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NPR Music and Stations to Exclusively Webcast and Broadcast Full Concerts From George Wein's Newport Folk Festival, July 31-August 1

July 27, 2010

NPR Newport.jpg NPR Music, together with six partner radio stations, is exclusively live webcasting and broadcasting dozens of performances from George Wein's Newport Folk Festival and CareFusion Newport Jazz Festival, offering four days of music by some of the country's most acclaimed artists. NPR Music and WFUV New York, (WKSU) Kent, Ohio, and mvyradio in Martha's Vineyard and Newport are covering many acts from the Folk Festival on July 31 and August 1 - which offers performances by favorites The Avett Brothers, Andrew Bird, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, and more.

At the Jazz Festival on August 7 and 8, NPR Music with WBGO Newark, WGBH Boston and WICN New England are broadcasting and webcasting line-ups from three stages, with potential sets from Jamie Cullum, Chick Corea Freedom Band, Ahmad Jamal and Wynton Marsalis.

NPR Music will archive all content and provide podcasts of many performances; audiences can also relive both festivals from the past two years, with on-demand listening and free downloads of dozens of folk and jazz sets.

Listen to all of NPR Music's festival coverage live on the NPR Music App for iPhone and iPod Touch (available for free download now in the App Store).

NPR Music, together with WFUV, Folk Alley and mvyradio, will webcast and broadcast two days of performances from the Folk Festival on July 31 and August 1 from 11:30AM to 7:30PM (ET).
Many performances from the festival will be available to stream on demand at NPR Music and the station websites, and download through NPR Music's "Live in Concert" podcast. Performers during these two days include John Prine, Yim Yames of My Morning Jacket, Blitzen Trapper, The Low Anthem and Nneka.

Leading up to the festival, NPR Music, WFUV and Folk Alley present a Newport Folk Festival 2010 Mix to stream at, featuring artists who will be performing this year.

The next weekend, August 7 and 8 from 11:30AM to 7:30PM (ET), NPR Music teams with WBGO, WBGH and WICN to live webcast and broadcast three stages from the Jazz Festival. Audiences will hear selections from Saturday's and Sunday's bills, which include Darcy James Argue's Secret Society, Chris Botti and Arturo O'Farrill & the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 4:48 PM

Does the Mercury Prize Shortlist Celebrate Nu Folk?

July 26, 2010

mumfordandsonsthumbnailphp.jpgThe Barclaycard Mercury Prize shortlist was announced last week. The contest celebrates the best of cutting edge British music. Of the 12 CDs included, two are already being played on Folk Alley (Laura Marling and Mumford & Sons) and three others are acoustic enough to warrant a listen(Biffy Clyro, I Am Kloot and Villagers). Recognizing that the UK and USA music scenes can often be as different as they are similar, I still thought the rising popularity of a new new wave of folk music over there could be a sign of things to come over here. If a band can build enough recognition creating music that favors lyricism and melody over pyrotechnics, that could mean the next generation is thinking for itself and picking out music it likes - not just that it's being told to like. And, the music world is getting much closer. Waves of folk singers could wash from the streets of London on to the radio beaches in the U.S.

Or, I'm just being wildly optimistic. Like so much of my homeland's culture, the American music business loves the big hit, the bigger stars and the biggest stage shows. The biggest trend in touring bands right now are tribute bands - basically pop hit cover bands that pick the catalog of a single artist. I've yet to see a tribute to Pete Seeger, even though there is roughly one Beatles band for every ten residents of Ohio. Young kids need the inspiration that Paul and John found in blues and roots music - start at the beginning and make there own way.

So, let's applaud the Mercury Prize people for thinking outside of the box, and let's open all of our boxes to make it easier for all generations to connect with what we already know is great - folk music of heart and substance that deserves to live on with younger listeners hungry for a new sound that's actually aged like a fine wine.

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 5:18 PM

Cooking With New Releases (Better Read This Before You Order)

July 20, 2010

Amelia Curran Hunter Hunter.jpgAMELIA CURRAN ~ Hunter, Hunter

New to our music library, and perhaps to yours after you listen, is Amelia Curran. She comes from a musical family from Newfoundland, but her interests are not typical. Though her sound is an Americana/old timey mix, she loves Nirvana and Thelonius Monk. She likes the raw energy of the former and the space between notes from the latter. Fusing both influences has helped create an original style, which is what you need in this crowded musical world.

