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Korby Lenker – Thousand Springs

For many artists, stepping into a studio to record an album can be challenging enough. But when East Nashvillian Korby Lenker began working on his seventh album, Thousand Springs, he decided to skip the studio altogether and head to his home state of Idaho to record in places that held particular meaning for him. Venturing forth with his guitar, some recording gear and a tent, he captured his vocal and guitar parts in more than a dozen locales, including the edge of the Snake River Canyon, a cabin north of Sun Valley and his undertaker father’s mortuary.

Then he spent months driving around the country to collect vocal and instrumental contributions from nearly 30 of today’s finest folk talents, among them Nora Jane Struthers, Anthony Da Costa, Carrie Elkin, Amy Speace, Molly Tuttle, Kai Welch, Angel Snow, Becky Warren and the Punch Brothers’ Chris “Critter” Eldridge. In Madison, Wisconsin, Portland, Oregon, Seattle, Los Angeles, Boston, Austin and Nashville, he recorded their work in backyards, hotel rooms and even a bookstore, then went home to edit them into Thousand Springs.

Lenker plotted his plan for Thousand Springs after Nashville-based Turner Publishing Co. released his first collection of short stories, Medium Hero, in December 2015 – an experience that, he says, helped him find his “true voice” (and earned him high praise not only from book-world luminaries including Kirkus Reviews and National Book Award winner Tim O’Brien, but Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Wozniak).

“For me, the two most important qualities of good art are originality and meaning,” Lenker explains. “You’ve got to tell your own story and not try to borrow someone else’s.”

When he moved to Nashville, he quickly discovered singer-songwriters were about as common as pickup trucks. And most of them were about as original.

“It forced me to really dig in and figure out what I did that was different than what everyone else was doing,” he says. “I spent my first three years in town parking cars at a hotel and taking a bunch of chances, creatively speaking. No one really cared about me, which turned out to be very freeing.”

During that period, he wrote many of the stories in Medium Hero, and focused on writing songs that meant something to him rather than worrying about hit potential.

“Along the way, I discovered there was an audience for this approach to telling my story,” he says. It was a thrilling, and empowering, revelation.

In the years since, he’s played everywhere from small listening rooms to Seattle’s world-renowned Bumbershoot festival, delivering what American Songwriter magazine called “huggable folk-pop” on stages shared with artists from Willie Nelson, Keith Urban and Chris Isaak to Susan Tedeschi, Amy Grant and Nickel Creek. Along the way, he’s earned nearly a dozen songwriting awards, including first-place wins at the 2016 Rocky Mountain Folks Festival, 2012’s Kerrville Folk Festival and 2006’s Merlefest. He also placed second in the 2017 Hazel Dickens Songwriting Contest for ‘Friend and A Friend’, a beguiling Thousand Springs track co-written with Molly Tuttle, who sings harmony. Allowing life to imitate art, Lenker also has been conducting a one-man campaign of sorts, engaging strangers for conversation and shared selfies in an Instagram-hosted exercise he calls #MakeAmericaFriendsAgain. (He also touches on that subject in a new song titled ‘Let’s Just Have Supper’. Written and performed with Struthers, it’s not on this album, but the NPR-premiered video, is worth checking out.)

Ironically, while recording Thousand Springs (and making friends), Lenker lost his voice for nearly two months.

Addressing the loss of a dear family member, Lenker wrote the affecting song ‘Wherever You Are’ while his voice was gone. He also visited the Vanderbilt Voice Center, where doctors immediately started him on physical therapy. Soon, he was recording again. He did ‘Wherever You Are’ solo, in one take. It’s one of five songs he penned alone; the other seven are collaborations with a variety of musical friends including Speace, Tuttle, Robby Hecht, Jon Weisberger and Liz Longley.

Coincidentally, the song that precedes it, ‘Mermaids’, has an understated lightheartedness, almost a softer ‘Magical Mystery Tour’/’Yellow Submarine’ vibe, that would easily appeal to kids. Throughout the album, Lenker deftly shifts through a wide range of moods. He captures his love of literature with charming playfulness in ‘Book Nerd’. The opener, “Northern Lights,” is a spare, contemplative tune containing just a couple of verses, but Lenker’s vivid imagery and forlorn voice are all he needs to speak volumes about lost love.

