Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Himmerland

They start with Danish folk music and in their words turn it into “new music across styles, cultures and frontiers.” Those words won't come as a surprise to anyone who has seen photos of the band, a quintet with member of different ages, genders, and races, which is refreshing in every way. Three members come from Denmark, one comes from Ghana, and another was born in Poland. They bring to Himmerland their various musical ideas and styles.

Read my full review of The Spider In The Fiddle on +RootsWorld.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Hurray For The Riff Raff

It has been a very long time since a single track hit me like this one has. The song: "The Body Electric." The songwriter: Alynda Lee Segarra, bandleader of +Hurray for the Riff Raff. The subject: a twist on murder ballads like "Banks of the Ohio" and "Tom Dooley." The album: Small Town Heroes.

Read my full review of Small Town Heroes on +RootsWorld.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

James Coberly Smith & LeAnne Town

In early December, James Coberly Smith and LeAnne Town came by the KRBX studio to appear on my radio show, Ramblers' Retreat. Listen to this live performance by James Coberly Smith and LeAnne Town archived on Mixcloud.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Favorites of 2014 (December Update)

Here we are in the last month of 2014, and here are my favorite recordings of the year so far.
  1. Hurray For The Riff Raff: Small Town Heroes
  2. Sam Amidon: Lily-O
  3. Willie Watson: Folk Singer Vol. 1
  4. Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn: Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn
  5. Luke Winslow-King: Everlasting Arms
  6. Anaïs Mitchell: Xoa
  7. Chris Smither: Still On The Levee
  8. Cahalen Morrison & Eli West: I'll Swing My Hammer With Both My Hands
  9. Flaco Jiménez & Max Baca: Legends & Legacies
  10. Boulpik: Konpa Lakay
Small Town Heroes by Hurray For The Riff Raff, an Americana band from New Orleans led by Alynda Lee Segarra, remains my record of the year, and Segarra's song "The Body Electric" is still my song of the year.

New on the list this month are two more musicians from New Orleans, the bluesy Luke Winslow-King and the great songwriter Chris Smither. The rest of my list is a mix of old-time, conjunto, and twoubadou.

You can compare this to the lists I made in July and November.

Here's a playlist with songs from these albums and a few more favorites of 2014.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Goodland Trio

One of the many things I love about Nordic folk music is the way musicians are not afraid to blend traditional hardingfeles, nyckelharpas, and kanteles with "new" instruments. I am thinking in particular about the saxophone, and the way it's been integrated into Nordic folk music, by ensembles like Goodland Trio. Maybe it's the thrill of mixing various reed instruments -- accordions and harmonicas and clarinets -- in a confined musical space. Or maybe it's that saxophones are shiny.

Read my full review of Skogen I Staden on +RootsWorld.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Aaron Mark Brown

Last month during our fall Radiothon, Aaron Mark Brown came by the KRBX studio to appear on my radio show, Ramblers' Retreat. Listen to this live performance by Aaron Mark Brown archived on Mixcloud.

Here's a playlist of Aaron Mark Brown and other Idaho musicians who have appeared live on my radio show.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Lee Penn Sky

Last month during our fall Radiothon, Lee Penn Sky came by the KRBX studio to appear on my radio show, Ramblers' Retreat. Listen to the full live performance by Lee Penn Sky archived on Mixcloud. He has a passion for community radio, and it shows.

Here's a playlist of Lee Penn Sky and other Idaho musicians who have appeared live on my radio show.
You might also be interested in this video from the Hermit Festival this past September which includes Lee Penn Sky with The Oliphants.

Idyltime

Last month during our fall Radiothon, Idyltime came by the KRBX studio to appear on my radio show, Ramblers' Retreat. Listen to the full live performance by Idyltime archived on Mixcloud.

Here's a playlist of Idyltime and other Idaho musicians who have appeared live on my radio show.

Tracy Morrison

In September, Tracy Morrison came by the KRBX studio to appear on my radio show, Ramblers' Retreat. Listen to the full live performance by Tracy Morrison archived on Mixcloud.

