This album is all hazy, soulful roots music held together by Jessica Antonick’s stream of consciousness style songwriting that’s at once surreal yet firmly rooted in her lived experience, tactile endeavors (having spent time as a sail maker, carpenter, and obviously a musician) and observations. The combination of gritty Chicago-style R&B with hard edged Oakland-influenced guitar playing and soulful New Orleans colored vocals. The album came together in bits a pieces; mostly between Oakland and New Orleans where Jessie holed up at a shotgun shack on Deslonde St. to put the finishing touches and flourishes on the Heart Creak.
“[Pony Hunt] delivers major delights on this ethereal and winning debut album…This is rich, understated music, a series of sweet meditations on love and life that will leave you hungry for album number two.” – No Depression
The marinas along the East Bay of San Francisco in Oakland are sparkling expanses of swelling tides, decrepit docks, and forgotten boats —sun-kissed and creaking against the wind. Day in and day out, Jessie Antonick, who performs under the name Pony Hunt, breathes and sweats the ocean air as a woodworker, seamstress, and sailor, sewing, tying, and creating as the ocean laps against the bows. There, daydreaming among the masts, the Pacific Ocean soaks into her roots-influenced songwriting, feeding a creativity that is also nurtured in the other half of the year she spends living and playing in New Orleans, Louisiana. Pony Hunt’s new release Heart Creak, released October 7, incorporates the identifiable raw traditions of the New Orleans music scene—where the album came to life—while also bringing in the reverb-soaked psychedelia and Beach Boys-esque vocal conception of the California coast. Additionally, Heart Creak draws on the sounds of Chicago, where Antonick was grew up, bringing in a subtle awareness of Chicago’s rhythm and blues. The result has Heart Creak swaying back and forth with the tides, pushing between three great American cities, moodily and soulfully edging Pony Hunt towards broader musical vistas
“By possessing the ingenious intellect and activist zeal of Ani DiFranco combined with the poetic skepticism of Leonard Cohen, Kulnys is artfully cementing her place in the history books of unsung artistic heroes of our time…Hurricane tampers with the ballad-aesthetic of early Tori Amos, as her achingly honest, yet beautifully created craftsmanship is as vast as the North Atlantic Ocean. Spin the cheekiness of Dolly Parton with the overt sexuality of Kinnie Starr, then dash the toe-tapping rhythms of Newfoundland’s Colleen Power to conjure up a sense of her multi-dimensional musical talents.” – Shannon Webb-Campbell for Filly.ca
“Through song and music, she is dealing with the hard topics, not an easy task in these times, but a worthy one. Her songs kept my attention and her voice, reminiscent of Joni Mitchell, was full of beautiful and surprising turns.” – Ferron, Canadian Singer-Songwriter
A prolific and inspiring songwriter working across genres, Erika Kulnys writes heart-opening songs that will move you to tears and make you question the way you see yourself and the world. Her powerful voice has a striking range of timbres and emotions and her humour and honesty onstage make her music accessible to folks young and old, and across cultures. Erika’s album, Angel on the Road, a record of songs of love, healing and peace, won Music Nova Scotia’s 2015 Inspirational Recording of the Year award, was in the top ten on local charts, was a finalist in CBC’s Searchlight Competition for Canada’s best new artist and received international airplay. Erika was a finalist for Best Female Artist in the 2014 International Acoustic Music Awards for her song, Had to Come Home, which was recorded with the support of an EMBP grant in 2010
In August, Erika released Rise Up, a social justice-themed album, recorded at Signature Sounds Studio by Mark Thayer (artists such as Josh Ritter, Richard Schindell). Rise Up features musicians Dave Mattacks (Fairport Convention, Paul McCartney), Richard Gates (Patty Larkin), and Jim Henry (Mary Chapin-Carpenter, Paula Cole). Rise Up tells stories of love, social justice and freedom. Watch the title track here.
Though her roots grow deep in story-telling folk traditions, Erika is also a classically trained pianist, a poet, composer and a performance artist who challenges boundaries. Erika’s musical scope ranges from ancient folk songs to gritty rock and she has the gift of writing meaningful songs that remain intimate while being political. Erika writes about real human experiences with joyful conviction and tenderness, inviting her listeners to not only witness, but to experience creativity at its core.
