Archive for Hearth Publicity category
The Devil and the Diamond
Matuto’s music is all about the dance. On stage, the instruments swirl together, bobbing in and out, whirling around the tension at the core of Matuto’s music: the push and pull between the Latin syncopations of Brazilian roots music and the folk traditions of the American South. It’s Bluegrass meets Brazil. It’s an unlikely combination on paper, but not in person. On the dancefloor it just feels right. One listen to the new album from Matuto, The Devil and the Diamond (out today, May 16th, on Motémo Records) and you’ll know just what we mean.
In 2002, South Carolina native Clay Ross moved to New York to pursue a jazz career, but just a few years later found himself in Recife, Brazil, immersed in the region’s folkloric music. Returning to New York, he began looking for like-minded conspirators, finding the perfect match for his love of Brazilian music in renowned accordionist Rob Curto (Forró for All). Born in New York, Curto is widely regarded as forró’s (NE Brazil’s accordion-driven country roots music) foremost ambassador in the States. He spent years living and playing in Brazil, completely absorbing and interpreting the country’s musical traditions. In February of 2009 during Carnaval in Recife, Ross and Curto formed Matuto (a Brazilian slang word meaning ‘Country Boy’). The band draws together some of the best musicians working across NYC’s diverse jazz, roots, and world music scenes, like in-demand fiddler Rob Hecht (Abigail Washburn, Jayme Stone), Brazilian percussionist Zé Mauricio, drummer Richie Barshay, and bassist Skip Ward.
Matuto is the kind of band that could only be born out of New York City’s vibrant culture. Its members hail from many different backgrounds, but operate as a loose groove-based collective drawn to folkloric music and the dance rhythms of the city. The band features violin, guitar, accordion, bass, drums, and various Brazilian percussion instruments: the alfaia (a large, wooden, rope-tuned bass drum), the pandeiro (a Brazilian tambourine), the berimbau (a single-string on a bow struck with a small stick), and the agogô (a pair of small, pitched metal bells).
The music of Matuto draws inspiration both from the Brazilian roots music that band leaders Clay Ross and Rob Curto have spent years passionately studying and from the American roots music that’s surrounded them since birth. On The Devil and the Diamond, you’ll hear Brazil in the rich tones of Rob Curto’s forró accordion playing, in the rural rhythms of maracatu (from the Pernambuco region), in the urban beats of Rio’s samba, and in the swiftly intricate, chorinho inspired melodies . All of this balanced with clear connections to the American roots music landscape, especially with Clay Ross’ burning country guitar lines on “Chicken Teeth,” the haunted gospel vocals of “Drag Me Down,” or the Motown feel of “Sun Song.” Like a true southern preacher, Ross delivers colorfully satirical lyrics reminiscent of David Byrne, Tom Ze, and Caetano Veloso. Together, Matuto weld these many influences into a uniquely danceable soundscape.
Matuto: "Drag Me Down"
Matuto: "Sun Song"
05/16/2013 | comments (0)
Red Tail Ring
You hear it from the first note. The first word. And you know acoustic roots duo Red Tail Ring are going to be different. You hear it in the voices. On their new album, The Heart’s Swift Foot, Laurel Premo’s voice sounds like a swift clear mountain stream. It almost seems as if there’s a current to her voice that keeps pulling steadily at you while you listen. Michael Beauchamp’s voice meshes beautifully with Laurel’s high, shimmering vocals. He sounds more rooted to the earth, more grounded in the grit of the traditional music that’s so inspired them. With the drone of Laurel’s fiddle, the rolling picking of her banjo, and the steady, rock-wall formations of Michael’s guitar, you might think at first that you’re listening to music coming straight out of the Appalachian mountains, but you can tell that this is only one inspiration for this duo. Hailing from Kalamazoo, the heartland of Michigan, Red Tail Ring has rebuilt the Southern old-time influences that first inspired them into finely crafted acoustic roots music. This is Americana in the sense that it flies free over the landscape of American folk music, keeping a constant eye to the rivers and pathways that map these traditions but moving unfettered across the land.
