Wednesday, January 11, 2017

"I Got A Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival" artwork

Book cover, author: Rick Massimo
Above: Pete Seeger, by Ken Franckling




Beth Bombara – the Americana artist who’s opened for Pokey LaFarge, Waxahatchee, Madisen Ward & Mama Bear, and Joe Pug – has found her way with the new album ‘Map & No Direction,’ out March 3. After serving as a side-woman with Samantha Crain, she’s found her voice as a frontwoman on the new album. And after battling depression – as Beth puts it “a couple months of a can’t-quite-get-out-of-bed, always-tired-but-can’t-sleep kind of depression” – she’s found her clarity as a songwriter. The result is equal parts George Harrison-influenced hooky Americana and rock & roll and mixed with "a bourbon-warmed Neko Case" as her hometown Riverfront Times put it in naming her best Americana artist in St. Louis, MO. She’s also drawn comparisons to Kathleen Edwards.

It’s not the only acclaim the hard-touring artist has earned. Pop Matters said, “Honed songwriting… honest… Bombara mines emotional depths, naivety and personal shortcomings” and Glide called her “easily engaging… penetrating… insightful." She’s already headlined Whitaker Music Festival (MO) (to over 10,000 in the audience), Brooklyn Americana Festival, Tucson Folk Festival, and Mile of Music festival (WI) and will have an official showcase at the 2017 Folk Alliance Int’l conference in February.

She has a companion for her frequent tours: husband, multi-instrumentalist (bass, drums, strings), and producer Kit Hamon, a topic she writes about in the Phil Spector-esque song “Sweet Time.” She tackles other topics as well on ‘Map & No Direction’: the pensive “Lonely Few” was written in response to racial divide and violence against black civilians by police and subsequent protests in her hometown.

Monday, January 9, 2017


Suitcase Junket – the remarkable act using mainly found instruments who was named to Spotify’s Best of 2016 Folk & Americana playlist – will release his new album ‘Pile Driver’ April 21 on Signature Sounds. He’s also been named as one of “public radio’s favorite sessions.” The Suitcase Junket’s stellar songwriting with earworm choruses and muscular, gritty verses puts him in a company of shining lights of Americana and rock & roll like Shovels & Rope, M. Ward, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes, Sam Amidon, Flat Duo Jets, and The Record Company (for whom he has opened shows).
The one-man band – aka Matt Lorenz – calls his music “swamp Yankee,” with a muddy, southern aesthetic joining with pioneer ingenuity. The Suitcase Junket originated after he found a Japanese-made guitar in a dumpster and cleaned out the mold with white vinegar. It sounded best in an open tuning (he’s now settled on open C), which reminded him of early 20th century field recordings and focused his songwriting for the project. He now plays the guitar simultaneously with  a kick attached to a double-wide suitcase on which he sits; a high hat that features a box of silverware and an 8 millimeter film reel; a baby shoe hitting a gas can; a cooking pot; and a circular saw blade. The upcoming ‘Pile Driver’ tour will see him add a keyboard as well.
While singing verses and choruses with a powerful voice, he has also taught himself South Indian throat singing, a technique by which one can sing a low droning note and get a high harmonic. After five years of practice in the car and shower, it sounds absolutely otherworldly. Onstage, he sings this through a bullet-style microphone that hides the drone note amidst the guitar’s amplification but lets through the overtone glide atop the mix. This is shown at its apex with the intro to the “Beta Star” or the break in “Ten Rivers.”
However, ‘Pile Driver’s’ constant is the Suitcase Junket’s remarkable songwriting, with rousing choruses underpinned with gritty, distorted guitar and imagistic, evocative verses. The album kicks off with the modal “The Next Act” and rides the high peaks of the garage rocker “Jackie,” the punk-blues tale of an affair gone wrong “Evangeline” and back-against-the-wall narrative of “Why So Brief,” the anthemic “What Was I Gonna Say,” and the inspiring “Seed Your Dreams, ” with its carpe diem message. “Mountain of Mind,” perhaps the album’s most affecting song, a portrait of overcoming an abusive relationship and one’s own self-destructive tendencies. “Beta Star” tackles the first pangs of love and featuring an alternating keyboard and guitar part played simultaneously. He shows himself a master fingerpicking guitarist on “Busted Gut” and “Ten Rivers.” The album then closes with the great campfire song “Red Flannel Rose,” finding the Suitcase Junket singing of perseverance.
Suitcase Junket is an artist to watch in 2017. Boston's NPR station WBUR has said, "It's an astonishing thing to watch Matt Lorenz perform... What’s impressive is not merely the complexity of the endeavor—Lorenz sings, strums and plays up to four instruments with his feet at once—but how utterly he is able to transcend the mechanical minutiae." Already, The Suitcase Junket has opened tour dates for Lake Street Dive, The Record Company, Jackie Greene, the Suffers, and Los Lobos and played Mountain Jam, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, Joshua Tree, and Green River festivals.
Suitcase Junket Winter Tour Dates
January 12 - Abilene Bar & Lounge - Rochester, NY                                  
January 13  Rusty Rail Brewing Company - Mifflinburg, PA                   
January 14 - Club Cafe - Pittsburgh, PA                     
January 15 - House Show - Buckhannon, WV                
January 18 - The Purple Fiddle - Thomas, WV                         
January 19 - The Burl - Lexington, KY                       
January 20  Bar None - Springfield, IL                       
January 21 - Private Show - Johnston, IA                         
January 22 - The Warming House - Minneapolis, MN                
January 24 - Off Broadway - St Louis, MO                        
January 26  - Cafe Carpe - Fort Atkinson, WI                            
January 27 - SPACE - Evanston, IL
January 28 - Tanners Grill & Bar    Kimberly, WI                        
February 01 - Atwood's Tavern - Cambridge, MA                    
February 08 Atwood's Tavern - Cambridge, MA                    
February 15 Atwood's Tavern- Cambridge, MA                        
February 22 Atwood's Tavern- Cambridge, MA    

