Hear It First

  • Hear It First: John Smith, 'Hummingbird'

    • March 21, 2019
    • Kelly McCartney

    John Smith is the latest entry into the English folk milieu and a more than welcome one. On his new release, Hummingbird, traditional tunes and contemporary themes effortlessly entangle themselves to create a wonderful and worthy addition to the English folk canon.

  • Hear It First: Mother Banjo, 'Eyes on the Sky'

    • March 18, 2019
    • Folk Alley staff

    Having employed the stage of the historic Sheldon Theatre in Red Wing, MN as her studio and recording the songs, live in a circle, with her band, Mother Banjo's Eyes on the Sky is her most intimate and most personal album to date - documenting six years of dramatic changes in the world and her personal life, including marriage, love, loss, and pregnancy.

  • Hear It First: Pierce Pettis, 'Father's Son'

    • January 11, 2019
    • Kim Ruehl

    Pierce Pettis has made a long career out of music that simmers just below the surface, releasing albums that are beloved by fellow songwriters for their sheer craftsmanship. His latest, Father’s Son (due Jan. 18 on Compass Records) is no exception.

  • Hear It First: Rachel Baiman, 'Thanksgiving' (EP)

    • October 30, 2018
    • Kim Ruehl

    Nashville singer-songwriter Rachel Baiman has been steadily building a loyal following among folks predisposed to bluegrass and old-time music. Her debut album, Shame, established her as a songwriter unafraid of looking at reality through her music, rather than sugarcoating anything. And its follow-up, an EP titled Thanksgiving (due Nov. 2 on Free Dirt Records), sees her going even further in that truth-teller direction.

  • Hear It First: Lucy Kaplansky, 'Everyday Street'

    • September 27, 2018
    • Kim Ruehl

    Thankfully we have artists like Lucy Kaplansky to draw our eyes to the small hints of beauty and promise around us, to remind us that hope is not a large, leaping, caterwauling thing, but rather a small bud on a fragile branch, trying in earnest to bloom.

  • Hear It First: Amy Ray, 'Holler'

    • September 20, 2018
    • Kelly McCartney

    With her new release, Holler, Ray has wandered her way into a sound that fits nicely under the big Americana umbrella. Melding the urgency of punk with the earthiness of country and the vaunt of Southern soul, Holler embraces more aspects of Ray's influences than any of her past efforts. Because of that, it feels like a more fully formed reflection of her, both as a person and an artist.

  • Hear It First: The Tannahill Weavers, 'Òrach (The Golden Anniversary Album)'

    • August 29, 2018
    • Devon Léger

    After five decades, you’d think they’d at least have the courtesy to sound a little tired on this album, but they sound like they’ve been up all night drinking coffee and playing tunes, and they plan to continue to the break of dawn. For a band celebrating their golden anniversary, they show no signs of slowing down.