acoustic, banjo, bluegrass, country, dobro, female singer, fiddle, singer-songwriter

Rita Hosking: Frankie and the No-Go Road

Sean Feder and Rita Hosking. Photo by Kora Feder.

Sean Feder and Rita Hosking. Photo by Kora Feder.

Frankie and the No-Go Road

Frankie and the No-Go Road

Rita Hosking has been a force of nature in the acoustic Cali-Americana music scene these past few years. With her husband and daughter as her foundation and band mates, Rita has gradually solidified her standing in the sweet middle ground between oldtime bluegrass, classic country, and modern singer-songwriter. Her 6th album, released on Tuesday 9/22/15, maintains her trademark sound: that fluid shimmer that somehow connects the listener to both their own personal history and the story of their ancestors. Surrounded by banjos, dobros, fiddles, and more, Rita Hosking sings bold homespun poetry to relieve the stress of the modern world closing in all around us.  Recommended! 

LISTEN: A Better Day

LISTEN: Resurrection



Acadian, accordion, acoustic, Canadian, female singer, festival, fiddle

La Famille Leger: L’etoile Du Nord

La Famille Leger

La Famille Leger

I’ll begin this post with an apology. With summer festival season in full swing here at Fiddlefreak World Headquarters, and my own new CD released in May, the blog has not been refreshed lately. Sorry gang! I’m just returned from the renowned and unrivalled-for-fun fiddle camp held in Port Townsend, WA and called Festival of American Fiddle Tunes. One could write a book on the amazing experience that is Fiddle Tunes, and I will write a series of posts to feature some of the great music I heard up there this year. Let’s begin with a listen to the recent release from La Famille Leger titled L’etoile Du Nord.

Dejah and Devon Leger of Seattle, WA are the talented young couple at the core of this band. If you recongize their names, it may be because they run a well-known music blog and promotion company called Hearth Music. At Fiddle Tunes, these two seemed to always be at the center of the sickest music sessions and parties, and Dejah presented a wonderful workshop on how to create crankies. Their new CD is a collection of heartwarming Acadian music (see below) that they field-collected in Eastern Canada. Since I don’t know jack about these wonderful fiddle tunes and old French songs, I will let them expound in their own words. Enjoy!

L’etoile Du Nord

L’etoile Du Nord

“We are a true family band who play Acadian and French-Canadian music from Eastern Canada. We live in Seattle, Washington and play contra dances, concerts, festivals, and even dinner parties. Devon Leger plays fiddle, Dejah plays piano, guitar, sings & stepdances, Barb plays guitar, and Louis plays accordion, fiddle, spoons, and sings. Louis hails from a distinctive Acadian family from New Brunswick, and spent much of his youth in Québec City.

“Tunes from Hedar Bulger: After visiting André à Toto in Shipagan, New Brunswick, he pointed us to a fish market in nearby Le Goulet. Hedar Bulger owns this market, Le Marché de Poisson Bulger, along with his son and family, and is an older, retiring man with a warm smile and a great love for the fiddle. He played tentatively at first, but by the time we had to leave, he was playing tune after tune and didn’t want to stop! We learned these tunes in fragments from him, and learned that he has many more wonderful tunes as well.

LISTEN: Tunes From Hedar Bulger

“Ma Mie Tant Blanche: Dejah learned this song from the singing of Charlotte Cormier of Moncton, a pioneering woman of Acadian song collecting. The song is sung in an old Acadian dialect, and it’s yet another song about family troubles culminating in murder. The title loosely translates to ‘Honey, you look so pale.’ Probably because of blood loss.”

LISTEN: Ma Mie Tant Blanche


from Wikipedia:

