The three, who have appeared as one half of Spirit Family Reunion, released Life Labors in the Choir in April. The album is a big departure from the sound of SFR, carrying more of the vibe and feel found on albums by Bonnie “Prince” Billy and The Low Anthem, featuring Davidson’s gentle vocals and various alternative instruments in the background. Of note is a song called “Ashville/Farm Remedy.”
Here’s what Davidson had to say about the song…
“It’s about really seething with jealousy, and then waking up the next morning – on a farm in this instance – and realizing how beautiful everything is and how ridiculous it is to envy anybody or thing.” – Mt Davidson
On September 9th, Delta Spirit will release Into the Wide (Amazon), an album the band wrote in a “flood-ruined, cave-like, rat-colonized room in Brooklyn,” press materials note. The band, originally from Southern California but now living in Brooklyn, spent more than a year writing together in the windowless studio they rebuilt after Hurricane Sandy. They’ll play three consecutive nights in NYC just a few weeks after the album releases – September 30th at the Mercury Lounge (Sold Out), October 1st at the Bowery Ballroom and October 2nd at The Music Hall of Williamsburg.
The album’s second track and first single, “From Now On,” has been getting a fair amount of attention, but I’m a bigger fan of the song that follows it, “Live On.” It’s far from grassy and a bit poppy for the gcb, but I dig it and love the backstory. Looking forward to this one.
Next month, Justin Townes Earle releases Single Mothers (Amazon) – his first album in two years. While JTE has struggled with drugs and alcohol and had a few outbursts over the years, press materials note he’s recently married and sober – a shift that sets the tone for this record, which was written from a point of maturity that we’ve not seen before on past records.
“One day I just realized it’s not cool to die young, and it’s even less cool to die after 30.” – Justin Townes Earle
Much like JTE’s last album, Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way I Feel About You Now, Single Mothers was recorded live. It has no overdubs or additional performers than the ones on tour with Justin and involved very few rehearsals (just like JTE’s tours). He calls the album Americana, but (just like us) doesn’t really know what that means anymore with so many poppy bands (that don’t want to be called pop) claiming the genre. “I don’t really know what Americana means anymore. That’s not a slant on Americana, it’s just become a very unclassifiable genre,” he says.
JTE plays Stage 48 in Hell’s Kitchen just as Single Mothers rolls out for sale on September 9th. Here’s the first single, “White Gardenias,” a song about Billie Holiday.
UPDATE: Note that a previous version of this story noted JTE was “remarried” in error. This is his first marriage.
Congrats to our friend Joe Fletcher for winning our Third Annual Newport Folk Festival Tattoo contest. Fletcher, who was runner up in our first contest three years ago, and his tat (above) honoring the late David Lamb of brown bird pretty much destroyed all other contenders.
It’s worth noting that Riley Downing of The Deslondes (right) raked in a ton of likes on the band’s Facebook page for his armadillo tat (even more than Fletcher), but those votes didn’t make it over to the voting gallery so we unfortunately can’t count them.
SO, Fetcher takes home the much-coveted $25 Cracker Barrel Gift Card. May your biscuits be warm and your stomach be strong, Joe.
Check out the full gallery of the Newport 2014 tats here and watch for Joe Fletcher’s new album, You’ve Got the Wrong Man, which comes out September 23rd. The album is currently available for pre-order here (teaser below, which coincidentally kicks off in a tattoo parlor).
On Friday, August 22 through Sunday, August 24, our friends Mike + Ruthy will present the second annual Summer Hoot at The Ashokan Center near Woodstock. The lineup is looking strong, including gcb favorites like David Bromberg, Anais Mitchell & Jefferson Hamer, Amy Helm & Friends, Spirit Family Reunion and Kristin Andreassen.
Last year’s Summer Hoot was one of the late Pete Seeger’s last public appearances. Afterwards, he sent a postcard to Mike + Ruthy requesting that Molly Mason (Ruthy’s stepmother) perform a song that Pete wrote for his wife, Toshi, who had died just weeks prior to that event, at this year’s Hoot. That will indeed happen.
