on this album still carry that folk vibe while still maintaining that raucous shadow that you continue to sense. This album makes great driving music. I had "My Wrecking Ball" and "Let Go" on repeat for a while.


First Aid Kit Gold 100.jpgFirst Aid Kit - 'Stay Gold'
(Columbia Records)


This album has a very ethereal sound to it. The drones and sustained sounds definitely have uniqueness to it. The album has largeness to it, and the harmonies are very lush. I enjoy how full and different this album sounds. The enormity of the sound is like an ocean wave. Lilting melodies keep you singing every time. You can get lost in this album, but it still has rhythm to it. I love the way the flutes, strings, organ, and other sustained instruments cradle you along as you move through the songs. A wonderful mix of indie/pop and folk.


Robert Plant.jpgRobert Plant - 'Lullaby and the Ceaseless Roar'
(Nonesuch)


The juxtaposition between natural and processed sound in this album is very alluring. I try not to limit my listening to any specific sounds, and albums like this are why I don't. There are so many colorful and contrasting sounds that can paint an enticing and vivid picture. Robert Plant mixes some heavily processed and overdriven drums and synths with the likes of acoustic guitars, banjos, and hurdy gurdy (at least I think it's a hurdy gurdy). It somehow manages to sounds mechanical and organic at the same time. Talk about some avant garde folk.


Honorable Mention:


Henry Girls Louder.jpgThe Henry Girls - 'Louder Than Words'
(Beste! Unterhaltung)


I just simply like this album and the songs. It's a very natural folk sound, and the songs are ones that I happen to press the play button on a lot. I like the feel of the songs on this album, and I just like the harmonized melodies. The songs, even the minor ones, seem bright and make me sway back and forth. At the end of the day, you don't need a complicated or particular reason to like something. Sometimes you just simply like it. I like the songs. It's as simple as that.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 12:10 PM | Comments (0)

Folk Alley's Best of 2014 - Barb Heller's Top Picks of the Year

Barb guitar.jpgTop Picks of 2014 by Barb Heller

Disclaimer: I'm a rabid bluegrass fan, so expect my picks to be heavily weight toward that genre. If you don't mind banjos and resophonic guitars, then read on and enjoy! These are in no particular order. Happy 2015!










Claire Lynch Holiday.jpgThe Claire Lynch Band - 'Holiday'
(Thrill Hill Records)

I know it's a bit late to suggest this for holiday listening, but put it on your list for next year! Claire Lynch's voice, and her band's virtuosity put every note in just the right place. They also include a dynamite arrangement of "We Three Kings" that'll put all others to shame.




Tim Stafford.jpegTim Stafford - 'Just To Hear the Whistle Blow'
(Hedge Drive Records)

Tim Stafford plays in the band, Blue Highway - already well known for their great songs, tight delivery and staying power as a working group of artists. Stafford is a poetic, sensitive writer who puts another best foot forward with this collection. My favorite track: "Dimes." It's about finding souvenirs from heaven. This album is a great escape, with fabulous musicianship and top notch songwriting. What more could you want?


Seldom Scene.jpgSeldom Scene - 'Long Time'
(Smithsonian Folkways)

I love the Seldom Scene - then, and now. This is the group's first studio album since 2007. If you've ever liked them, you'll love this latest release.




Special Consensus and Friends Denver.jpgSpecial Consensus & Friends - 'Country Boy: A Bluegrass Tribute to John Denver'
(Compass Records)

Even if you were lukewarm about John Denver's music in the 1970s and '80s, you can't help but appreciate these great arrangements of his greatest hits. It's a bluegrass dream lineup: Michael Cleveland, John Cowan, Rob Ickes, Claire Lynch, and many other guests. Alison Brown on double production and banjo detail. Great job all around!


Nickel Creek Dotted 100.jpgNickel Creek - 'A Dotted Line'
(Nonesuch)

Sometimes it's not the words or the music that catch me. It's the process of transforming great musings into musical art that really impresses me. Nickel Creek seems to have it all: they're great musicians, they know how to write a hit song, and they can also express old sentiments and sounds in new and different ways. This is a very impressive demonstration of what the next generation is growing into.


And here are a few more that shouldn't go unnoticed:

Bob Amos Sunrise.jpgBob Amos - 'Sunrise Blues'
(www.BobAmos.com)

Another great songwriter. Bob Amos has an old soul, and it shines through his songs. For years, Amos was the lead singer for the bluegrass band Front Range. Now he's back in Vermont, forging a new road.




