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May Erlewine – Mother Lion

“Her songs show a very real connection and concern with everyday folk.” Lifted from the first paragraph of May Erlewine’s Facebook biography, this is the singular, wholesome truth that sits at the center of the Michigan artist’s entire portfolio. Her music has a heart that connects with others’ hearts. It’s one that has been continuously conscious of the human condition and how it reacts to the ebb and flow of our everchanging world. She’s given a voice to everyday folk in artistically recognizing her place on our planet Earth as one, and we are all elevated together for it.

Her name might be recognized internationally, but any Michigander will tell you that she’s at the top rung of artists that they pride themselves in calling one of their home-state girls. Her latest record, Mother Lion, is reflective in this in the staff she’s brought on to help bring it to life. Members of Ann Arbor outlet Vulfpeck comprise her band (drummer Theo Katzman, bassist Joe Dart, and pianist Woody Goss) while acclaimed producer Tyler Duncan (Michelle Chamuel, Ella Riot) helps bring it all together.

The ending, everlasting result is a refreshingly vibrant addition to Erlewine’s discography. She’s always had an innate knack for speaking to the masses in any way they see fit to process it. Yet, as her relatable voice melds with crisp, modern, and eclectic production, we’ve come to a place where we realize that the artist is still coming up with ways to surprise us while touching our hearts even 10 solo albums in. Utterly empathetic and chockful of heart-tugging imagery, Mother Lion is an empowering hand to guide you headfirst in a bold new direction as much as it is a warm embrace to cry into and be told everything is going to be okay whenever the world gets you down.

Joshua Radin – The Fall

 

Joshua Radin graced us with his musical presence almost 12 years ago, and has yet to disappoint. He first gained traction in 2004 when his song “Winter” premiered on the popular television show, “Scrubs.” We have his good friend, Zach Braff, who Radin credits as the one who discovered him to thank for this, well, him and Ellen DeGeneres. In 2008, Radin was asked by Ellen to play the song “Today” along with several more for her wedding. She praised him for his beautiful music and honest words; and although these popular endorsements helped put Radin on the map, they’re certainly not what has kept him around for now nearly 13 years without an end in site.

 

Joshua Radin has been the same person since he started playing guitar at the age of 30. That wasn’t a typo; he only began this venture at 30 years old. He picked up a guitar and began writing almost as therapy to help through a breakup. The rest is history. It’s almost as if it was meant to be; you can’t fight fate. From his first album We Were Here in 2006, to one of his most popular albums in 2008 Simple Times, to his live album Live from the Village in 2016 (that is as flawless as any of the six studio albums he’s recorded in his career), Joshua Radin’s soothing guitar melodies matched with the smooth rasp of his voice set him far apart from the rest.

Although some his songs hold sadness, they still always contain hope and positivity. With his positive arrangements and authentic words, a Joshua Radin song will leave you feeling happy, sad, peaceful, and hopeful all at the same time. That is a true gift. It’s this uniqueness that allows people to relate to Radin in a way they wouldn’t with other artists. He’s never tried to be anything but himself. Radin allows himself to feel to the fullest extent in order to create the best and most honest body of work. Every song he writes is a “journal entry,” that has never changed and holds true with his upcoming record as well.

Joshua Radin’s seventh studio album, The Fall (out January 27, 2017 via Glass Bead Music), stays true to his diary style of writing. However, The Fall has an even more honest aspect to it, because for the first time in his career, Radin produced the entire album on his own. This album holds so much truth. From start to finish, it takes listeners through a story of beautiful melodies and heartfelt lyrics that are passionate, tragic, uplifting, and everything else in-between. Make sure you check this album out, and read our exclusive interview below with the incredibly kind, thoughtful and down-to-earth Joshua Radin.

Lotte Kestner – Covers

Ethereal folk covers with a blend of acoustic and electric elements.
Album Notes
Lotte Kestner is the solo project of Seattle-based musician Anna-Lynne Williams, who spent the last decade singing in the band Trespassers William. Her solo music has elements of her shoegaze past and influences, but lies somewhere closer to folk, relying on multi-layers of vocals to fill in the spaces, rather than electric instruments. Anna-Lynne has collaborated with the Chemical Brothers, Delerium, AFI, Ghosts I’ve Met, Anomie Belle, etc. and also sings in the duo Ormonde.
These covers are compiled from over 40 songs requested by fans during an epic Kickstarter.

