One Evening in May
For fiddler, guitarist, singer, and songwriter Laurie Lewis, the traditions of bluegrass and folk aren’t so much tools in her hands, but burning sources of inspiration that have driven her through a 30+ year career at the forefront of American roots music. A pioneering woman in bluegrass, Laurie has paved the way for many young women today, always guided by her own love of traditional music and the styles of her heroes that came before. Although she’s won a Grammy for her interpretation of Bill Monroe’s music, and is considered a masterful proponent of Ralph Stanley’s singing style, she has crafted the music her own way, by following her personal muse and remaining open to new influences.
In some ways, Laurie Lewis’ new album, One Evening in May, recorded one magical evening in May 2013 at the Freight and Salvage in Lewis’ hometown of Berkeley, CA, feels like a victory lap. She’s playing before a loving audience and it sounds like an utterly effortless evening of music. But the illusion of effortlessness covers up the fact that Laurie Lewis is making some of the most challenging and innovative music of her career right now. The album features eleven newly-penned Lewis originals, most of them written only a few months earlier. You can hear her pushing her sound towards Linda Ronstadt’s polished country singing with “En Voz Baja”, or blending a burning honky-tonk guitar line from Nina Gerber with longtime music partner Tom Rozum’s bluegrass mandolin tremolo on “Ring of Fire”. It takes guts to go after Johnny Cash’s great classic, but Laurie brings a steely edge to the song that’s a hallmark of her ground-breaking work as an inspirational frontwoman in bluegrass. “Trees” unites Lewis’ longtime love of mountain singing traditions with contemporary lyrics about the destruction of the environment and the promise of time to heal the wounds, and “My True Love Loves Me” is a master class in how to write a deceptively simple love song that’s also deeply moving. Laurie’s song, “Barstow,” has been likened to a 400-page novel distilled into five captivating minutes. Rozum contributes heartfelt lead vocals on two songs, and Gerber gives the ensemble a field of flowers to cavort in with her “Winthrop Waltz.” The icing on the cake is the inclusion of young folk harmony trio and protégés The T Sisters and a couple of guest spots by five-time National old-time fiddle champion Tristan Clarridge.
Lewis, Rozum, and Gerber are clearly having a ball playing together, testing each other’s knowledge of the American roots spectrum, and pushing their music to new heights. It takes years of mastery to make this sound so easy.
Laurie Lewis: My True Love Loves Me
Laurie Lewis: Trees
02/18/2014 | comments (0)
The Blushin' Roulettes
Old Mill Sessions
On their new album, Old Mill Sessions, The Blushin’ Roulettes capture the kind of closeness that three years, a steady circulation of dear musical friends, and a family farm can do for a collection of songs. The album was recorded at Old Mill Farm, a homestead in the shadow of the redwoods, near Mendocino, California. The comfort and safety of their domicile allowed these seasoned artists to really take risks and in the end, The Blushin’ Roulettes’ Old Mill Sessions has the guts of a dancehall saloon with the remarkable intimacies of home.
As the album was being made, and as friends came and went, a much larger sound-- of finely crafted vintage twang with all the magic of the woods--began to coalesce around songwriter/guitarist Angie Heimann and recording engineer/dobro player Cas Sochacki. Joining them on the album are parlor pianist Luke Stone, old pub guitarist Buddy Stubbs and the smoky drumming of Jubal Stedman. This album also features poignant performances from Kate Lawler (cello) and Gwyneth Moreland (harmony vocals).
The concept of the The Blushin’ Roulettes has remained simple: commanding songwriting, captivating vocals and a familial collection of talented musicians. Their songs, penned mostly by Angie Heimann, are as descriptive as they are catchy and as sweet as they are sharp. From stripped down and hypnotizing ballads like, “Wind in the Sand” and “Ballad To Biker Joe” to more upbeat two-steppin’ numbers “Won’t Bother Me” and “Calypso Lane”, Old Mill Sessions brings an attitude and atmosphere that could bring pause in even the most crowded of Honky Tonks.
