Folk Roots Radio Episode 652: We’re All About The Music! (Hold Fast Edition)
We’re pleased to share more of the latest new releases with you on Episode 652 of Folk Roots Radio. It always astounds us how much fabulous new music is out there, and how much of it is coming from independent artists. It really is a pleasure to be able to share more of it with you. Join us on this episode as we check out recently received releases from The Unthanks, Esbe, Lady Maisery, James Yorkston with Nina Persson & The Second Hand Orchestra, Mark Sullivan, Trevor Owen, Chris Coole, Hannah Shira Naiman, Windborne, Alex Krawczyk, Adeem the Artist, Sofia Talvik, Mavis Staples with Levon Helm, Dave Gunning, Kelly’s Lot and Dom Flemons. We’re biased but we think it’s a great episode. We’re confident you’ll enjoy it. Remember, If you like the artists you hear on this show and want to support them, don’t just stream their music – BUY their music, and then you’ll really make a difference to their income at a time when it is becoming much more difficult to make a living as a musician. Check out the full playlist below.
We started off the episode with The Unthanks from the North East of England (who are led by sisters Rachel and Becky Unthank), and their version of “The Bay Of Fundy” from American folklorist and singer-songwriter Gordon Bok. Gordon Book wrote Bay of Fundy in 1965 and it featured as the title track of his 1975 Folk-Legacy album. You can find it on “Sorrows Away”, The Unthanks’ latest album.
“We heard Alan Fitzsimmons and The Keelers (other members Jim Mageaan, Peter Wood and our dad, George Unthank) sing this song while we were growing up. Fundy Bay has the largest tides in the world. This song is about being aboard a boat stuck on the tide waiting for days and weeks to be delivered ashore. The lyrics have a sense of isolation and loneliness, allowing for contemplation of the magnitude of nature compared to our tiny selves.”
We followed that with a song from the North East of England by Esbe, a London based composer/producer, vocalist and visual artist. Esbe has recorded a beautiful a cappella version of the classic Northumberland folk song “Blow The Wind Southerly”, the most well-known version being that recorded by contralto Kathleen Ferrier in 1949. “Blow The Wind Southerly” is also the title track of Esbe’s latest album, her eighth recording, and one which focuses specifically on the use of the voice.
“I love exploring unexpected harmonies of well-known songs. Some of the songs on ‘Blow The Wind Southerly’ were built around short vocal phrases while others were arranged in a more classical choral tradition. For these, there was no ‘backing track’ to sing to, so I allowed the natural tempo to unfold. This was a new way of working – to interpret as if singing live. I found a greater freedom of expression to reflect on each phrase or word and its emotion.”
Staying in the UK, we also listened “Tender” from folk harmony trio Lady Maisery, who feature Hazel Askew, Hannah James and Rowan Rheingans. Tender is the title track of their first album in six years, a new recording that explores the power that exists in both vulnerability and the strength you find in being kind.
We wrapped the set with Scottish singer-songwriter James Yorkston and his collaboration with Sweden’s Second Hand Orchestra. “Hold Out For Love” comes from their second album together “The Great White Sea Eagle”, which also features guest vocalist Nina Persson, from The Cardigans.
The instrumental on this episode comes from three times Canadian Grand Masters Fiddle Champion Mark Sullivan from BC. You can find “Shirley & Denis’ Schottische” on “Promenade Home”, Mark’s tribute to his upbringing playing for dances while learning fiddle in Ontario.
We recently received “And The Moon Rising”, the 2019 debut album from Toronto based singer-songwriter Trevor Owen. On this episode we play the title track which was written about the joy of gathering with other songwriters by Lake Ontario on summer evenings to share songs.
“Every year, in late summer or early fall, a group gathers by Lake Ontario to play songs, watch the sun setting, and the moon rising. There are many instruments; we begin in light, end in darkness, and find our way through an evening of songs.”
“‘Let’s make a record,’ said Marcus Vichert, my long-time friend and musical accomplice in October, 2018, and this album comprises six of my songs, including one co-written with Marcus, and four interpretations I have played over the years, and feel close to. This record was a pleasure to make, and I hope you enjoy listening to it.”
“Upon The Mystery” comes from “The Old Man And The C Chord”, a new folk singer-songwriter album from acclaimed banjoist Chris Coole. The Old Man And The C Chord, which was produced with Andrew Collins, features nine originals and a cover of traditional song “Delia”. It’s an excellent recording. We’ll definitely have more from it on a future episode.
“This is an album of mostly duets. I recorded all of these songs solo, but often added one more instrument, played by a special guest, to add just a bit of colour and vibe. You’ll hear Burke Carroll on pedal steel, Ivan Rosenberg on dobro, Andrew Collins on mandolin, Gavin Gardiner on organ, Andrew Downing on bass, John Williams on clarinet, John Showman on violin, and Lyle Molzan on drums.”
“The Old Man in the title doesn’t just refer to me; it is also a nod to the beautiful turn-of-the-century guitar that I recorded most of these songs on (the other three on banjo). I bought The Old Man at a camp about ten years ago. I wasn’t in the market for a guitar, but there was something about the sound of this one that was immediately enchanting. I couldn’t really afford it but asked the owner (Anthony Kost) if I could play it for the night. I decided that if I wrote a song on it that night, I would keep it. I did, and ever since, The Old Man has been my constant songwriting companion. Don’t ask me what kind of guitar it is. It has no label…it’s just The Old Man.”
