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Iris DeMent

It was by pure chance that Iris DeMent opened the book of Russian poetry sitting on her piano bench to Anna Akhmatova’s “Like A White Stone.” She’d never heard of the poet before, and didn’t even consider herself much of a poetry buff, but a friend had leant her the anthology and it only seemed polite that she skim it enough to have something interesting to say when she returned it. As she read, though, a curious sensation swept over her.

“I didn’t feel like I was alone anymore,” remembers DeMent. “I felt as if somebody walked in the room and said to me, ‘Set that to music.’”

So she did. The melody just poured out of her almost instantly. She turned the page and it happened again, and again after that, and before she even fully understood it, she was already deep into writing what would become ‘The Trackless Woods,’ an album which sets Akhmatova’s poetry to music for the first time ever.

‘The Trackless Woods,’ DeMent’s sixth studio album, is unlike anything else in her illustrious career. Beginning with her 1992 debut, ‘Infamous Angel,’ which was hailed as “an essential album of the 1990’s” by Rolling Stone, DeMent released a series of stellar records that established her as “one of the finest singer-songwriters in America” according to The Guardian. The music earned her multiple Grammy nominations, as well as the respect of peers like John Prine, Steve Earle, and Emmylou Harris, who all invited her to collaborate. Merle Haggard dubbed her “the best singer I’ve ever heard” and asked her to join his touring band, and David Byrne and Natalie Merchant famously covered her “Let The Mystery Be” as a duet on MTV Unplugged. DeMent returned in 2012 with her most recent album, ‘Sing The Delta,’ which prompted NPR to call her “one of the great voices in contemporary popular music” and The Boston Globe to hail the collection as “a work of rare, unvarnished grace and power.”

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, DeMent and her husband were raising their adopted Russian daughter in their Iowa City home. When she looked back on her own childhood, though, DeMent sometimes felt like there was some intangible element that hadn’t quite clicked yet.

“Growing up, a lot of what I understood about my parents—and many of the adults in my life that were nurturing me—I understood through music,” explains DeMent, who was born the youngest of 14 children in Arkansas and raised in southern California. “I remember noticing that people seem to be most their real selves when they were in the music. My dad would cry my mom would wave her arms around when they sang church music. So I figured out at some point that there was a breakdown there with my daughter. She was six when we adopted her, and there was a whole culture that had been translated to her in those critical years that I didn’t feel like I could get through to with the tools I had. So always in the back of my mind, I had this sense of wanting to figure out how to link her two worlds, Russian and American.”

Akhmatova’s poetry proved to be that link and more, as it drew DeMent into a remarkable journey through Russian political and artistic history.

“Her whole adult working life was marked by this constant struggle to do her work in the face of the Bolshevik Revolution, World War I, World War II, and Stalin,” DeMent says of Akhmatova. “The estimates are that between 20-80 million people died during those 30 years he was in power. One of her husbands was executed, one died in the gulag, and her son was sent there twice just by virtue of being her son. She often lived in poverty and out of other people’s homes, never owned a place of her own. She wasn’t some elevated star figure exempted from suffering, she was right there in it. All of her poetry came out of that.”

Akhmatova’s struggles weren’t unique for her time in Russia, but her poetry still managed to find beauty in a world of pain and ugliness, which DeMent believes is what makes her so deeply loved by the Russian people.

“I think if you listen to her poems, you can hear all that sorrow and that burden in them,” says DeMent, “but there’s always a lightness, a transcendence somehow, a sense of victory over all that inhumanity that she was living with every day of her life.”

It’s only fitting, then, that the album opens with, “To My Poems,” a short, four-line invocation recorded sparsely and simply with just DeMent’s voice and piano as she sings: “You led me into the trackless woods, / My falling stars, my dark endeavor. / You were bitterness, lies, a bill of goods. / You weren’t a consolation–ever.”

That stark pairing of piano and voice forms the heart and soul of all 18 tracks on the album, which were recorded live in DeMent’s living room under the guidance of producer Richard Bennett and with a small backing band that drifts in and out of the arrangements. The music is firmly rooted in the American South, with timeless melodies that could easily be mistaken for long-forgotten hymnal entries or classic country tunes. “From An Airplane” rollicks with a honky-tonk vibe, while “Not With Deserters” is punctuated by a mournful slide guitar and rich harmonies, and “All Is Sold” ebbs and flows over lush pedal steel. That DeMent can make the work of a 20th century Russian poet sound like Sunday morning on a cotton plantation is a testament to her versatility and depth as an artist.