With Old Mill Sessions, The Blushin’ Roulettes bring an element of modern provocateur. Angie sounds like a cowgirl gone Nancy Sinatra; a uniquely haunting voice with a sultry sweetness that makes you stop in your tracks. Recently relocated from the scenic ocean cliffs of Mendocino California to the mountains of Western NC, The Blushin’ Roulettes continue to create finely crafted tunes with all the enchantments of their homestead and the simple comfort of talented and treasured friends. In their new album The Blushin’ Roulettes give a vintage performance with a sharp modern edge.
The Blushin' Roulettes: Calypso Lane
The Blushin' Roulettes: Wind and the Sand
02/12/2014 | comments (0)
IT'S HERE! Our brand-new, digital roots music magazine -- KITHFOLK -- has released Issue #1. Check out our full lineup of interviews, feature articles, album reviews, videos and premieres, and all kinds of interesting lovelies. CLICK on the cover below to try it out.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
-Vieux Farka Touré
-Northwest Roots: Logging Songs in Washington State
-Best of 2013: Sam Amidon
-Best of 2013: Luke Winslow-King
-Best of 2013: Eamonn Coyne & Kris Drever
-Best of 2013: This Is How We Fly
-Stymee's Stack O' Sides
-50 Feet of Song
-Sam Doores of the Deslondes
-Jon Pontrello Video Premiere
-Northwest Roots: Gathering the Stories
CLICK HERE to access this issue.
iPad/iPhone: Please download the Creatavist App! It's a rad app that has lots of other articles too. From there you can search for Kithfolk.
Exclusive interviews with Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Touré, Smithsonian Folkways artist Elizabeth Mitchell, New Orleans roots activists Rising Appalachia and anarcho-folk legends Blackbird Raum. Lots of album reviews and streamable audio. Video premiere from Jon Pontrello of the Moondoggies, and an audio premiere of one of the world's rarest 78rpm recordings. Northwest-based content like stories of logging camps in the 1970s and a poem/story from Northwest Native American culture. Beautiful original graphic design throughout.
WHAT IS KITHFOLK?
KITHFOLK is a new quarterly digital roots music magazine published by Hearth Music. KITHFOLK features long-form interviews, engaging articles, video and audio streaming premieres, album reviews, and columns from guest writers. KITHFOLK is a grassroots, DIY operation intended to bring more coverage on true roots music from throughout the world to our readers.
WHO PUBLISHES KITHFOLK?
Hearth Music publishes KITHFOLK. Though we are a music publicity agency primarily, most of the artists covered in KITHFOLK are artists we are NOT currently working with, unless stated otherwise. KITHFOLK is published quarterly.
HOW CAN I HELP?
If you enjoy KITHFOLK, please tell your friends. Share the issue on Facebook and Twitter, and be sure to let people know. This is a grassroots, DIY operation intended to help fill the gap of missing coverage for true roots music in the United States. We need your help getting the word out and we truly appreciate your support!
HOW DO I GET COVERED BY KITHFOLK? I HAVE A QUESTION FOR KITHFOLK!
Hit us up: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for your support! Enjoy KITHFOLK!
-Your Friends at Hearth Music
02/05/2014 | comments (0)
Cahalen Morrison & Eli West:
I'll Swing My Hammer With Both My Hands
It means something that the word about Americana roots duo Cahalen Morrison & Eli West spread first among musicians. Their debut album was passed around the ranks of some of the best American roots bands, raved about to fans online, and seen as a model to strive for in songwriting and musicianship. In this way, you could think of Cahalen & Eli as musician’s musicians. They’re the artists that other artists run to see at a festival. This is because their music seems effortlessly simple, but is complex enough to engage us far beyond the usual way we listen to roots music. Cahalen Morrison’s songwriting is as much informed by the dark lyricism of Cormac McCarthy as it is by Appalachian stringband songs, and Eli West’s angular, racing arrangements owe as much to the speed and aggression of early jazz as they do to bluegrass greats like Bill Monroe. Together they make music that draws from the well of American tradition, but reshapes these traditions into beautiful new forms.