“The Acadians are the descendants of the 17th-century French colonists who settled in Acadia, some of whom are also Metis. The colony was located in what is now Eastern Canada’s Maritime provinces (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island), as well as part of Quebec, and present-day Maine to the Kennebec River. Although today most of the Acadians and Québécois are French speaking Canadians, Acadia was a distinctly separate colony of New France… The Acadians lived for almost 80 years in Acadia, prior to the British Siege of Port Royal in 1710. After the Conquest, they lived under British rule for the next forty-five years. During the French and Indian War, British colonial officers suspected they were aiding the French. The British, together with New England legislators and militia, carried out the Great Expulsion of 1755–1764 during and after the war years. They deported approximately 11,500 Acadians from the maritime region. Approximately one-third perished from disease and drowning… Many Acadians migrated to Spanish colonial Louisiana, where they developed what became known as Cajun culture. Others were transported to France.” MORE

acoustic, banjo, Canadian, country, female singer, male singer, old-time

Pharis & Jason Romero: A Wanderer I’ll Stay

Photo by Mike Melnyk

Photo by Mike Melnyk

If you’re not living under a rock in Greenland, you’re probably aware of Pharis and Jason Romero by now. NPR darlings from Horsefly BC. Makers of gorgeous banjos that are both rustic and refined. Two award-winning duo albums under their belts, and a couple of collaborations before that. Songs that mine the old-time tradition and blur the line between original and public domain. A smooth, vintage sound that could calm a drunken sailor. Or in their case–maybe a crying toddler.

a2424449031_16Their new album A Wanderer I’ll Stay continues to map the musical back roads of old-school acoustic Americana. Two tracks are instrumental compositions that explore the lush sonic landscapes of Jason’s gourd banjos. Their version of Cocaine Blues from Luke Jordan is dark and fun at the same time, and young fiddler Josh Rabie (Water Tower Bucket Boys) contributes nice textural tones here and there. Marc Jenkins plays pedal steel on Billy Mayhew’s It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie (1936), a recycled waltz melody that was played during the British dixieland revival in the 1950s and 1960s in a fast 4/4 tempo. This song was recorded by many others, notably Billie Holliday, Slim Whitman and even John Denver.

Throughout, Jason’s banjos simmer and swirl on a warm sea of vintage flattops, with tight two-part harmonies that can only come from partners that are devoted to the music and each other. More so than previously, the new album A Wanderer I’ll Stay leans confidently into original material while keeping the burnished sheen for which the couple have become known. Recommended!

LISTEN: The Dying Soldier

LISTEN: It’s A Sin To Tell A Lie

acoustic, banjo, female singer, gospel, old-time, traditional

Anna & Elizabeth

Elizabeth LaPrelle & Anna Roberts-Gevalt

Elizabeth LaPrelle & Anna Roberts-Gevalt

4PAN1TSPBAnna Roberts-Gevalt and Elizabeth LaPrelle just released their second album as a duo, a self-titled collection of spine-tingling mountain ballads and gospel songs. These two amazing young women faithfully evoke the hard life and simple joys of traditional Appalachian music on banjo and guitar, with harmonies that encourage the listener to lean close and absorb every nuance. If like me, you love the pure, unadorned music of the common man, look no further. These songs shimmer like genuine hard-core red-clay diamonds.

LISTEN: Troubles

LISTEN: Soldier and the Lady

And that’s not all–Anna and Elizabeth host a radio variety show, they create and promote the lost art of crankies, and they present school programs. A crankie is a panoramic scene, rolled up inside a box, then hand-cranked so that it scrolls across a viewing screen, to illustrate a ballad song that is simultaneously performed live. In the mid 19th century, they were called moving panoramas, but the term crankie is being used now to refer to this very old art form. Here is a crankie that was hand-sewn by Anna and Elizabeth to illustrate the traditional ballad The Devil’s Nine Questions. (The men here are Jefferson Hamer and Eamon O’Leary, a duo known as the Murphy Beds.)

The Floyd Radio Show is a monthly old-time variety show consisting of radio plays, comedy bits, ads, jingles, and traditional music in its most authentic forms. Each show features some the area’s finest old-time musical acts, from storytelling banjo players to flat-picking guitarists to hard-driving string bands. It’s hosted by Anna and Elizabeth and held at the famous Floyd Country Store, an epicenter of old-time mountain music.

acoustic, country, female singer, nyckelharpa, singer-songwriter

Annalisa Tornfelt: The Number 8

John Neufeld and Annalisa Tornfelt. Photo by Mary Winzig.

John Neufeld and Annalisa Tornfelt. Photo by Mary Winzig.