Thursday, January 5, 2017



For his 17th album ‘Are You Listening?’ (Righteous Babe Records / March 23), Peter Mulvey traveled to New Orleans to record with producer and friend Ani DiFranco and her band. ‘Are You Listening?’ marks the 25th anniversary of a rich career of approximately 4,000 concerts and over a million miles traveled. NPR’s Robert Siegel wasn’t kidding when he said, “Peter Mulvey is a 21st century troubadour.”

Lyrically, the songs from “Are You Listening?” range from the emotive, stream-of-consciousness flood of “The Other Morning Over Coffee” to the spare, haunting title track, which uses only seventeen words. The brutal allegory of “Just Before the War” is answered by the upbeat “It Can Get You By”. Working with the keen ear of a songwriter who has been informed by poetry all along, Mulvey sets the ordinary and the profound side by side, especially on the quirky opening track, “D.I.A.” which begins as a drive to the Denver Airport and ends as a call-out to “Wayfaring Stranger.”

Musically, the sure hand of Ani and her touring band, Todd Sickafoose and Terence Higgins, along with newcomer Anna Tivel, shape the songs as they run the gamut from the full-on Americana rocker “The Last Song” to the jazzy dissonance of “The Details.”

The friendship between DiFranco and Mulvey deepened in the summer of 2015. Mulvey was opening a run of shows for her when the shootings at the Emanuel Church in Charleston occurred. In the basement of the Calvin Theater in Northampton, after a long heart-to-heart among the band members, Mulvey went into his dressing room and wrote “Take Down Your Flag”. He sang it twenty minutes later, and as he came offstage, DiFranco asked him to teach her the song. She sang it two days later, and substituted her own verse for one Tywanza Sanders (one of the victims) in place of Mulvey’s verse for Susie Jackson. Within a few days, their versions were posted to YouTube and over the next few weeks, hundreds of songwriters added their own versions, including Anais Mitchell, Keb’ Mo, Paula Cole, and Jeff Daniels.

DiFranco’s help with giving “Take Down Your Flag” a wider audience naturally led to the collaboration on “Are You Listening?” Like DiFranco, Mulvey is an artist with deep roots in community: his early days as a busker in Dublin and Boston are echoed by his marathon online benefit concerts via Concert Window, the latest of which he will play from his Wisconsin home venue the Cafe Carpe on January 15. His long association with the National Youth Science Foundation prompted him to add a yearly warm-weather bicycle tour to his schedule: 2017’s tour will be the 10th anniversary, and the tours have covered thousands of miles.

Twenty-five years in, Mulvey stays true to his roots as a busker in Dublin and Boston: this January15th he will play a marathon Concert Window performance, broadcast online from his hometown Café Carpe in Atkinson, WI, to benefit the ACLU, SPLC, Planned Parenthood, the NRDC, Relief International, and Public Allies.

Mulvey has shared stages with Emmylou Harris, Richard Thompson, DiFranco, Greg Brown, the Indigo Girls, and many others.

Acoustic Guitar Magazine recently asked him to do a video session recently displaying his mastery of alternate tunings and unexpected chordal voicings:

NPR Music’s Bob Boilen has called his 2006 song “Abilene (The Eisenhower Waltz)” “beautiful…. touching… It’s also got a clever rhyme scheme.”

Rolling :”Haunting... A voice lush and hushed that occasionally sinks into a whisper."

The Washington Post: "The subtle power of his voice, a husky, hushed baritone... understated, at once sophisticated and intimate [singing songs] as cover-worthy as Randy Newman, Elvis Costello."

All Music testified, "For sheer musicianship, it is difficult to think of many contemporary guitar playing singer-songwriters who can claim superiority to Peter Mulvey... It's hard to understand why Peter Mulvey isn't better known. His acoustic guitar work is flawless, avoiding folky clichés for a light, jazzy feel that makes his melodies bounce, and his singing is superb, an understated tenor that puts across deep emotion."

Peter Mulvey 2017 Winter Tour Dates

January 15 – Café Carpe (12-hour concert window) - Fort Atkinson, WI
January 19 – Motorco Music Hall – Durham, NC
January 20 – The Evening Muse – Charlotte, NC
January 21 – Isis – Asheville, NC
January 27 – The Parlor Room – Northampton, MA
January 28 - Circle of Friends Coffeehouse - Franklin, MA
January 29 - One Longfellow Square - Portland, ME
February 4 - Cafe Veritas, First Unitarian Church - Rochester, NY
February 10 - Alberta Rose Theater - Portland, OR
February 11 - Ballard Homestead - Seattle, WA
February 16 - Brick 15 - Del Mar, CA
February 18 - Hotel Café - Hollywood, CA
February 19 - Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse - Berkeley, CA
February 25 – Taproot - Anchorage, AK
February 26 - Vagabond Blues - Palmer, AK