With their new album, I’ll Swing My Hammer With Both My Hands, Cahalen Morrison & Eli West have perfected their chemistry as a duo, falling into long-form instrumental grooves and threading their vocal harmonies together as tightly as a weaver. Produced by Grammy-winning artist Tim O’Brien, they recorded the album at the Colorado Rockies studio of Aaron Youngberg. Colorado Fiddler Ryan Drickey returned for the album, and renowned Boston fiddler Brittany Haas joined on as well. Erin Youngberg played bass, and Tim O’Brien brought out the mandolin and bouzouki, but the focus here belongs on the musical intimacy shared between Cahalen & Eli. As instrumentalists (Cahalen on banjo, mandolin, bouzouki, and dobro and Eli on guitar and bouzouki), their interplay is revelatory. Their melody and harmony lines duck and weave around each other; an interconnected roots system of music that seems to have no beginning or end. Their vocals intertwine as well, with Eli’s harmonies nudging Cahalen’s melodies into new and unexpected directions. Here they trade the lead more than ever, with Eli moving to the front on songs like “Pocket Full of Dust.” The traditional songs covered on the album are chosen with great care, from old-time singer Alice Gerrard’s slow dirge “Voices of Evening” to country legends The Louvin Brothers’ “Lorene.” As a songwriter, Cahalen has brought a lighter touch to his songs, as can be heard on “James is Out” about an ornery mule, or “Livin’ In America,” a fun yet biting song about American privilege. But his raw, transcendent power as a lyricist is still on display here. Songs like “Fiddlehead Fern” or “Down in the Lonesome Draw” showcase his uncommon ability to use evocative natural imagery to channel human emotions.
Cahalen Morrison & Eli West make music with the hands of master craftsmen wise beyond their years. They make music that’s informed by the roots of American music, whether country, bluegrass, old-time, or blues, but also music that touches deeper than the tradition. They approach music not as a craft that must be labored over, but as an act of creation, an effort to touch the unknown with eyes closed and fingers wrapped around the neck of your instrument and voices raised in beautiful harmony.
Cahalen Morrison & Eli West: "Down the Lonesome Draw"
Cahalen Morrison & Eli West: James is Out
02/01/2014 | comments (0)
ROBERT SARAZIN BLAKE
So much of the American dream lies along an open road. Woody Guthrie lived this, Jack Kerouac and John Steinbeck wrote about this, and Bellingham, WA songwriter Robert Sarazin Blake is searching for it. He’s based out of this small town in the Pacific Northwest, but he’s a far ranging artist known to roam the East Coast as easily as the West Coast, even as far as Ireland. The song is what fuels Robert Sarazin Blake’s travels. The joy of sharing a song, singing it among friends, and hitting a stage to play it before a new audience every night. There’s a joy in the simple craft of songwriting in Blake’s music, and that joy shines through in his new album, Robt Sarazin Blake. Recorded in Brooklyn during a hot summer week, the album presents Blake’s signature beatnik roots songwriting. Over an undercurrent of intricate guitar and bouzouki runs, his lyrics swirl like the smoke in an old Greenwich Village folk coffeehouse, covering themes of war, old women, and the freedom of the lonely night.
Blake is joined on this album by longtime collaborator Jefferson Hamer, as well as Hamer’s bandmate in acclaimed Irish trad band The Murphy Beds, Eamon O’Leary. Hamer and O’Leary bring a Celtic touch to the music, especially with O’Leary’s bouzouki accompaniment. Anaïs Mitchell joins Hamer and Blake as well, bringing her sweet, soft vocals to Blake’s heartfelt ode to his favorite adopted city, “Our Winter in New York” (written in an unheated attic over a greeting card store in Bellingham, WA). Also joining Blake on the album are upright bassist Jacob Silver and percussionist Rob MacMillan of Aoife O’Donovan and Mike & Ruthy’s bands.