There’s a delicacy to most of these songs, due in part to Lenker’s gentle delivery; in ‘Nothing Really Matters’, he sounds as if he’s whispering in your ear – in a voice that somehow suggests both James Taylor and Michael Franks, delivered in an Afro-bluegrass style. Driven by Jon Reischman’s outstanding mandolin, it’s reminiscent of Paul Simon’s Graceland; Lenker cites both the artist and the album as major influences.

The hardest-rocking track, ‘Last Man Standing’, was written about Chief Sitting Bull after Lenker read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. He recorded parts of it at Standing Rock, near Sitting Bull’s grave, a month before the Dakota-Access Pipeline protests began. Musically, the song more or less references his own roots; Lenker started studying piano at age 7 and picked up guitar in his early teens, playing a lot of Neil Young and similar artists before joining the obligatory high-school rock band (his was Clockwork Orange).

“There weren’t a lot of people around me making music,” he says about growing up in Idaho’s isolation. “I had to go out and find it.” His search included attending college in Bellingham, Washington, where he studied music theory – and Phish. Reading about jazz led him to Louis Armstrong and Fats Waller – and to an understanding that, as he puts it, “music had a story, a thread that went from musician to musician, through time.” “The idea of finding my place in that timeline has become more and more important to me,” he notes, adding, “Every time I play a show, I think of it as an audition for the next show. Everything for me is a slow build.”

That might explain another of the album’s delights: ‘Late Bloomers’, in which he sings, Here’s to the late bloomers/Holding on till their time arrives/Some people might have gotten there sooner/But for us, it’s gonna be right on time … No matter how hard the path was/We always knew/No dream can outlast us/When it’s coming true.

For Lenker, as for any of us, some dreams come true and some don’t. That’s just life. But on Thousand Springs, he shares those highs and lows as only an artist with a “true voice” can. And that voice, he’ll never lose.

If you would like to order a copy of an album (in CD or Vinyl format), download one or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website.

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Wed 4 London The Troubadour, Earl’s Court
Thu 5 Birmingham Kitchen Garden Café
Fri 6 Saltaire, West Yorks. The Live Room, Caroline Social Club

Further dates to be announced…

+ Saturday August 18 Purbeck Valley Folk Festival

Artist’s website links:

PATRICIA VONNE – Top Of The Mountain (MIG 20182 CD)

Top Of The MountainPatricia Vonne releases Top Of The Mountain, her seventh album on March 23rd. It’s got a variety of styles, which is both its strength and weakness. At times, it’s a little way from the kind of music that is at the core of but I’ve enjoyed playing the album, which has an energy to it that I imagine makes Vonne and her band a great live act.

Vonne comes from San Antonio and describes herself as ninth generation Tejana. Top Of The Mountain reflects the mix of influences that she has grown with: rock, folk, flamenco, bilingual tex-mex, Latin, and predominantly has a rock band sound behind the songs. The opening track ‘Citadel’ has an air of late 80’s/early 90’s rock; the second track ‘City is Alive’ has a dirty grunge lead guitar to reflect the lyrics; ‘Illuminaria’ is sung in Spanish to another lively rock beat with lead played not just on the high notes, but also with occasional bass lead a la Duane Eddy; the title track is so catchy I’ve struggled to get it out of my head; ‘Lil Lobo’ will probably have audiences dancing in the clubs to its heavy beat. See what I mean about the album? – it’s great fun but it’s not traditional folk or folk-rock.

There are elements of Americana, though – particularly since the next track reminded me to keep to a wider understanding of the Americana genre. Madre de Perla is a flamenco-esque tribute to Vonne’s mother (the title translates as mother of pearl) and nudged me to remember that the Spanish heritage is as much a part of Americana as other traditions.

The video link below takes you to ‘Tidal Wave’; it’s less than a minute but have a flick through the other videos on the page and you’ll get a feel for Vonne’s energy and the strong melodies of her songs. The wildly rocking ‘Graceland Trip’ (also on the video page) and ‘Lekker Ding’ (hottie/sexything according to the urban dictionary – though you don’t need to know this, just listen to the delivery) draw more on a rock’n’roll tradition.

‘Western Blood’ is an instrumental somewhere between the music for a Clint Eastwood western and The Shadows ‘Apache’ and it works really well. ‘Concion de la Boda’ (Wedding Song) draws more on European traditional music roots for its arrangement. The album closes with the quieter ‘God’s Hands’ and ‘Stop The Madness’, where Vonne’s vocal is thoughtful but still a delight.