Here's a playlist of Tracy Morrison and other Idaho musicians who have appeared live on my radio show.

fRoots Critics Poll 2014

Every year fRoots magazine polls writers, DJs, festival organizers, and others who listen to a lot of new music. These critics are asked to vote for their favorite music in the category of “anything from anywhere with roots in a tradition.” I was invited again this year to be one of those critics. Here's how I voted:

New Album of 2014
  • SAM AMIDON / Lily-o / (Nonesuch)
  • BILLIE JOE & NORAH / Foreverly / (Reprise)
  • BÉLA FLECK & ABIGAIL WASHBURN / Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn / (Rounder)
  • HURRAY FOR THE RIFF RAFF / Small Town Heroes / (ATO)
  • ANAÏS MITCHELL / Xoa / (Wilderland)
  • WILLIE WATSON / Folk Singer Vol.1 / (Acony)

Reissue / Historic / Compilation Album of 2014
  • MICHAEL CHAPMAN / Live At The Folk Cottage 1967 / (Treehouse 44)
  • SMOKY BABE / Way Back In The Country Blues / (Arhoolie)
  • VARIOUS ARTISTS / The Barley Mow / (Topic)
  • VARIOUS ARTISTS / Haiti Direct / (Strut)

Here's a playlist with songs from these albums.


Since the voting began in October, we were allowed to include albums that were first issued as early as November 2013. As always with these kinds of lists, caveats abound.

Nominees - the top 10 new albums and top 6 reissues/compilations - will be announced alphabetically on Tuesday, November 11th. The winners will be announced December 5th.

Update: The winners have been announced. Here are the fRoots Albums of 2014.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Favorites of 2014 (November Update)

We're in the last quarter of 2014, and here are my favorite recordings of the year so far.
  1. Hurray For The Riff Raff: Small Town Heroes
  2. Sam Amidon: Lily-O
  3. Willie Watson: Folk Singer Vol. 1
  4. Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn: Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn
  5. Anaïs Mitchell: Xoa
  6. Cahalen Morrison & Eli West: I'll Swing My Hammer With Both My Hands
  7. Flaco Jiménez & Max Baca: Legends & Legacies
  8. Phønix: Nu
  9. Boulpik: Konpa Lakay
  10. Juaneco Y Su Combo: The Birth Of Jungle Cumbia (2013 release)
Hurray For The Riff Raff, an Americana band from New Orleans led by Alynda Lee Segarra, remains my record of the year, and Segarra's song "The Body Electric" is still my song of the year.

A couple of fairly new banjo-charged records are in heavy rotation right now. American-born, London-based Sam Amidon has captured me with his re-workings of traditional tunes. Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn have put out an impressive double banjo record that expertly merges their distinct individual styles.

The rest of my list is a mix of old-time, conjunto, twoubadou, cumbia, and music I don't know how to label.

You can compare this to the last list I made in July.

Here's a playlist with songs from these albums and a few more favorites of 2014.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Violons Barbares

Welcome to the fascinating world of Violons Barbares. Dandarvaanchig Enkhjargal on morin khuur and +Dimitar Golodov on gadulka are joined by French percussionist Fabien Guyot, with all three singing in various styles. Saulem ai is the ensemble's second record, and it starts off at a gallop. First comes the title track, a traditional song from Kazakhstan which translates to “My Beloved.” It's ostensibly a love song - with hoofbeats.

Read my full review of Saulem ai on +RootsWorld.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Cahalen Morrison & Eli West

I started my weekly +RadioBoise show in May of 2011. The radio station was brand new, and the library was very small, particularly for anything resembling folk or roots music. As I was casting about for music to play, I found The Holy Coming Of The Storm, my introduction to +Cahalen Morrison and Eli West, and I played their "Lost Lovin' Gal" on the very first broadcast. Their 2014 release, I'll Swing My Hammer With Both My Hands is everything I expected from them - excellent musicianship, strong originals and extraordinary covers, all in a beautifully packaged CD designed by West himself.

Read my full review of I'll Swing My Hammer With Both My Hands on +RootsWorld.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Favorites of 2014 (So Far)

We're just over halfway through 2014, and here are my favorite recordings of the year so far.
  1. Hurray For The Riff Raff: Small Town Heroes
  2. Cahalen Morrison & Eli West: I'll Swing My Hammer With Both My Hands
  3. Flaco Jiménez & Max Baca: Legends & Legacies
  4. Willie Watson: Folk Singer Vol. 1
  5. Beverley Martyn: The Phoenix & The Turtle
  6. Boulpik: Konpa Lakay
  7. Phønix: Nu
  8. 9bach: Tincian
  9. Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar: The Call
  10. Yaaba Funk: My Vote Dey Count
Here's a playlist with songs from these albums.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Don Edwards

"This music isn't for arenas," says cowboy singer and music historian Don Edwards. Born in New Jersey, he cites influences like Robert Johnson and Willie Nelson, and broad ranging popular interests like the Carolina Chocolate Drops and Norah Jones. But American cowboy songs are where his heart lies, and he told me all about it when we met at this year's National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada.

Read my interview with Don Edwards on +RootsWorld.