There’s an irony to Robt Sarazin Blake, for though Blake draws inspiration from his many musical friends, he also knows that songwriting comes from a very different place. “Great songwriting comes from a lonely mind”, Blake says, an idea taken from a discussion he had with Sarah Lee Guthrie. “To get the core of the matter takes time. It’s why Kerouac retreated to Desolation Peak to be alone with his thoughts. I don’t write on the road, I write when I can get deep into a meditation and wrestle with the notebooks in the freedom of the lonely night.” It’s a night that every songwriter knows well, but ultimately Blake’s new album is a celebration! There's always another song over the next horizon, another sunrise before the next show.
It’s been 12 years since Robert Sarazin Blake was drawn from his Pacific Northwest home to the bustling folk underground of New York, and in that time he’s crossed back and forth by bus, train or thumb, touring along both Coasts and over to Ireland. In that time he’s cut nine albums, and made countless friends along the way. With his new album, he pays it back to his friends, bringing them into the world of his songs to chase away the lonely night. As he sings in the opening song “Dingle to Tralee”, “Friends have carried me along; I carry them with me”.
Robert Sarazin Blake: Dingle To Tralee
Robert Sarazin Blake: Our Winter in New York
photo credit: Nicole Batchelor
01/25/2014 | comments (0)
Art is born from tension. And this tension is something that Seattle folk singer and songwriter Naomi Wachira feels every day as an African living in America. It’s the tension of any artist torn between two worlds, and the only way to overcome this is to create something that overcomes the divide. That’s why Naomi’s songs are so hopeful; they point toward a better future for all of us.
There’s no doubt that there’s a better future in store for Naomi Wachira, especially after coming off such a great breakout year in 2013. Named the Best Folk Singer in Seattle by alt publication Seattle Weekly and featured on their cover, Naomi became the toast of the town, which in turn led to a friendship with the much-loved indie songwriter Damien Jurado, who came onboard to produce this album. Other key collaborators that Naomi brought in, renowned Seattle bassist Evan Flory-Barnes, cellist Natalie Hall (Macklemore), drummer Darren Reynolds (Patrick & The Locomotive), and Latin percussionist Lalo Bello, all brought their own ideas to the accompaniment, guided by Jurado’s desire to keep the music as vibrantly alive as possible. The result is Naomi Wachira’s debut full-length, a portrait of a Kenyan artist at home in the Pacific Northwestern United States.
Naomi Wachira is making music inspired both by the music she discovered in America and the music she grew up with in Kenya, not a Western conception of how African music should sound. That’s why you won’t hear any stereotypical African music on Naomi’s debut. You will hear the lifelong influence of two powerful, groundbreaking female songwriters: Miriam Makeba and Tracy Chapman. Through their socially aware songwriting, both Makeba and Chapman became strong voices for social change. Makeba’s also a personal icon for Naomi, who says, “She was able to maintain her integrity as an African. She didn’t need to change who she was to fit with Western audiences.” Growing up in Kenya as the daughter of a Kijabe pastor, Naomi joined the traveling family band at five years old, which explains the beautiful harmonies on her album, for as she says “In my family everyone sang and everyone knew their part. Harmony was second nature for us.” Larger African concepts also play a part in Naomi’s music, like the Zulu idea of ubuntu. This concept means “I am because we are,” and it’s a community-based worldview that focuses on caring for each other.
This is why the songs on Naomi Wachira’s debut album sound so alive. They’re plucked from her own life, powered by her Northwest musical community, and imbued with her own sense of hopefulness. The Seattle Times has been widely promoting a recent photo of Naomi at Seattle’s naturalization ceremony as she receives her American citizenship with tears streaming down her face. It’s a remarkable moment captured on film, and a reminder of the distances we often travel to find our dreams.
Naomi Wachira: Burn Me
Naomi Wachira: Anywhere