“I learned from this project that I don’t have just one voice, I have lots of voices, and they’re all connected somehow,” says DeMent. “Something happened on this record because the music wasn’t tied to a place from my past or my family history, but it was linked to my daughter by way of her cultural history. I realized writing these songs that I’m linked in some way to another world, as well, and I can hear it in the music, in the way I sang and the choices I made.”

DeMent is quick to credit Akhmatova (and the translators whose work formed the album’s lyrics, Babette Deutsch and Lyn Coffin) for the album’s beauty and magic.

“All of the poems, particularly Babette’s translations, just felt like songs to me from the get go,” says DeMent. “The first four or five I did, the melodies came while I was reading them the first time. That still mystifies me. My gut sense is that they were songs, already. I think she wrote them that way, and Babette picked up on that. They flowed like that. I don’t think there’s any getting around that the music was already in the poems.”

There’s no getting around that the music is in DeMent, too. Twenty-three years after her debut, she’s creating some of the most poignant music of her career, bridging two seemingly disparate worlds with every note.

Allison Moorer

 “I started working with Kenny Greenberg again because, in the demo-making process, you have to get things done really quickly. Kenny is just the best guitar player that I know and he has this amazing way of making things sound famous really quickly.
“I was also excited about working with Kenny as a producer again because I felt we still had work to do together. Turns out he felt the same way, and we both feel very satisfied with this album, musically and emotionally.”
Greenberg produced Moorer’s first two albums, for MCA, including the Oscar-nominated “A Soft Place to Fall.” In many ways Down to Believing is a sequel to their second collaboration, The Hardest Part. “Loving turns to leaving every time,” she sang on the title track back then. The matching phrase here is “Don’t wanna say goodbye but it’ll set me free.” Allison often acknowledged the inspiration of her parents’ relationship for the song cycle that is her second album. Fifteen years later she’s sifting eloquently through the ashes of her own bust ups.

When an old friend at E1 asked what she was doing, Moorer shared some of those new songs. Offered a deal, she had to think about it. Art is a selfish thing; parenting is not. “Most of my life is about taking care of John Henry,” she says. “Doing my work, of course, but I do my work in the spaces between taking care of John Henry. As you do, when you’re a parent. And especially as I do because I have a child with special needs.“
No regrets. “He’s wonderful, he’s beautiful, he’s clearly bright, never forgets anything. But, it’s just something that you have to wait and see on. And I have figured out that wait and see is just about my worst thing.”
And then there was the constant creative challenge of making an album worth making. “I had to figure out what it was about, I had to figure out what it was that I had to say. And what was going to be a true reflection of who I am at this point in my life. Why make a record if you’re not doing that?”
The creative frisson between Greenberg and Moorer moves parts of Down to Believing closer to rock (well, country-rock), particularly the opening pair, “Like It Used To Be” and “Thunderstorm Hurricane.” “I think that particular thing is what happens when Kenny and I work together,” Moorer says. “Part of it is just what he does, but another part of it is what he brings out in me.”
Commuting back and forth between New York and Nashville, Moorer scheduled sessions around the needs of her son and the availability of her collaborators. Which meant working with a variety of people in a variety of studios, instead of buckling down for a month. “I’ve always made records the other way,” she says. “This gave me time to think, and I think it’s one of the best pieces of work I’ve done. And that may be why.”
Moorer’s publishing deal and stature in Nashville mean she can write with people like Keith Gattis and Tony Lane. “The great thing about Nashville is that it’s school. You have such an opportunity to soak up what all these masters know. It thrilled me to no end to still be a student.”

