acoustic, bouzouki, Celtic, female singer, fiddle, Irish, male singer, old-time, traditional

The Immigrant Band

newcover-4-3-1The Immigrant Band is John Doyle, Rafe Stefanini, Clelia Stefanini, John Herrmann, and Eamon O’Leary. Their self-titled debut album (on Yodel-Ay-Hee Records) hit the streets earlier this year to much well-deserved fanfare in both Irish and oldtime music circles. John Doyle is listed as producer and he recorded, edited, and mixed this record; it’s infused with his humor and complexity. Here is a rare ensemble that successfully combines the refinement of modern Irish folk music with the raw, trancy elixir of Appalachian fiddle tunes. And it’s fun to hear American songs with double-bouzouki backing as it was done in the good old days by Andy Irvine and Donal Lunny (only now it’s John Doyle and Eamon O’Leary).

On the American side of the band, Rafe and Clelia Stefanini bring their genetic syncronicity on fiddles, and John Hermann sings and plays banjo–even a groovy gourd banjo at one point. The material ranges widely from old to new, and the arrangements span a wide spectrum as well, for a pleasant variety of gentle ballads and raging tune sets. Check out the sparkly bouzoukis driving the dance of the double fiddles in a few tracks–something you don’t hear very often. Recommended!

LISTEN: Jenny on the Railroad

LISTEN: My Boy Willie


Youtube Video from Thomas Orndorff






acoustic, banjo, fiddle, male singer, old-time, traditional

Bruce Molsky: Can’t Stay Here This a-Way

Bruce Molsky

Photo courtesy of David Holt’s State of Music.

Living legend Bruce Molsky recently recorded a wonderful collection of his favorite tunes and songs on fiddle, banjo, and guitar at an unlikely location for rural traditional music: the urban landscape of Los Angeles, California. Released as a single package on both CD and DVD on Tiki Parlour Recordings, the album is titled Can’t Stay Here This a-Way. As always, Molsky tears it up on fiddle and banjo and guitar, coaxing emotion from the deepest heart and soul of his axes by playing in open, archaic tunings that suit the dark joy of old time music. The man behind the curtain at Tiki Parlour is fiddler David Bragger (recently reviewed here).

molsky-cover-for-web-4-1“I had the most intense and musically introspective time working with David Bragger’s filming of me at the Tiki Parlour,” said Molsky. “The Old Time Tiki Parlour is on a mission to document old time music in a meaningful and unique way, up close and without filters. It’s a delight to be part of this, along with all these great musicians they have on board!”

The Old-Time Tiki Parlour is an atomic-era destination complete with wooden tikis, strange folk art, weird curios, palm trees and a variety of old-time string instruments. Since 2009, it has served as the concert, workshop, jam, film, internet and instructional epicenter for old-time music around Los Angeles and beyond. The catalog of recordings is small but already impressively loaded with respected tradition bearers from all across America.

Choosing my favorite tracks to share from this album was not unlike choosing your favorite child: you love them all! But Molsky’s ability to accompany himself on fiddle while he sings is unequalled. Here are two such tracks from Can’t Stay Here This a-Way and a short teaser from the DVD. Enjoy!

LISTEN: Old Virginia

LISTEN: Red Rocking Chair


accordion, acoustic, banjo, bouzouki, Celtic, dobro, fiddle, Irish, male singer, traditional, world

Exclusive Song Premiere: Doolin’



The New Album

Natives of Toulouse, France, the six members of Doolin’ (guitar, bodhrán, violin, tin whistle, accordion/vocals, bass) bring a fresh and funky approach to Irish music. July 15 will mark the release date of their self-titled debut for Compass Records in Nashville.  Doolin’ worked with legendary Irish guitarist John Doyle in the producer’s chair to record their unique mix of traditional (and newer) Irish tunes and songs flavored with French chanson, American roots music and even some urban hip hop juice. Special guests Jerry Douglas (dobro), John Doyle (guitar, bouzouki), Alison Brown (banjo), and Kenny Malone (percussion) brought their ubermagic to a wide range of tracks that include a reworking of the Steve Earle-penned crowd pleaser Galway Girl. Bob Dylan’s Ballad of Hollis Brown, in which Dylan recycled the Ralph Stanley classic Pretty Polly with chilling new words in 1963, is a standout track that for now you can hear ONLY on Fiddlefreak.

Here is your exclusive premiere listen to The Ballad of Hollis Brown from Doolin’. Enjoy!



acoustic, banjo, bouzouki, female singer, mandolin, singer-songwriter

Sarah Jarosz: Undercurrent

Scott Simontacchi Photo

Scott Simontacchi Photo

Old-time American music and contemporary folk are all too often mutually exclusive. A rare and precious jewel is the artist who can stand in both worlds without artifice. Over the last few years, former bluegrass prodigy Sarah Jarosz rose up through the ranks of traditional folk and with her new album, proves that she can fly with the big names in modern folk music. And perhaps show them a thing or two about writing from the heart.