If Red Tail Ring sound like they’re bringing more to the table than usual for old-time inspired musicians, that’s because their backgrounds have brought them to the old music from very different directions. With degrees in Ethnomusicology and English Literature, Michael Beauchamp approaches both the music and the lyricism of Red Tail Ring with an ear for powerful turns-of-phrase and unusual sonic combinations. His first solo album was recorded with indie folk band Breathe Owl Breathe, known for their minimalist vision of roots music. Laurel Premo, born and raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, grew up on traditional music but also studied art and music at the University of Michigan. In 2008, she traveled to Finland to study Finnish trad music at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. Beauchamp and Premo formed Red Tail Ring in 2009, and from looking at their musical output it’s clear that they’re invigorating each other creatively. Their last release was a double album; one album of traditional Appalachian songs, one album of beautiful originals. Together, they use every facet of their voices and instruments - including guitar, fiddle, banjo, octave mandolin, mandolin and jaw harp - to connect with audiences.
Red Tail Ring has built their music on a foundation of American traditions, but like any good architect, they revel in subverting the form in the subtlest ways. “Ohio Turnpike” starts off sounding like an old mountain ballad, but as the chords progress and the song reaches its bridge, you look around and start to feel as if you’re now on a new path, as if that last turning of the trail has taken you to a vista you weren’t expecting to see. Only the best musicians can play with form this carefully and still sound like their music is totally organic. “Dirt Triangle” is about an empty city plot, and sounds for all the world like a modern urban ode inspired by the old back-alley ragtime blues. Title track, “The Heart’s Swift Foot,” echoes elements of the British folk revival, tapping into the still beating heart of the ancient pagan ballads, but as filtered through the Scots-Irish traditions of Appalachia. “A Clearing in the Wild” has a prayerful feel, with both voices rising like a church hymn.
Red Tail Ring balance an enduring regard for the ballads and refrains of times past with a restless desire to create melodies and narratives that resonate with today’s listeners.
Red Tail Ring: Ohio Turnpike
Red Tail Ring: The Heart's Swift Foot
05/13/2013 | comments (0)
In our globalized, digital world, it’s amazing how powerful it can be to turn away from the noise and bustle to focus on one small, beautiful place. This is exactly what Scottish traditional singer Joy Dunlop has done with her new album, Faileasan (Reflections), pronounced “Fah- luh-sun.” She’s turned her head from the larger world to draw forth the raw and vibrantly alive music of her home region of Argyll, Scotland. A vocalist renowned for her ability to breath freshness into even the most traditional material, Joy brings ancient music traditions into the
twenty-first century with elegance and ease.
Raised in a small village in the Western Highlands of Scotland, Joy was steeped in the musical traditions of Argyll since childhood. She has been singing all her life, getting her start performing as a child in ceilidhs, and has risen to great honors as a vocalist, winning Gaelic Singer of the Year in 2010 and 2011 and the Royal National Mod Gold Medal in 2010. But Joy is more than a singer: she is an ambassador of Gaelic culture in the widest sense. She teaches, performs, translates, interprets, writes a newspaper column, and even appears in Gaelic language TV programming. Her signature across all her work is the generosity with which she shares her culture, and the enthusiasm she brings to her interpretations. Her haunting debut album, Dùsgadh (Awakening), won both the Scots New Music Award “Roots Recording of the Year” and the Fatea “Tradition” Award. In Faileasan, Joy ventures further into Scotland’s musical history, synthesizing the best of Gaelic vocal traditions with contemporary playing and poetry into a timeless whole.
Faileasan is not only a beautiful recording but also a carefully curated tour through life in Argyll. A unique production in today’s global music industry, Faileasan is an intensely local affair: all elements of the album were sourced from Argyll itself, from the material to the performers to the design/photography. Some of the songs take their words from contemporary Scottish poetry and their melody from recent compositions, while others are highly traditional, sourced from oral traditions and field recordings. “’S fhad’ an sealladh”, a waulking (clothmaking) song, even features a clip from the archives, sung by Nan MacKinnon in the 1950s. Joy’s translations of the lyrics and interpretive comments are included in her liner notes, keeping the songs accessible across language barriers. But no translation is needed for the emotional power of the songs, which shine through in Joy’s voice. Her arrangements are sparse yet precise, allowing Joy’s poignant, effortless vocals to float over the support of many of Argyll’s finest traditional musicians, including Aidan O’Rourke, Lorne MacDougall (bagpiper on the soundtrack of Disney Pixar’s Brave) and Donald Shaw and Karen Matheson of Capercaillie.
In Faileasan, Joy Dunlop focuses the brilliance of her voice and breadth of her knowledge on the material closest to her heart. The result is an album deeply grounded in the authenticity and traditions of Scotland, yet infused with the energy and creativity of a new generation, all lit up with the passion and power of Joy’s shimmering voice.