And, of course, there is the other songwriter in her life, ex-husband Steve Earle. “Among my many teachers,” she says, “he has probably been the most valuable one to me at this point. He taught me many things about songwriting. I think we taught each other a lot about art and the different ways you can make it, the different ways you can absorb it. Living with someone who is that talented for seven years rubbed off on me. He taught me a great deal; I have no regrets about our relationship.”
Still, it is the dissolution of their marriage which anchors Down to the Believing. At the center of the album lurk two splendid songs, a screamer titled “Tear Me Apart” and the piano-driven “If I Were Stronger.” “That’s the flip,” she says. “For me, the sequencing was thematic. Luckily, it worked musically. Here’s what, and here’s why.”
“Obviously,” she says later, “this is a record about family and relationships. ‘Blood’ is about my sister. It’s about loving someone unconditionally and always having your arms open to them no matter what. Sometimes that’s a painful thing, but you can’t change what just is and always will be. I feel obligated to talk about my son having autism because it’s part of my job as an artist to not only shed a light but to say to people, ‘Hey, guess what? I’ve got a child with autism, and you’re not alone.’”
But what must be reckoned with, in the end, because it remains hidden on all those records and buried beneath her back-story…is her laugh. There is a pause, first — a brief gathering against the surprise to come — and then the unmistakable music of joy cascades all the way to her blue eyes. The whole enterprise bubbling up from her diaphragm and gently rocking. A lived-in laugh that might have belonged to one of the characters inhabiting the shadows of Dorothy Parker or Dashiell Hammett.
It takes only an instant for Allison to gather herself. “I’m prouder of these songs than any I’ve ever written,” she says. “I guess that’s a good thing because all I really want to do is get better.”
“I’m Doing Fine,” she sings toward the end of the record, one of those great Nashville songs that undermines its chorus. “Gonna Get It Wrong,” she finishes, because we all are.
“I used to have this dream,” Allison says. “This dream that I would get to a certain point in my life and it would be smooth sailing. I could relax. I’ve about decided that’s probably not going to happen and it’s probably not something that I even want to happen.”
Which, for better and worse, is where the songs come from.

OLA BELLE REED AND SOUTHERN MOUNTAIN MUSIC ON THE MASON-DIXON LINE

Dust-to-Digital is excited to present the first in-depth look at the life of Ola Belle Reed, a groundbreaking artist who is one of the all-time greatest performers of authentic, old-time music. Ola Belle Reed’s 1960s recordings, some of the earliest she ever made and available here for the very first time, are counter-balanced by a disc of modern-day field recordings of her descendants and those within her Appalachian community that she inspired. This deluxe edition highlights Ola Belle’s deep repertoire – folk ballads, minstrel songs, country standards, and originals – and traces the impact her music made and is still making today.

About this release:
In 1966, folklorist Henry Glassie traveled from Philadelphia to the town of Oxford, Pennsylvania to see Alex & Ola Belle and the New River Boys and Girls play their exciting brand of Southern mountain music live, on the air, in the back of the Campbell’s Corner general store.

Over the next two years, Glassie would record the deep repertoire of Ola Belle Reed – folk ballads, minstrel songs, country standards, and originals like “I’ve Endured,” penned by Ola Belle herself. Glassie also chronicled the remarkable story of the migration of communities from the Blue Ridge Mountains toward the Mason-Dixon Line prior to WWII.

Some four decades later, Maryland state folklorist Clifford Murphy struck out to discover if this rich musical tradition still existed in the small Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania towns where it once flourished in 2009. Murphy, amazed by what he encountered, began making audio recordings to document the descendants of Ola Belle’s musical legacy. Ola Belle Reed died in 2002 yet her influence is still reverberating throughout old time and traditional music.

About Ola Belle Reed:
Born to a musical family in the mountains of Ashe County, North Carolina in 1913, Ola Belle Reed became a prolific songwriter and performer. Known for her unique style of banjo playing and singing, Ola Belle Reed inspired many musicians throughout her life. Thirteen years after her death in 2002 yet her influence is still reverberating throughout old time and traditional music.

In January of 1966, folklore graduate student Henry Glassie made the first professional solo recordings of Ola Belle Reed. Glassie would go on to become one of the most celebrated folklorists in the United States, a distinguished professor, and a renowned scholar throughout the world. Reed would go on to become one of the leading lights of the Folk Music Revival and winner of the prestigious National Heritage Fellowship. Glassie’s landmark collection of early Ola Belle Reed recordings were recently deposited in the Archives of Traditional Music, an ethnographic sound archive located at Indiana University in Bloomington.

This project is a co-production between Dust-to-Digital, Maryland State Arts Council and Indiana University.

Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley

The album pairs Rob Ickes, the International Bluegrass Music Association’s 15-time Dobro Player of Year, with rising singer/guitarist Trey Hensley whom Ickes recently discovered while recording in the Tri-Cities area of East Tennessee. After collaborating with Hensley on an album track from Blue Highway’s current release, and inviting him to guest on some live shows, Ickes was inspired for the two musicians to record a studio project together.BEFORE THE SUN GOES DOWN is the result of that effort and it is a unique project in the way it seamlessly blends contemporary bluegrass and the spare studio stylings of classic ‘60s and ‘70s country music.