Phil Ledbetter.jpegPhil Leadbetter - 'The Next Move'
(Pinecastle Records)

Leadbetter was voted IBMA's 'Dobro Player of the Year' this fall, and his latest album was released just before the awards were announced. His big heart and friendly nature is eclipsed only by his stellar playing.




Irene Kelley PA Coal.jpegIrene Kelley - 'Pennsylvania Coal'
(Patio Records)

Kelley is a veteran songwriter, and she's put a best foot forward on this collection of originals based on her ancestors' lives in the mines. Well written, beautifully sung, with tasteful production. It's a gem.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 10:55 AM | Comments (0)

Folk Alley's Best of 2014 - Matt Reilly's Top Picks of the Year

Reilly-WXPN-Headshot-150x150.jpgTop 10 Picks of 2014 by Matt Reilly

You'd think by now I wouldn't get freaked out by having to make end-of-year lists. How do I whittle it down? Am I sure I REALLY like this whole record? What will the neighbors say? So after much wailing, moaning and gnashing of teeth (sort of), here is my list.








Beck Morning Phase 100.jpgBeck - 'Morning Phase'
(Capitol)

Sad Beck works for me. Lots of space in these songs to zone out and great for long drives.






First Aid Kit Gold 100.jpgFirst Aid Kit - 'Stay Gold'
(Columbia)

On first listen, seems pretty straightforward: Swedish sisters with great harmonies. On repeated listens, there's a whole Nordic underworld full of ice and mystery and refracted sunlight. Or am I just weird?




Israel Nash 100.jpgIsrael Nash - 'Rain Plans'
(Thirty Tigers)

If you're a fan of Neil Young and Crazy Horse you'll dig the new arrival to Central Texas. Sometimes you need a long jahm, mahn.






Ryan Adams 100.jpegRyan Adams - 'Ryan Adams'
(PaxAm)

Who writes better songs than Ryan Adams? No, Bryan Adams does not.






Shakey Graves 100.jpgShakey Graves - 'And The War Came'
(Dualtone)

This is a guy we've known about for a long time in Austin. It's great to see him finally breaking out nationally. Great songs and totally relatable.






Spoon.jpgSpoon - 'They Want My Soul'
(Loma Vista)

The best indie rock band going. They never lose that jittery, jagged pop sensibility.






St Vincent.jpegSt. Vincent - 'St. Vincent'
(Republic)

An acolyte of David Byrne, she's making accessible art rock for the 21st century. And she absolutely shreds on guitar.






Sturgill.jpegSturgill Simpson - 'Metamodern Sounds in Country Music'
(High Top Mountain/Loose Music)

He's like Waylon Jennings tripping out. A great melding of straight ahead country and psychedelia.






Tweedy.jpegTweedy - 'Sukierae'
(dBpm Records)

I've always liked Wilco, but they can get irritating. Jeff teaming up with his son Spencer makes for an infinitely listenable record that can be taken anywhere.






WarOnDrugs.jpegThe War on Drugs 'Lost In The Dream'
(Secretly Canadian)

Expansive psych rock from these Philly boys that - weirdly - reminds me of Jackson Browne sometimes.

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

Folk Alley's Best of 2014 - Kelly McCartney's Top Picks of the Year

December 18, 2014

K Mac Head shot square 150.jpgTop 10 Picks of 2014 by Kelly McCartney

In a year chock full of truly great records, it's hard to narrow it down to 10 stand-outs. But what's wonderful about the leveling field of music is that newcomers like Jonah Tolchin, Hozier, and Parker Millsap who really deliver the goods can sidle up alongside icons like Ani DiFranco, Rosanne Cash, and Lee Ann Womack at the top of their games, all without missing a beat. Such is the case here as newly discovered and long-time favorites alike jockey for position as some of the Best Albums of 2014.






Ani Difranco 100.jpgAni DiFranco - 'Allergic to Water'

There are two camps within the Ani DiFranco fan base -- those who swear allegiance to her early, more raw works and those who stand devoted to her later, more refined efforts. 'Allergic to Water' falls squarely into the latter's lap as DiFranco, now a mother of two, continues to explore the subtler, quieter realms. She is still brash, still brazen, in terms of the points she's attempting to get across. It's just that she does so in ways that are, at once, more playful and more serious. Gone are the days of boot stomping and guitar thrashing. But, as this album evidences, DiFranco continues to be one of the most thoughtful and innovative singer/songwriters of any generation.


