Join us on Episode 630 of Folk Roots Radio for another selection of the latest new releases. This time around, all of the songs we play are by female artists and we feature new music from Anaïs Mitchell, Basia Bulat, Abigail Lapell, Pharis & Jason Romero, Ingrid Henderson, Kathy Kallick, The Swinging Belles, Susan Cattaneo, Eddi Reader, Tami Neilson (with Willie Nelson), Aoife O’Donovan, Allison Russell (with Sa-Roc) and Annabelle Chvostek. Remember, if you like what you hear on Folk Roots Radio… and want to support the artists… don’t just stream their music, BUY their music and then you’ll really make a difference to their income during this difficult time, when live show opportunities are harder to come by. Check out the full playlist below.
We started the episode off with Anaïs Mitchell and “Bright Star” from her new self-titled album, and first solo recording in over a decade. Bright Star is all about Anaïs’ decision to move from Brooklyn to her grandparents’ house in Vermont at the start of the pandemic (while heavily pregnant), rediscovering peace and contentment on the farm where she grew up.
“During the first pandemic summer, I was staying on the family farm where I grew up – in a little house that belonged to my grandparents when they were alive. I could see the stars for the first time in a long time. I wasn’t traveling anywhere, or even doing much of anything, for the first time in a long time. ‘Bright Star’ is about looking back on years of restless pursuit and making peace with the source of that longing: the Muse, the Great Unknown, the One That Got Away — those things that motivate us that we never can touch.”
For her latest album, “The Garden, Volume One”, Montreal based Basia Bulat re-imagined 16 songs from her five studio albums with a string quartet, with arrangements by Owen Pallett, Paul Frith, and Zou Zou Robidoux. Produced with Mark Lawson (Arcade Fire, Beirut), the new recording also features bandmates Andrew Woods and Ben Whiteley on guitar and bass.
“’Of all the songs I’ve written, ‘Fables’ is one of my favourites, because, as a folk singer, I have spent my adult life devoted to singing stories. Storytelling is how we understand who we are and where we come from – fables carry lessons from one generation to the next. But what do we do when part of the fable passed down to us is forgotten or mistaken? When we realize as adults that we may have been carrying on legacies that we didn’t intend or understand? Sometimes the stories we learned in childhood about ourselves and our homes are remnants from a past that cannot answer the questions we have in the present. We can’t change or save anyone with the stories we’ve carried with us, but they remind us to be bold enough to meet one another in the moment we have now with truth and love.”
“’Fables’ is both an ode to childhood and to the more difficult truths of adulthood, so when I came across some lovely old footage my mother filmed during a snow day, I was inspired to sing back to that time and see what might happen if I filmed it. Millefiore Clarkes and I were lucky enough to catch the sunlight and calm the day after a huge blizzard came through on Prince Edward Island. It felt very emotional watching the footage back to back, across years and seasons, recreating what felt like a childhood fable I had forgotten about in a new era of my life.”
Toronto singer-songwriter Abigail Lapell reflects on the passion of past relationships on “Old Flames” from her very well-received third album, “Stolen Time”, which was recorded in Montreal with Howard Bilerman.
Three-time Juno Award and seven-time Canadian Folk Music Award winners Pharis & Jason Romero are getting ready to release their latest album, “Tell ‘Em You Were Gold”, another beautiful slice of old-time country-folk recorded in their barn in Horsefly BC.
“Pale Morning”, the song we play on this episode, came out of a new tuning on a freshly strung banjo, known as ‘Clara’ – one of seven handmade banjos that banjo maker Jason Romero plays on the album. Pharis Romero also plays an instrument made by her husband, a banjo-guitar made out of a gourd.
The instrumental on this episode features a couple of reels from Scottish harpist Ingrid Henderson, “The Dance Of The Storm Petrels & Swallows Of The Sea”. They come from her latest album, “Message In A Bottle”, which developed out of an audiovisual project commissioned by Scotland’s nature agency, Nature Scot, to celebrate the country’s spectacular coastline and marine life, while also examining the environmental impact of human activity.
Kathy Kallick‘s “Put My Little Shoes Away” comes from her latest album “What Are They Doing In Heaven Today” which features nine songs she learned from her folk-singer mother, Dodi Kallick. It’s actually Kathy’s second album of songs handed down by her mother (the follow-up to “My Mothers Voice” from 2001). The new album also includes recently discovered performances of Dodi Kallick on the famed WFMT Chicago radio show “Midnight Special”, taped during the 1960s. Put My Little Shoes Away also features phenomenal guitarist and banjo player Molly Tuttle on clawhammer-style guitar.
