There’s a duality to the music of Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons; the same duality that lies at the heart of the blues. It’s the dichotomy between the weight of history that hangs over black America and the lightness of these old folk songs, which are meant to uplift and charm, to trick away danger, to fool authority, to squeeze a person out of harm’s way, but also to assert a subtle sense of worth and dignity. These songs brought black Americans through the darkest years of our country’s history, and they have an unsettling amount of currency in today’s world, where saying that the blues is black music or even saying that the life of a black person matters are both controversial statements.
The music that renowned Seattle roots duo Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons are making on their new album, A Black & Tan Ball, is not just blues music. The better term is a new and important one: Black Americana. To make this music, they’ve recruited good friend and touring partner Phil Wiggins, an eclectic legend of American blues harmonica (who received an NEA National Heritage Fellowship this year). By pulling together the many threads of black American roots music, and demonstrating the underlying meanings behind the black experience in folk music, Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons are showing another side to Americana that can help expand the genre’s boundaries.
Speaking bluntly, Chip Taylor fires off “Fuck All the Perfect People”, the title track from his album release with The New Ukrainians. Character is the theme for the video with passersby joining in to deliver the world view of Chip Taylor and the New Ukrainans.
Cahoone readies for first full-band tour in 5 years!
We’re very excited to announce that Sera Cahoone is heading out on tour this September! This past year has seen her touring with the likes of Tift Merrit, Son Volt and Gregory Alan Isakov but now she’s ready to strike out on with her full band in tow to support From Where I Started.
We had some wonderful press for the album including the NPR First Listen Stephen Thompson wrote up here and CBC’s First Play here. This fantastic interview on Uproxx, a glowing No Depression review, this piece on LGTBQNation referencing the interview Cahoone had with Jewly Hight for NPR’s Songs We Love, Elle Magazine’s ’10 Best New Songs’ of March and a great American Songwriter piece. Beyond that Sera’s album received high praise from the Bluegrass Situation, Saving Country Music, Curve Magazine, KEXP, Paste, The Seattle Times, Seattle Magazine, Seattle Metropolitan, Seattle Weekly and a ton more.
The world of American roots music is no stranger to Seattle songwriter Sera Cahoone. Even though her last three albums were on Sub Pop Records and she spent years at the top of the indie charts, she’s always had a streak of Americana that ran through her music, a love of the humble folk song that bolstered her art. She’s returning now to these earliest influences with her new album, From Where I Started (to be released March 24, 2017). Growing up, Cahoone first found her voice in Colorado dive bars, backing up old blues musicians at age 12 on the drums. Her father, a Rocky Mountain dynamite salesman, took the family along to mining conferences and old honky-tonks in the state. The sounds she heard there—the twang of country crooners, cowboy boots on peanut shells—have stayed with her all the way to Seattle, where she lives now, and the seminal indie rock bands she’s been a part of in the city (Carissa’s Weird, Band of Horses).
To make From Where I Started, her first new album since 2012’s Dear Creek Canyon, Cahoone traveled south to Portland to work with producer John Askew (Neko Case, Laura Gibson, Alela Diane). Askew brought together key Portland musicians like Rob Berger (Iron and Wine, Lucinda Williams), Dave Depper (Death Cab For Cutie) and Annalisa Tornfelt (Black Prairie) with Cahoone’s Seattle bandmates – Jeff Fielder (Mark Lanegan, Amy Ray) and Jason Kardong (Son Volt, Jay Farrar). The band lays a deep bedrock beneath Cahoone’s songs, supporting her arcing vocals and innovative guitar and banjo playing. The album is driven by a strong rhythmic sensibility, owed to Cahoone’s background as a drummer for indie rock bands. “A lot of my songs start as a beat, I add guitar, then lyrics at the end,” she says. “When I write songs I usually sit at my drum kit playing both drums and guitar at the same time.”
From Where I Started plays on the rougher, darker edges of the traditional love song. Like any good country album, the songs here deal with love and loss, but Cahoone also knows how to surround loss with hope, to temper a sad song with a turn in the major key. The optimism of the love song “Up To Me,” buoyed by fingerpicked guitar and banjo, gives way to the weary resignation of “Taken Its Toll,” with its plaintive pedal steel and echoing vocal harmonies. “Ladybug,” is a poignant song that followed the tragic death of Cahoone’s cousin Tawnee.
From Where I Startedrepresents a refocusing for Sera Cahoone. It positions her as a songwriter beholden to the old country sounds she grew up with, a songwriter who’s always been able to deftly translate a personal perspective into a universal view. It’s an album about falling in and out of love, finding new hope, and learning that the best way to move forward is to remember whereyou began.