Hensley’s voice is something of a miracle, a throwback to the great country singer icons of the genre’s first golden era, at one moment evoking an early George Jones or Merle Haggard, and at another, Conway Twitty or Hank Snow. The fact that Hensley is still just in his early 20’s makes the experience of listening to him even more astounding. His talent has drawn the attention of more than his fair share of Music Row heavy weights including Marty Stuart who said: “Trey Hensley is the real deal—I’m one of his biggest fans.” Dobro master Rob Ickes is the perfect musical foil to Hensley’s prodigious talent, both as a musician and co-producer. His Dobro ornaments Hensley’s vocal lines with perfect finesse one moment and with jaw-dropping fire the next, showing why he is one of the best to ever pick up the instrument. On the production side of things, Ickes has a solid hand and deep musical understanding which enables him to draw the connections between bluegrass and early country to create a cohesive and highly successful end result.

The 13-track album includes a hard-driving cover of Billy Joe Shaver’s masterpiece “Georgia on A Fast Train,” which showcases Trey’s acoustic guitar chops, “My Way Is The Highway,” an original by Trey that elicits a classic country vibe, as well as the album’s title track, which is an elegantly played country shuffle that illustrates just how well Ickes and Hensley have absorbed the sounds of shared musical influences.

Featuring: Ron Block, Mike Bub, Susanne Cox, John Gardner, Aubrey Haynie,Shawn Lane, Andy Leftwich, John Randall Stewart, Dan Tyminski and Pete Wasner

“In the ever changing world of country music, it’s comforting to know that the real deal still exists.” —Marty Stuart

“I’m sure I don’t make a true ‘critic’ since I’m already such a fan, but the new album from Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley is a wonderful piece of work. And my songwriting side is truly overwhelmed. Thank you, thank you, thank you.” —Merle Haggard

“The Trey Hensley/Rob Ickes collaboration…features both electrified honky tonk and Doc Watson-style acoustic bluegrass boogie with some killer flatpicking. And above all that enthralling, nuanced singing.” —Craig Havighurst, Music City Roots

Claire Lynch

Long recognized and praised as a creative force in acoustic music, Claire Lynch is a pioneer who continually pushes the boundaries of the bluegrass genre. She was the 2013 Female Vocalist of the Year for the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) and a 2012 recipient of the United States Artists Walker Fellowship. Her career has been decorated with many other accolades including two GRAMMY nominations and three International Bluegrass Music Association Female Vocalist awards in 2010 and 1997.   Recently, at the 2014 IBMA Awards, she received two trophies: “Song of the Year” for Dear Sister, a co-write with Louisa Branscomb and title cut of her latest Compass Records release; and “Recorded Event of the Year” for a guest vocal appearance with Special Consensus on Country Boy; A Bluegrass Tribute to John Denver  (Wild Montana Skies).

Dolly Parton credits Claire with “one of the sweetest, purest and best lead voices in the music business today.” Claire’s harmonies have graced the recordings of many stellar musicians. Equally gifted as a songwriter, her songs have been recorded by The Seldom Scene, Patty Loveless, Kathy Mattea, Cherryholmes, The Whites and others.

Blazing her own trail in the mid 70’s when there were few role models for a young woman in the genre, Claire Lynch made history when she led the Front Porch String Band, which evolved in the 80’s and 90’s into “one of the sharpest and most exciting post-modern bluegrass bands on the circuit.” She formed her own Claire Lynch Band in 2005 and has since consistently been a top pick of prestigious publications, critics and audiences across the U.S. and beyond.

Claire grew up in Kingston, N.Y. until the age of 12, when the family moved to Huntsville, Alabama. There she began her education in country music and got caught up in the bluegrass revival of the 1970’s, joining a band called Hickory Wind. Later, the band changed its name to the Front Porch String Band with Claire’s vocals as its centerpiece.

In 1981, after their first nationally-released recording, the group retired from the road, and Claire pursued dual careers in addition to raising a family. As a songwriter, her tunes have been recorded by such luminaries as Patty Loveless, The Seldom Scene, Cherryholmes, Kathy Mattea, The Whites and Stephanie Davis. At the same time, she became a much sought-after session vocalist.