Molly Tuttle has released a new album herself, “Crooked Tree”. A bluegrass-themed recording, it was recorded with her live band Golden Highway – upright bassist Viktor Krauss, fiddler Jason Carter, and Jerry Douglas sat in on dobro while also sharing the production duties. The Old Crow Medicine Show, Margo Price, Gillian Welch, and Dan Tyminski were also guests on the album. The song we play on this episode, “She’ll Change”, is a hymn to female strength and independence of spirit.
St John’s Newfoundland’s Swinging Belles are fun live performers – Jan even had the pleasure of helping them out on stage as part of some audience participation puppeteering at Folk Music Ontario several years ago. The Swinging Belles normally play children’s music however their beautiful song for Earth Day, “So Much Beauty”, clearly has cross-over potential.
Acclaimed singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier reflects on love and gratitude on “Fall Apart World”, a song she wrote with Ben Glover. It’s one of the new songs on her forthcoming album “Dark Enough To See The Stars” which lands in June.
“I love the joy in this track, the unapologetic playful, upbeat vibe. I’ve never really done that before in a song. I didn’t know how. It took me a long time to get young! A whole new world has opened up to me. Barefoot under blue skies, honeybees, butterflies. Yeah! Yeah! There ain’t nothing wrong with a straight-up happy song!”
Jill Barber wrote her latest single “My Mother’s Hand”, a celebration of motherhood, in honour of her mother.
“I wrote this song on my Mother’s birthday last year and sent it to her as a voice note. We are very close, but live very far apart and hadn’t seen each other for over a year. I wanted to express my gratitude to her in the best way I know how, through my music. I am a mother myself now – I have two young kids and sometimes I worry that I’m not doing as good a job as she did with me. But I know she set the example I will always strive for – and I wanted to thank her with this song.”
“Borrowed Blue” is an honest look at being both a mother and a daughter from Susan Cattaneo‘s latest album “All Is Quiet”.
She is my daughter
We have the same eyes
She’s quick with a word, quick to feel hurt
Her shadows are all mine…
We say I love you
Then we say I do
Then we spend years saying I’m sorry
More than we have to…
Scottish singer-songwriter Abigail Pryde wrote, “There Isn’t A Book” for her mother while working on her debut album – which is due later this year.
“Growing up I really felt like I could tell my mum anything. I grew up rurally and as an only child, so my mum was really my go-to for everything – whether it be friendships, heartache, life advice, or simple things like how to make a great cup of tea or tie up my hair.”
“When you’re close with someone, it’s easy to forget to tell them how much you appreciate them, so when it came to writing the album, focusing on important people and moments in my life, I thought it was only fitting that I write for my mum. There Isn’t A Book is my tribute to her and I hope it will make others stop and appreciate all that their mum does for them this Mother’s Day.”
Staying in Scotland, Eddi Reader has released “Light Is In The Horizon”, a new collection of unreleased songs from the sessions from her very well-received Vagabond and Cavalier albums.
“I wasn’t sure if I’d ever get to share these songs with the world. I’m so pleased I’ve been able to revisit and release this material. It comes, rather appropriately, as I look back on the last 40 years, and how my love of music and sharing it with others has been a constant driving force.”
“’Light Is In The Horizon Yet’ is my prayer for us all to realize that while we still have warm blood coursing through our veins, we always have light in our horizons.”
Toronto-born New Zealand-based singer-songwriter Tami Neilson reflects on the hard losses we experience in life while dueting with Willie Nelson on “Beyond The Stars”, the first single from her upcoming album “Kingmaker”. Tami wrote the song after the passing of her father in 2015 – Willie Nelson taking her father’s part in the song.
“Having Willie be the voice of my father in this duet is just something beyond my wildest dreams,” Neilson said in a statement. “I cried for three days after it was recorded, listening to it and thinking about how absolutely overwhelmed and proud my Dad, a musician and a huge Willie Nelson fan, would have been.”
“Sister Starling” is the hypnotic opening track from Aoife O’Donovan‘s third solo album “Age of Apathy”, which was produced by Joe Henry.
Allison Russell has just picked up a Juno, as well as Folk Alliance International and Canadian Folk Music Awards for her critically acclaimed “Outside Child” album – one of Our Favourite Albums of 2021. Since releasing the album, she has been putting out some very interesting remixes of some of the songs from the project.
