Walking Through Clay
Dirk Powell’s fourth solo record is set for official release on February 4 on Sugar Hill Records. Dirk is a guy who has appeared everywhere you want to be if you’re an aspiring sideman in the realm of traditional acoustic Americana. He has worked on various projects with the likes of Jack White, Loretta Lynn, Tim O’Brien, Joan Baez, John Doyle, Foghorn Stringband, and many others. And by all accounts, Walking Through Clay is the record that Dirk has always wanted to make. It seamlessly combines elements of Appalachian, Cajun, and southern rock with a modern indie sound that never loses its garage-punk edge.
Like myself, he is the progeny of the Appalachian diaspora, his family having moved north of the Ohio River for work, just as mine did. And much like myself, he seems to have found in oldtime music his own personal antidote for Ohio’s dreary, insipid stripmall-and-freeway landscape. (Read Dirk’s essay here.) I moved south of the river as as soon as I possibly could, following the scent of honesty and grit up into the hills. What is it about being one generation removed from the mountain that makes one long to return? And when you do, do you realize why your parents or grandparents left their homes in the first place? Eventually I moved westward to California, and Dirk has taken root in Louisiana, where he is raising his two daughters.
Walking Through Clay achieves a unique American sound that sounds both timeless and southern. On his website, Powell says he made an effort to keep things unified. “I wanted to make sure it didn’t sound like fusion or a concept, like I’m mixing this with that. I wanted it to feel like it’s my world and my brain and my heart and the actual musical world that I live in, where things are not really separate. It always sounds real.”
DIRK POWELL WEBSITE
LISTEN: Some Sweet Day
Here at Fiddlefreak World Headquarters, we come across lots of young new indie singer-songwriters who make brilliant music. Like housecats doing cute stuff on Youtube, they seem to pop up everywhere you turn. Reviewing their music is something we just don’t usually do. But Leah Abramson‘s music cannot be ignored. When I first heard her new release Late Riser, my head snapped around like a teenage boy watching girls at the beach. I think I hurt my neck.
Late Riser is the second release from Leah Abramson of Vancouver (Canada) and she wrote all of the songs. Apparently she has a background in traditional folk music and connections to that world through other folkies like Rayna Gellert and The Be Good Tanyas. On her new record she achieves a rich, shimmery sound by layering multiple harmony vocals with vintage keyboards that include mellotron, harmonium, and accordion. And the fact that two of her songs address historical tragedies of Canadian history, like good traditional folk music should? Well, that’s just icing on the cake. Enjoy.
LISTEN: Red River Valley
Photo by David Whitaker/naturephotohub.com
The capercaillie is a big, beautiful bird that looks like a mix of a turkey, a grouse, and a raven. It requires a habitat of old coniferous forests. In Scotland, the population has declined greatly since the 1960s because of deer fencing, predation and lack of suitable habitat. There are believed to be fewer than 2,000 capercaillie left in the wild and it was even named as the bird most likely to become extinct in the UK by 2015. (ref. Wikipedia)
It might be argued that traditional folk music is endangered as well. But not in Scotland. The band Capercaillie just released in the US their 30th anniversary album titled At the Heart of It All, on Compass Records. From ancient Gaelic waulking songs to the UK pop charts, Capercaillie has carried the torch for Scottish music all over the world since they were in their teens. None can top their exquisite meld of tradition and innovation. The band is Karen Matheson (vocals), Donald Shaw (keys ), Charlie McKerron (fiddle), Manus Lunny (guitar), Ewen Vernal (bass), and Michael McGoldrick (flute/pipes). Album guests include vocalists Julie Fowlis, Kathleen MacInnes, Darren MacLean, Sineag MacIntyre and Kris Drever (Lau), with Irish banjo legend Gerry O’Connor, uilleann piper Jarlath Henderson, fiddler Aidan O’Rourke (also from Lau), percussionist James Mackintosh and jazz saxophonist Tommy Smith. Recommended!
LISTEN: The Jura Wedding Reels
LISTEN: At the Heart of It All
Video courtesy of Peter Simmonds.
Filed under accordion, bagpipes, banjo, bouzouki, Celtic, female singer, fiddle, flute, Scottish, singer-songwriter, traditional, whistle, world
Johnny B.Connolly, Colleen Raney, Sean Earnest. Photo by Steve O’Bryan.