Erika grew up in Nova Scotia singing in choirs and then went on to study music composition, piano, and creative writing at the United World College (NM), Oberlin College and Conservatory (OH), and won a Watson Fellowship to participate in groups working for social change through music in Ireland, Venezuela, Jamaica, Brazil and India. She worked with revolutionary bands in Venezuela, recording and touring through small villages in the Andes, and performed with Battakare, an ensemble of youth in Sao Paolo who create and perform samba-influenced hip hop. She volunteered at a school for disabled children in India, and studied folk music’s influence on the peace movement in Northern Ireland.
Erika has made waves in classical music as well as poetry. Erika’s composition, “Salt,” scored for bassoon, oboe, cello and soprano was chosen to represent Oberlin College at the Midwest Composers Symposium and was featured on Oberlin Conservatory’s promotional CD. Erika’s poetry has been published in numerous literary journals across the US, and her poem, “Las Noticias en Traduccion” was a finalist in Phoebe’s competition judged by Anne Carson.
Erika has performed at major venues internationally such as The World Social Forum in Caracas, Centro Cultural in Sao Paolo, theatres across The Maritimes and the United States, The Bluebird Cafe in Nashville and the Bitter End in New York City. She’s played festivals such as Lunenburg Folk Harbour, Harmony Bazaar, Cleveland Music Festival, Rhythm of Life, and performed her song, Rise Up at the closing ceremonies of Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival onstage with Holly Near.
Erika loves working with others and has collaborated with such renowned artists as Ferron, Bruce Guthro, Paul Jefferson (co-writer of You’re Not My God with Keith Urban), Rose Vaughan, El Jones, and Scott Macmillan, and opened for artists such as Dave Gunning, Dar Williams, Lucy Wainwright Roche, Richie Havens, Guy Davis, Josh Ritter, and Richard Thompson. Her band has included Rose Vaughan, Asa Brosius, Sara and Kamila, Daniel Gale, Pam Mason, Guy Mendilow, Stefan Amidon, Jordi Comstock, Adam Fine, Jeff Torbert, Keith Mullins, Duncan Macmillan, Naomi Morse, Scott Macmillan and Elvie Miller. Erika has played in Canada and the U.S., South Korea, Spain, Ireland, Jamaica, Venezuela, Brazil, touring her album, “Hurricane.” Erika toured her four releases of 2014: double album, Revolution (world-alternative), WINGS (pop-country), Year of the Water Snake (folk) and Angel on the Road (folk) across the North and Southeastern US, Cuba, as well as Nova Scotia, playing venues such as the El Mejune, The Evergreen Theatre, and the Music Room.
The lights burn low. A haze of smoke lies in the air. The jukebox spins up with a crackle. The rich vocals of George Jones rattle out of the cabinet. An older couple start a slow shuffle around the edges of the dancefloor. It’s a common scene in the juke joints of Southwestern Louisiana, in the dancehalls where young Cajun musician Courtney Granger grew up. “Some people learned to sing in the church,” he says, “but I learned to sing in bars.” While his family set up for the dance, young Granger was singing along with the country records in the jukebox. Strangely, this is a side of Granger that few of his fans know. One of the most revered young Cajun performers, Courtney Granger grew up deep in the Cajun tradition, the grandnephew of the famed Balfa Brothers, and a part of the late-term revival band Balfa Toujours. He’s heir to the haunting high-lonesome vocal style of Cajun singers, now nearly lost. Granger tours the world as part of the Pine Leaf Boys, and he’s been nominated for three Grammys. But he started singing George Jones before he got to any of the Cajun standards. He owes his earliest interest in music to those dark, smoky dancehalls, and now with his newest album, Beneath Still Waters, out October 14, 2016 on SW Louisiana record label Valcour Records, he’s paying homage to these roots.
Rolling Stone recently said “Courtney Granger brings a George Jones-like authority to the proceedings with his finely-tuned voice.”
Widely regarded as one of the most innovative acts to come out of the UK in recent years, the sublime genre-defying sound of the Red Dirt Skinners is created by husband and wife team, Rob and Sarah Skinner.
In 2013 the Red Dirt Skinners became the first band in history to succeed at both the British Blues and the British Country Music awards. Don’t let these accolades pigeonhole the Skinners though; their audiences always describe them as ‘refreshingly different’. Drawing on influences from folk, country, blues, americana, jazz and everything between, the Red Dirt Skinners’ sound is instantly recognisable.
Comfortably blending exceptional, almost telepathic, harmonies with the unique instrumentation of soprano saxophone and acoustic guitar, audiences fall in love with the Skinners sound.
Hailing from the South East of England, Rob and Sarah have both been musicians for the majority of their lives.
