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.
The 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: What Will We Do?
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
This week Fiddlefreak ponders the eternal question: can a music blogger have a favorite band? Or should he? As it happens, I lucked into an advance copy of Outshine the Sun from Foghorn Stringband last weekend at the annual CBA Father’s Day Festival in Grass Valley, California. The miles flew by as we burned up the road, heading southward toward home, past Sacramento, Stockton, Lodi, and Salinas, with the volume cranked up. Outshine was recorded at home, and it sounds like it. That’s not a bug, it’s a feature. Back in the day, oldtime music was always played next to the woodstove, or on the front porch. It’s just that Foghorn always plays it so freaking WELL.
Outshine the Sun
Over the years, Foghorn has evolved into a tight quartet consisting of Caleb Klauder on mandolin, Sammy Lind on fiddle, Nadine Landry on bass, and their newest member Reeb Willms on guitar. (That’s a nickname for Rebecca, and happens to be ‘beer’ spelled backwards.) Other than their lineup, Foghorn hasn’t changed much. They’re still kicking major ass with their repertoire of obscure old-timey fiddle tunes, Cajun dance pieces, and early bluegrass numbers. They’re still the gold standard. Oldtime acoustic Americana music is exploding these days, and Foghorn is leading the charge without even trying to put their mark on it. You hear Foghorn, and you know it’s Foghorn. Face it, people. There’s Foghorn–and there’s everyone else. Enjoy!
LISTEN: Humpback Mule
LISTEN: Homestead On The Farm
Blues Rules Festival, Crissier, Switzerland May 2012. Video courtesy of rapido1
Filed under acoustic, banjo, bluegrass, Cajun, country, female singer, fiddle, male singer, mandolin, old-time, traditional
The newest iteration of Fiddlefreak favorite Foghorn Stringband is the fooktastic Foghorn Trio, with Stephen ”Sammy” Lind on fiddle, banjo, guitar and vocals, Caleb Klauder on mandolin, guitar, fiddle and vocals and Nadine Landry on guitar, bass and vocals. Although these three have recorded together on previous occasions, their first full-length collaboration just hit the streets, titled Sud de la Louisiane. Its unassuming packaging belies what lies inside the simple cardboard envelope: 14 tracks of joy that range from heartland fiddle to Cajun heartbreak to old-school honky-tonk heaven.
Sud de la Louisiane
Much has been said about certain urban revivalists that resurrect and even profit from the music of a culture to which they are outsiders. Well that ain’t Foghorn. I know nothing about the heritage of the Trio, other than the fact that Sammy saws a fiddle tune that could beat the devil, Caleb totally owns every song he sings, and Nadine has some deep French-Canadian family links. And the truth is, I don’t give a flying flock where they come from. In my book, when you play your music well enough to help define the genre, you’re IN. That’s exactly what Foghorn Trio does for traditional American folk music. Sud de la Louisiane will float you down a big muddy river to a red-hot front-porch pickin party that goes on all night.
The CD was recorded in Eunice, Louisiana by Joel Savoy at Studio SavoyFaire. (The picture on the cover shows Joel’s studio, which occupies the former home of his grandfather’s cook shack.) Get this CD, sit back in your rocker and enjoy a satisfying slice of bona fide old-time Americana.
LISTEN: I Want To Be Loved (But Only By You)
LISTEN: Hello Central
“You have to know where the party is to find this music. Welcome to our kitchen. Put away your earplugs for awhile.” –David Greely (liner notes)
Sud du Sud
To fans of Cajun dance music, David Greely is well known as the fiddler from Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, where he was a founding member over 20 years ago. Waltzes and 2-steps are at the core of the Cajun repertoire, and bayou dance halls reverberate with dance tunes until the wee hours when the band comes to town. But after hours, a few stragglers may gather to jam until dawn, and that’s where you might hear the kind of tunes that David has recorded on his new solo record “Sud du Sud.”
The material on Sud du Sud ranges from rare and older polkas, cotillions, and galops to original pieces of his own composition. Without any accordion present, his fiddle really shines on this record, and he is supported by guitar, fiddles, and piano here and there. Fiddlefreak recommended!
LISTEN: Cotillion / Chatagnier
Sammy, Nadine and Caleb Klauder. Photo by Ian Hutchison
Oldtime pickers Foghorn Trio passed through my town about a week ago and kindly left behind a copy of Nadine and Sammy’s new record titled “Granddad’s Favorite.” It’s a lovely collection of oldtime country and Cajun songs and fiddle tunes that seems to have gotten permanently stuck in my CD player.
Stephen “Sammy” Lind is the fiddler at the heart of Foghorn’s wall of sound, and his partner Nadine Landry is a native of Canada’s Yukon Territory with French Quebecois family roots. This is oldtime acoustic country at its finest, with a very pleasant Cajun twist. Buy this record, support pure-core traditional Americana musicians, and you won’t be disappointed. Fiddlefreak recommended!
(PS: Foghorn Trio is now recording a new record in Louisiana. Fiddlefreak sez: the sooner the better)
LISTEN: Parlez-Nous A Boire
LISTEN: Tippy Toeing
Buy Here: CD Baby
It’s time to start planning for Pickathon 2009, which happens this year on July 31—August 2 at Pendarvis Farm just outside Portland, Oregon. Fiddlefreak attended a couple years back and was deeply wowed by its unique combination of down-home folksy vibe and youthful alternative energy. And the music lineup is always the best! Ranging from rootsy indie rock to hard-core oldtime fiddle bands, the best of alternative Americana can be found here.
“Our fans are people who want to hear new stuff,” says Pickathon founder Zale Schoenborn. “They love music, and they don’t think about genre. They don’t want to hear three days of any one thing. They don’t necessarily need to know every single name on the bill. So our guiding principal is to simply curate the best music we can.”
The unique atmosphere at Pendarvis Farm is a big part of the attraction. Six stages—ranging from two main stages to the intimate, 50-capacity Workshop Barn to the quiet, secluded Woods Stage to the rowdy late-night Galaxy Barn—provide multiple opportunities to see many festival acts. Resourceful use of biodiesel and solar power, environmentally friendly custom shade structures, strong recycling and composting programs and multiple alternative transportation options give Pickathon’s sustainability efforts real muscle. Kids can start their days with bright’n’early yoga and move on to nature classes, circus camp, square-dancing, and free-form roaming on 80 acres of prime Oregon farmland and old-growth forest.
I previously wrote about Pickathon here. I would go again if I could, and go see the Freight Hoppers, Jackstraw, the Hackensaw Boys, Hillstomp, Foghorn Stringband, Town Mountain, and the many other kick acts on the bill. Five stars for this festival, from Fiddlefreak! Learn more about Pickathon here.
The Everybodyfields at Pickathon 2007
Filed under acoustic, banjo, bluegrass, Canadian, festival, fiddle, male singer, mandolin, old-time, rock, singer-songwriter, traditional