Singer-songwriter, square dance caller and early childhood musician Hannah Shira Naiman has recorded a great rhythmic interpretation of the Carter Family song “Little Black Train”. This version of Little Black Train also features harmonica from Ken Whiteley and harmony vocals from Abigail Lapell and The Barrel Boys’ fiddle player Nathan Smith. You can find it on Hannah’s latest album “The Wheels Won’t Go”.
Vocal group Windborne discovered English traditional song “World Turned Upside Down” on Chumbawumba’s excellent folk song protest album “English Rebel Songs 1381-1984”. You can find the Windborne version of World Turned Upside Down on their latest album “Of Hard Times & Harmony” which comes with a very nice hardcover book that shares the back story behind each of their song selections.
“A Song For You” is the latest single from Toronto singer-songwriter Alex Krawczyk. It’s a song of appreciation for the beautiful and intimate moments we share together, and was written with her producer Robbie Roth. Alex’s life was marked by tragedy after the brutal murder of her parents five years ago. Making music has become an essential part of her recovery. It is clearly paying off as she has been nominated for a 2023 Canadian Folk Music Award in the New/Emerging Artist Of The Year category for her debut 2022 album “Le Olam”, which is Hebrew for ‘forever and ever’. Way to go, Alex!
Non-binary singer-songwriter Adeem the Artist is new to our radar, but we just love their latest album “White Trash Revelry”. The song we play on this episode, “My America”, is a reflection on the existential angst and paranoia now affecting a sizeable proportion of the population in the United States – who describe themselves as very concerned that the America they grew up with, and believed they understood, is now slipping away.
“Too Many Churches” is a powerful song that Swedish singer-songwriter Sofia Talvik wrote after the Supreme Court decided to repeal Roe v Wade, and the right to a safe legal abortion in the United States. Too Many Churches reflects on the way that religious groups use political power to force their beliefs on to others.
“‘Too Many Churches’ is a song I wrote after learning about the Supreme Court in the USA overturning Roe v Wade. For those of you who are not American and don’t know what this means – it basically means many women in the U.S lost their right to a safe legal abortion. I am of the opinion that if you have a voice you should use it. I am using mine now.
“Although I am not a believer in a higher being, I respect all peoples religious beliefs, as long as they are not forcing them on to someone else. This song highlights what happens when you do. This is not about beliefs, it’s about using political power to suppress women’s rights.”
In 2011, Mavis Staples joined the late great Levon Helm (from The Band) at his Woodstock NY studio to rehearse and perform as part of Levon’s famed Midnight Rambles. On this episode we play their rousing version of Curtis Mayfield’s political anthem “This Is My Country”. The Mavis Staples version of This Is My Country also includes some new lyrics reflecting on the criticism Barrack Obama had been receiving from Republicans in the run up to the 2012 Presidential Election. You can find it on “Carry Me Home”, which captured some of the live studio sessions.
Dave Gunning reflects on polarization and the divisions appearing across our world on “Middle Ground”, a song he wrote with producer and songwriter Jamie Robinson, which also features Terra Spencer on vocals. You can find it on Dave Gunning’s latest album “The Same Storm”.
“It seems with the misinformation that abounds, the middle ground on so many issues has shrunk to a thin line that’s almost impossible to stand on.”
Californian bluesy singer-songwriter Kelly Z (Kelly Zerbes) from Kelly’s Lot has released a fun new single “I Gotta Sing The Blues”. It’s a charming duet she recorded with blues vocalist Mo Beeks. Kelly first met Mo’ while playing in the group ‘3 Sista Blues’. Once Kelly heard Mo sing she knew she wanted to record a duet with him. I Gotta Sing The Blues was produced by Kelly’s Lot guitarist and soundman Perry Robertson with support from the band’s bass player Matt McFadden and drummer Art Mendoza.
We wrapped up the episode with Grammy winning roots artist Dom Flemons and the lovely “Slow Dance With You” from “Traveling Wildfire”, Dom Flemons’ most personal album to date, and one that reflects on self-awareness and spiritual evolution as well as the current social climate.
“Traveling Wildfire is not only a statement of my personal travel experiences but also a metaphor for rebirth in the wake of destruction. It reminded me that the album is in its own way a statement about emerging from the depths of uncertainty to find a new relevance during this unprecedented moment in modern history.”
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 – 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 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)
The Bay Of Fundy
Sorrows Away (2022, Rabble Rouser Music)
Blow The Wind Southerly
Blow The Wind Southerly (2023, New Cat Music)
Tender (2022, Self)
James Yorkston, Nina Persson & The Second Hand Orchestra
Hold Out For Love
The Great White Sea Eagle (2023, Domino Records)
Shirley & Denis’ Schottische
Promenade Home (2022, Self) CDN
And The Moon Rising
And The Moon Rising (2019, Self) CDN
Upon The Mystery
The Old Man And The C Chord (2022, Self) CDN
Hannah Shira Naiman
Little Black Train
The Wheels Won’t Go (2022, Self) CDN
World Turned Upside Down
Of Hard Times & Harmony (2021, Wand’ring Feet Records)
A Song For You
(single) (2023, Self) CDN
Adeem the Artist
White Trash Revelry (2022, Four Quarters Records / Thirty Tigers)
Too Many Churches
(single) (2022, Makaki Music)
Mavis Staples with Levon Helm
This Is My Country
Carry Me Home (2011 Live Sessions) (2022, Anti-)
Middle Ground (feat. Terra Spencer)
The Same Storm (2022, Wee House Of Music) CDN
I Gotta Sing The Blues (feat. Mo Beeks) (single) (2023, Self)
Slow Dance With You
Traveling Wildfire (2023, Smithsonian Folkways)
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