We caught up with Mike + Ruthy for their take on the hoot. Here’s what they said.
This is the second Summer Hoot. How did all of this come about?
Ruthy: Over a decade of touring folk festivals we have fallen in love with lots of special places and communities. It took time to build up the courage to cultivate our own thing here. Last year really showed us that the ingredients are present: great local musicians, food vendors, crafters, and a team of volunteers who want to help organize, set-up, lift, carry, design, count, sort, manage and celebrate with us. Plus an audience, of course! A vibrant, multi-generational audience.
gcb: What’s different about the Hoot from some of the larger festivals around? (NOTE: Ruthy mentioned that being a teen at music festivals can kinda suck, so I’d love to hear about that if there’s anything to share.)
Ruthy: I grew up being dragged to folk fests far and wide with my parents and it was pretty fun. But the kid contingent at these events was usually small-ish, and the teen scene was nearly non-existent. It wasn’t until our old band The Mammals played Hiawatha in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula that I saw what is been missing. Hundreds of teenagers were flooding into the site on day one, collecting in large giddy mobs and shrieking with excitement when they’d see another one of their friends. They weren’t sulking beside their parents trying to make the best of it. These kids were STOKED to be there. I nearly wept. And it hit me: they’re not here because someone did such a great job of marketing a folk festival to teenagers. They are here because they’ve been coming since they were 5. It’s a tradition. All their friends are here and they wouldn’t dream of missing it! Late that night we saw the “teen scene” tent hopping with dancers til 2am. It was awesome. We want to be like that. It is SO important to me to be the kind of festival where parents want to bring their small kids. The feedback from families so far makes me very proud. If we play our cards right we will have a wonderful throng of Hoot teens in 10 years. Teenagers who are into square dancing, nature, sustainability and lyrics!
How are you curating the lineup?
Ruthy: We book our friends and people we admire.
What’s the mix you’re going for?
Ruthy: Roots music of all kinda, local and beyond, plenty of women (you’d be surprised how many festivals seem to overlook that), a mixture of bands, duos and solo acts, great songwriting or music that honors some kind of traditional arc.
What are some of the smaller acts that we should know about this year?
Ruthy: Kristin Andreassen is our square dance caller but she is also a stunning songwriter with a new CD coming out soon. I’m really looking forward to her set!
Simi Stone is an uber-local pal with pipes and a presence that are one of a kind. Her new CD just came out with tag-line “where mountain meets Motown.” Check her out for sure.
My Mom and Dad along with John Cohen and Abby Newton are doing a “reunion” set as the Putnam String County Band. They made one LP in the mid 70’s which is incredible and had a big effect on me. In many ways I think the PSCB informed what The Mammals became.
What else is different about the Hoot?
Ruthy: Our music festival is a benefit for The Ashokan Center and their environmental education programs for kids. I envision The Hoot “at the crossroads of music and nature” bringing together all of the aspects of The Ashokan Center’s history and future. School sleepaway groups have been learning about nature and colonial crafts at Ashokan for over 60 years and my family has run music and dance summer camps there for over 35 years. Recently, these entities merged. Now one organization collectively keeps all of these activities going, plus retreats, weddings, and festivals! The Hoot helps tie it all together, and connects the local community with this great place!
Mike: Last year we dedicated our main stage, built with all volunteer labor from reclaimed building materials, to Toshi Seeger. That stage is now known as the Toshi Stage. Next to the Toshi stage is our second stage, a repurposed BBQ shed that at last year’s fest was powered by solar power (as it will be again this year.) This year we’ll be dedicating the Solar stage to Pete. The Pete & Toshi stages will stand side by side for as long as the festival exists. All of the Hoot artists have been encouraged to perform a Pete Seeger song during their set if they’d like. In addition, the Pete set from last year (11:30am on Sunday) is a tribute set specifically to remember Pete & Toshi and to celebrate and lead the audience through many of Pete’s best sing-a-longs.