Matt Hannah – Dreamland

Matt Hannah’s sophomore album expands his “acoustic, melancholy-country spin on Americana folk music”

Matt Hannah’s second album Dreamland is a first rate follow up to his 2014 debut Let the Lonely Fade that signals clear development since that highly praised initial release. Dreamland is a ten song collection with the rare quality of thematic coherence – the central question Hannah is meditating about over these tracks is the nature of memory and consciousness. Perhaps this sounds like a heady theme for a collection of popular music, but Hannah proves himself adept to the task without ever sacrificing the musicality of his material or risking self-indulgent pretentiousness. He doesn’t settle for a strictly folk song approach on Dreamland. There’s a lot of acoustic guitar present in various molds, but Hannah’s unafraid to mix things up with rugged electric guitar and strong drumming. His top shelf collaborators help him realize his musical vision without ever overshadowing his songs and the virtuoso trips common on recordings like this, unfortunately, are mercifully missing from this album.

The title track begins the release with the sort of attentiveness and nuance that serves notice we are in good hands as listeners. Hannah coaxes the lyrics out in a near-whisper, underplaying his delivery, and it helps invoke a strong mood in conjunction with the accompanying instrumentation. He takes on a much harder-nosed musical stand with the second track “Broken Hearts & Broken Bones”, bringing in biting electric guitar, but the song’s core is still guided by his voice and acoustic guitar playing. The album’s third track “Dandelion” drops his audience back into familiar acoustic territory and it’s one of the album’s more delicately rendered tracks. Such adjectives shouldn’t confuse readers that these are willowy, crystalline outings – despite their obvious sensitivity, Hannah writes sturdy guitar driven songs that never come off as coy or too precious for their own good. Electric guitar returns on the song “Set Free” and it’s accompanied by some tasteful organ courtesy of Matt Patrick hovering just below the top line instruments and understated flourishes from Aaron Febbrini’s pedal steel guitar.

“The Night Is My Home” might have a slightly portentous title, but the song is far from that. It’s one of the album’s more sensitive cuts and doesn’t come by its emotions in a cheap, premeditated way. It also features one of Hannah’s best vocals on the album and he makes every word count. The atmospherics of “Something in the Air” aren’t quite dreamy; instead, the feeling is more haunted, barely coalescing, and the song retains just enough artful shape to make an impact on the audience. The sound, ultimately, is poetic and helps form a greater whole in tandem with Hannah’s words. “Gone” has a quasi-shuffle tempo that the band never over-emphasizes and the welcome influence of blues gives it an unexpectedly jagged edge that other songs lack on this release. Dreamland ends with a note perfect curtain entitled “Morning Song”. Taken as half of a pair with the album opener, “Morning Song” makes for a marvelously apt conclusion and the acoustic guitar strings together a delicate, highly melodic spell. Matt Hannah has followed up Let the Lonely Fade with a recording that both reaffirms the first album’s strengths and builds on them.

Read more at http://ventsmagazine.com/2017/02/20/cd-review-dreamland-matt-hannah/#mq31CTgwXugQg4K7.99

Elliott Brood – Ghost Gardens

Several things spring to mind when one thinks of veteran folk rockers Elliott Brood: steely acoustic guitar strums, banjos and lyrics that address more bygone Canadiana than a Pierre Berton book, with all of those lines sung in a twangy downhome delivery. What we fans of the Ontario alt-country troop don’t expect, however, is for its members to put out tracks like “Searching,” one of the highlights from their new album Ghost Gardens.

The minute-and-a-half song comes second last on this LP, and features distortion and whines akin to synthesizers, all of it evoking a short-circuiting vintage radio. It’s not electronica or overly avant-garde, though; acoustic string plucks are thrown in for good measure, along with samples of a few distraught fellows shouting in the background.