“Drawing upon traditional melodies that almost biologically are instantly singable, but combining them with emotions, sentiments and stories that are relatable even now. Stan Rogers was able to do it, Ron Hynes was able to do it, Kate McGarrigle was able to do it –
and Sarah Jane Scouten is able to do it.”
– Tom Power, CBC q and Deep Roots
“A sterling example of the top grade Americana coming out of Canada.” – Folk Radio UK“Sarah Jane Scouten showcases a major talent and a whole lot of versatility on her third full-length album.”
– No Depression
“When the Bloom Falls From the Rose showcases [Scouten’s] agile voice, ruminative songwriting, and love for classic country, indie pop, and everything in between.”
– American Songwriter
One of the great pleasures of running a radio station are the emails from the artists thanking me for playing their music. I always reply that the pleasure is mine and it is I who should be saying thank you for the lovely music. The mail from Sarah was an exception in that I had to admit that I had fallen in love with her, well not her but her music. Yes I think the album that good. I could write reams about it but most everything has been said in other reviews admirably well so other than repeat them I will keep it short and sweet,a wonderful choice of songs, variety is the spice of life. A voice that is sweet and sharp,music that is soft and shrill and lyrics to make you laugh and cry. Oh and a beautiful album cover. When the Bloom Falls From the Rose is and will be one of the top Americana albums of the anniversary year from Canada and the rest of North America too.
So what do we know about Sarah,
At age 5, Sarah was sitting on the dining room table, singing “Lace and Pretty Flowers,” by Canadian country-folk musician, Willie P. Bennett. Hank Williams and Stan Rogers were her greatest inspirations, both a staple at Sunday morning pancake breakfast and afterward, while singing bluegrass and gospel music with her father on Bowen Island, BC. Her talent for performing came naturally, and as chance would have it, so emerged a knack for songwriting. Bringing us up to date, Sarah Jane Scouten is an internationally touring songwriter, loved by audiences across the Northern Hemisphere.
With flavours of Lucinda Williams, Nanci Griffiths and Iris Dement and a wealth of early country music, the two-time Canadian Folk Music Award nominee and recent Western Canadian Music Award nominee’s songs are faithful to a long-standing folk music tradition. Often spilling over into modern themes that are outspoken and edgy, her songwriting tackles issues from poverty and midwifery to tongue-in-cheek heartache songs and unabashed Canadiana. A traditionalist at heart, Sarah Jane Scouten shows her signature flair for the roots of roots music. With respect for these roots, she writes from her own perspective, playing with style to create her own distinct voice. This songwriter is known for hitting hard and close to home, then laughing it off.
Sarah Jane was discovered by Vancouver label Light Organ Records when she was cold-called into the studio to make an EP with producer Andy Bishop as part of a series of releases, coined The Railtown Sessions. Her EP was volume one of the series, which recently garnered her a WCMA nomination for Roots Solo Artist of the Year, alongside Corb Lund. She has since teamed up with the label and will be releasing her third full-length album, When the Bloom Falls From the Rose, recorded in Toronto at Revolution Recording with veteran Canadian producer Andre Wahl (Hawksley Workman, Jill Barber), on June 16. The album includes ten original songs, ranging in style from classic honky tonk to indie-folk rock, and two virtually unknown traditional Western Canadian songs, discovered on crackly recordings in university archives and given new life through Scouten’s haunting arrangements. Developing a big, lush sound on the album, Scouten really comes into her own as a songwriter and performer, drawing from such modern approaches to country music as Sturgill Simpson and Emmylou Harris’ iconic album Wrecking Ball, produced by Daniel Lanois. If you think you have Sarah Jane Scouten figured out, you haven’t heard anything yet.
Full of energy and surprise, wit and subtlety, Twisted Pine has quickly become one of the most acclaimed young string bands in the Northeast. Audiences across the US and UK have been drawn to their forthright songwriting, lush harmonies, musical daring, and “charismatic appeal,” to quote Grammy-winner Alison Brown.
In its early days, Twisted Pine hewed pretty close to its bluegrass origins, but over time the quartet has developed a unique, infectious style without limits. Moving beyond the standard verse-chorus-solo structure of traditional string bands, Twisted Pine is a multilayered ensemble that brings the enveloping sound and pop hooks of indie music to an acoustic instrumental setting.
Guitarist Rachel Sumner and fiddler Kathleen Parks share the vocal mic, forming a combination as charming as it is gutsy. Whether switching off leads or blending and bending their voices into unexpected harmonies, these front-women are a commanding presence. On her instrument, Parks is an insatiable risk-taker, seeking out exciting new improvisational territories. Mandolinist Dan Bui is a master of melody and drive, celebrated widely for his dexterous, tasteful picking. And bassist Chris Sartori holds down the low end and a lot more, introducing creative, jazz-inflected cadences that never overwhelm the beat.