Undercurrent (out 6/17/2016 on the Sugar Hill label) is a deep, velvety and darkly gorgeous record, and the first of her four releases to not include cover songs. She says it is the first record she has made that feels like a complete thought. “In some ways, it feels like my first record, in the sense that it was the first time I could focus all of my energy on it. Everything felt like it was leading to this moment.”

From her first performance at a bluegrass festival at the age of 11 to signing with Sugar Hill Records at 16, to the recent critical success of the mini-supergroup I’m with Her, Sarah Jarosz has become a darling of the folk world. When she sings and picks, you hear a smooth and distinctly American beauty . She plays clawhammer banjo like a champ, but so do others; it’s her mastery of the archtop octave mandolin that sets her apart. (Move over, Tim O’Brien and Eli West! ) The unusual instrument has seen a big surge in popularity along with the rise of Sarah Jarosz.

Sonically, the album contains a wide range of production values, and yet holds together quite well. Most songs carry on in the vein of the gorgeous, big-hall sound established by I’m With Her and her bandmate Aoife O’Donovan. Opening track “Early Morning Light” has a classic Gillian Welch quality that promises to enshrine it as a ubiquitous favorite. The Weepies-esqe song “Green Lights” basks in a lush uber-modern sound, with deep layering and supersize reverb, and so far it’s my favorite. Contrast that with “Everything to Hide,” a Mississippi fingerstyle blues groove recorded simply and close-miked for intimacy. The single now out on Spotify and YouTube is “House of Mercy,” a minor-scale slow dance that belies the pedigree of Tom Petty’s “Stop Dragging My Heart Around.” We love it!



accordion, acoustic, banjo, bouzouki, Celtic, female singer, fiddle, flute, Irish, mandolin, traditional, world

Solas: All These Years

Photos by Eric Legret/Musikan

Photos by Eric Legret/Musikan

solas-nonamesThe brilliant new record from Irish supergroup Solas must have been a pain to produce. Or at least, a pain to round up the troops. Titled All These Years, the album features ALL former band members as well as the current lineup of Seamus Egan, Winifred Horan, Moira Smiley, Mick McAuley, and Eamon McElholm singing, picking and sawing their way through sixteen tracks that range from modern singer-songwriter stuff to grand old session tunes. Current vocalist Moira Smiley brings a refreshing, authentic tone and a taste for modern melody to what they call their 20th Anniversary Project–a nice balance to the other singers who contributed, all of them former members of Solas.

Vocalist Moira Smiley

Vocalist Moira Smiley

Some of my favorite Irish artists participated, including John Williams, John Doyle and Karan Casey from the original band lineup, but I can’t imagine how they all coordinated their busy schedules to make this happen. I’m just glad they did. Here are a set of reels with John Doyle on guitar, Karan Casey singing an old favorite, and a video with Moira Smiley singing lead. Enjoy!



LISTEN: Sixteen Come Next Sunday (feat. Karan Casey)



LISTEN: Unnamed Shetland Reel, Da New Rigged Ship  



accordion, acoustic, bouzouki, Celtic, female singer, flute, Irish, Scottish, traditional, whistle, world

Nuala Kennedy: Behave the Bravest

Nuala Kennedy Band

Nuala Kennedy Band (courtesy of FLi Artists)

NualaKennedy+Behave+the+BravestLast month, Nuala Kennedy released one of the most gorgeous records to cross my desk in years. Her fourth studio album, Behave the Bravest (Under the Arch Records) showcases her angelic voice in both Gaelic and English and as usual, her superlative skills on flute and various whistles. If you follow Nuala at all, you will recognize the names of her supporting musicians, including Eamon O’Leary on guitar and bouzouki, Johnny Connolly (Solas) on button accordion, and Donald Hay on drums and percussion. For a woman who seems to have one foot in Scotland, one in Ireland, and one in the USA, it’s not surprising that this album was recorded over 6 months on three continents, one of which was Australia. What is surprising is the beautifully cohesive sound overall. Nuala’s unflagging sense of balance between raw joy and flawless perfection runs like a pristine river through this collection of ancient songs and modern tunes. Recommended!



LISTEN: Death and the Lady



LISTEN: Le Funambule (The Tightrope Walker)



country, male singer, singer-songwriter

Video Premiere: DARIUSTX V. The Angels of Goliad


The genre I like to call stomp-folk has blown up in recent years. At the same time, folkies and singer-songwriters have slowly come to realize that there’s good money to be made in sync licensing, or selling permission to use your tracks in films and television. Every so often–more and more often, I should say–a new release crosses my inbox bearing the unmistakable imprint of these influences. And sometimes, the music is quite good. Such is the case with the new record from Darius Holbert and his new record titled DARIUSTX V. The Angels of Goliad.

Heaven knows why an alt-country troubador would want to go by such a ponderous moniker. Maybe he was a DJ in a  former life? Whatever–as I said, the music is quite good. Here is the video premiere of In The Shadow of the Death-Bird’s Wing, and two tracks from the new record.

Says Darius: “We shot this video guerrilla-style in the gritty hills of Malibu. It was directed by my good buddy Paul Travers, shot by Seiichi Daimo, and assisted by my assistant Edward Barton. We had a blast making it. I hope you dig it too.”

Sit back, crack a brewskie, and prepare to enjoy!