Joy Dunlop: Ma phòsas mi idir, cha ghabh mi tè mhòr
Joy Dunlop: 'S daor a cheannaich mi 'phóg
05/06/2013 | comments (0)
We can learn a lot from how Boston fiddler and songwriter Laura Cortese (cor-TAY-zee) approaches her music. On her new album, Into the Dark, she’s turned the humblest sounds and ideas from American roots music into a gloriously ambitious musical project. The album centers on her masterful songwriting, but feels like a huge community affair, bringing in her many friends from the Boston acoustic music scene and abroad. She does everything on a large scale here, flying in friends from afar, arranging wickedly complex, borderline-classical string movements, singing with a power bordering on triumphant, writing compelling original songs, fiddling like a woman possessed, and drawing back into her creative muse to pull forth entrancingly beautiful ballads. Cortese’s not content to rest on her laurels as one of the best young American fiddlers (originally inspired by the Scottish fiddling of Alasdair Fraser), or as a lion of Boston’s creatively-electric roots music scene. She plays every song on this album (and every show) with an enthusiasm as fresh as her inventive fiddle lines and vocal interpretations. Behind the boldness and passion, Into the Dark shows at its root a deep confidence in the power of music played without artifice of any kind.
As one of the most in-demand side players in Boston, Cortese’s far-reaching career has included stints as an instrumentalist with Band of Horses, Pete Seeger, Rose Cousins, Jocie Adams (of the Low Anthem), and Uncle Earl. She recorded a duo album with Jefferson Hamer, founded musical collective The Poison Oaks with roots music icons like Aoife O’Donovan and Sam Amidon, and has released two solo albums under her own name. The past few years have found Cortese in creative overdrive, balancing sideman duties, solo tours, and recording sessions. With Into the Dark, all this energy spirals into one central place, which explains the album’s powerful sense of focus.
Though Into the Dark features carefully curated covers (Laura Veirs’ “Life is Good Blues,” the incredibly catchy “Heel to Toe” from Sean Staples, a beautifully-stripped back version of the stringband classic “Train on the Island”), most of the songs come from Cortese’s pen. There’s a push and pull here between the past and the present: though her songs are foundationally based on American folk music, they also tackle current issues. “Brown Wrinkled Dress” is a vintage Americana story set to song, evoking subtle and beautiful images (a steamed up window, a gold watch and chain) to tell the oldest tale: a man’s betrayal of his wife. But the opening track, “For Catherine,” though it too seems to be based on tradition, speaks to the chilling and brutal rape in 2009 of a young woman in Richmond, California (close to Cortese’s hometown of San Francisco). “Village Green” states the album’s mission and speaks to Cortese’s greater purpose as an artist. “And in the dark I would sing/Sing a song whispered low/Singing for the people in the shadows. I would not wish for petticoats or gloves of crocheted lace/But for a story worth being told…”
Laura Cortese: "Village Green"
Laura Cortese: "Heel to Toe"
05/02/2013 | comments (0)
The spirit of the West is alive and well in the music of Los Angeles-based roots music collective The Dustbowl Revival. This rambling, rolling spirit is the same spark that lit a fire under the past two centuries of Westward migration in America. It comes from a need for wide-open vistas, rollicking street parties, laidback lifestyles, and communities that you build yourself. For the folks in The Dustbowl Revival, West Coast living suits them just fine. Their high-spirited blend of old school bluegrass, gospel, jug-band, swamp blues, piercing brass blasts, and the hot swing of the 1930’s has made them one of the hottest roots music bands in LA and garnered them praise from the likes of tastemaker radio station KCRW, the Los Angeles Times, and alt-paper the LA Weekly! That’s what happens when you owe your allegiance to old-school inspirations like Louis Armstrong’s Hot Sevens, Fats Waller’s barrelhouse vibe, Bessie Smith’s ass-kicking backroom blues, and New Orleans brass bands. Growing steadily from a small string band playing up and down the west coast (hundreds of shows in the last two years), The Dustbowl Revival has blossomed into a traveling collective featuring instrumentation that includes fiddle, mandolin, trombone, clarinet, trumpet, banjo, accordion, tuba, pedal steel, drums, guitars, a bass made from a canoe oar, harmonica and plenty of washboard and kazoo for good luck. This ain’t no fake-mustached hipster revivalism here, The Dustbowl Revival are the real deal, shouting and hollering the nearly derailed, buzz-saw crazed music of the American South that first inspired them.
The Dustbowl Revival’s new album, Carry Me Home, is a full-on assault on the idea that folk music should be in any way restrained or boring.