First Aid Kit Gold 100.jpgFirst Aid Kit - 'Stay Gold'

Though Sweden is fast becoming a hotbed for electro-pop music thanks to the work of artists like Lykke Li, Robyn, and Avicii, it is not as overflowing with indie folk. It will be, though, if First Aid Kit is any indicator. Their latest collection, 'Stay Gold,' draws inspiration in both style and substance from Robert Frost's "Nothing Gold Can Stay." Sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg also take Frost's words as something of a challenge as they make every attempt to capture and hold their own goldest musical hues against an orchestral backdrop that lifts and lilts along with their sweetly soaring vocal harmonies.


Hozier.jpgHozier - 'Hozier'

The second of four blues-influenced gents under 25 years of age on the list (along with Tolchin, Millsap, and Ellis), Hozier emerged from Ireland with a bold cut that stopped a lot of people in their tracks with "Take Me to Church." While that is, indeed, a stunning effort, the whole of Hozier's eponymous debut showcases an artist with an impressive grasp on multiple melodic styles and an intuitive knack for intelligent lyrical twists. Bittersweetly recalling the promise of guys like Jeff Buckley and Elliott Smith, Hozier will, hopefully, be a more lasting presence. He certainly has the talent.


Jonah Tolchin.jpgJonah Tolchin - 'Clover Lane'

From "Mockingbird" on down, listeners know they are in for quite a ride down 'Clover Lane.' Jonah Tolchin's collection succeeds where neo-retro bands like Mumford & Sons fail because Tolchin is a fan first, a student second, and an artist third. He understands why the Mississippi Delta music speaks to him and he knows how to translate it into his own language. Equal parts crazy barn dance and lazy campfire singalong, 'Clover Lane' moves effortlessly between styles and genres -- from the swampy shuffle of "Hey Baby Blues" to the slow saunter of "Low Life." A truly fantastic album, 'Clover Lane' should easily put Tolchin on the map.


Lee Ann Womack.jpgLee Ann Womack - 'The Way I'm Livin''

For whatever reason, voices that have just a little bit of ache tell a story a whole lot better than those that don't. And, when it comes to country music, Lee Ann Womack has one of the loveliest aches around. She can coax the lonesome out of any tune, and then hold it right where she wants it. That's how, as an interpreter, Womack makes great songs even greater, especially when they flow from the pens of outlier writers like Hayes Carll, Julie Miller, and Bruce Robison. With 'The Way I'm Livin',' she brings her fullest talent to bear and it's something special to behold.


Thumbnail image for Parker Millsap 100.jpgParker Millsap - 'Parker Millsap'

The first two tracks on Parker Millsap's self-titled release -- the one-two punch of "Old Time Religion" and "Truck Stop Gospel" -- deliver quite a knock-out blow to all who stumble into this debut. A couple cuts later, though, "The Villain" answers a call sent out more than 40 years ago by Tom Waits' "I Hope That I Don't Fall in Love with You." Either way you go, Millsap, who is in his early 20s, knows how to write and deliver a song. And, as potent as this record is, his live performances are even more show stopping, so to speak.


Pieta Brown.jpgPieta Brown - 'Paradise Outlaw'

Unlike some of her past efforts, there's nothing urgent or insistent about Pieta Brown's latest turn, 'Paradise Outlaw.' Instead, it's a gorgeously meandering affair that takes its own, sweet time getting where it needs to go. The slow motion unfolding of these songs makes for an immersive listening experience, one that refuses to be anything more than it is. Here, everything feels a little bit muted, a little bit muddled, but never overly so because there's always plenty of room to breathe amidst the sparse arrangements and nuanced production.


Robby Hecht.jpgRobby Hecht - 'Robby Hecht'

On his 2014 eponymous release, Robby Hecht continues to prove the case for himself as a true descendant of the Paul Simon/James Taylor lineage of singer/songwriters. Like those greats, Hecht's contemplative, acoustic tunes search and rescue the hearts and souls of anyone who hears them. One listen to "Feeling It Now" (or "The Sea and the Shore" or "Stars") is like a healing balm, a salve to soothe whatever ails you. So classic is Hecht's voice and craft, it's sometimes hard to tell whether he is covering an old standard or offering a new original.


