Reviews and Blog Posts: Folk

I Aubade

by Elvis Perkins

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Elvis Perkins’ latest album, I Aubade, is a Carrollian descent down the rabbit hole*.  Conjuring the waggish, yet contemplative lyrical (and at times, musical) spirit of early 1970s Syd Barrett, Perkins guides the listener through kaleidoscopic reveries of quixotic free association (“I could have caught the dawn / with the...

Bitter drink, bitter moon

by Murder By Death (Musical group)

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A spectacular album all around, and though it was not the first album I heard from my now favorite band it certainly stands out as one of my favorite. Adam Turla has an amazingly unique deep voice that differs from any other voice I can think of. Utilizing the cello and...

If You Leave

by Daughter

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On their debut album, If You Leave, London indie/folk rock trio Daughter crafts spacious ambient textures saturated in reverb, swelling tremolos, and glacial sheets of oscillating sound juxtaposed with pulsing percussion arrangements and lyrical subject focusing largely on isolation, loss, abandonment, and unrequited love.  The opening proclamation on “Winter” by...

Free Bi-Weekly Music Download - Buffalo Gals by Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger - Buffalo Gals

Every two weeks, free tracks from Smithsonian Folkways Recordings and Classical Music Library are offered.
This week (the week of January 28, 2014) the Smithsonian Folkways Recording is Pete Seeger's Buffalo Gals in honor of Pete Seeger's passing at age 94 on Monday, January 27, 2014.

Pete Seeger's life, music, and legacy encapsulate nearly a century of American history and culture. He has immersed himself in folk music and used it, like Johnny Appleseed, to "plant the seeds of a better tomorrow in the homes across our land." The songs in this collection of 139 American Favorite Ballads narrate tales of ordinary people and their extraordinary deeds, and show Pete at the crossroads of the past and the future putting his own stamp on America's folk song heritage while bequeathing it to generations to come.

The ash & clay

by Milk Carton Kids (Musical group)

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Good picking, singing, and songwriting by this Californian folk duo who have toured with Josh Ritter, Old Crow Medicine Show, and Over the Rhine.  Can't think of a better album on a cool, fall day.

Bright sunny South

by Sam Amidon

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I never expected to like a Tim McGraw song, but Amidon's cover of My Old Friend is fantastic.  He also takes on Mariah Carey's Shake It Off as well as other old traditionals and his own songs.  Amidon has an incredible ear for crafting quiet, unassuming songs that stop you in your tracks when...

Underappreciated Songwriters (Spotify playlist included!)

Damien Jurado

On the unique occasions that I listen to contemporary pop radio (usually caused by CPR pledge drives), I'm always struck by the superficiality of the songwriting. The songs aren't always of bad quality, but their priorities lie more with fun, sugary sounds. That's okay, but much like a nutritional diet, balance is key. In case your portion of substantial songwriting is meager, here are ten underappreciated artists just waiting to be discovered at the library.

I go through phases of saturating myself in the canon of older songwriters; Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Nick Drake, Gillian Welch, and Patty Griffin are among my favorites. But I've been fortunate enough to come across great young songwriters of different genres whose words stick with me long after I've turned off the stereo.

To be still

by Alela Diane

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I have a crush on Alela Diane. Hailing from Portland, OR, she’s a stunning storyteller, her songs painting gentle landscapes of love and nature. Her voice is lilting, both slick and scuffed, and is layered amidst steel strings and mandolin melodies. It's difficult to label her musical style, but she's...

Woody Guthrie : An Okie Centennial

Woody Guthrie

July 14th, 2012 marked what would've been Woody Guthrie's 100th birthday. Although he passed away in 1967, his legacy is as vibrant as ever.

Like many of my generation, I was introduced to Woody in my elementary school music class. Along with songs such as "And the Green Grass Grew All Around" and "Rainbow Connection," "This Land Is Your Land" was a staple of our teacher's singing selections. Of course we sang the sanitized version which excluded the political verses. I don't remember knowing who actually wrote it but it just went into the mental category of "Songs Everyone Knows."

Regina Spektor Alert

Cover of Regina Spektor's 2012 album, What We Saw from the Cheap Seats

Maybe it's her background as a child immigrant from the former Soviet Union to America in the late '80s that informs her fascinating lyrics, but as for Regina Spektor's interesting musical compositions and gemlike vocals, it's got to be raw talent. Get on the library's hold list sooner rather than later for her new album hot off the press, What We Saw from the Cheap Seats.

After recently coming across Spektor's performances of the songs "Small Town Moon" and "Ballad of a Politician" from this album, aired on the Colbert Report, I immediately regretted having previously put off listening to her music.

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