Sarah; classically trained on the clarinet from about the age of 6, progressed through the grades before switching to the saxophone. After winning Instrumentalist of the Year at the British Blues Awards in 2014, Sarah became the first female artist to be endorsed by Trevor James Saxophones.
Rob grew up with a father who played bass guitar, and a grandmother who taught piano. As a young teen, he turned to the guitar, but still plays many other instruments. Also having worked in bands since a young age, Rob brings the occasional rocky influence to the band.
Rob and Sarah write all their material together, with Sarah focussing on lyrics and Rob adding his extensive music theory knowledge to create unique chord sequences and stylings.
After a burglary at the home they were renting in 2012, Rob and Sarah decided to take inspiration from the depths of despair and wrote a collection of songs about how they felt about the events of that weekend. The album received such positive press and airplay that sales of ‘Home Sweet Home’ ensured that the Skinners were able to purchase their own property. Advocates for finding the positives in every situation, Rob and Sarah spend much of their off-tour time encouraging new artists into the music scene and finding them performance opportunities.
From small beginnings in small venues, the Red Dirt Skinners swift rise in popularity sees them now commanding theatre audiences across Europe and Canada. A Red Dirt Skinners concert combines captivating storytelling with knowing lyricism and outstanding musicianship.
“Musically set apart from the mass of bands who are just copying what has gone before” Music News 4/5 The space where the vocals of Sarah and Rob Skinner meet features two tones existing as a single note”. The Alternate Root Magazine
3 Fiddlers. 3 Traditions. Each fiddler has traveled the old routes that tie their cultures together, the ancient pathways once trod by Vikings and Norsemen. Across the centuries, they’ve come together now to bring the historic ties that bind these traditions to light. Norway – Olav Luksengård Mjelva. Sweden – Anders Hall. Shetland – Kevin Henderson. With their new album, Deliverance, The Nordic Fiddlers Bloc unites three fiddlers to create a new sound, beholden to the past, but full of fire, passion, and a vision for how this music could sound today. On Deliverance, The Nordic Fiddlers Bloc transcend the trio format to create an almost orchestral sound. Blending violin, viola, hardanger fiddle, and the rarer octave violin, they craft arrangements like interlocking, woven threads. As the fiddles weave together, it’s impossible to tell one from the other. Each builds to a larger whole, creating an uplifting, joyous sound of unity.
The worn floor of an old honky-tonk is not usually a place you’d think of as welcoming to bold new experimentation. If you’ve got something new to say, you’d better say it in the form of a brisk two-step that keeps the dancers moving. So it’s doubly impressive that Seattle country band Western Centuries is able to meld wildly disparate influences into an original honky-tonk sound that won’t make dancers miss a step. Formed originally under the name Country Hammer by Americana songwriter Cahalen Morrison, known for his innovative work as an acoustic duo with Eli West, Western Centuries revolves around three principal songwriters–Morrison, Ethan Lawton, and Jim Miller–each with a totally different perspective. Here, Cahalen Morrison channels his New Mexico roots–he grew up exploring lost arroyos and playing drums in a conjunto band–into a kind of blood-red Western drawl. His songs are as influenced by cowboy poetry or his great-grandfather’s Scottish Gaelic poetry as much as his love of George Jones. Ethan Lawton came out of the rough, working-class streets of Seattle’s South end, working in hip-hop and punk before losing his heart to bluegrass. His bone-dry vocals meld intensely with the rocksteady back-beat of his country songs, born from his love of old Jamaican 45s mixed with early bluegrass. Jim Miller comes from the jamband circuit, where he ruled for decades as a founding member of the much-loved band Donna The Buffalo. Throughout, the dancefloor was his temple, and he cribbed ideas from Louisiana Zydeco all the way to the The Band. Western Centuries’ debut album, Weight of the World, released by Free Dirt Records on June 3, 2016, introduces a band of roots music mavericks bringing refreshingly new ideas to their country roots.
Produced by Bill Reynolds (Band of Horses) and recorded in his Nashville studio, Weight of the World features powerful musicianship from all members, including special guests Rusty Blake (pedal steel), Rosie Newton (fiddle), and Dan Lowinger (bass). With songs that have been road-tested on actual dance floors throughout the Pacific Northwest, the bedrock of American honky-tonk on this album was hard-earned. The progressive, almost psychedelic nature of Weight of the World’s lyrics, however, infuses the 12-track record with a distinctly modern sensibility. Sure, there’s plenty of country telecaster twang, but Western Centuries elevate these neo-traditional two-stepping tunes into transcendental, rootsy rock-‘n-roll-doused think-pieces. With each songwriter’s distinct approach, and the strict dictums of the dancefloor ruling the sound, Western Centuries deconstructs the world of country dance. But it’s also marked with a profound ingenuity – the type that feels instinctual rather than intentionally labored for, the kind that continues to flourish and snake into new realms as time wears on. This is just the beginning for Western Centuries, and it’s not likely their creative well is going to dry up any time soon.