Robert Ellis.jpegRobert Ellis - 'The Lights from the Chemical Plant'

So much of what makes 'The Lights from the Chemical Plant' great is between the lines and under the surface, just like in the stories of so many small town lives that fill it. Unlike the artists on mainstream country radio, Robert Ellis doesn't paint with primary colors. He prefers the greys, the browns, and, yes, the blues. Those are the shades that fit the stark, dark tales he tells on this challenging and intimate work. A phrase from the lead track, "Only Lies", captures the album's credo: "Just because a thing's convenient, well that doesn't make it true."


Thumbnail image for Rosanne Cash River and Thread 100.jpgRosanne Cash - 'The River & the Thread'

On her first set of original songs since 2006's 'Black Cadillac,' Rosanne Cash held nothing back as she journeyed into the geography and history that have shaped her life, her art, her family. It's a heritage that is her own, sure, but it's also a heritage that is also ours. And that point is not lost on Cash. She understands the ties that bind, perhaps more than most, which is why the metaphors on 'The River & the Thread' run deep and wide. The chorus of the opening track lays it out perfectly: "A feather's not a bird. The rain is not the sea. A stone is not a mountain, but a river runs through me."

Posted by Linda Fahey at 11:45 AM | Comments (0)

Folk Alley's Best of 2014 - Linda Fahey's Top Picks of the Year

December 17, 2014

Thumbnail image for Linda Fahey Jarret photo square.jpgTop 10 Picks of 2014 by Linda Fahey

SO MANY favorites in Folk and Americana this year. Yikes. Where to begin? Who do I leave off? Here's my attempt at narrowing it down to my Top 10!

For the full write-up on each of these (thank you Kelly McCartney!), visit NPR Music - HERE.








Amelia Curran 100.jpgAmelia Curran - 'They Promised You Mercy'
(Six Shooter Records)









Bela and Abby 100.jpgBela Fleck & Abigail Washburn - 'Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn'
(Rounder Records)









Dom Flemons Prospect Hill 100.jpgDom Flemons - 'Prospect Hill'
(Music Maker)









The Duhks 100.jpgThe Duhks - 'Beyond the Blue'
(Compass Records)









First Aid Kit Gold 100.jpgFirst Aid Kit - 'Stay Gold'
(Columbia)









HFTRR album 125.jpgHurray for the Riff Raff - 'Small Town Heroes'
(ATO Records)









Nickel Creek Dotted 100.jpgNickel Creek - 'A Dotted Line'
(Nonesuch)









Parker Millsap 100.jpgParker Millsap - 'Parker Millsap'
(Okrahoma Records/Thirty Tigers)









Rosanne Cash River and Thread 100.jpgRosanne Cash - 'The River & the Thread'
(Blue Note/Universal)









Steve Dawson Rattlesnake Cage 100.jpgSteve Dawson - 'Rattlesnake Cage'
(Black Hen Music)










Posted by Linda Fahey at 11:03 PM | Comments (0)

Folk Alley's Best of 2014 - Cindy Howes' Top Picks of the Year

December 16, 2014

Chowes-square crop .jpgTop 10 Picks of 2014 by Cindy Howes

Full disclosure: I love making my yearly best-of list and I love looking at everyone else's. I love the exercise of combing through the year of music; reliving the first emotional moments felt after hearing the perfect song or new favorite artist. Some on my list were no surprise to me: of course I've included Anais Mitchell and First Aid Kit. Those unexpected artists on this list now feel like new friends who kept me company throughout the long year. I hope you agree on some and find some new friends among my favorite albums for 2014 and thank you for the opportunity to throw a spotlight on folk music.

Have a listen to my Top 10 Playlist at Spotify - HERE.




Ben Howard 100.jpgBen Howard. 'I Forget Where We Were'
(Island Records)

On his second full length album, UK singer-songwriter, Ben Howard manages to harness all sorts of emotive power through his striking lyrics and layered guitar work. This sounds is as if Joni Mitchell had joined Genesis and decided to play an electric guitar on her lap.




Barr Brothers 100.jpgThe Barr Brothers, 'Sleeping Operator'
(Secret City)

Montreal's Barr Brothers have returned on a sophomore release that combines magnificent songwriting, psychedelic and world music elements... and oh yeah, they also have a harp. The experimental nature of 'Sleeping Operator' that can make it a challenging listen is redeemed by mostly standout, accessible tracks.