In 1991, the Front Porch String Band was resurrected with the album Lines and Traces, a move that ultimately led to the launching of Claire’s solo career in earnest. Friends for a Lifetime was released in 1993 followed by Moonlighter in 1995 (Claire’s first GRAMMY nomination) and Silver and Gold in 1997 (also nominated for GRAMMY glory). She was named the IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year in 1997 and enjoyed many chart successes. The band wrapped up the 20th century with the album Love Light in 2000. At that time Claire took what she thought would be a full-fledged break from music, stepping away from the grind of daily touring. She wasn’t sure when–or if–she would return. “I hadn’t planned to come back. Then one day I opened my catalog of songs and realized that I’d written my life,” she said.

Little by little, the lure of music worked its way back. She sang harmony on The Grass is Blue and Little Sparrow which led to promotional touring as backup vocalist for Dolly Parton. She graced albums by other artists with her background vocals including Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Pam Tillis, Alison Brown, Patty Loveless, Kathy Mattea and Ralph Stanley. Today, the impressive list of other guest appearances continues including spots on albums by Donna the Buffalo, Sara Watkins, the Gibson Brothers, Jonathan Edwards and Jesse Winchester.

In 2005, Lynch struck out on her own, forming the Claire Lynch Band and releasing the aptly named New Day CD. It was a hit on the bluegrass charts and earned her IBMA nominations for “Song of the Year” and “Female Vocalist of the Year.” In 2007, Rounder Records featured a brilliant catalog of music from her previous five albums on their label and titled the anthology collection, Crowd Favorites. More IBMA nominations followed as well as an induction into the Alabama Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame.

Whatcha Gonna Do, Claire’s next release (2009), was called “a stripped-down production with sumptuous acoustic atmospheres” showcasing…the instrumental brilliance of her four-piece band.“ After a busy touring schedule in 2010, she received three IBMA nominations including “Song of the Year” and “Recorded Event of the Year,” winning the 2010 trophy for Female Vocalist of the Year.

Ms. Lynch’s USA Walker Fellowship Award ($50,000.) was one of 50 salutes given from United States Artists (USA) for 2012. The USA Fellows represent the most innovative and influential artists in their fields – including cutting-edge thinkers and traditional practitioners from the fields of architecture and design, crafts and traditional arts, dance, literature, media, music, theater arts, and visual arts.

In January 2013, after a long, successful stint with Rounder Records, Claire signed a recording deal with esteemed Nashville roots label Compass Records, called by Billboard Magazine, “…one of the greatest independent labels of the last decade.”  With their co-founder Garry West producing, she released the ninth solo recording of her career titled Dear Sister. By Summer, the album had reached the #1 position on the Roots Music Reports Top 50 Bluegrass Chart seven times and was nominated for “Album of the Year” at the 2013 IBMA Awards.

The current Claire Lynch Band is a powerful juggernaut, a quartet that has the innate ability to perfectly interpret the beauty, subtlety, and genre-defying sophistication of Claire’s music. The Claire Lynch Band features like-minded musicians blending tradition and innovation – two-time IBMA-winning bassist-clawhammer banjo player-dancer-percussionist Mark Schatz, soulful mandolinist-guitarist Jarrod Walker, and young string wizard Bryan McDowell, who at 18, won an unprecedented triple win at the Winfield, Kansas National Flatpicking Championship.

Touring behind Dear Sister  (2014 IBMA “Song of the Year”) has provided the band the opportunity to present fresh, timeless material, including the title track – a tear-inducing masterpiece co-written by Claire with Southerner Louisa Branscomb. It’s an intimate farewell letter shared between a brother and sister, their lives ravaged by the destruction of the Civil War and delivered with all the tenderness Lynch is known for.

The band’s newest release (Sept. 2014) was a seasonal project titled Holiday! on Claire’s own label Thrill Hill Records. It was recorded during the interim of her last and next Compass recordings and includes seasonal favorites, a couple originals (Claire Lynch/Steven Sheehan’s Heaven’s Light and Henry Hipkens’ Snow Day) and even a rendition of In the Window, a traditional Chanukah song.