But while it’s easy to celebrate each of the band members individually, Twisted Pine isn’t just a collection of talented musicians. It’s a unit that grooves together. Intricate arrangements of swelling, syncopated rhythm and precise instrumental interplay generate something big and vital: a thick landscape of sound built on an organic acoustic foundation. It’s a fitting context for original songs written with equal parts passion and intelligence, adding up to music that lies at the intersection of heartrending and heart-racing.
You’ll find Twisted Pine on stages large and small, entertaining festivals of thousands and intimate rooms alike. Winners of the 2014 Freshgrass band competition and finalists at the 2015 Rockygrass contest, Twisted Pine has played major events from Greyfox to Green River to Glasgow’s Celtic Connections and beyond. “Their live show is already legendary for the band’s unbridled spirit and contagious energy,” says Jim Olsen, president of the innovative folk label Signature Sounds (Lake Street Dive, Crooked Still, Joy Kills Sorrow). It’s no wonder the International Bluegrass Music Association nominated Twisted Pine for its 2015 Momentum Award, which recognizes exceptional up-and-coming acts.
Grew up in Maine. Lives in Texas. Writes songs. Makes records. Travels around. Tries to be good.
Slaid Cleaves lives with his wife of 21 years, Karen Cleaves, in the Hill Country outside Austin, Texas. While Karen books the shows, the flights, the hotels, and the rental cars; designs, orders and sells the CDs and T-shirts, pays the band, updates the web site, answers fan questions, does the taxes and makes dinner, Slaid writes his little songs (and fixes things around the house). They travel around the world together while Slaid plays for fans far and wide and gets all the glory. If it wasn’t for Karen, Slaid would be carrying all he owned in a shoe box, scrounging around for a happy hour gig.
SLAID CLEAVES – ‘GHOST ON THE CAR RADIO’ (OUT JUNE 23 on CANDY HOUSE MEDIA,
both on CD and on 140 grms vinyl)
Now twenty-five years into his storied career, Cleaves’ songwriting has never been more potent than on his new album ‘Ghost on the Car Radio,’ out June 23.
‘Ghost on the Car Radio’ is Cleaves’ first release since 2013’s ‘Still Fighting the War,” which was praised as “one of the year’s best albums” by American Songwriter and “carefully crafted…songs about the struggles of the heart in hard times” by the Wall Street Journal. The New York Daily News called his music “a treasure hidden in plain sight,” while the Austin Chronicle declared, “there are few contemporaries that compare. He’s become a master craftsman on the order of Guy Clark and John Prine.”
Described as “terse, clear and heartfelt” (NPR Fresh Air), Cleaves speaks to timeless truths in his songs. “I’m not an innovator. I’m more of a keeper of the flame,” he says.
“I think of songs as the whiskey of writing. Distilled down to the essence, powerful, concentrated, immediate. You can take it all in and really feel it in just seconds,” says Slaid Cleaves.
“Stories are all around us, and I’m listening to people even when they think I’m not,” states Sammy Brue. “If I get to the emotion of it, I can find the words.”
Realism and storytelling are qualities that are prominent on I Am Nice, the 15-year-old Utah singer-songwriter’s New West debut. The 12-song album—produced by Ben Tanner of Alabama Shakes and John Paul White of the Civil Wars—shows the young troubadour to be a timeless talent whose catchy compositions embody the sort of wisdom, empathy and insight that’s usually associated with more experienced songwriters.
Sammy Brue likes to think of himself as a normal fifteen year old kid – he plays video games, hangs out with his friends and eats cereal in the afternoon. On “I Know,” the first single from his upcoming debut LP on New West, the John Paul White and Ben Tanner-produced I Am Nice, Brue balances a mature, brooding sense of folk with wistful, youthful lyricism: on one hand, he’s an artist gifted way beyond his years. On the other, he’s a teenager who misses the girl he left behind.
“I wrote that song in my underwear at three in the morning,” Brue tells Rolling Stone Country. “It was about someone chasing after their dreams and leaving a person they loved behind to do it. Only to find out that the person they left was more important than the dream. It’s probably the most personal song I’ve written for this album.”
The Ogden, Utah-based Brue started writing music at ten years old, and was snatched by Justin Townes Earle for the cover of his 2014 album, Single Mothers, for his uncanny resemblance to the singer songwriter. His similarities to Earle weren’t just in the physical – he, too, plays his guitar with a heavy thumb that tends to conjure up a bygone era, with lyrics firmly footed in the present. By fourteen, Brue had already released two EPs under the tutelage of musicians like Earle, Joe Fletcher and Joshua Black Wilkins, who saw more than just the novelty of a young kid at the mic: they saw an artist. Young or not, Brue’s songs were emotionally stirring and stark, garnering him spots opening for Hayes Carll, Lydia Loveless, John Moreland, Lukas Nelson, Lucinda Williams, Asleep at the Wheel and Earle, and a deal with New West records.