Early Mays 100.jpgThe Early Mays, 'The Early Mays'
(The Early Mays)

Three previously solo performers come together to create beautiful harmonies and folk gems with The Early Mays: Judith Avers, Ellen Gozion and Emily Pinkerton. Thoughtfully created in Pittsburgh, PA, the trio effortlessly bring to life original, traditional and reworked songs while combining the folk music expertise of each May: Appalachia, country and modern.




Stray Birds Best 100.jpgThe Stray Birds, 'Best Medicine'
(Yep Roc)

The Stray Birds were a new discovery for me this year, but one I won't soon forget due to their ability to combine folk tradition with a modern approach. The fact that this album, their second full-length, was recorded live in the studio around one mic is astounding.




Anais Xoa 100.jpgAnais Mitchell, 'Xoa'
(Wilderland Records)

Anais Mitchell is one of the best writers of her generation. With a brilliant mind and a cool delivery that 100% drives me insane (in the best way), there was no way I wasn't going to love this record. 'Xoa,' which is her signature for her email newsletter, is kind of a reworked, best-of collection (including songs from her folk opera, 'Hadestown'). The album is just Anais and her guitar in the studio, singing and playing these incredible songs, just like it's not a big deal at all.




First Aid Kit Gold 100.jpgFirst Aid Kit, 'Stay Gold'
(Columbia)

The first time I heard the Swedish sister-duo, First Aid Kit's 'Stay Gold,' I was sanding the ceiling of my kitchen, covered in dust and wearing a face mask, which is a memory that is forever embedded in my mind. It sounds like someone seriously got their heart broken and is on an adventure, not unlike sanding a ceiling for two hours straight. I'm still astounded how well these young, non-American songwriters, manage to write such great American folk music.


Vance Joy 100.jpgVance Joy, 'Dream Your Life Away'
(Atlantic)

Australia is usually a few years ahead of the U.S. when it comes to finding the hip, new music, so it's makes a lot of sense that they would be WAY on top of their own Vance Joy. They were all over his massive hit "Riptide" way before Taylor Swift ever thought to cover it. It's nice to see the U.S. finally catching on. I'm glad to include 'Dream Your Life Away' on my list as it includes some stellar songs lead by Joy's sweet tenor voice, percussive melodies (Xavier Rudd comes to mind) and dynamic build.


Damien Jurado 100.jpgDamien Jurado, 'Brothers and Sisters of The Eternal Son'
(Secretly Canadian)

Folk enigma, Damien Jurado, calls his eleventh album as a sequel to his previous release which centered around a man who disappeared from society to a mysterious place. It kind of sounds like a weird, freaky Wizard of Oz where Dorothy never goes home.




Rose Cousins Stray Birds 100.jpgRose Cousins, 'Stray Birds'
Rose Cousins)

Rose Cousin's latest EP was a beautiful sweet September surprise with covers and a couple of originals. A small, quiet celebration in contrast to it's predecessor, 'We Have Made a Spark.' It was nice to hear Cousins pull back a bit on this release and show off some of her friends songs and tell us about some of her heroes.




Shakey Graves 100.jpgShakey Graves, 'And The War Came'
(Dualtone)

Austin's Alejandro Rose-Garcia impresses on his second release as the indie-folk act, Shakey Graves. The lead-off track, "Dearly Departed" has become one of the best new Halloween-inspired songs I've heard in years. Rose-Garcia seems out of place in 2014. After listening through 'And Then The War Came,' it's no wonder that these songs were not around for Lomaxes to discover in the early part of the 20th century.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 9:20 PM | Comments (0)

Folk Alley's Best of 2014 - Elena See's Top Picks of the Year

Thumbnail image for elena see 1 square crop 250.jpgTop 10 Picks of 2014 by Elena See

I don't know why I'm still surprised, more than a DECADE after beginning a career in the music radio biz, about the amount of amazing music (in all genres) that comes out each and every year. Without fail - you'll find a new favorite musician, a new favorite band, an unexpected surprise, and, let's be honest, a disappointment or two as well. So, without further adieu, here are just a few (in no particular order) of my unexpected surprises, new favorite bands and new favorite musicians from 2014:





Mellencamp 125.jpgJohn Mellencamp, 'Plain Spoken'
(Motown/Universal)

And the award for shocker of the year...goes to John Mellencamp and 'Plain Spoken.' Not being a huge Mellencamp fan, I was totally surprised by this album. I think the production quality is great and once I took a bit of time and started reading the lyrics, I was able to appreciate Mellencamp and his music on a whole new level. The care he takes with his words! It's...awesome.



