Thursday May 16, 2013
Over the past couple of years, the American folk music scene has seen its share of songwriting duos. From the Milk Carton Kids to male-female duos like Shovels + Rope and Birds of Chicago, and beyond, folks seem to be moving away from the 10-person band lineups and closer to a more simplified roster (still striving to achieve as much of a lush sound as possible). Whereas the big bands of three-to-five years ago stretched the imaginations of their songwriters, challenging them to add as many instruments as possible without resulting in utter chaos, singer-songwriter duos have been doing their best to keep it to just two voices and two instruments. Their challenge has been how far two people can push the music within those confines.
And so it is that, with great interest, I turn your ears to a new duo coming out of - where else? - the Boston area. Tall Heights consists of guitarist Tim Harrington and cellist Paul Wright, who have known each other since they were children, but have only been playing together as this duo for a couple of years. Learn more about Tall Heights via my recent interview with them, this brief bio and profile, or a video for the song "Man of Stone" from their album of the same name (out this week).
photo courtesy Crash Avenue
Friday May 10, 2013
Ever since her 1997 debut, Patty Griffin has become one of the most inspired and influential songwriters of her generation. You'd be hard-pressed to find an up-and-coming singer-songwriter who hasn't been touched by at least one of her songs along the way, and with good reason. Griffin has a skill for not only making a lovely melody bend around hard-hitting lyrics, but for getting inside her songs and delivering the complexity of emotions that's so difficult to nail.
Her latest album, American Kid is the first release of entirely original songs since Griffin dropped Children Running Through back in 2007. Since then, she's been touring, recording, and performing with a number of other artists in collaboration, and apparently picking up a few tricks of the trade along the way. Learn more about how she cultivated this new collection and whether or not it all works, with my full review of Patty Griffin's American Kid.
image © New West Records
Thursday May 9, 2013
Many fans of American and Canadian folk music will probably know about Ruth Moody through the fact that she is one-third of the much-beloved Canadian folk trio the Wailin' Jennys. Before that, she collaborated with members of the Duhks on another much-loved Canadian roots troupe called Scruj MacDuhk. And, she's also got a fledgling solo career that's well worth paying attention to.
Across one EP and now two full-length solo albums (including the very recently released These Wilder Things on Red House Records), Moody has asserted her impulses as a more contemporary Americana-style singer-songwriter. Where the Wailin' Jennys are a decidedly traditionally-influenced trio, Moody's solo work reaches more toward the realm of modern, lushly arranged folk-pop. Learn more about her solo singer-songwriter career with this review of These Wilder Things (which features contributions from the Wailin Jennys, Mark Knopfler, Jerry Douglas, Aoife O'Donovan, and more), or learn more about Moody in general with this introductory bio and profile.
image: Ruth Moody promo photo
Monday April 29, 2013
Aoife O'Donovan is most likely best-known for being the breathy-voiced frontwoman and singer-songwriter at the helm of progressive bluegrass troupe Crooked Still. She co-founded the group in the summer of 2001 with a peer from the New England Conservatory, a student from MIT and one from the Berklee College of Music. Drawing from those schools' incredible interest in creative innovation, the band started its career almost innately pushing the boundaries of traditional music. But, as time wore on, Crooked Still's members became more and more intwined in other projects, eventually deciding to call a hiatus while they focused on other things.
O'Donovan, for her part, had been collaborating with other songwriters and landing sweet songwriting spots everywhere from an episode of vampire TV show True Blood to a cut on an Alison Krauss album. She dropped a pair of solo EPs, inked a deal with Yep Roc Records, and now has a highly anticipated (at least by me and several other critics) full-length solo album due this June. While we all wait for that to drop, here's a brief introductory bio and profile. Or, visit her website to listen to some tracks from the new album.
image: promo photo