It’s an experimental detour on a mostly downbeat, minimalistic folk album. This isn’t an entirely new, avant-garde foray, though; rather, “Searching,” and the other songs that make up Ghost Gardens, are unearthed demos that the band first started working on a decade and a half ago.

That means many of these songs are quintessential Brood. For instance: quaking mandolin notes and twangy guitar strums abound on closing track “For the Girl,” (which also features evocative lyrics like, “leave me here to blister away in the sun”). “The Widower” is even more traditional, featuring waltz-y guitar and piano notes in the opening moments, followed by echoing vocals, all of it amounting to one of the most gorgeously melancholy tracks of the band’s career. Then there’s the threadbare and forlorn “Adeline,” a winner thanks to its minimal banjo and piano backing. What really puts that track over, though, is its childlike lyrics and delivery, which make it adorably moving. It’s a folk lullaby that’ll tug the heartstrings of fans from any generation.

Don’t worry though: Ghost Gardens is not an overly downcast affair, and its softer numbers are balanced by bawdier tracks like the rockabilly-esque “‘Til the Sun Comes Up Again,” and the sing-along worthy “Dig a Little Hole.” Those peppier songs, along with its quieter moments, make Ghost Gardens a well-rounded release, meaning fans of both Elliott Brood and of folk in general will love every gorgeously crafted second of this new LP. (Paper Bag)

Josh Ritter – Gathering

I was going to write a great review but Popmatters did one for me.

On his ninth full-length studio album, Josh Ritter continues to combine poetic imagery with organic, expertly crafted arrangements.

Label: Pytheas Recordings / Thirty Tigers
US RELEASE DATE: 2017-09-22
AMAZON
ITUNES

In the upper echelon of today’s singer/songwriters, there’s a handful who could be counted among the literary elite — those whose lyrics are poetry that paints unique, evocative pictures — and Josh Ritter has long been considered near the top of that heap. His latest album is, among many other things, an absolute affirmation of this.

Gathering is Ritter’s ninth full-length studio album, coming off the heels of 2015’s Sermon on the Rocks. The songs were largely written in the aftermath of his highly fruitful collaboration with Grateful Dead co-founder Bob Weir (which resulted in Blue Mountain, Weir’s acclaimed 2016 album and his first solo studio album since 1978). The resulting creative explosion, according to Ritter, was a way to cut himself off from the expectations of others. “I began with an exciting sense of dissatisfaction,” Ritter explains in the album’s press release. “What emerged, as I began to find my voice, was a record full of storms.”

The storm-like energy is palpable on Gathering, and the creative spring from where he draws has helped create his finest album since 2010’s So Runs the World Away. Backed by his dependable and ever-present Royal City Band — Zachariah Hickman (bass, acoustic guitar, Wurlitzer), Sam Kassirer (piano, organ, synthesizers, percussion), Josh Kaufman (guitar, synthesizer) and Ray Rizzo (drums, percussion) — Ritter seems positively giddy at unleashing his new compositions with a dynamic energy that flows through both the up-tempo numbers as well as the tender ballads.

Kicking off Gathering is the brief, hymn-like “Shaker Love Song (Leah)”, which opens the album in a stately manner and invites comparisons to the aloof, mysterious arrangements of Fleet Foxes. But it’s soon followed by the first single, “Showboat”, which kicks down the doors with a sunnier, more traditional execution. “Every time it rains it pours / I pray it rains just a little more on me,” Ritter belts out at the song’s beginning before the full band falls into place. The upbeat instrumentation masks the anguish in the lyrics, where Ritter struggles to remain brave and stoic in the face of a breakup. “I’m just a showboat,” he sings. “Won’t catch me crying, no / Won’t catch me showing any hurt.”

Typically, Ritter peppers his folky arrangements with rip-roaring, boom-chicka-boom rave-ups like the infectious “Friendamine”, an upbeat barn-burner that’s sure to bring down the house when Ritter and the Royal City Band hit the road later this year. That same Johnny Cash-like gallop continues, in a more subdued fashion, on “Feels Like Lightning”, which evokes an unvarnished “riding the rails” vibe. “Out across the fields are the thunderheads gathering / Clouds all turned to the color of a cavern,” Ritter sings, pairing his nature-rich, rustic imagery with the album’s underlying “storm” themes.

