Join us on Episode 659 of Folk Roots Radio for another hour of the latest new folk and roots releases. There is loads of great new music out there, and, as always, it’s an absolute pleasure to be able to share more of it with you. This time around we check out new music from Unthank Smith, Cinder Well, John McCusker, Annie Capps, Waymzy (Kyle Waymouth), A’Court with Spiegel & Vinnick, Aaron Nathans & Michael G. Ronstadt, Nadjiwan, Logan Staats, The Rough & Tumble, Peggy Seeger, Maggie Fraser, Tim Grimm and Del Barber. 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 more and more difficult to make a living as a musician. Check out the full playlist below.
We started off the episode with Unthank Smith; that’s Rachel Unthank (from The Unthanks) and Paul Smith (from alternative rock band, Maximo Park) who both make music in the North East of England . “What Maks Makems” comes from their beautiful storytelling folk project “Nowhere And Everywhere”, which was produced by another musician from England’s North East, David Brewis from the band Field Music.
“What Maks Makems” was written around a Tom Pickard poem about the North East of England shipbuilding trade, and more specifically shipbuilding on the River Wear, in Sunderland.
Host of Folk Roots Radio, Jan Hall actually grew up in Sunderland, where her Dad was a river pilot. Part of his job would entail helping some of these newly built ships navigate their way down the river and out to sea for the next part of their journey.
A ‘Mackem’ (‘Makem’ or ‘Mak’em’) is actually the nickname for someone who comes from Sunderland. The expression “Mak’em and Tak’em” is thought to date back to the height of Sunderland’s shipbuilding history – the shipwrights would make the ships (mak’em), then the river pilots and tugboat captains would take them (tak’em) down the River Wear to the sea.
Needless to say, Jan still considers herself a proud Mackem, and was so pleased to start this episode with that song. Enjoy the video!
We followed that with Californian Amelia Baker who makes music as her folk project Cinder Well. Amelia recently returned to beach life in California from her adopted home on the windswept coast of the Western Ireland where she recorded her last album “No Summer”. “Overgrown” comes from her latest release “Cadence”, which she recorded in Venice CA.
“So much of my music has been made far from home. I was continuously trying to reconcile having homes in two places and trying to hold both of those parts of me. There was something about recording in California that felt cathartic.”
“Sprig Of Thyme”, which feat. Ireland’s Heidi Talbot on vocals, comes from John McCusker‘s double album Best Of… collection – thirty tracks from his past thirty years in music.
“It’s been an incredible three decades making and performing music. I wanted to celebrate this milestone moment by releasing a compilation from the different albums and stages of my career, alongside recordings from the many fantastic collaborations and wonderful artists I’ve been fortunate enough to work with. Each record is really special to me in its own way, so being able to celebrate the highlights from each stage of my career has been a very enjoyable experience”.
We wrapped the first set with Annie Capps and “Crowded”, a reminder that no matter how alone we may feel, if you open up and let yourself be heard you will discover others in similar situations. Our friends are there, sometimes we have to reach out. You can find Crowded on Annie Capps’ latest album, the all-woman supported solo project “How Can I Say This?” – a love letter to her younger self.
“We can feel so alone with our internal struggles, and embarrassed to even admit that we feel certain things. It takes courage to let down our guard and allow ourselves to be vulnerable. And honestly, this ‘anthem’ of the album emphasizes the way so many people have seen themselves in these songs. I picture a person being surrounded by a growing posse of others who have been through it, or are going through it, and providing support and comfort by just reminding them they are not alone.”
The instrumental on this episode comes from Waymzy, the instrumental solo project from Kyle Waymouth. “Inchoate” is the title track from Kyle’s recent release, and one which picked up Instrumental Solo Artist Of The Year at the 2023 Canadian Folk Music Awards.
Singer-songwriter Peter One left his home in the West African country Côte D’Ivoire in 1995 because of political unrest. He now makes his home in Nashville. His latest single, the beautiful “Birds Go Die Out Of Sight (Don’t Go Home)” refers to the natural phenomenon about how birds choose to die, and tells the sad story of a friend who went back to the Ivory Coast despite the real danger that entailed. It comes from Peter One’s upcoming album “Come Back To Me”, his first new release in 30 years. It’s a song that also features harmony vocals from Folk Roots Radio favourite, Allison Russell.
“Almost all the time he was complaining… ‘I’m gonna go home’, yet knowing that home was not peaceful. I kept telling him… ‘It’s not the right time. Let the country come back to normal. In the meantime, take time to prepare. Because home is not what you have left. Home is different now’. I was so shocked, I was really, really shocked. To me, it’s like he knew that it was almost the end for him.”
Five times East Coast Music Award winner Charlie A’Court and three times JUNO Award nominee Suzie Vinnick have joined forces with fourteen times Australian Blues Award Winner Lloyd Spiegel to form their own supergroup they describe as ‘an international roots ‘n’ blues kitchen party’. They have just released a wonderful acoustic blues album as A’Court, Spiegel & Vinnick. They will also be playing some gigs together across Canada. On this episode we listened to the excellent “Blood From A Stone”.