Check out the official video for "New River Train":
The Dustbowl Revival barrel through old-school songs like the spiritual “Swing Low” or the old stringband number “New River Train,” bringing a kind of raucous energy born from all-night parties and impromptu street parades. The biblical wailer “John the Revelator” gets a gin-soaked barroom reimagining here, with ceiling-scraping clarinet solos, and a creepy chorus line that would have done Son House proud. And the original songs rock just as hard as the traditional songs. “Riverboat Queen” blends the 1920s-influenced blues vocals of Caitlyn Doyle together with a Tom Waits cabaret feel that taps equally into the world of Balkan brass and accordions. “Josephine” veers into doo-wop, but with a decidedly cracked modern approach. “Soldiers Joy” may be an age-old song about the horrors of the Civil War, but lead singer and songwriter Zach Lupetin gives the song new words and a new feel to reflect the reality of modern warfare. It’s part of a pattern that unites The Dustbowl Revival’s many different influences: the old music traditions that inspire them are evoked not for some kind of vintage aesthetic, but because The Dustbowl Revival honestly believe that these old songs and sounds have a lot to say today. You can find the same burning energy that made the old recordings so electric in the Los Angeles city street music of The Dustbowl Revival.
The Dustbowl Revival: Swing Low
The Dustbowl Revival: Josephine
04/24/2013 | comments (0)
There’s something remarkably different about fiddler, singer, and songwriter Lily Henley’s music. On her debut EP, Words like Yours, her songs will sound familiar to fans of American roots music, but are tinged with Old World accents and surprising melismas and ornaments. That’s because she lays claim to more influences than most roots musicians today. A child of the folk revival, she grew up traveling to fiddle and song camps, zig-zagging her way along the path of her own curiosity. She was initially inspired by Celtic music, especially Irish fiddling and the highly-rhythmic Cape Breton fiddle style. While in Boston, where she was attending the New England Conservatory, Henley tapped the local scene to connect with a younger generation of songwriters and instrumentalists, and has continued to work with top-flight young traditionalists like Rushad Eggleston, Brittany & Natalie Haas, and Tashina & Tristan Clarridge. However, it was her move to Tel Aviv, Israel for three years that cemented her current work. There Henley became inspired by the language and rhythms of Sephardic culture, and the flowing and bubbling vocal lines of Ladino music and language seeped into her own songwriting and brought a new repertoire of music as well. Never losing sight of her original interests in Celtic and American roots music, her new sound could be called Old World Americana. This blend of Old World influences, ranging from the Fertile Crescent to the Celtic Isles, with the fiddle and song traditions of the New World, is the key to Lily’s music. It’s the extension of her love of the rhythms of human language and her passion for bringing old traditions into new light.
On Words Like Yours, Lily Henley’s voice sparkles clear and bright, soaring over her complex, winding arrangements and her crack team of acoustic roots players: Dominick Leslie (The Deadly Gentlemen) on mandolin/mandola, Duncan Wickel (John Doyle, The Duhks, Cathie Ryan) on 5-string fiddle, Jordan Tice (Tony Trischka, Brittany Haas) on guitar, and Israeli artist Haggai Cohen-Milo on bass. The album was produced by renowned Israeli jazz composer Omer Avital, an artist who, like Lily, has followed his own roots back to Israel and the Middle East. Making Words Like Yours, Lily was looking, as she says, for “a way of interpreting old influences so that they don’t lose what I love about them, but so that they are authentic to me as a young American songwriter and fiddle player.”
Throughout the album, Lily’s beautiful vocals weave in and out with her stellar backing band and her powerful fiddling, bringing her music to new heights. Her influences intertwine, sometimes all at once, as in the second track “Dark Girl,” a traditional Sephardic song. Her fiddle blazes through riffs born from Celtic and American sources, while her voice sings achingly in Ladino, with Dominick and Jordan’s mandola and guitar picking out Irish bouzouki-inspired counterpoint. Opening track, “Two Birds,” is a great taste of Lily’s songwriting: “Looking down with my eagle’s eye/Everything’s so tiny from the sky… Are you still here with me?” One of the highlights is the final track of the album, a song from the much-loved Israeli singer-songwriter Ehud Banai. It sounds as old as the hills of Jerusalem, but it’s actually a new composition that translates as “Canaanite Blues.” It’s a beautiful song about loss and longing, “Since you left, much here has changed/It’s an electronic world, it’s a little hard to talk/And words like yours/Nobody says anymore.” This song echoes Lily’s music, for even in a digital world the words of the Old World can still have great power.
Lily Henley: Her Song
Lily Henley: Dark Girl