Portland Oregon singer Colleen Raney has a new record hitting the streets tomorrow. Here This is Home features eleven achingly beautiful songs from Ireland and Scotland that explore themes of love, exile, and homecoming. She traveled to Ireland to make her fourth full-length record, and enlisted the skills of Aidan Brennan, Trevor Hutchinson, Johnny B. Connolly, Steve Larkin, Colm O’Caoimh, Dave Hingerty, Aaron Jones, and Hanz Araki.
Here This is Home
With material that culls the best of traditional and contemporary Celtic song, Colleen Raney hits it out of the park on Here This Is Home. Like delicate butterflies, her melodies float as fine as silken thread on a briny ocean breeze. Her perfectly fragile phrasing invokes the homesick heart of the immigrant and the craggy windswept shore of the distant homeland. With this release, all of the trad world will now realize what her many fans on the West Coast already knew: hers is a voice that ranks on par with top singers like Karan Casey (formerly Solas), Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh (Altan), and Cathy Jordan (Dervish). Find a quiet spot, listen, and you will be rewarded.
LISTEN: The Granemore Hare
LISTEN: Craigie Hill
I won’t say that Gillian Welch and David Rawlings spawned a whole new genre when they came out with their lovely and unique brand of languid acoustic Americana… but they’ve had a profound influence. The Hems (not Hem, the band, from Brooklyn) are a new Austin-based duo who successfully channel that same sound on their debut release Those Early Years. And it’s a GOOD thing. Their web presence is minimal so far, but here’s their bio from folkalley.com, and some music samples. Enjoy!
Those Early Years
The Hems are an acoustic duo made up of Austin based musicians, Dusty McClellan and Jamie Zanelotti. Dusty, originally from Houston, moved to Austin in 2010 in hopes of finding some musical inspiration. The same year, Jamie moved from her home state of Maryland with similar aspirations. The two started playing together in a roots rock band but shortly realized their love for the sound of the Stanley Brothers, Carter Family, and other classic country acts. Since then, The Hems have had the honor of playing legendary venues around Texas like the Cactus Cafe and Cheatham Street Warehouse, headlining their own shows and opening for Texas acts like James McMurtry and Carolyn Wonderland. They officially showcased at the 2012 Regional South West Folk Alliance and were New Folk Finalists at the 2012 Kerville Folk Festival.
LISTEN: Dogwood Tree
LISTEN: Delaware Line
Last October, a jovial fellow named Matt Kinman showed up at the Goleta Old Time Fiddlers Convention, which happens annually in the second weekend of October near Santa Barbara, CA. A likeable guy with a southern way of talking and unusual upstrum frail on the banjo, he walked away with top awards in banjo, fiddle, and singing categories. Matt recently teamed up with LA fiddler Ben Guzman of Triple Chicken Foot to launch a wonderful documentary video series called The Back Porch of America. In Episode 1, Matt Kinman visits with Mark Newberry, a fifth generation chair maker on Jennings Creek, Tennessee. The episode premiered on Aug. 6 on The Bluegrass Situation.
“So much of what we’re looking at, is people that make things, do things, and live this old way of life,” Guzman said. “There is storytelling that goes on, music that goes on, food that goes on with it, and all these things are a way of life that may be gone if people don’t carry it on.” The first episode in the series tells the story of the Newberry family, who for five generations has made chairs by hand from the trees grown on their farm in Macon County, Tennessee.
Read the complete profile here.
The Back Porch of America
Väsen Photo ©mcamillo2011
I’ve gushed about Väsen before. Forgive me for doing it again, but this trio of Swedish tallboys keeps getting better and better, if that’s possible. Their new record is called Mindset (NorthSide NSD6097).
Superlatives seem inadeqaute to describe the music of Väsen. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen them live, swaying and sawing and smiling as they play off one another, but they inhabit their own planet. A planet defined by traditional Swedish folk melodies and original compositions. A world where jazz, classical, and progressive elements commingle with northern darkness and playful joy.
The word väsen has several meanings: spirit, essence, noise. Mikail Marin plays 5-string viola, Roger Tallroth plays 12-string guitar, and Olov Johansson plays nykelharpa, a bowed, 16-string instrument related to both the hurdy-gurdy and the fiddle. In 1990, Olov became world champion of both the modern chromatic and older historical nyckelharpas at the first-ever Nyckelharpa World Championships at Österbybruk, Sweden. The trio has been performing and recording together ever since. Enjoy!
LISTEN: Polska For Tom Morrow (MP3)
LISTEN: Maja & Tobbes Brudvals (MP3)