It’s been great to listen to Top Of The Mountain. The album’s strength is in the vitality of Vonne and her band – and, hence, I’d like to see them live – as well as the range of musical traditions it draws on. While I’ve enjoyed the range of influences, the diversity also makes it feel a bit more like a collection of singles. Maybe in the days of playlists and shuffled music that doesn’t matter, not least because there’d be some instantly engaging singles amongst them.

Vonne is on tour, if not the UK, from April 5th:

Mike Wistow

If you would like to order a copy of an album (in CD or Vinyl format), download one or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website.

Buying through Amazon on helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website:

‘Red Hot Heart’ live:

Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite – new single, album and April UK tour


Gearing up for the 30th March release of ‘No Mercy in This Land’, GRAMMY-Award winning artists BEN HARPER and CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE share a new track from the forthcoming album entitled “Found the One.” Dancing along to a bouncing, Bo Diddley-esque beat, the track is a jubilant and euphoric expression of love, with Ben singing of his luck in finding “the one.” ‘Found the One‘ further showcases the range of emotional depth fans can expect from the album, as it promises to take listeners on a sonic journey through Ben and Charlie’s personal stories of survival. ‘No Mercy in This Land‘ is available for preorder now and will include an IG download of ‘Found the One‘.

Found The One’ is a song about never giving up on finding true love. It’s a song about surrendering to love, getting out of loves way, and letting love do the heavy lifting,

” Harper says of the track. “It was also the one song written in the studio during the recording process of the record – Jason Mozersky started hammering out the main riff on guitar and Jimmy Paxson started coming up with this very unique drum pattern using his drum set along with, of all things, a metal trash can! So the two of them started making a wonderful racket and I immediately jumped out from behind the board. Right away, I knew we had to chase this idea down.”

If you would like to order a copy of an album (in CD or Vinyl format), download one or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website.

Buying through Amazon on helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

The pair will celebrate the album’s release on March 30th by kicking off an international tour that same evening in San Francisco, CA at the famed Fillmore before heading overseas for a string of European dates. The duo will make it to the UK in April to play three shows:

Tuesday 3 April – Oran Mor – Glasgow – TICKETS
Friday 6 April – Academy 2 – Manchester – TICKETS
Saturday 7 April – Shepherd’s Bush Empire – London – TICKETS


THE MELLOWSHIP – You Belong With Me … (own label)

You BelongBorn, raised and still based in the West Country, when she was 23 aspiring singer-songwriter Mo Dewdney had a motorbike accident that left her paraplegic. For some years, music was no longer part of her life, but, then, after the birth of her son, she found herself playing out words and music in her head. She began putting these down on paper, began singing with a local band and, eventually, decided to try her luck by singing her own material in a capella settings. This in turn led her to link with other folk musicians from the region, such as Anthony Chipperfield, and, now, her self-released debut album, You Belong With Me… recorded in collaboration with folk luminaries Lukas Drinkwater, on guitar, bass and harmonies, and fiddler Ciaran Algar.

As their involvement might indicate, Dewdney is of a traditional persuasion, although all but one of the numbers are self-penned, her pure, clear and often yearning vocals and phrasings having earned comparisons with Judy Collins and Sandy Denny. The collection opens with the contemplative ‘shine on’ optimism of ‘Starlight’, leading to an unaccompanied introduction to ‘Marriage Bands’, a song that strikes a rather less upbeat note with its tale of a warrior spirit woman losing her independence, freedom and spirit in the chains of loveless marriage, the cycle repeating itself with her daughter in the last verse; however, buoyed up by Algar’s rustic backwoods fiddle and Drinkwater’s waltz time guitar melody, the nature imagery dressed ‘Kiss All The Stars’ has a rosier view of love’s binding power.

With Drinkwater adding drums, as per the suggestion of the title, ‘The Woad – The Last Battle of Maidens Castle’ takes on traditional ballad form, returning to warrior imagery for the story of a woad-painted tribe facing the end of their dream, the vocals adopting drone line tone, complemented by hollow plucked fiddle and a hypnotic war dance rhythm.

Underpinned by Algar’s lullabying fiddle, another celebration of love, ‘You Belong To Me’ with its dreamy chorus is a warmer affair, while, again in waltz time, ‘Grampa Sam’ sets Dewdney’s lyrics to a tune by Jim Causley in a touching tribute to an elderly gent who took her under his wing when she first moved to the country, taught her to garden, told her tales of his life’s joys and tragedies and became a grandfather to her child.