Annalisa Tornfelt first came to my attention as the singer for Black Prairie (Portland, Oregon), a folk-rock group that began in 2007 as a side project for members of The Decemberists and has since evolved into an influential force in Portland’s exploding indie music scene. Her new solo album The Number 8 is set for release on March 10 on Woodphone Records. For this project, the Alaska-raised singer used an analog 8-track tape machine to record just herself and her vintage Black Beauty Arch Kraft guitar singing 14 tracks composed by herself (with two co-writes). She worked with Mike Coykendall to record the entire album in 8 hours at Blue Doors Studios in SE Portland. (And yes, she plays her nyckelharpa on the record too!)

The Number 8

“I asked Annalisa to play a few fiddle tunes with me, which soon flipped to her picking up a guitar and singing Hank Williams,” says her Black Prairie bandmate, Chris Funk. “It was simple, but it was stunning… she grabs the all-too-familiar guitar and sings a song and you realize your bandmate and friend has the unique gift and power to make the weight of the world lift for three minutes.”

The Number 8 has a gorgeous, languid feel that ranges from oldtime country to modern indie-folk. There’s nothing here that I wanted to skip over. Each song compels a closer listen and a linger, to be savored like a Sunday morning cup of Stumpy’s at your neighborhood cafe. The Number 8 is a perfect soundtrack for a lazy hipster hang in the city where young people go to retire. Recommended!

LISTEN: Found A Song

LISTEN: Scared You’re Gonna Leave


Watch: Tired of Saying Sorry




acoustic, banjo, bluegrass, country, female singer, fiddle, male singer, mandolin, old-time, traditional

Foghorn Stringband: Devil in the Seat

Foghorn Stringband

Foghorn Stringband

Many are called, but few are chosen. On their new recording Devil in the Seat, Foghorn Stringband proves once again that they are still the Chosen Ones when it comes to down-home, foot-stomping, ass-kickin’ old time music.

Portland, Oregon based Foghorn Stringband has traveled a long and winding road, with several personnel changes along the way, since the days when five guys knocked down mostly fiddle tunes and a few old songs. They were great then too, but since the addition of Nadine Landry (bass and vocals) and Reeb Willms (guitar and vocals) the band has blossomed into a full-blown force of nature that threatens world domination.

cdThe ladies brought in two lovely voices that ring out in close harmony, and their repertoire of obscure old time blues and country is a perfect fit. They also provide a rock-solid rhythm section for the boys to blaze away on fiddles and mandolin. This record was recorded in early December on the island of Kauai in Hawaii. Man, these guys have a hard life!

I’ve been writing about old time music for 7 years (I’ve reviewed many Foghorn releases here on Fiddlefreak) and no other existing string band kicks oldtime ass like The Horn. Foghorn Stringband’s new album combines the best qualities of ancient, lonesome oldtime music and the blindingly bright bounce of modern bluegrass. Go toward the light if you want to–but I’ll be cranking up the volume on Devil in the Seat.

LISTEN: Stillhouse

LISTEN: What Will We Do?





My Apology Letter

What I Learned About Email Lists

Hello Fiddlefreak fans,

Recently I sent an email about my fan fundraising campaign to a new list I created using addresses I scraped from the lists of the bands I play in: Molly’s Revenge, Story Road, Little Black Train, plus addresses of our customers on our online bandcamp store and subscribers to my music blog Fiddlefreak. I was surprised and embarassed to receive the following email from MailChimp with this scary subject line:

MailChimp Compliance High Abuse Rate Suspension

A recent campaign, “Tradition Kickstarter #1,” generated spam complaints at a rate that exceeded allowable industry thresholds … Noting that an above-threshold rate of spam complaints was returned for the campaign, we do have to ask that the full Stuart Mason Mailing List be removed from the account at this time.

If you wish to provide subscribers with information on another brand or project that you offer, we recommend sending a campaign using the branding that subscribers opted in under that explains the new project, and provides the opportunity to sign up to hear about this new brand separately. Doing so helps to keep customers informed and minimize spam complaints.

Let me be clear: I am big fan of MailChimp and I feel they offer a valuable service at reasonable rates. I appreciate their timely and frank explanation of what happened. I just need to build my new email list one person at a time, and invite each person to opt in.

And so–that’s what this here letter is: a chance for you to opt in to my new Stuart Mason list. I promise to never again promote my own projects on any other list–other than reminding you about my new list, rarely. Please sign up HERE.

I apologize for any inconvenience this email mixup may have caused. Thanks for your support!

Sincerely, Uncle Stu