“We are all friends with tremendous respect for one another. If we caught up for dinner, we’d no doubt end up playing music, laughing and telling stories. Simply putting those friendships and moments on stage is what makes this tour so special.”
“Evening” is a song adapted from a poem by Clarence Dan Blachly from his 1939 collection “Stubble Fields,”, an ode to the beauty of our earth. It’s a song we had hoped to include in our Earth Day special, and come from Aaron Nathans & Michael G. Ronstadt. It features Michael Ronstadt on cello and vocals with Aaron Nathans on acoustic guitar. You can find it on their latest album together, “Hello World”.
“Land Of Skoden” is a love letter to Northern Ontario from Toronto based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Marc Meriläinen as Nadjiwan. You can find it on his latest album “The Great Sea”.
“So, what does ‘Skoden’ mean? Many Indigenous folks use it as a precursor or colloquialism for ‘let’s go then.’ The typical response to ‘skoden’ would be ‘stoodis,’ or ‘let’s do this.’ Many residents in Sudbury and the rest of Canada didn’t know this and assumed it was something offensive or even threatening. But in reality it’s just a playful saying.”
“The song is meant to be one of those classic summer road trip tunes that you’d hear on the radio while driving to your favourite summer destination.”
Mohawk singer-songwriter Logan Staats first rose to prominence after appearing on TV music competition The Launch. “Holy Man” comes from “A Light In The Attic”, his first album since returning home to Six Nations of the Grand River, after spending time in both Nashville and LA.
“This album is the soundtrack to picking yourself up, and dusting yourself off. There is sweet grass and tobacco in every chord, there is sage and cedar in every falsetto, every song is my medicine.”
“I wanted to bring my songwriting back to the medicine inside of music, to the medicine inside of reclamation. My nation and my community are in every chord I play and every note I sing. They’ve saved me.”
Playful folk duo The Rough & Tumble, who feature multi-instrumentalists Mallory Graham and Scott Tyler, have recorded a stinging critique of the rise of Christian nationalism in the United States on “God Of War” – ‘all guns, and money and a salute to the flag’ You can find it on their latest album “Only This Far”.
Folk icon Peggy Seeger has released a new single, and it’s a new version of a song that her late husband wrote for her in 1957. “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” has been recorded more than 1000 times. Peggy decided the time was right to record the song again herself because she wanted to reclaim it as an older woman reflecting over a lifetime of love and loss. With just a plaintive piano accompaniment it’s just beautiful. Reclaim it, she certainly does.
“The Way That I Wish It Was”, a song of hope during dark times is the title track of Toronto singer-songwriter Maggie Fraser‘s first collection of original songs, which was produced by her husband Alec Fraser Jr.
Acclaimed singer-songwriter Tim Grimm reflects on the good things in life that keep us on moving forward on the ever hopeful John Prine like “Bigger Than The Sky”. You can find it on Tim’s latest album, the nine song “The Little In-Between”.
We wrapped the episode up with Manitoba’s Folk/Americana singer-songwriter Del Barber and “On My Way Out The Door” from his very well received eighth studio album “Almanac”. It’s a song that was actually predominantly written by his Dad, Boyd, who was also a musician and sadly passed away in 2021. We wouldn’t normally wrap a show with a bluegrass barnburner like this, but it just felt so appropriate.
“My dad wrote most of this one. It’s a great way to end the record, full on bluegrass barnburner. We recorded it completely live off the floor in a couple takes. It’s pretty self explanatory. I’m proud to have tried to do justice to another one of my dad’s songs. I changed it in the way I always have with his ideas.. He always wanted me to make them my own… I think he’d really like it. Almanac is the first record I’ve made since his passing…. and It’s hard not to believe that he was somehow in the studio with us, helping make all of it happen.”
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!
Image Credit: Three Sunderland-built ships on the River Wear, including the cargo ship ‘Harpagus’ being towed to the fitting-out quay, 24 September 1957 (Shipbuilding on the River Wear – 15 fascinating photographs, Chronicle Live)
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.)
His Mother Called Him Angel (Instrumental Version) (Theme)
Abandoned Companions (2018, Self) CDN
What Maks Makems
Nowhere And Everywhere (2023, Billingham)
Cadence (2023, Free Dirt Records)
Sprig Of Thyme (feat. Heidi Talbot)
The Best Of (Disc 1) (2023, Under One Sky Records)
How Can I Say This? (2022, Yellow Room Records)
Waymzy (Kyle Waymouth)
Inchoate (2022, Self) CDN
Birds Go Die Out Of Sight (Don’t Go Home) (feat. Allison Russell)
(single) (2023, Verve Forecast)
Aaron Nathans & Michael G. Ronstadt
Hello World (2023, Crooked Cyclone Records)
Land Of Skoden
The Great Sea (2023, Heading North Music) CDN
A Light In The Attic (2023, Red Music Rising) CDN
The Rough & Tumble
God Of War
Only This Far (2023, Self)
The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
(single) (2023, Red Grape Music)
The Way That I Wish It Was
The Way That I Wish It Was (2023, Self) CDN
Bigger Than The Sky
The Little In-Between (2023, Vault Records)
On My Way Out The Door (Radio Edit)
Almanac (2023, Acronym Records) CDN