The musically upbeat mood continues with the fingerpicked jauntiness of ‘The Moment I Now’, a call to do the right thing by the planet on which she live, its love of the natural world and eco message echoed in the album’s sole cover, Drinkwater playing guitar and harmonising on Stan Rogers’s classic ‘Northwest Passage’.

It ends with again just the two of them, this time Drinkwater also adding bass, on ‘Down By The Fire’, the sound of the sea backdropping a final affirmation of finding a place and a partner with whom to share your life. With another project already in hand in collaboration with Greg Hancock, you might want to climb aboard and share yours with her.

Mike Davies

Artists’ website:

JESS VINCENT- Lions Den (Kostenurka Records)

Lions DenThere have been a few changes in Jess Vincent’s life since the release of Shine back in 2015. She’s become vegan for a start. However, the most significant is the fact that she and her partner, Jozeph Chowles, have moved from Wiltshire to Bulgaria where, indeed, the bulk of the album was recorded, partly in the home studio from which the label name comes, and that, unlike her previous releases, all the songs here are solely Vincent’s work.

The good news, though, is that there’s been no major musical upheavals in the process, although the new environment does feed into Chowles’ arrangements, Eastern European hints surfacing here and there, such as in the Indian harmonium drone that permeates the pulsing ballad ‘Follow’, on which Vincent’s vocals are well back in the mix, although, having said that, the twang to the guitar would be more at home in Utah.

It opens on sparse, dry banjo notes with the tempo-shifting ‘The Way It Is’, bursts of guitars and percussion making their presence felt in the faster flurries, Vincent’s high pitched warbling vocals sounding especially effervescent. I’d assume the title track, a languorous number picked out on a minimalist repeated acoustic guitar phrase, a muted percussion rumble surfacing towards the end, lyrically addresses making the big move and, as she says in her notes, facing her demons.

‘Stranger’ is another relatively muted number, the vocals again held back in the mix, opening on single ukulele notes before the arrangement fleshes out and those Eastern European colours seep into the gradually gathering melody. ‘Ghosts’ shifts continents, the crooning backing vocals, harmonium and harmonica evoking sprawling mid-west landscapes over which the melody ebbs and flows. Harmonium again provides the bedrock on the gently dappled ‘Ballerina Dreams’ with its dreamy, shimmering ambience and lines about seasons changing beneath her feet, by which point you’ll have clocked that this is a generally musically reflective affair, with no rock storms lurking unexpectedly in the wings, although the steady march beat ‘Cherry Tree’ does kick the sonic level up a notch or two with its electric guitar breaks and the backwoods gospel feel to her vocals.

That same Appalachian sensibility is also evident on ‘Waiting For You’, a simple but particularly lovely number with its undulating , tinkling electric guitar notes, wheezing harmonium and music box-like melody.

Of the two remaining numbers, ‘Holiday’ takes an early hours, slow bluesy lullabying waltz approach and what could possibly be described as a narcotic Chris Isaak/David Lynch mood, while ‘Won’t Be Long’, a yearning brushed drums mortality-themed folk gospel slow shuffle, sees the album out on campfire in the pines harmonica and picked acoustic guitar notes that bundles together familiar thoughts of Iris deMent, Dolly Parton and Nanci Griffiths.

The dictionary definition of a lion’s den is a dangerous or frightening place, but there’s no need to approach this with caution, just jump right on in.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website:

‘Waiting For You’ – live:

Gem Andrews – North

Gem Andrews’ powerful new album ‘North’ is an intimate and stirring collection of songs which tackles themes of mental illness, poverty, community and destitution. In this dark country album, Andrews opens up the murkiest corners of her mind, and tells stories which are in turn despairing, hopeful and furious.

Running through every song is Gem’s spiritual home; the North East of England, sometimes as subject and sometimes as backdrop. The album is infused with the warmth and energy of the region, and pays tribute to local legends, including the late, great poet Julia Darling.

Gem’s songs capture the rage of the North, railing against a political class that have destroyed the livelihood and pride of the people and left them to waste.

If you would like to order a copy of an album (in CD or Vinyl format), download one or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website.

Buying through Amazon on helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

The Band
Gem Andrews – Vocals, Guitar, Banjo
Nicky Rushton – Piano, Accordion, Electric Guitar, Harmony Vocals
Sarah Van Jellie – Double Bass, Harmony Vocals
Bernard Wright – Violin, Mandolin, Harmony Vocals
Susanne Lambert – Drums, Percussion, Harmony Vocals

Here is “Calling”, an old gem from Gem.

Artist’s website: