Album Reviews

  • Album Review: Joy Williams, 'Front Porch'

    • May 20, 2019
    • Kelly McCartney

    On Front Porch, Joy Williams deploys her crystalline voice and well-crafted songs wrapped in simple, timeless production to get all her points across. And she succeeds — greatly — proving that less isn't always more, but it is very often quite enough.

  • Album Review: Molly Tuttle, 'When You're Ready'

    • May 19, 2019
    • Kelly McCartney

    Having previously been named the Americana Music Awards Instrumentalist of the Year, the Folk Alliance International Song of the Year, and, twice, the International Bluegrass Music Association Guitar Player of the Year, Molly Tuttle already has a shelf full of trophies, despite having only released 2017's Rise EP. Now that her debut album, When You're Ready, is out, she's more than probably going to need extra shelves.

  • Album Review: Caroline Spence, 'Mint Condition'

    • May 19, 2019
    • Kelly McCartney

    Turning ordinary moments into extraordinary poetry has always been singer/songwriter Caroline Spence's bread and butter, a trend she continues on her latest effort, Mint Condition. Produced by Dan Knobler and released by Rounder Records, the captivating collection picks up the pace set by Spence's previous albums by injecting a touch more pluck... but don't worry, frens, it's just a touch.

  • Album Review: John Paul White, 'The Hurting Kind'

    • April 20, 2019
    • Kelly McCartney

    On his new album, The Hurting Kind, John Paul White harkens back to Nashville's days of yore, when guys like Owen Bradley and Chet Atkins ruled the Row by making beautiful, heartfelt records that were both organically earthy and lushly sublime, all at once.

  • Album Review, Jade Bird, 'Jade Bird'

    • April 20, 2019
    • Kelly McCartney

    Like most everything else in life, folk singers come in cycles, riding whichever traditions and trends suit the moment. Do you need a new Paul Simon? Check out Robby Hecht. Would you want a contemporary Carole King? Listen to Sara Bareilles. Might you love a modern-day Ani DiFranco? Pick up Jade Bird.

  • Album Review: Anna Tivel, 'The Question'

    • April 05, 2019
    • Kelly McCartney

    Songwriters do something really special: They take details of the world around and within us, and express them in words and music in order to connect us not only to them and their work, but to each other, if not ourselves, as well. It's an infinitely generous gift they have. And the ones who can turn plain spoken language into breath-taking poetry are the rarest of the breed. Anna Tivel has that talent. On her new album, The Question, she wanders through various lives and stories, noticing and recounting the tiniest of moments that carry the heaviest of weights.

  • Album Review: Caleb Elliott, 'Forever to Fade'

    • April 05, 2019
    • Kelly McCartney

    Transitioning from one way of life to another doesn't always go well. Whether that's shifting from religious cult to popular culture, side player to center stage, or classical musician to secular songwriter, not everyone can handle their world being turned on its ear. Caleb Elliott is not everyone. And, based on his debut solo album, Forever to Fade, he's taking all the changes in stride... and an easy, solid stride, at that.

  • Album Review: Luther Dickinson & Sisters of the Strawberry Moon, 'Solstice'

    • March 26, 2019
    • Kelly McCartney

    When Luther Dickinson rounded up Amy Helm, Allison Russell (Birds of Chicago), Shardé Thomas, Amy LaVere, and the Como Mamas to be his Sisters of the Strawberry Moon and make a record together, you can imagine that it was bound to be a wonderful and wonder-filled affair. With Solstice, the reality tops even the imagining of what such a collaboration might yield. Indeed, each of the band members brings so much soulfulness to the project that it could've rightfully been titled SOULstice.

  • Album Review: Hayes Carll, 'What It Is'

    • March 15, 2019
    • Kelly McCartney

    With What It Is, Hayes Carll continues to prove that he's one of the most gifted wordsmiths in the game. Read Kelly McCartney's review.

  • Album Review: Various, 'The Social Power of Music'

    • February 27, 2019
    • Henry Carrigan

    Since 1948, Folkways has been collecting, preserving, and disseminating the songs that illustrate the social power of music. In this this new 4-CD set, The Social Power of Music, accompanied by a lavishly illustrated 124-page book, Smithsonian senior archivist Jeff Place, director and curator of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings Huib Schippers, and program manager at Smithsonian Folkways Recordings Meredith Holmgren draw from the over 60,000 tracks in the label’s archives to produce a stunning and moving anthology that illustrates the transformative power of music across cultures and across social and cultural issues.