Comparisons to the aforementioned So Runs the World Away are hard to avoid, not just in the quality of the writing and performing, but in the use of brief, scene-setting tracks like “Shaker Love Song” and the gorgeous instrumental “Interlude”. There’s also a folk-noir feel that pervades Gathering, never more apparent than in the epic “Dreams”. Ritter has been accurately compared to Bob Dylan in both his organic musical approach as well as his inimitable gift for hyper-detailed, surreal storytelling, and on “Dreams”, he delivers in spades. The multiple verses are delivered in a rapid-fire, almost spoken-word style, tempered with the mantra-like chorus of “dreams’ll keep coming but the dream done gone”, over and over, like some Blonde on Blondeouttake. Ritter increases the tension with each consecutive verse as the instruments become more unhinged, dissonant, and nightmarish.

More of this dark atmosphere is present in “Myrna Loy”, a whisper-quiet ballad that combines eloquent verses (“Still every now and then sometimes when the night sky gets so bright / And no Bethlehem of stars could match its burning”) with a simple chorus (“In the darkness / In the darkness”). It’s a beautiful, unrushed gem of a recording – although, at just over seven minutes, I could do without at least one verse.

 

Ritter’s collaboration with Weir spills over into Gathering in the form of “When Will I Be Changed”, a duet with the legendary singer/songwriter. It’s an epic, gospel-flavored ballad infused with rich instrumentation, including wide-open acoustic guitar strumming, soulful horns and vintage organ fills. Weir and Ritter’s vocals are a winning combination — the sturdy legend trading verses with the young folk genius — and is a high point in an album that’s positively stuffed with beautiful moments.

The shift in dynamics between ballads and faster numbers is refreshing and never inappropriately jarring. For every “Myrna Loy”, there’s the careening rush of a song like “Cry Softly”, a rockabilly stomper highlighted by spry guitar leads and a fast, infectious beat. “Cry softly / Real quietly / Your tears are unsightly,” Ritter sings as the band fires on all cylinders behind him.

Josh Ritter’s music is obviously the result of a broad range of influences, which he manages to sprinkle liberally and smartly throughout his work. It’s never derivative and always manages to sound fresh and new. That is a rare gift, and like the artists to whom he’s often compared — Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan being the more obvious ones — his status as a peerless singer/songwriter is unmatched. Gathering proves once again that it’s great to be living in a time when Josh Ritter is making music.

Alana Henderson New Single Out, Let This Remain

New folk-laden single from Hozier’s long-time cellist available now

 

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In addition to the beautiful instrumentation, Henderson boasts an incredible, lush songwriting talent characteristic of many Irish folk artists. Her vocals are arresting and her bohemian sound haunting. The cello is inventive and subtle, a lilting undercurrent behind soft electronics.(Earmilk)

Alana Henderson is a cellist and singer-songwriter from Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland.  Her self-released Wax and WaneEP (2014) drew solid comparisons to Joanna Newsome and Fiona Apple. Shortly thereafter she stepped up to accompany Hozier on cello and supporting vocals. Between 2014-2015 she played over 300 headline shows with Hozier’s band, including notable performances at Glastonbury, Saturday Night Live, Jools Holland and the Grammy’s with Annie Lennox. Her new single, “Let This Remain,” is an icy and unforgiving anti-ballad, fusing an electronic undercurrent to her darkly organic indie-folk.

Alana’s mastery of the cello is a highlight of the track, showcasing her dynamic techniques that are looped and overlapped to create a dramatic atmosphere; expertly balancing an arrangement that is both haunting and beautiful.  Written in L.A. near the end of that massive tour, the lyrics reflect on the transient nature of relationships on the road and the emotional detachment that ensues.  When no relationship is expected to last, she jabs, “you could be the one I don’t regret…yet.”

 

“After a period of post-tour decompression it was recorded at a friend’s isolated Irish cottage with the help of Belfast-based musician/producer Alan Haslam and using only the most rudimentary equipment; my cello, a Roland Juno-106 synthesiser and a TR-808 drum machine, along with some improvised acoustic percussion (we snapped a pair of shoe trees together for the snare sound).”