For the third year in a row, the grass clippings team surveyed festivarian flesh in Newport for the best tats. We are totally confident that we somehow overlooked your pal’s awesome tat (sorry!), but we still found some good ones. So, below are our contenders this year.
A special shout out for Joe Fletcher. Joe was the poster boy of the first ever Newport Tattoo contest in 2012 with his Woody Guthrie pec tat. This year Joe returns with a new tat, which he got in memory of his close friend David Lamb of Brown Bird, another 2012 tat finalist who passed away in April after a battle with leukemia. Joe’s new badass tat is of Lamb’s guitar and lyrics from a Brown Bird song.
Click the link below to vote on Facebook for the best tat with your likes. The winner will be picked based on all votes cast before Wednesday, August 6th, 2014. AND this winner gets a $25 Cracker Barrel Gift Card courtesy of your classy grass clippings Newport team (Garland, Stef, Richard, Emily and Vi).
If you ever wanted to know what gets talked about in a post-Newport Folk Fest car ride back to Brooklyn, this is the post for you. This year’s acts had us excited even after the music had ended. To that end, we thought we should crown some of the most notable moments and acts with superlative designates in our own subjective, crafted categories.
Reignwolf: I would have asked him if he was dehydrated after his set, but let’s just say I couldn’t hear much once the buzz of the speaker I was standing in front of wore off.
Best Impromptu On-Stage Jam:
Ryan Adams / “Let It Be”: Yes, you read that correctly. When the crowd cheered after Adams switched from an electric to an acoustic guitar near the beginning of his set, he joked, “You don’t even know what this is going to be! What if this was like the worst version ever of ‘Let It Be’ or something?” The band then proceeded to play what was undoubtedly the worst version ever of ‘Let It Be’ or something. The fact that it was the worst also makes it our pick for ‘the best’ impromptu jam.
Most Attentive Audience:
Wille Watson: This gcb-made category is a bit of a toss-up, because to be honest NFFers are a pretty attentive bunch. But from my vantage point, it was the massive crowd in attendance at Watson’s early-morning set that really took the cake. His listeners covered a huge swath of Folk Fest land spanning way beyond the Harbor stage tent’s borders, and it seemed as if you could have heard a pin being dropped on the grass.
Most Political Set:
Pokey LaFarge: He may look like he’s an act right out of the 1930s, but he doesn’t act like it. Wait, no, just kidding. He does. LaFarge channeled the likes of late greats Guthrie and Seeger in his set, leading into one particular tune by saying, “Let’s do a song about health care, because we all know it shouldn’t be $116 a month, it should be absolutely free.” For a moment, it felt like we were being transported back in time to a day in age where music truly was the vehicle for social change and accountability.
Best Summer Hair:
Rachel Price, Lake Street Dive: She may have been channeling a little bit of last year’s winner for this crossover category, The Lone Bellow’s Kanene Pipkin. Or maybe Brooklyn just has something special in the water (other than toxins from the Gowanus Canal).
Runner-up: Valerie June - Truth be told, she might could have taken the crown for this superlative if we weren’t fairly certain her hair looks the same all year round.
Mavis Staples and Lucius: One of the most special parts about NFF is getting the opportunity to see old meet new. A legend in her own right, who celebrated her 75th birthday over the weekend, Staples truly was the queen of the fest, sitting in with a number of bands before the Sunday night finale set. One of the most interesting sit-ins, however, was her collab with Lucius – the Brooklyn duo whose aesthetic is as mod as their unique blend of harmonies.
Watch them sing ‘Go Home’ below (and yes, NPR’s Bob Boilen is video-bombing all over the place):
Most Buzzed About:
Shakey Graves / Hozier (TIE): We couldn’t find a way to determine the top-slot taker between these two amazing acts who seemed to be physically everywhere throughout the festival all weekend, as well as on the lips of the majority of festival goers and press junkies.