Album: Long Day in the Milky Way
Artist: Kris Delmhorst
Release Date: August 14, 2020
Label: Big Bean Music
- “Wind’s Gonna Find a Way”
- “Nothing “Bout Nothing”
Thoughts: I first learned of Kris Delmhorst when she was playing gigs in Somerville, MA just after I moved there in the late 90s. Her albums Five Stories and Songs for a Hurricane area among my all-time favorites. But I totally missed it when her most recent album was released last August.
The album features Delmhorst’s typically well-crafted songs. I particularly like the harmonies of Rose Polenzani, Rose Cousins, and Annie Lynch on back-up vocals. But with very few exceptions the songs are all slow tempo, and just not as engaging as I’d expect. The music is pretty though, and the lyrics offer flashes of hope and healing in troubled times.
Artist: Carolina Story
Release Date: September 4, 2020
Label: Black River Americana
- Light of the Moon
- Lay Me Down Easy
Back in the late 1990s/early 2000s I was deeply invested in the contemporary Folk/Folk Rock/Folk Pop/Americana, etc. scenes. Eventually I drifted away, partly because everything started sounding the same and I wanted to hear something different. Hearing Carolina Story reminds me of the excitement of discovering something new during the height of my folkie days.
The duo is the married couple Emily and Ben Roberts of Nashville. They remind me a little bit of Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer with more country twang and less mysticism. But the best thing about Carolina Story is that they interpret traditional folk sounds in a voice that’s completely their own. They are especially good using their voices to provide a wide range of expression and the instrumentation of the duo and their backing band is particularly rich.
Album: Freya Ridings
Artist: Freya Ridings
Release Date: July 19, 2019
Favorite Tracks: “Castles,” “Wishbone,” and “You Mean the World to Me”
Freya Ridings is a young singer/songwriter from England who joins the tradition of women with bold, powerful voices (such as Adele or Florence Welch) singing songs of love and love lost. There’s nothing innovative on this debut album, but if you like this style of pop singing – and I do – it’s worth adding to your playlist.
Album: There is Another World
Artist: Peter Mulvey
Release Date: February 15, 2019
Favorite Tracks: “Who’s Gonna Love You Now?,” “Beckett Was a Bird of Prey,” “To Your Joy,” and “Henry’s Only Daughter”
Peter Mulvey’s album shares the feeling of being alone in a cold, wintry landscape. It’s rooted in nature and the thoughts and feelings that rumble through one’s mind when completely isolated. Mulvey is no stranger to downtempo music but there’s not a single rave-up in this collection of meditative songs. Ireland – both Mulvey’s memories of being there and the msuical styles – informs the songs as well. Mulvey’s fingerpicking guitar is accompanied by fiddle on some tracks. There are experiments too: “Nickel and Dime” is 15-seconds long. “Owl” channels Tom Waits. I’ve listened to it several times so far, and I still can’t really decide what I think of it, but I know I like it.
Album: Better Oblivion Community Center
Artist: Better Oblivion Community Center
Release Date: January 24, 2019
- Didn’t Know What I Was In For
- Dylan Thomas
Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Obserst have made a career of collaborating with other artists, so it’s natural that they ended up working with one another. Their new album is ten tracks of indie folk rock with sweet harmonies. The pair of singer/songwriters invest the lyrics with raw emotion that holds out hope for redemption.
Album: The Wild
Artist: Kris Delmhorst
Release Date: September 22, 2017
Thoughts: I’ve been following Delmhort’s career for years (decades, actually!) and while she’s no stranger to the ballad, her albums usually have a fair share of raucous, upbeat tunes as well. The Wild finds her in a more contemplative mood as every track slow, emphasizing her voice and introspective lyrics, with a touch of a country twang. It may not be up there with my favorite Delmhorst recordings, but it’s still pretty darn good.
This week’s song comes from Seattle singer/songwriter Shelby Earl. The vocals on “Sea of Glass” remind me of the style of singing of Neko Case, although to my ears Shelby Earl has more of an alt-country twang.
I could not find this song on Soundcloud, YouTube, or any other streaming source I could embed in this post, so check it at KEXP’s Song of the Day podcast. Or better yet, purchase the entire album Swift Arrows online at Bandcamp.
What are you listening to these days? What qualifies as your song of the week? Let me know in the comments!
It’s not often that country music cracks into my New England bubble, but Kacey Musgraves “Follow Your Arrow” stands out musically and especially for the upbeat, empowering message in the lyrics.
You can read the lyrics on this YouTube clip because I can’t find an official video for this song.
What music is causing you to stand up and pay attention? Let me know in the comments.