L I S T E N

Alana Henderson – Let This Remain

https://soundcloud.com/alanahenderson/let-this-remain

D I S C O V E R

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/alanahenderson
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/alanahendersoncello/
Website: https://www.alanahenderson.com/
Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/6P6SqdQjXIzTWKj5QBWliY

DRIFTWOOD’S VIDEO “TOO AFRAID” EXPLORES ATTRACTION’S PLEASURE AND PAIN

 

Recommended If You Like: The Head and the Heart, Lumineers, Fleet Foxes, Vance Joy

… And I’m too afraid to be alone

At its core, attraction is a wondrous thing. How many stimuli have that kind of physical and emotional control over the individual? To be moved so vividly by someone else that your behavior changes in their presence; to feel that strongly about another human being; it’s natural, and yet it often feels totally unnatural. Attraction is as powerful as it is beautiful, an overwhelming sensation that Driftwood capture perfectly in their new song “Too Afraid.”

Oh am I falling for your lies again
Falling for your lies again
But you look so damn good

If I look into your eyes again
Look into your eyes again
Well it feels like going home

Listen: “Too Afraid” – Driftwood

 


City Lights - Driftwood

City Lights – Driftwood

.A song about falling uncontrollably hard for someone else, “Too Afraid” focuses on the fatal attraction experience: “Sometimes there are women that strike your fancy to the point where you lose a bit of yourself,” explains Joe Kollar (vocals/banjo).

It’s also easy to lose oneself in Driftwood’s music. The band pulls upon a pastiche of warm American roots and folk influences, landing somewhere in-between The Head and the Heart and The Lumineers in terms of sound, while offering a fresh, if not timeless perspective on the individual experience through harmonious music and lyrics. The group’s instrumental arrangement – which consists of Dan Forsyth on guitar and vocals, Joe Kollar on banjo and vocals, Claire Byrne on fiddle and vocals, and Joey Arcuri on bass – might be considered ‘traditional,’ but they wield their instruments with polished grace. In a music landscape where electric so frequently replaces acoustic instrumentation, Driftwood’s music provides an anchor to a past that is still very much the present.

Driftwood © Marc Safran

Driftwood © Marc Safran

“Too Afraid” opens with a sweetly seductive interaction between fiddle and bass, where the fiddle plays a hypnotic, repeating arpeggio sequence over punctuated bass hits. The combined effort is light, yet incredibly evocative: In a sense, it’s the perfect backdrop for a personal story. “Oh am I falling for your lies again,” sings Kollar as the verse opens. His words are raw and humble, his demeanor vulnerable as he places this interest over himself. That elevation of another, and the subsequent submission and reduction of oneself, becomes especially resounding in the chorus and second verse:

But I’m too afraid
Yes I’m too afraid to be alone

You talk like you should be my friend
Talk like you should be my friend
So tell me what it is that you want

Oh am I losing all my lines again
I’m losing all my lines again
But you look so fucking good

In his explanation of this song, Kollar notes that “Too Afraid” is, for him, about “the power of a beautiful woman,” but the song is obviously so much more than that. “I’m too afraid to be alone,” he sings. Sometimes we know something is bad for us, but we want it anyway. Loneliness is one of the hardest to cope with – so perhaps that special someone isn’t right for you, but at least it’s something. Rather than explore the intricacies of that mess, Driftwood stick to the surface and leave the diving to the listener.

“I think everyone knows someone (close or distant) that makes them weak in the knees and maybe act differently as a result,” says Kollar. Those who have known love, and perhaps more so those who have known a truly fatalattraction, can easily relate to Driftwood’s lilting melodies and uncertain, scrambling lyrics. It doesn’t matter who you are, or how confident you might appear. Every Samson has his Delilah.

Grammy Consideration: Rachael Sage’s “The Tide”!

Celebrated Singer-Songwriter For Your 2018 Grammy Consideration: Rachael Sage

“The Tide” critically acclaimed release featuring chart-topping song “Try Try Try”.