“All Of The Women” was written during Allison’s time working in harm reduction in Vancouver. The song tells the story of Shirley, a woman she met on the street. The song has now been reimagined with the addition of lyrics from female poet and rapper Sa-Roc. In solidarity with women who have disappeared, it’s a powerful indictment of a society that sees some of its most vulnerable members as disposable.
“I had a day job when I lived out West. I was a front-line mental health worker for almost 7 years in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. I worked for two harm reduction initiatives- the PHS – a low threshold housing society, and Insite – the first-ever safe injection site in North America. Most of our residents/participants were dual diagnosis- addiction, and mental health. Many of the women in our community had histories and stories akin to mine. I was constantly afraid for the women working in the sex trade especially as I moved to Vancouver amidst the ongoing Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Crisis – now understood to be on the level of genocide – that was belatedly only semi-addressed by law enforcement.”
“It is more perilous to be a woman in every culture and society. We are seeing the devastating overlap between #blacklivesmatter, #blacktranslivesmatter and #mmiwg today. BIPOC women are leading the way out of bigotry and into true equality. Shirley was luminous and so kind to me as I got to know the parameters of my caregiving jobs, and the complex and close-knit community that I served and came to love and identify with deeply. She was indomitable and I miss her.”
Tami Neilson, Aoife O’Donovan, and Allison Russell will all be coming to the Hillside Festival this year (July 22-24), which will be back live on the island at Guelph Lake for the first time since 2019. Check out the 2022 line-up HERE.
We wrapped the episode up with Annabelle Chvostek and her gorgeous jazz manouche version of Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me To The End Of Love”. One of our favourite recent covers, we love how it sounds like a completely different song.
‘Dance me through the panic ‘till I’m gathered safely in…’
“Leonard Cohen’s words provide a soft place to land in the midst of bleakness and uncertainty. They highlight the transformative power of a commitment to the many facets of love, and convince us that all ugliness can be transformed into a vibrant palette of expressions.”
“Guitarist Debi Botos decorates the tune with her intensely technical and emotionally mature playing that draws from her Romani-Hungarian musical roots. We recorded this song together, in time, at found.sound.toronto, separated by walls with Debi and Tak Arikushi on guitars, Rachel Melas on bass and Tony Spina on drums, David Travers-Smith behind the board. We went for the whole long-form, with everybody getting a moment to speak, and a slow Swing carrying the feel.”
That’s all we have time for. Thanks to all the artists who share their music with us, and thank you for listening. We have lots of great music and interviews to bring you on future episodes.
If you enjoy the music we play on this show and want to support the artists – many of whom aren’t able to play live at the moment because of the Covid-19 pandemic, don’t just stream their music – that earns them much less than a penny per play. Instead, buy their music – and really make a difference to their income. They’ll love you for it!
Stay safe and well everyone!
You can listen to this episode again on Soundcloud by following the link below. You can also listen to episodes of Folk Roots Radio, on demand, via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and Tune-in Radio. (Click on the highlighted link to reach your chosen platform.)
Nicolas & The Iceni (Theme)
Lucy She Rises
Roll Right (2019, self)
(single) (2022, BMG)
Fables (The Garden Version)
The Garden, Volume One (2022, Secret City Records) CDN
Stolen Time (2022, Outside Music) CDN
Pharis & Jason Romero
Tell ‘Em You Were Gold (2022, Smithsonian Folkways) CDN
Reels: The Dance Of The Storm Petrels & Swallows Of The Sea
Message In A Bottle (2021, Old Laundry Productions)
Put My Little Shoes Away (feat. Molly Tuttle)
What Are They Doing In Heaven Today? (2022, Live Oak Records)
The Swinging Belles
So Much Beauty
(single) (2022, Self) CDN
Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway
Crooked Tree (2022, Nonesuch)
Fall Apart World (Radio Edit)
(single) (2022, Thirty Tigers)
My Mother’s Hand
(single) (2022, Outside Music) CDN
There Isn’t A Book
(single) (2022, Wee Studio Records)
All Is Quiet (2022, Jersey Girl Music)
Light Is In The Horizon Yet
Light Is In The Horizon (2022, Reveal Records)
Beyond The Stars (feat. Willie Nelson)
(single) (2022, Outside Music) CDN
Age of Apathy (2022, Yep Roc)
Dance Me To The End Of Love (Leonard Cohen Cover)
(single) (2022, MQGV) CDN