As one observer writes, “Listening to Claire Lynch sing is not something to be undertaken casually. Her songs and stage presence demand the listener’s rapt attention. She’s an intensely soulful singer, whose distinctive voice resonates with power and strength, yet retains an engaging innocence and crystalline purity. She’s also a songwriter of extraordinary ability who can bring listeners to their feet with her buoyant rhythms or to their knees with her sometimes almost unbearably poignant and insightful lyrics.” (Dave Higgs-WPLN Nashville, -WAMU Washington DC)

In 2014, Digital Journal.com listed Claire as “One of the 10 Best Angelic Voices of Our Time”.  She shared that honor with such luminaries as Judy Collins, Alison Krauss, Sarah McLachlan, Martina McBride, Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris.

River Whyless

“Sometimes it can be hard to stand out in the crowd when you’re producing experimental folk rock. Plenty of groups are capable of harmonizing well and turning simplistic rhythms into infectious anthems, but it’s rare to find artists who can evoke as much emotion as River Whyless.”  – Paste Magazine

“Throughout all five tracks on River Whyless though, I’m reminded of the difference between a hand-knit hat and one run off an endless conveyor belt, between baking cookies from scratch or just cutting into a big Nestle log of pre-made dough. We lose a closeness to things when they come to us processed through machines, and the way this music from River Whyless comes to us feels hand-wrought. There’s something valuable about that process, even as we look to the future.” – Caitlin White, The Bluegrass Situation




River Whyless is: Halli Anderson, Daniel Shearin, Ryan O’Keefe and Alex McWalters

Awna Teixeira

Portuguese-Canadian, multi-instrumentalist, Awna Teixeira began her musical career in 2001 performing all over North America and writing songs with various bands before joining Po’Girl, one of Canada’s hardest working international touring acts, in 2005. Over the course of creating five albums and seven years of solid-touring in 15 different countries, on 4 different continents, and playing between 200 and 250 shows a year, Allison Russell and Awna Teixeira have become the core of the highly-esteemed and internationally-recognized band, Po’Girl. Awna, while still working with Po’Girl, released her 1st solo album ‘Where The Darkness Goes” in 2012, her EP ‘Thunderbird in 2013, and is releasing her 2nd solo album ‘Wild One’ March 2015.



In her formative years, Awna toured and did street performances nationally with The Derby and The Red Eyed Rounders. She then teamed up with the all-girl, country-folk band Barley Wik with whom she released two full length albums, touring nationally for three years. Barley Wik won numerous Vancouver Island Music Awards including, “Album of the Year,” “Most Listenable CD,” and “Best Acoustic Act.” 
Upon meeting Allison Russell of Po’Girl, instant chemistry led to the start of a great, new musical adventure. Awna quickly packed her suitcase and began touring full-time with Po’Girl, first as their bass player and back-up vocalist, and quickly moving into accordion, banjo, guitar, ukulele, gutbucket bass, percussion and lead vocals. Awna first showcased her song writing abilities with Po’Girl on their 2007 album, “Home To You,” with the beautifully heart-wrenching compositions “Old Mountain Line”and “Drive All Night.” 
Starting in 2012, Po’Girl decided to slow their touring schedule in order to pursue other musical projects. Inspired by her many years on the road, her Portuguese-Canadian heritage and her numerous international-touring experiences, Awna embarked on her first, long-awaited, solo project bringing together an incredible collection of songs in her album “Where The Darkness Goes.”  From the Portuguese-Fado inspired “Minha Querida”and “Velai Por Nos” to the deep soul of roots music with her claw- hammer style banjo on songs like “Stand Tall” and “In The Days,”  Awna’s solo project takes you on a deeply satisfying musical journey.



On her 2012 solo release tour of the UK and Netherlands, Awna received amazing five-star reviews and was called the next”undisputed Queen of Roots Music,” by No Depression. With her fantastic song-writing ability and compelling stage presence, Awna has been likened to such legends as Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton.
In 2013 Awna released her first ever EP “Thunderbird”. Setting up a home recording space in Salt Lake City, Utah she recorded five songs, playing, singing and recording everything herself. This EP takes on a much more strip down feel and showcases some of her back catalog. She also drew and designed the cover art for this release and has plans for another EP release in 2015.
In June of 2014 Awna travelled back to her home town of Toronto, Canada recorded songs for her next full length release Wild One which was released receiving rave reviews on her first release tour March 2015 in the EU/UK.