Here are a few more items to browse:

Monday, June 16, 2014

Wylie Gustafson


"We'll be in Seattle, and someone will come up and say, 'I don't like cowboy music, but I like you guys.'" So says +Wylie Gustafson, cowboy singer and rockabilly band leader. I caught up with him at the 30th annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada and got a few choice words from him about his career, the radio and The Wild West.

Read my interview with Wylie Gustafson on +RootsWorld.

Friday, June 13, 2014

National Oldtime Fiddlers' Festival


Earlier this week, the Executive Director of the National Oldtime Fiddlers' Contest & Festival, Sandra Cooper, joined me in the KRBX studio. We played music from some of the National Grand Champions, and talked about the contest past and present. Listen to the full interview which is archived on Mixcloud.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Neil Driscoll


Most of the banjo heard today has a strong rhythmic component, whether played in an old-time clawhammer way or three-fingered bluegrass style. Neil Driscoll approaches the banjo in a different way, treating it more as a melodic instrument, taking a role one might expect a fiddle or maybe a clarinet to take on his new CD.

Read my full review of Take It Easy, But Take It on +RootsWorld.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Nordic Masters


The Nordic Master is a program formed by the folk music academies of Finland, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. One of the recent student projects from that program was an ensemble called Blink. Now two members of Blink have new recordings of their own.

For Ulvsand & Hjetland, +Jullie Hjetland, the Danish/Norwegian vocalist in Blink, teamed up with Sweden's +Jens Ulvsand, a veteran of Trio Mio, Yölariis, and other Scandinavian ensembles. The core of this record has Hjetland singing accompanied by Ulvsand on bouzouki. There is occasional autoharp and ukulele, and some looping too, but these serve to support the bouzouki and vocals which are at the heart of each of these songs.


In contrast, the new record from Blink's Johanna-Adele Jüssi, Kiilid, is a straightforward record with traditional roots, branching in a new acoustic direction rather than into the aether. Jüssi is a fiddler from Estonia, which sits just 50 miles south of Helsinki across the Gulf of Finland, and she makes the Nordic-Baltic leap seem effortless. Half of the tunes on this record are her own compositions or co-writes. The other half are traditional tunes, three from Estonia and two from Denmark.

Read my full reviews of Ulvsand & Hjetland and Kiilid on +RootsWorld.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Cowboys with Banjos

Pipp Gillette performed at the 2014 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, held at the +Western Folklife Center in Elko, Nevada. He played banjo, guitar, and bones.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Hillfolk Noir


Early one Wednesday morning in February, Hillfolk Noir came by the KRBX studio to appear on my radio show, Ramblers' Retreat. Listen to the full Hillfolk Noir live performance which is archived on Mixcloud.

Uncle Tupelo


Uncle Tupelo, a trio based near St. Louis, Missouri, released their first album, No Depression, in 1990. When I stumbled into the "insurgent country" sound of Whiskeytown, Freakwater, and the Drive-By Truckers, my musical world was changed for the better. And now there is a new reissue, the "Legacy Edition," with even more demo material. I absolutely love No Depression, even going so far as to claim it as an essential recording that everyone should hear at least once. But as much as I'd like to, I can't find anything in this edition to embrace.

Read my full review of No Depression - Legacy Edition on +RootsWorld.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Koby Israelite


Blues from Elsewhere has lots of elsewhere, a little bit of blues, a whole lot of klezmer, and some plain old rock and roll. There's accordion along with Nashville-style guitars, twangy jaw harps, soaring clarinets and saxophones, and a fair share of banjos, mandolins, and bouzoukis. Most of these are are played by +koby israelite himself. Instrumentation and styles change throughout the album, and even within individual songs. Labeling this music seems impossible.

Read my full review of Blues from Elsewhere on +RootsWorld.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Krauka


There are the old sounds: old instruments like shawms and lyres; percussion and song that reminds one of Native American drum circles; singing in parallel fifths something akin to Gregorian Chant.... There are the new sounds: electric bass; Irish bouzouki; intricate harmonies. Krauka performs what they call Viking music on their recording Gjörningur.

Read my full review of Gjörningur, on +RootsWorld.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Dreamers Circus


The Danish ensemble +Dreamers Circus presents A Little Symphony. On this recording the trio is joined by a larger cast of artists, including the European Traveling Brass Carnival and the +The Danish String Quartet. The direct connection between the Danish String Quartet and Dreamers' Circus is violinist Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen who plays with both ensembles as well as the +Copenhagen Phil.

Read my full review of A Little Symphony, on +RootsWorld.