Another notable influence is Leonard Cohen and many of her lyrical insights may have come from him. "Hands on a Grain of Sand" sounds like a typical Cohen double take: Your hand can't easily grasp one grain of sand, so at first the line doesn't make sense, but that's exactly her point. What's worth understanding may not be obvious and make take an effort to grasp. Curran's album is full of this kind of subtlety, and that goes for the music too. The banjo/guitar/drum brush rhythm creates almost a Monk like tension and release.

The song everyone is talking about is called "The Mistress." This one features Amelia alone and is edgy and wordy - almost a talking blues. She sings in first person offering a perspective on an illicit relationship not often heard. She demands your attention and she'll get it. For a first international release Hunter, Hunter shows promise of more to come.

Keller and The Keels Thief.jpgKELLER & THE KEELS ~ Thief

The names may sound familiar: This group is a combination of Mr. Everything, Keller Williams, along with flatpick whiz Larry keel and his wife Jenny. I'm guessing that they met at a jam festival somewhere, because that's where they seem to be getting booked now.

The amusing title Thief is in reference to the fact that this is a cover album, and that's the way Keller views covers. Actually, this is the perfect opportunity for such a combination, because the arrangements cannot help but be unique.

Keller does most of the singing and Larry provides the impressive and entertaining acoustic guitar leads. "Uncle Disney," written by Patterson Hood, is a jabbing commentary about what a conversation with a thawed out (cryogenically frozen) Walt Disney in the future would sound like. Other highlights are Ryan Adams "Cold Roses," The Grateful Dead's "Mountains of the Moon," and "Pepper" from of all groups - The Butthole Surfers.

This album is consistent: offering energy, melody, licks, and satire throughout. Thief would be great on a road trip or as a backdrop for any project you are working on. Once it starts playing you'll find yourself moving faster.

John McSherry Soma.jpgJOHN MCSHERRY ~ Soma

A founding member of Lunasa, John is a specialist on whistles and uilleann pipes. He has also played with Clannad, Sinead O'Connor, Nanci Griffith, and Donal Lunny. Obviously he got an early start as he won two All-Ireland championships before he turned 15.

With that background in mind, you might imagine that McSherry knows what he's doing.
He does. He has also learned a few things over the years about how to make his high pitched instruments more appealing to ears which were not raised on Celtic music. Soma has a driving rhythm section. Backing him are guitar (Tony Byrne) AND bouzouki (Ruban Bada), plus keyboards (Donal O'Connor). For more drive he adds both drums and bodhran. The only other lead player is Joanne McSherry on fiddle, so John's intent here is to create energy behind him.

Highlights are "The Maid of Murlough" inspired by a trip to Slovenia and "Aillie's Antics" which begins slowly and builds in intensity. "The Slide from Grace" is also a clear example of the extra care McSherry brings to the table. This is a medley of 4 tunes, but to differentiate them each tune is played at a different pace and often with different instruments being prominent. Soma is one of those albums that lead you to follow the McSherry tree in the search for more fruit.

Jory Nash New Blue Day.jpgJORY NASH ~ New Blue Day

Jory is a thoughtful and somewhat overlooked songwriter from Toronto. I mention overlooked because although several of his songs have found their way to Folk Alley before, this new album got lost in a plethora of submissions. Thanks to Mr. Nash's gentle reminders, we now have several new gems shining upon us from New Blue Day.

First songs are important first impressions, and "Our Time Again" offers a solid start. Very catchy with three part harmony, the song asks what we have all asked for at one point, a second chance. "Before You Get There" is a clever analogy comparing the recession to preparing for heaven. They may seem out of sorts, but as you follow Nash's implications, you begin to get his point. The organ and slide guitar offer a nice backdrop.

The album's standout might be "Homily," which Nash began as a salute to downtown Toronto. As the song took shape it became something deeper and more mysterious:

"Sometimes it's good to be
a thought, a rhyme, a theory
but if I saw more clearly
the opposite would be true..."

As your head begins to boil trying to figure this out, you also get caught up in the subtleties of the fiddle, accordion, and shaker backing Jory's compelling delivery. Songs like this are examples of what good songs should be: instantly ear-catching while all the layers of music and thought make it worth revisiting again and again. It's the same reason that we return to some restaurants and simply pay the check at others.