Mary Lou Lord – Backstreet Angels




Mary Lou Lord is no stranger when it comes to the music industry. She’s been around the block. Throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s, she’s Busked herself into the hearts of many songlovers. Mainly, because, she has a knack for    song-finding   , and choosing covers that even the most obscure record guru   s would appreciate. She   s teamed up in the past with Elliott Smith, a long time friend, as well as Nick Saloman of the Bevis Frond. She’s made a new album called    Backstreet Angels   . It’s comprised of 16 tracks of songs which are a mix of originals and covers. This was initially funded by a Kickstarter campaign, and has not been an easy affair. In 2013 Mary Lou had an accident that required several surgeries     I fell off my fire escape trying to get into my apartment after locking myself out. Both my father and brother were fire-fighters. My brother passed away the Christmas Eve prior to my falling from the fire escape, and although I did manage to break arms and legs and things, I honestly feel that my brother was at the bottom of that fire escape along with my father, like angels, telling me to jump. I wasn   t in the best place in my life at that time, and I feel I was able to let go at that moment, and jump out of my own soul-which was rapidly deteriorating. It changed everything, and I got another chance   . 
Another reason to celebrate, is that Mary Lou’s 16 year old daughter Annabelle is collaborating on a few of the tracks, and on to a music career of her own. So, after an 11 year hiatus, this new album is a beautiful example of determination, collaboration, and the healing powers of music, and the love of songs and family and friends. We hope you like this record (yes, we still call them records)


Whitewater Ramble

Take a little bluegrass, add a dash of roots music, modernize everything with impeccable production, and you have the approach of Whitewater Ramble and their new album, Roots & Groove. Musicians Patrick Sites (mandolin), Patrick Latella (acoustic guitar), Howard Montgomery (bass), Zebulon Bowles (fiddle), and Paul Kemp (drums) keep the sound in a bluegrass format, even with the drums. It is the lyrics that provide the link to American roots music and provide the glue which fuses the two styles together.
They have developed their sound on the road as they have toured consistently for close to a decade. They have played many festivals and numerous small clubs in addition to supporting such artists as Little Feat, The Gourds, and Spearhead. They have released several live albums and now have brought that live energy to their second studio release.
Their lyrics travel in a number of directions within the confines of their style. Songs such as “Dear Mr. Bankman,” “Guilty As Charged,” “Long Dusty Driveway,” “Standard Deviation,” and “Family Tree” tell stories of heroes, villains, tragedy, triumph, and railing against the establishment. They even add a few reggae rhythms. The most interesting song is a bluegrass cover of U2’s “One Tree Hill.”

They have added a number of guest musicians. Dobro player Andy Hall, pedal steel guitarist John Macy, and pianist Bill McKay are all on hand to fill in the sound where needed, which helps to serve as a backdrop for the group’s tight harmonies.
Their sound may be connected to the bluegrass style of the past, but they have moved far beyond those rural roots. They manage to get into a groove that could not have been imagined by traditional bluegrass and roots artists.
Whitewater Ramble is a band that has matured. Their sound is both unique and memorable. Roots & Groove is an album that deserves some attention. Lyrically, vocally, and instrumentally it brings a fusion of bluegrass and roots music into the 21st century.

Jake Xerxes Fussell



On his solo debut, Jake Xerxes Fussell sounds like an explorer. He was the son of a folklorist who documented vernacular culture in the Southeast. He’s worked with blues men and played in country bands. He was a student in the Southern Studies program at Ole Miss. He recorded with Rev. John Wilkins, and now he’s made this record, produced by guitarist William Tyler and engineered by Mark Nevers. All that travel lends the looseness and curiosity of a wanderer to the folk and blues numbers Fussell makes his own on this record. “Let Me Lose” embraces the freedom in the down and out, and you can feel that freedom, that shrugging off of burdens we don’t need, in the rolling guitar work and shuffling percussion. “Star Girl”, with melting pedal steel and Fussell’s clear, soft-spoken singing, is pastoral, bittersweet and lonesome in the best way possible. It contrasts nicely with the stomping, dusty “Raggy Levy” or the shadowy atmosphere of “Boat’s Up the River”. The album rolls through folk and blues traditions but pushes them to fresh new horizons. There’s something almost scholarly at the heart of Fussell’s approach. There’s an in-the-blood knowledge of these traditions at play, but with Tyler and others following along, it’s always Fussell’s sense of discovery, the looseness of wandering, that wins out. Even with all the history built into these songs and this record, Fussell still emerges as a fresh and vital new voice, as a singer, a musician and a torch bearer for every true sound he’s come across to now.