Hear It First

  • Hear It First: Charlie Parr, 'Charlie Parr'

    • September 23, 2019
    • Kim Ruehl

    Charlie Parr's eponymous album - his seventeenth in as many years (counting compilations) - was originally intended to be a live album. It just didn’t work out that way. Instead, it’s a studio album comprised largely of songs Parr has recorded before, alongside some he borrowed from other writers and four new originals. Though fans have likely heard many of these tunes before, they’re delivered here with a care and fit that can only come from being worn in—the way a pair of jeans eventually takes the form of the person who wears it.

  • Hear It First: Ana Egge, 'Is It the Kiss'

    • August 30, 2019
    • Linda Fahey

    With her new release, Is It the Kiss, Ana Egge adds some great, honest songs to the collective consciousness — songs that show us her heart in order that we might see our own reflected in it. There is sorrow here, and suffering. But so, too, exists hope and calm amidst the hurt and chaos. Egge makes sure of that, time and again, letting us hear every nuance of her voice. The cracks, the slides, the strains, the breaths — it's all right there on display.

  • Hear It First: The Small Glories, 'Assiniboine & the Red'

    • June 21, 2019
    • Kelly McCartney

    It's a wondrous moment in life when a person finds their place in the world, geographically speaking...for the Small Glories — Cara Luft and JD Edwards — that place is Canada, and that seems to be about as fine a point as they are willing to put on their new album, Assiniboine & the Red, which wanders across provinces and prairies, from coastal towns to inland cities.

  • Hear It First: Ellis Paul, 'The Storyteller's Suitcase'

    • May 24, 2019
    • Kim Ruehl

    Ellis Paul has always been a ruminative, deep-thinking songwriter/storyteller, and The Storyteller’s Suitcase is another example of his adept approach to his craft. Once again, we’re treated to his particular brand of narrative lyricism and expressive vocals, his catchy melodies and delightful, easy harmonies.

  • 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.