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!

acoustic, banjo, fiddle, old-time, traditional

David Bragger: Big Fancy

David Bragger and Chris Berry

David Bragger and Chris Berry

Big-Fancy-webLast month, LA-based old time fiddler David Bragger released his debut solo CD titled “Big Fancy” on Tiki Parlour Recordings. This record is a wonderful and long-overdue collection of his favorite fiddle tunes, played solo and accompanied by second fiddles, gourd banjo, guitar, pump organ, and even bagpipes. David fiddles with heart and soul and a deep understanding of the old tunes he plays–tunes he collected from oldtime masters such as Edden Hammonds, Mel Durham, and Dennis McGee.

I think I first met David under the big oak tree at the annual Topanga Banjo and Fiddle Contest a few years ago, where by the way, his students always take home honors. Back then, David was traveling back East with his video camera to document the old fiddle styles. Nowadays, top-tier old time players like Bruce Molsky and Dan Gellert come to David’s Old Time Tiki Parlour to make records and DVDs. David has many students all over the world, and he delights in spreading the word about obscure historical fiddlers such as ex-slave Alonzo Janes. The tunes of Janes came to David through the mentorship of Mel Durham, who was a big influence on David’s style and repertoire.

IMG_2821photoshopDavid also plays in a fun jug band called Sausage Grinder, and is a collector of folk art, including the amazing ink he wears on his own skin. Enjoy these clips!




LISTEN: Over The Mountain





acoustic, country, female singer, fiddle, male singer, old-time, traditional

Jesse Milnes & Emily Miller


Photo by David Bragger |

Back in the day when I lived in Upshur County West Virginia, I took every chance I could to hang out with, listen to, and jam with the local fiddlers of that part of the state. Randolph County, the next county to the west, was always a hotbed of traditional mountain music, and its festivals drew me like a moth to the flame. Great old music was easy to find at annual events in Elkins, such as the Forest Festival and the famous Augusta Gathering. Renowned string band Gandydancer was always a welcome sight at such events, featuring an all-star lineup of multi-instrumentalists that included Gerry Milnes. Gerry recently retired after serving twenty five years as Folk Arts Coordinator with the Augusta Heritage Center, where he produced numerous audio recordings and films documenting the music and folklife of West Virginia.


Photo by Seth Joel

album2In partnership with Emily Miller, Gerry’s son Jesse Milnes now carries on the wonderful tradition of West Virginia folk music with the release in July of their duo album titled JESSE MILNES & EMILY MILLER: Deep End Sessions, Vol. 2. This collection consists of lovely old fiddle tunes and ballads, mixed with a few country songs and original compositions. It was recorded in the unlikely environs of Los Angeles, California at Deep End Ranch, with Jesse and Emily playing and singing around one mic. The result is a pure-drop distillation of West Virginia’s true mountain heart, showcasing Jesse’s traditional fiddling style, Emily’s country and oldtime singing, and their love of close harmony. This record is most certainly one of the top old-time releases of 2015. Recommended!

LISTEN: Fine Times at Our House


LISTEN: Hiram Herbert


VIDEO: Sally Anne Johnson