HFTRR album 125.jpgHurray for the Riff Raff, 'Small Town Heroes'
(ATO Records)

I'm not at all what you'd call "quirky" and so that, naturally, leads me to really appreciate the quirkiness of others. Alynda Lee Segarra, frontwoman of Hurray for the Riff Raff, might be called quirky. But most importantly - she's got something important to say - she has a voice that needs to be heard. And she makes us hear it on this recording. "The Body Electric" is the stand out for me.



Dave Phill Alvin 125.jpgDave/Phil Alvin, 'Common Ground: Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin Play and Sing the Songs of Big Bill Broonzy'
(Yep Roc Records)

More than anything else, I appreciated this record because it marks the coming together, again, of two greats...who wanted nothing more than to set any differences aside and honor a third great, Big Bill Broonzy. Of course, it was wonderful to hear the brothers together again and, at the same time, this recording introduced me to SOOOOOO much more of Big Bill Broonzy's music. Thanks, Alvins!


Carlene Carter 125.jpgCarlene Carter, 'Carter Girl'
(Rounder Records)

I am fascinated with this family - what a legacy they left for us to explore and enjoy. Carlene Carter honors the legacy of her family's name with this recording, an album she says she's been waiting to make for years. I think her choice of material was quite inspired - the right mix of familiar tunes and lesser known numbers that give us an exclusive behind the scenes look at growing up as a member of the Carter clan.


John Fullbright songs 125.jpgJohn Fullbright, 'Songs'
(Blue Dirt Records)

One of the songs on this recording is called "Happy" and I admit it makes me happy every time I hear it. What IS it about John Fullbright's voice? Gravelly, wiser than his years would lead you to expect...I like this guy from Oklahoma. He's asking some good questions on this album - simple ones, sometimes...but definitely questions that we ALL ask every now and again. It's nice to get HIS perspectives on the answers.

Ben Ellen Harper Home 125.jpgBen/Ellen Harper, 'Childhood Home'
(Prestige Folklore)

Even if you had the most idyllic childhood anyone could ever imagine, I'd be willing to bet you still might have an opinion or two on how things could have been done differently. Ben Harper and his mother Ellen Harper said they'd always known they were going to make a record together that explores questions of home and family and what it all meant...and in Childhood Home they explore those ideas separately and together, offering a multi-dimensional look at how families really work together.


Smithsonian African American Songsters 125.jpgVarious, 'Classic African American Songsters from Smithsonian Folkways'
(Smithsonian Folkways Recordings)

Here's why this recording makes my best of 2014 list: Brownie McGhee. Lead Belly. Mississippi John Hurt. Little Brother Montgomery. Peg Leg Sam. All these amazing musicians I've heard of, in passing, but don't really know...here there are, all together, waiting to be discovered, and ready to make you sit up and say, "Whoa. I want more of this, please." It's a great collection, 21 tracks, and it is yet one more reason why I, personally, am grateful for Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.

Shovels Rope Swimmin 125.jpgShovels and Rope, 'Swimmin' Time'
(Dualtone Music Group)

Part of me loves this duo because of their name. Part of me is always just giddily delighted when I hear their harmonies. And then another part just swims in the lyrics they write. I adore how they make even the simplest ideas, questions, and thoughts into veritable poetry...then they back it up with impeccable playing and heart plucking harmonies. Americana's darlings, they're sometimes called...yeah. I agree.


Mary Gauthier Trouble Love 125.jpgMary Gauthier, 'Trouble and Love'
(CD Baby)

I think this is one of the most honest recordings I've ever heard. I love it when musicians (talented ones, anyway) use their own lives, their own experiences, their own heartbreaks and troubles as inspiration. Somehow, even though this is intensely personal stuff, Mary Gauthier makes it relevant to ME, to my life. And that lets me appreciate HER in whole new way, while at the same time giving me a unique perspective on things I've experienced in my own life.

Red Molly Red 125.jpgRed Molly, 'The Red Album'
(CD Baby)

I'm a sucker for great harmonies and so, not surprisingly, I'm a big fan of the trio Red Molly. To celebrate 10 years of making music - including a couple of years with a new member - they released The Red Album. Great things are in the future for the group...they made a conscious choice to include more original songs on this album than they've ever done before and the result is exciting. A couple of covers, too...including the song that gave them their name, Richard Thompson's "1952 Vincent Black Lightning."

Posted by Linda Fahey at 11:45 AM | Comments (1)

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