“Sam is not only a friend, but a peer,” says Wilkins, also a photographer who shot Brue for the cover of Single Mothers. “I started playing music at fifteen, so to witness someone so focused and inspired, and talented, is a constant reminder that I can always improve my craft. Sammy Brue gets better every day, and does it with a focus and drive that almost no one can match.” “Watching Sammy grow as a writer and performer over the past few years has been the most inspiring thing I’ve seen happen during my music career,” echoes Fletcher. “He is so hungry for new influences and seeing him devour them and process them and make them his own is a constant reminder to me of what drew me to this life in the first place.”
For I Am Nice, Brue headed to Florence, Alabama to make the album with Tanner and White – he’s finishing high school online these days – and he embraced the opportunity to add a fuller band to his spare acoustic sound. At first, he was a little intimidated by White’s austere persona, but soon found the man behind the press to be much different than he imagined. “I was kind of nervous at first because when you see pictures on the Internet [of White] he looks super serious,” Brue says. “But then he was a really big goofball.” I Am Nice infuses a new complexity into Brue’s style: a little doo-wop on “Was I The Only One,” some Nirvana-inspired scruff on “Control Freak,” the echoing introspection of “Salty Times.”
“I don’t have a lot of experience playing with a band so I didn’t know what to expect other than I wanted the Muscle Shoals vibe,” says Brue. “Just hearing the recordings after each take was cool. When Ben Tanner put keys on it I kind of didn’t ever want to play solo again. I actually have a band back in Ogden now, too, because I really love playing with other musicians. I didn’t have a sound in my head before because I didn’t want to ruin what John and Ben were going to come up with. After hearing the final mastered versions I really loved it. I think people will know where it was recorded when they listen to it.”
Though Brue is clearly influenced by Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan – his first EP was titled The Ghost of Woody Guthrie and evokes a young Dylan heading to New York and ambushing his idol at the hospital – his tastes range far beyond just folk.
Baiman’s “Shame” and Modern Mal’s “Just a Satellite” get the video treatment, World Cafe releases Rev. Sekou live videos
We’ve got a couple fantastic music videos premiering today, from Baiman’s feminist title track “Shame” called “a potent message from an especially powerful messenger” by Paste Magazine to Modern Mal’s Psychedelic-Surf Rock rumination on self-esteem on “Just A Satellite”, with Rachel Brooke coming to the conclusion that “Some things can still be beautiful, even if they are a rusty man-made piece of space-debris” over on American Songwriter.While Rev. Sekou’s full World Cafe interview and session won’t be live until Friday, Vuhaus has a taste of the cuts he did of “Resist” and “Muddy and Rough” at the WXPN studios accompanied by Alvin Youngblood Hart and the North Mississippi Allstars!
We’re excited to be working with Charlie Whitten, whose new EP Playwright is coming out August 25th. The whole thing is phenomenal, a quick 4-song EP showcasing a moment in time for the young songwriter. The songwriting on each of these tracks is wonderful and points to Whitten’s budding brilliance but the up-tempo, jaunty, pining of “Since She’s Gone”, with it’s duality of heart-break and acceptance is really impressive.
Whitten grew up in Charlotte, NC and was born in Charleston, WV. He’s released a few pieces under his own name but says he “enjoys being sideman just as much as a singer-songwriter.” Pretty obvious that he enjoys it when you can catch Charlie playing guitar for Jake McMullen and Becca Mancari, and while he just returned from touring for two months with Andrew Combs as his bass player. He’s also played and sang with Molly Parden, Erin Rae McKaskle, Caleb Groh, Chrome Pony, and his current side project, Stationwagon; a band of tall songwriters and friends featuring Mark Fredson, Pete Lindberg, Andrew Hunt, Brett Resnick. You can hear bits a pieces from his heroes Jim Croce, Don McLean and Harry Nilsson in his songs. There’s a bit of Rayland Baxter in his arrangements as well.
As a professional musician and proud student of
the American songbook, Trapper Schoepp is acutely aware of clichés. That’s not
to say he shuns them completely, of course, just that when he uses them he does
so knowingly, and so he readily admits that his latest album, Rangers & Valentines, out April 1 on Xtra Mile Recordings, is founded on
a big one. “They always say that songwriters who come off their first few years
of touring are going to make their road album,” Schoepp says, “and yeah, this
is a road album.”
Not that the songs are all literally about Schoepp’s experiences. Recorded
after years on the road behind Run Engine
Run, his 2012 album for the Los Angeles indie label SideOneDummy, Rangers & Valentines compiles
stories about men and women “who are on the road and on the move,” Schoepp
says. Along the way they endure chaos, war, natural disasters and other