Review: Kind of Brave by Kat Quinn

One of the best things that has happened since attending my first NERFA last November has been becoming part of a loop of music sharing within the larger-than-I-had-previously-comprehended folk music community. This includes the random surprise of occasionally opening my mailbox to find CDs hoping to be heard. That’s how I came to discover an EP from Massachusetts-based Kat Quinn.

Kat QuinnKind of Brave is an completely charming recording. Self described as indie-pop, the title track is easily one I could imagine hearing over any pop radio station or in the background of some popular TV show, and actually feels like something I have heard there. Produced by Adam Rhodes, this small collection of songs marks the second release from Quinn. At four tracks, my chief complaint is that I wanted more. The songs are engaging, thoughtful, fun, and a little bit quirky in the best way. Continue reading

Review: Tone, Twang, and Taste by Pete Kennedy

Most often hitting the stage as part of the folk/rock duo The Kennedys, alongside his wife, Maura, Pete Kennedy is well known in the genre for his exceptional guitar playing skills. Every now and then, Pete and Maura also work on solo projects. The latest of these is Pete’s new album, Tone, Twang, and Taste. This all instrumental release is a stellar showcase for Pete’s intricate string wizardry. With a variety of instruments ranging from electric guitar to ukulele, every note played is crystal clear. The music sounds quite effortless, though one can be sure that countless hours of rehearsal and study led, and still do lead, to this level of play.

Kennedy plays almost every measure on this recording himself, utilizing electric and acoustic guitars, ukulele, electric sitar, mandolin, 5 string banjo, bass, B3, and drums. He has some accompaniment on one track, “Seven Come Eleven,” playing along with Danny Gatton (duet guitar) and John Previti (bass). When I look at the list of instruments being played by Kennedy, I can’t help but wonder if there is a stringed instrument out there that he has not yet mastered. If there is, I’d believe that he could have it wrangled very quickly. Continue reading

Review: Flying Dream by Catie Curtis

About 20 years ago, I saw one of my first Catie Curtis shows, at Club Passim (then simply Passim, run by Bob and RaeAnn Donlin). Transitioning at the time fully into music and away from social work, Curtis was well on her way to establishing herself as a serious folk musician. Putumayo had also just released a compilation called The Best of Folk Music which included Curtis, Joan Baez, Indigo Girls, Cliff Eberhardt, John Gorka, and others. I asked her that night how it felt to be included in such company, and she said, “like I could die happy now.”

Luckily for all of us, Curtis is still here and continues not only to add to her catalog of music, but to do it in a way that is both re-inventive and consistent with her style over the years. This certainly holds true for her latest release, Flying Dream. Produced by, and largely co-written with, Kristen Hall (who also had a track on the same Putumayo release), this album continues to build on Curtis’s talent for creating and releasing solid, enjoyable songs. Hall herself has also had a long career as a songwriter, including as a solo performer and as a founding member of Sugarland. She has written many gems in her own catalog, and the pairing of these two women works well here on all levels. Continue reading

Song Highlight: Hopeful

Ever have those times when you hear a song, and it is just the right song at just the right time? It happens to me a lot, actually. Many times, the song is as yet unrecorded and fleeting, making me wish the artist would hurry up and record their next project already, so I can have the song in my collection! Fortunately, in the internet age, we have things like YouTube to help keep the songs available to hear at will. From time to time here on the blog, I’ll be posting songs that strike me, officially recorded or ‘only’ online. Some might be new, some might be old – I’m all about sharing music I love here.

Today, it’s all about really new songs. Cary Cooper started a series in 2012 called RealWomenRealSongs. She enlisted a bunch of female songwriters to write a song a week for a year, aided by a new prompt each week. The series is now in its second year, and the artists taking part are: Cary, Honor Finnegan, Ellis, Tracy Grammer, Tylan Greenstein, BettySoo, Terri Hendrix, Alice Peacock, Anna Vogelzang, Hope Dunbar, Megan Burtt, Emily Dunbar, Lucy Wainright Roche, Natalie York, Connie Mims, Annika, Dorit, Ingrid Elizabeth, Lisa Markley, Sara Hickman, Kate Hearne, and Stephanie Macias. Also participating are visual artists Ginger Fowler and Jeff Donahue. Continue reading

Review: The List of Whales by Carrie Ferguson

Popping in a brand new CD for the first time, even from a well regarded rising artist like Carrie Ferguson, always comes with a little bit of nervousness. Will I like this? I had heard her in the Emerging Artist Showcase at the 2013 Falcon Ridge Folk Festival but was not really familiar with her music. This was going to be essentially a new exposure.

Carrie Ferguson

photo by Glenn Koetzner

Well, I needn’t have worried. Right from the first measures, Ferguson’s second album, The List of Whales, just reaches right in and commands the listener to move and be moved. The upbeat fiddle-infused opening track, “Sunlight,” masks its story of a bittersweet journey of self discovery and seeking under a foot-tapping beat: “I’ve chosen things I thought were great that tore my soul apart/Sometimes it takes a few mistakes to know your own heart”. Continue reading

Remembering Pete Seeger

How does one describe Pete Seeger?

Pete Seeger - Lebanon (NH) Opera House. 12 September 2008. Photo by Amy J. PutnamI met Pete once, in 2008. I was working hospitality for a show in New Hampshire in which he played with Guy Davis and Tao Rodriguez-Seeger. My interaction with Pete was limited, but entirely memorable. He was in constant storyteller/historian mode. I met him in the wings of the stage, just after sound check. He walked over, we shook hands and I introduced myself, trying to keep cool. I mean, PETE SEEGER. I needn’t have worried as he was engaging and friendly without hesitation. I think he might have actually even introduced himself to me in case, you know, I didn’t know who he was. He then noticed the wall behind me, which was covered in writing, little anecdotes and notes and thoughts left behind by previous performers. Pete went right into a story about the oral history nature of these sorts of walls and places. Later on in the green room, I listened in for a few moments as he recounted more stories, more history to Guy Davis. In his late 80s then, Pete was very much sharp as a tack, and the treasure trove of information collected in his mind was clearly unparalleled. (some photos from this show are over on my site) Continue reading

Review: Silent Lessons by Sharon Goldman

What better way to start a new blog in a new year than with the very first CD I was sent in 2014? I was quite delighted to open my mailbox earlier this month to find the gift of Sharon Goldman‘s new CD, Silent Lessons. I had been seeing a lot of good chatter about this album from mutual friends on Facebook, so I was eager to hear it.

Sharon Goldman - Silent LessonsThe chatter is right – this is a very good album. A little shorter than most full length releases at just 8 tracks, it is still a deeply satisfying listen. Goldman’s voice is sweetly clear, her guitar playing is beautifully nuanced, and the songs tell well thought out stories. Continue reading