Tag Archives: folk music

New Playlist: Songs of Spring

Boston Spring Blooms

I guess it’s almost summer at this point, but Boston is juuust showing signs of spring. Why not celebrate spring with some upbeat music? You’ll recognize some songs on this playlist from previous posts (Catey Shaw and Dan Croll, anyone?) but it also includes Patrick Watson’s soft “Words in the Fire” and Wild Child’s quirky, ukelele chords in “Someone Else.” I’m especially a fan of the collaboration between Alex Winston and the Postelles in the surf-y duet “Pretend It’s Love” and new (and dare I say…jazzy?) Iron & Wine.

Now, go! Get outside! Grab some ice cream and a cute puppy (preferably one you already own) and go picnic!

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Catey Shaw: Family

Towards the end of the semester, my final assignments and iTunes library grow at a similar rate (trolling the web for music is my version of a study break, ok?) And while I’m completely overwhelmed with work, it is necessary for me to A) share this awesome 8tracks playlist “Snap the Whip” (shout out to daniellah for making it) and B) introduce you to Catey Shaw’s “Family,” which is featured on aforementioned playlist.

Catey Shaw is a 21-year-old New Yorker, singing about young adult problems in the big city (check out a sassy pop-rap “Run, Run, Run”.) Sure, “Family” is a concoction of handclaps, ukeleles and “la-de-da’s” that fits my bill for a great, happy song, but Shaw’s voice has some old-school qualities that separates her from other “girl with ukelele” songwriters. Apparently she idolizes Billie Holiday and Bob Marley, and both influences are recognizable on her EP Clouds. Fun fact: she’s also a painter and designed her album art. Shaw played at CMJ last year, so let’s hope for even more music and visibility in 2013.

Back to studying. Which ultimately means more Second Fiddle finds to come…

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Newport Folk Festival: Tickets Secured

Newport Folk Festival logo

Pardon excessive use of caps lock but: OH MY GOSH GUYS I AM GOING TO NEWPORT FOLK FESTIVAL. This is a dream come true. I’ve actually had tickets since mid-February but wanted to share when they announced the lineup. When Newport broke the news that Beck is headlining Sunday, July 28, I just couldn’t hold in my excitement anymore.

I’ll be there for Saturday and Sunday, which is kind-of a bummer because Phosphorescent, Hey Marseilles and The Last Bison play on Friday, but Saturday and Sunday are packed with great performers and, overall, I couldn’t be happier.

Newport Folk Festival 2013 Lineup

Who am I excited to see? Well aside from the obvious Avett Brothers, Beck and Andrew Bird (honestly, I wouldn’t shell out money to see their solo concerts, but the thought of them all together makes me giddy), I’m really looking forward to Lord Huron, Michael Kiwanuka and Jim James (Yim Yames).

Shovels & Rope and The Lone Bellow are more visible on my radar; all the songs on Shovels’ album O’ Be Joyful are rootsy and raspy, while The Lone Bellow’s are fuller and more produced (they actually share a producer with the Civil Wars…fingers crossed they won’t also share the same fate).

I’m also antsy to see the Lumineers, Felice Brothers and (my love) Langhorne Slim for the second (and third) times this year. It will be nice to see the Lumineers and Felice Brothers on different stages (Felice opened for Mumford & Sons at the TD Garden. They were definitely out of their element in such a big space and I predict this festival will suit them better.)

My friend Andrew and I are pulling our favorite Newport songs on the playlist below. Keep checking back, as we’ll update it in the next few months.

Until then, here’s Beck covering Woody Guthrie.

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PigPen Theatre Co and the Parkington Sisters: Folk Forces

PigPen Theatre Co

Allow me to obsess over PigPen Theatre Co again. The stars aligned in Boston on Wednesday night and this swoon-worthy seven-piece left their NYC hometown for a trip to New England. The combination of sweet harmonies, small venue (at Berklee, no less, where performing is encouraged) and earnest crowd made for an incredibly warm concert. Their journey-seeking songs took on new meaning in this unfamiliar territory. It was interesting to locate the plot of this folk musical, seamlessly showcased in concert form. The men of PigPen carry equal weight, which emphasizes the importance and vibrance of their collective talent.

Lest us not forget their powerful opener, Massachusetts’ own Parkington Sisters. This sister quartet have incredible vocal and instrumental strength; four bandmates rival PigPen’s seven.  The evening ended in a “sing-off” between the two groups. This potential battle of the sexes turned into the most beautiful collaboration of The Band’s “The Weight.” Combine two groups who understand the importance of harmony and BAM- literal music to your ears. Thanks for making the trip up north, PigPen. You’re welcome here anytime.