New Blue Day offers folk, blues, and roots, with acoustic or electric guitar, with strong solos that don't interrupt Jory's pleasant voice and carefully arranged harmonies.

Posted by Jim Blum at 10:00 AM

A Tiny Tour of Folk Alley's Music Library

July 19, 2010

I mentioned in my Taylor Swift blog that her name came up during a tour of the studios. We give many community tours (really, it's mostly Cub Scouts) and I thought you might enjoy a taste of the space. Walk with me through the music library, the Skylight Room and on to Jim in the studio. Enjoy!

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 4:12 PM | Comments (1)

We Don't Play Taylor Swift, Yet...

July 13, 2010

taylor_swift.jpgI was taking a group of daycamp kids through the studios last week. When we arrived in the Music Library ("Why do we call it a music library? Because it's a library - made up of CDS!" Kids love that kind of stuff), one of the girls asked me if we play Taylor Swift. Of course, the answer is no. But that doesn't mean she will never make it into the stream. For those who don't know, Taylor Swift is a 20 year-old pop/country artist who is very popular with the tween set. She's no slouch, her CD Fearless won Album of the Year at the Grammys last year (she picked up three other statues as well). Taylor writes her own music and, as a mature singer/songwriter, she might release a collection appropriate to Folk Alley.

It certainly wouldn't be the first time that a rock or pop singer has changed tunes. Robert Plant's collaboration with Alison Krauss, Rising Sand, is a great Americana album. Dierks Bentley has taken a break from HOT Country to release a Bluegrass collection. Even popster Mandy Moore put out an acoustic covers CD (it helps that she's married to Ryan Adams - it adds to her roots cred). Plus, there's Jewel, who has gone from folkie living in her car in Alaska, to Top 40 Queen, Country star and back to singer/songwriter.

Maybe music is a cyclical process. Start out on an old guitar with lyrics scratched on the back of an envelope. Become a huge star with enormous production and lots of drums and amps. And then, return to a place where the craft takes center stage again. As she was leaving, the little asked, "When will you be playing Taylor Swift?" I'm guessing 10 years from now.

Who do you think is the next rock star to come home to folk?

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 5:26 PM | Comments (3)

New Adds for June and July

July 9, 2010

New Music for July

There seems to come a point in every musician's life when he or she decides it's time to go back to the beginning. Country star Dierks Bentley has done just that on "Up on the Ridge." The CD includes guest appearances by the Punch Brothers, Miranda Lambert, Kris Kristofferson and Del McCoury (covering U2) - rather brilliantly using an old-time sound for very contemporary music.

From a slightly earlier generation, Jackson Browne returns with a new collection of songs. One of the kings of the singer/songwriter era, Browne (joined by long-time collaborator David Lindley) continues to be true to his earlier work with "Love is Strange." The CD is something of an acoustic retrospective, recorded live with other guest artists in Spain in 2006. 

I first met fiddler Jeremy Kittel at Folk Alliance in San Diego. He was just starting out and it's been great to follow his career as he's developed as an artist. Although he began playing (and winning competitions with) traditional Scottish music, his repertoire has expanded to include folk and jazz influences - truly expanding his sound and reaching a broader audience. A new member of the Grammy Award-winning Turtle Island Quartet, his new solo CD is "Chasing Sparks."

It must be a real challenge to come up with the perfect band name. So, even though I really like "Moonscapes" from Dangermuffin, I'm not so sure about the name. But that could just be me, since they play in the jam-based tradition of String Cheese Incident and Disco Biscuits. Dangermuffin will be touring like crazy this summer, playing both festival and concert gigs. Or, listen for them on!

More music to take with you on your summer tour:

Blue Line Highway - "Almost Reel"
Tift Merritt - "See You on the Moon"
Terri Hendrix - "Cry Til You Laugh"
Mighty Squirrel - "Sqworld Record"
John Fullbright - "Live at the Blue Door"
Keller & The Keels - "thief"
The Galen Kipar Project - "The Scenic Route"
The John Hartford String Band - "Memories of John"
Amelia Curran - "Hunter Hunter"
Storyhill - "Shade of the Trees"
Justin Rutledge - "The Early Widows"
Steve Smith and Chris Sanders - "Signs Along the Road"
Forest Sun - "Harlequin Goodnight"
Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 5:40 PM | Comments (1)

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