Though all four members of Rabbit Wilde grew up running around wooded areas of the same small town in the farthest Northwest corner of Washington state, brothers Zach and Nathan didn’t meet Miranda, the third founding member, until they had all ended up in New York City. This kind of backyard folk seasoned by the edge, polish and fervor of big-city inclinations is at the root of their high-energy sound and stage presence. The quartet revamps classic string band instrumentation with heavy percussion and the unique integration of electronic sound, six-string ukulele and Jillian Walker on cello. With their widely varying influences, four distinct vocal styles and copious amounts of foot-stomping, they demonstrate a sound and presence that’s at once original and familiar, appealing to audiences of all generations and genres. On their 2016 full length The Heartland, Rabbit Wilde deliver on the promise made by their stellar fall 2015 EP Southern Winters; melding the choicest bits of indie rock, pop, blues, soul, and orchestral arrangement in with their trademark brand of front-porch-shaking Americana. Both albums were recorded at the famed Bear Creek Studio (Fleet Foxes, Vance Joy, The Lumineers)
Jim Pharis is no Spring chicken, that’s for sure. But the miles driven, the late nights gigs with a day job just hours away, and the experience that only comes from living life are evident in the acoustic blues that he plays.
Besides his own compositions in the country blues vein, Jim has also specialized in finding and arranging acoustic blues gems. These are songs by artists like Bo Carter, Big Bill Broonzy and Oscar “Buddy” Woods. Pharis began playing guitar as a 12 year old on a 3/4 second hand Sears and Roebuck guitar that he bought with grass cutting money. After his parents realized how obsessed he was with it, a new, full sized guitar appeared at Christmas time. Thanks to a local guitar teacher who was a devoted Chet Atkins fan, Jim was exposed to the world of fingerstyle guitar. He began delving into the music of Paul Simon, Brownie McGee, Mississippi John Hurt and John Fahey.
As a native of Central Louisiana, he was also heavily exposed to the music of the Southern Baptist Church which his family faithfully attended. It was in church that he first began performing in public. After high school and a brief, ill-fated college career, Pharis began working a series of jobs, all while continuing to work on learning to perfect his guitar playing abilities. He worked, among other things, as a riverboat deckhand, waiter, salesman, darkroom technician, and purchasing agent. The only regular factor in all of those years was his passion to learn the guitar. Jim also began to play the electric bass and moved to Austin, TX in the mid-1980’s. There he played in several blues bands, including the original lineup of The Solid Senders. With that band he played clubs and festivals, including the first two South By Southwests. Following his stint as a bass player, Pharis again began to concentrate on the acoustic fingerstyle guitar. While living in Madison, WI, recovering from a major illness, he had an epiphany. This “light bulb” moment was the realization of HOW and WHAT to learn to play to become the musician that he envisioned himself as. While in the Mid West he began working as a solo artist playing coffeehouses, restaurants, resorts and night clubs. In 2002 Jim returned to Louisiana, settling in the Lafayette area where he plays music, publishes a fingerstyle guitar instructional website and teaches fingerstyle guitar.
As for his newest album Sure to Offend it showcases Jims fingerpicking guitar work and proves he is more of a writer than singer when it comes to the singer/songwriter genre but thats not his genre.Jims more of a folk fella who doesnt give you the blues he is definitely indie and his playing has soul,and I get the idea he thinks about whats happening in his country. The songs are full of humour about daily life the instrumentals catch your attention and make you sit up and listen.Highlight are “Gun Rag” and “Chandler’s Century”.On the dreaded scale of 1-10 Sure to Offend gets a well deserved 7.5. No offence meant, you have to take into account I have been listening to a lot of Courtney Marie Andrews the last few weeks so maybe I should have given it a 8.
According to his promotional note with the CD, it was recorded over a period of two days on a single microphone and self-produced with the help of a Kickstarter campaign.It doesnt sound like it.10/10 for effort.He could have gone inside to do it.
The name that Canadian roots duo Karrnnel Sawitsky and Daniel Koulack chose for themselves is simple and straightforward: Fiddle & Banjo. That’s because they delight in the deeply subtle interplay between their two chosen instruments, and they recognize that this interplay is at the heart of American roots music.