One of the best loved Folk Roots Radio episodes from the past year or so, we devote most of the hour to an interview with Kentucky musician, folklorist and social activist Sue Massek about “Precious Memories”, a companion cast album to a Si Kahn original play about the life and work of songwriter and coal camp activist Sarah Ogan Gunning, and one of our favourite albums of 2015. We also include music from some other albums we loved this year: “Sweet Memories… Never Leave” from Erynn Marshall & Carl Jones, “Joe Hill’s Last Will” by John McCutcheon, and the wonderful compilation Dear Jean: Artists Celebrate Jean Ritchie – a 37 track compilation featuring an impressive list of Jean Ritchie fans and admirers.
Sue Massek is a musician, folklorist and social activist from Kentucky who’s been making music for nearly forty years, both solo and as the banjo player in the Reel World String Band. Sue released one of our favourite albums of 2015 – “Precious Memories”, a companion cast album to a Si Kahn original play about the life and work of songwriter and Kentucky coal camp activist Sarah Ogan Gunning – and brought to life, in a one woman show, by Sue Massek. We caught up with Sue at home in Kentucky to chat about the project. Music: Sue Massek “Precious Memories”, “Come All You Coal Miners”, “I’m Going To Organize”, “The Lonesome Death of Harry Simms” (feat. Si Kahn), “Dreadful Memories”, “Down On The Picket Line” and “Girl Of Constant Sorrow” from “Precious Memories” (2015, Strictly Country Records).
Well, It’s that time of year… Time to pick our favourite albums of 2015. And you know what, it doesn’t get any easier. There’s just so much great music out there, and it’s been our great privilege to bring lots of it to you each week on Folk Roots Radio. Like last year, most of the albums on this list aren’t a surprise as I raved about them during the year. This time around though I selected a twenty-five album long list, then narrowed it down to the Top 10 you can read about below.
This week’s Folk Roots Radio – our 200th edition featured an interview with Mike Hill, Artistic Director at the Mariposa Folk Festival which takes place from July 3-5 in beautiful Tudhope Park on the shores of Lake Couchiching in Orillia. We also talked to Sudbury ‘bloodgrass’ band Murder Murder – they’re an outlaw country bluegrass band that play murder ballads – about their new album “From The Stillhouse” and their upcoming show in Guelph on June 20. We also included a good selection of new music alongside our mystery theme and, as the folk world mourns the passing of Ronnie Gilbert, a special tribute to folk pioneers The Weavers.
This week’s Folk Roots Radio featured an interview with Hamilton-based singer-songwriter Sarah Beatty. Sarah Beatty describes herself as being both a musician and a scientist. While completing a Ph D in environmental science, she found time to release an off the floor debut album, the stripped down girl and a guitar “Black Gramophone” in 2012. Black Gramophone blurs the lines between rootsy blues and the singer-songwriter genre, while Sarah’s playful and imaginative lyrics and soulful and passionate vocal delivery draws comparisons with Regina Spektor, Ani DiFranco and Billie Holiday. Sarah is now hard at work on the follow-up. As usual, we found time to include some new music we’ve received alongside our mystery theme and guilty pleasure.