Today marks the street release of Into the Dark, the new album from Laura Cortese. Laura has been kicking around the folk world for a number of years, producing a body of very good fiddle-centric material in the vein of Sara Watkins and Lissa Shneckenberger. But with this release she rises into that rarified atmosphere inhabited by the likes of Chris Thile and Crooked Still. She makes herself a castle in the clouds built of classical strings, soulful songsmithing, and a delicate vulnerability that never feels fragile. Modern folk never sounded so good.
Recently I was in Saint Louis and stumbled upon a lively blues trio making music at a corner hangout called the Blues City Deli, in the Soulard District. We showed up for lunch at noonish on a Friday, and found a line out the door into the street. Hello?! Red beans and rice for $3.50, and traditional southern blues for free? A match made in heaven. Inside, we found a festive atmosphere that should have been no surprise from a town that boasts the second largest Mardi Gras in the country. People tried to make room for us as if they were a bunch of friends at a house party, even though there was barely enough room to turn around. And when the band got going, we found out why.
The Coming Tide
Luke Winslow-King and his bandmates Esther Rose (vocals/washboard) and Cassidy Holden (bass fiddle) play a compelling blend of original and traditional songs that live right at the intersection of Delta blues, New Orleans swing, and indie folk. His first release on Bloodshot Records, the new album The Coming Tide will hit the streets on April 23. With his vintage slide guitar and silky vocals, King draws us into a humid back street somewhere in the French Quarter, where laughter echoes down the alley and horns beckon from all-night jazz clubs.
Originally from Cadillac, Michigan, Luke Winslow-King came to Louisiana at the age of age 19. After only a few days in New Orleans, the story goes, his car was stolen while filled with valuable instruments. It was during the two or three weeks that he stuck around trying to recover his vehicle and instruments that he fell in love with the city that he now calls home. He began paying his dues busking on Royal Street in the day and working regularly at the clubs on Frenchman Street at night. Over ten years, he soaked up gospel, jazz, and blues standards from the locals and began writing his own material in that same vintage vein. Enjoy!
Bruce Molsky is an undisputed master of what has become known as old-time music. That is, traditional American songs and tunes from the pre-radio era. He has a great new record out called If It Ain’t Here When I Get Back. On it, he shreds the Appalachian dance tunes on fiddle or banjo, takes us down south with his rural blues and out west with his cowboy songs, and over the Atlantic to Ireland. But when he sings a ballad and accompanies himself on fiddle, Bruce Molsky really shines. Here are two of those lovely ballads. Enjoy!
There’s a sweet spot right at the intersection of traditional country, bluegrass, and old time music. There you’ll find your grandpappy rocking on his front porch, sipping sweet tea, telling stories. You’ll find your mawmaw at the back door, ringing the dinner bell to call you up from the lower pasture. You’ll find your high school sweetheart in her yellow summer dress, making eyes at you from across the room at the church social potluck. And you’ll find Reeb Willms and Caleb Klauder standing in the corner, playing the hell out of guitar and mandolin, singing their hearts out in perfect harmony.
Oh Do You Remember
Oh Do You Remember, the new release from one half of Foghorn Stringband, is an engaging collection of long-lost songs the two learned from friends and their favorite artists. Caleb plays lead guitar and mandolin, while Reeb lays down a foundation on guitar, as their intertwining voices take the listener on a sentimental journey through the early days of country music. Did I mention that the vintage style CD packaging (design by Peggy Pfenninger, printed by Stumptown Printers) is lovely? It is. Recommended!
Moonsville Collective. Photo credit: Anne Gustafson
California may not be the first place you’d think to look for new songs by emerging bands playing good old-school mountain music. But there’s a deep blue sea of acoustic revolution happening in this country, erupting like flying fish that explode from the spray before a racing sailboat. Two of the best right now are new releases from singer-songwriter Amber Cross and the ebullient Moonsville Collective.
Maine native Amber Cross has just released her first collection of songs, titled You Can Come In. With a bluegrass edge and a tender heart, “the little lady with the big voice” sings of love, loneliness and the land in the tradition of Hazel Dickens, Rose Maddox, and the Carter Family. She is supported by the cream of the crop of pickers and sawyers from the oldtime music community based around San Luis Obispo (a scene which has gained a reputation throughout the state for its vitality). The result is a rich harvest of Amber’s touching songs, and a bright reflection of the many folks who play and support oldtime music in the Central Coast area.
LISTEN: City Lights
Although they are based further south, Moonsville Collective is another group with roots in the SLO area. Band members Daniel Richardson and son Seth have family in Los Osos and apparently the Moonsville group grew out of the oldtime jams that are held regularly at the home of Jonas Richardson. One birthday party for Jonas lasted over 12 hours and during that time, the music never stopped. Moonsville Collective are addicted to the magic that arises from the heart of an oldtime jam session, and their live performances show it. Strong links to the past (the band name came from a cemetery in Indiana where Seth’s great-aunt lies at rest) separate Moonsville from the multitude of acoustic groups that currently emulate the popular Old Crow sound. Their unique energy won them the Best Live Band of 2012 at the OC Weekly Music Awards. Here’s a taste of their new record Cradle to the Grave. Enjoy!
Fiddlefreak favorites Pharis and Jason Romero have a new record hitting the streets tomorrow, titled Long Gone Out West Blues (previous review here). Once again, the Canadian duo have hit the ball out of the park with their winning combination of harmony-based original and traditional old timey Americana played on a unique blend of custom-built resophonic guitar, banjo and guitar. Pharis plays a 1937 Martin 00-18, while Jason plays a Romero resophonic guitar, Romero banjos, and a 1941 Martin 00-18.
Long Gone Out West Blues
Working at their remote base in Horsefly, BC, the couple produce wonderful handcrafted instruments for which their customers are willing to wait years for delivery. Their work has garnered attention from Fretboard Journal, Utne Reader, Folk Alley, and the Folk DJ charts, as well as a coveted Canadian Folk Music Award for Best New/Emerging Artist. Which makes old Fiddlefreak wonder why in the world they would sing the blues? Maybe it’s the long dark winter months up in Horsefly. Good thing those old timey chestnuts burn all night. Long Gone Out West Blues is the perfect cure for your midwinter blues, wherever you may be. Enjoy!
Irish-American supergroup Solas have always been great. Now they’ve upped the ante again with a new concept album titled Shamrock City, which officially hits the streets on Feb. 5. Band leader and producer Seamus Egan set out to tell the true story of his great-great uncle, Michael Conway, who left County Mayo, Ireland in 1910 and boarded a ship bound for the copper mines and boxing rings of Butte, Montana. Six years later, in a cloud of mystery, he was dead at the hands of local police.
The breadth and depth of this record reward the listener at every turn. From snippets of archival sean nós singing to pounding feet and clawhammer banjo, the material here spans from east to west and from trad to modern. And the guest artist list reads like a who’s who of the folk star galaxy: Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops), Dick Gaughan, Aoife O’Donovan (Crooked Still), Natalie Hass, Dirk Powell, Trevor Hutchinson (Lunasa), and others. Here’s a medley of American tunes and a song written by band members Mick McCauley and Seamus Egan.
Fiddlefreak reviews old time, bluegrass, Celtic, blues, and other music of the people, on a purely subjective basis. MP3 samples are provided for preview purposes only and are not downloadable. Please support folk musicians by buying the music you enjoy. If for any reason you want something taken down, let us know.
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