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The Barr Brothers: Artist to Watch

The Barr Brothers are finally flying above the radar. That, and I’m admittedly a year behind with this discovery. Thanks to the Line of Best Fit, I stumbled across this Montreal-based band after reading a lovely “Folk Innovators” review. Their self-titled album dropped in 2011, but siblings Andrew and Brad Barr, accompanied by harpist Sarah Page and multi-instrumentalist Andres Vial, have made consistent appearances at various Canadian jazz and folk festivals and toured with the Low Anthem and Alexi Murdoch. In a time where indie folk outfits dominate the airwaves, the Barr Brothers take a similar sound and soar above the limits of folk music.

Their music is extremely well-crafted, from dreamy, endearing singles like “Beggar in the Morning” and “Cloud” to a bluesy, stomping “Lord, I Just Can’t Keep from Crying.” My favorite is the dark “Deacon’s Son,” featuring Psapp-inspired percussion, steel drums, and an aggressive harp solo (never thought I’d ever see that combo!)  It seems disjointed, but in fact, the Barr Brothers prove their versatility and innovation around a rich Americana sound.

In the lively “Give the Devil Back his Heart,” the Barr Brothers summon “every moth barreling towards a flame.” After a year of cultivation, the Barr Brothers can count on a trusted fanbase barreling towards new music.

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Matthew E. White: Baroque-soul-gospel-psychedelic-jazz-awesome?

matt

Matthew E. White ‘s album Big Inner is baffling the music industry. White’s name is that of an aspiring teen trying to distinguish himself from the other crooning Jason Mrazes. His long hair/Jesus-beard combination channels Alexander Ebert of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. And his music is, well, tough to describe. So difficult, that music publications are combining words like ‘baroque,’ ‘soul,’ ‘Americana,’ and even ‘reggae’ to try and grasp his unique sound. They’re also comparing White to well-known names like Randy Newman and Sharon Von Etten, so it looks like his album Big Inner measures up to some big players. I first scoffed at the absurdities of some of these descriptions, but finally understood after watching his debut video “Will You Love Me” (below). White has crafted an amazing, and equally confusing, gospel/folk/jazz/soul/etc music formula. And it’s working.

Big Inner is an album of many firsts; it marks White’s debut release and the start of  his record label Spacebomb. The label gives artists the opportunity to record in the relaxed setting of a Virginian attic, along with White and his band members…and their house choir. In addition to these endeavors, White also runs an “avante-garde jazz band,” Fight the Big Bull.

Matthew E. White’s soothing bass voice supports a (for lack of a better word) big sound. Big Inner opens on swaying, horn-infused “One of These Days,” and is followed by a cosmic, grand “Big Love.” A mix of Beck-inspired instrumentals, with Justin Vernon vocals…and that awesome gospel choir (again- always goes back to the gospel choir). My repeat-track is “Steady Pace,” for it incorporates a Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” funk with sweet bells and strings. Although people aren’t sure where to categorize White on the genre book(music)shelf, that’s probably for the better. Why place a book back on the shelf when you can’t stop rereading certain passages? His sound is too intriguing to put away.

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With a Little Help from my Friends: Fall Folk Playlist

Nothing says fall like folk music and friendship. Too Hallmark? Too bad- you’re stuck with me. Maybe I really like alliteration, but maybe I also really like my friends and their rad taste in music.

To me, fall conjures warm, twangy, and acoustic melodies. Well let’s be real, this blog wouldn’t exist if I felt differently. But while summer is meant for punchy rock chords like the band Free Energy, spring is poppy and jingly like Allo Darlin’, and winter is slow jazz stylings of Peggy Lee, fall is soothing, sometimes biting, and overall pretty contemplative. What are some of your favorite seasonal songs?

Before Thanksgiving I polled a few friends to find out their impressions of fall music. Turns out we all came to the same conclusion: folk and fall are the perfect pair. From The Lumineers to I Am Oak, here’s what they had to say. (Shout-outs to Kelly, Swanson, Bethany, Alys, and Colin for being my muses and for You Won’t for the background music.)

Folk Selections for Fall from Alison on Vimeo.

Eager to hear these songs for yourself? Below is a Spotify playlist to meet your autumnal needs. Quick! Go listen before it’s December.

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