For your consideration for:
Record of the Year – “The Tide”
Song of the Year – “The Tide”
Best American Roots Performance – “Tomorrow
Best American Roots Song – “Disarm Distrust”
Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals – “The Tide”
Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical: “The Tide”

Stream the EP:
https://soundcloud.com/rachaelsage/sets/the-tide-7

Rachael Sage’s “The Tide” is a musically-ambitious, emotional collection of songs seeking justice for all in a turbulent sociopolitical landscape. With subject matter addressing gun violence, the international refugee crisis, and intolerance in America, it’s an inspired set of folk-pop merging orchestral elements with her signature blend of delicate guitar work and expressive piano playing; all net proceeds benefit the American Refugee Committee.

  • Rachael had a banner year touring the US & UK alongside Beth Hart and Howard Jones.
  • This year, 2 of Rachael’s songs from her latest album appeared on Lifetime’s hit reality series “Dance Moms”, bringing her total placements on the show to 22.
  • “The Tide” EP charted at Folk Radio
  • Produced by Sage & Grammy® Nominee Dave Eggar (Phillip Phillips, Esperanza Spalding, Five For Fighting)
  • Engineered by 2-time Grammy Nominee John Shyloski (Diana Ross, Johnny Winter, Stephen Kellogg)

“the Carole King of her generation” – Blurt Magazine

“Angelic…epically romantic. (Sage’s) breathy vocals float alonglist swooning strings and piano notes, creating a big setting for her rootsy, narrative lyrics.” — No Depression

“Sage has an innate ability to engage the audience with her enchanting piano playing and powerful vocals that covers a wide dynamic range.” — M Music & Musicians Magazine

“…absolutely loved it! Congratulations…wonderful songwriting and arrangements and lovely vocals.” — Howard Jones

“Rachael Sage is a marvelous young artist- and I am a fan!!…A great gift…of incredible talent and beauty.” — Judy Collins

The Early Mays – Chase the Sun


Album Notes
With masterful songwriting and a sweet old-time sound, The Early Mays burst on to the scene with a #2 debut on the National Folk-DJ Charts in 2014. Watertight three part vocals won these women a loyal following in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and their growth as a band has carried them to the national arena with a 1st place win at the Appalachian String Band Festival in 2016 and a feature performance on NPR’s Mountain Stage in 2017.

On their latest release, signature harmonies are central, but The Early Mays have upped their game with first-rate arrangements grounded in old-time styles. Chase the Sun is a fine collaboration on all fronts with songs that range from traditional to modern in style, and from contemplative to barn raising in spirit.

On “Chase the Sun,” Emily Pinkerton, Ellen Gozion and Rachel Eddy showcase their song and tune-writing talents, as well as the debt they owe to North American musicians who have inspired them.

In the title track, Emily paints a picture of a dry, cracked earth where two people slowly begin to emerge from destructive patterns. Sinuous harmonic progressions, edgy fiddle and clusters of vocal harmonies bring the harsh dreamscape of the lyrics to life.

Little Pink, a beloved old-time song collected by Gerry Milnes, becomes a fiddle tune in the hands of the Mays, built around sweet vocals and stellar banjo by Ellen. Though simple in form, the lyrical and rhythmic detail of the song will have you listening over and over.

Mannington #9 tells the story of one of the worst coal mining disasters in West Virginia history that took place outside of Morgantown where Rachel grew up. It is a such an important part of her repertoire, that when she asked songwriter Keith McManus for permission to record it, he said there was no need to ask because “it was already hers.” The recording features Rachel’s powerful clawhammer style, droning harmonium (a pump organ used in Indian classical music) and solid, stacked vocal harmonies from the group.

The Mays have felt a burning need to share the new sound of the group since Rachel came on board in early 2016. Her strong voice and rock-solid instrumental chops have fused so well with Emily and Ellen’s songwriting and long-time love of traditional music. For Chase The Sun they returned to Broadcast Lane Studios in Pittsburgh to work with Lurch Rudyk (Sarah Harmer,
Kathleen Edwards) and send their songs through his vintage analog gear they’ve come to love.

The Early Mays love the camaraderie of the studio, the road, and rehearsals, and you can feel the gratitude radiate from whatever stage they are on, and from sounds of Chase The Sun.