Archive for April 2012

Little Black Train Hit the Rails!

On their new album, Barn Dance, California roots trio Little Black Train are happy to chug along through the verdant pastures of American roots music. They stop at various way stations to explore songs like hokum number "Old Black Dog", the gospel shouter "Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down", and Western ode "The Bravest Cowboy". Throughout they pick hard and hot, leading off with Kenny Blackwell's crisp, delicious mandolin playing and John Weed's remarkably deft fiddling, with guitarist Stuart Mason laying down rail with his rock-solid accompaniment and driving the train with his vocals. This album's a helluva lot of fun, but what sets it apart is their obvious love of traditional music and their ability to find the long-lost old railway tracks that connect the traditions. Bringing in a funky set of old barndances from Northern Ireland is an especially inspired touch, as it shows a kinship between the melodies of Irish and American music that's all too often overlooked in favor of the songs. Yep, these boys can play and they know their stuff. Slap it on the old Victrola tonight and dance around your living room, this is my kind of music!

Little Black Train: Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down




blog date 04/30/2012  | comments comments (2)

Hearth Music Big News #1: KEXP

We're very excited to announce that Devon Léger of Hearth Music has started writing for famed radio station KEXP! He'll be writing for the KEXP Blog about world and roots music, probably focusing a fair amount on new music coming out of Africa and North America. It's a huge honor for us to be a part of KEXP, a station that has redefined the role of community radio in the US. From their wonderful in studio videos, to their concerts around town and their ground-breaking expansion into a public space in the Seattle Center, KEXP is leader of the pack!

You can check out Devon's first review for KEXP HERE. It's a review of the new album from blog-turned-label Awesome Tapes from Africa. The artist is Ghanaian kologo player Bola. Great music!

Album Review: Bola – Volume 7

Meanwhile, check out this crazy video from Bola's new album:

Bola - Tigantabame from Awesome Tapes From Africa on Vimeo.



blog date 04/16/2012  | comments comments (0)

A Southern Journey through the Blues: Guy Davis' New Album

Though storytelling is one of the most fundamental human activities, it's surprising how rarely you find recordings of storytellers these days. It's such a primal art, and so viscerally engaging, that you'd think there'd be more recordings available, especially in the world of folk and traditional music. Whatever the reason, it's always a joy to discover an album with great storytelling. Veteran blues songwriter Guy Davis delivers on this and more with his new album, The Adventures of Fishy Waters: In Bed with the Blues. It's a loving, often-humorous look at the roots of blues culture in the South that also turns an unflinching eye to the horrific life conditions that birthed the blues. The album is chock-full of stories and blues songs, all delivered effortlessly from an artist who knows and respects the culture. The album comes from Davis' work in the theater and is based on Davis' play of the same name, and the influence of the stage shows throughout. Incorporating sound design to fill out the stories, at times the listener feels like they're in a quiet theater watching the play unfold. It's a neat trick to combine theater, storytelling, African-American folk traditions and country blues into one package. And maybe that's why it's a full 2 CDs in length! But the listener doesn't tire, and I moved into the second disc with just as much enjoyment as the first disc.

The album revolves loosely around the narrative of Fishy Waters' journeys through the South. A traveling hobo/bluesman, Fishy encounters all manner of characters and recounts his many stories as he travels and plays his music. The opening track, "Ramblin' All Over" introduces Fishy's travels in a prototypical country blues style. Original songs that sound like old country blues numbers mix with traditional stories given just enough of a new twist to make them sound fresh. Later tracks delve more deeply into Fishy's character and origins, and just as some of the stories are patterned on old folk tales you might have heard around hobo campfires in the South, other stories seem to come from a more personal level, recounting the many levels of poverty that Fishy encounters, along with powerful characters and friendships. Davis is weaving a lifetime of influences in traditional blues to tell a tale that sounds at first almost stereotypical, but quickly evolves into a fully-fleshed out character. By melding theater, music, and stories, Davis pillages the best of each of these idioms to make a beautiful statement about Southern blues and culture. This is a masterful album that's also a helluva lot of fun to listen to. This is a full immersion experience in the country blues.

Guy Davis: Ramblin' All Over

Guy Davis: Fly Took Stockings (story)


Guy Davis: The Adventures of Fishy Waters: in Bed With the Blues



blog date 04/02/2012  | comments comments (0)