BETH WOOD – The Long Road (own label)

The Long RoadHailing from Lubbock, The Long Road is Wood’s 11th album, and her maturity, experience and assured confidence are in evidence throughout this collection of short stories in song that conjures Americana thoughts of Nanci Griffith, the Indigo Girls and Dolly Parton as well as the sophisticated folk of a Dory Previn.

Working with the core backing of bassist Milui Fultz and drummer Jeremy Burchett, augmented here and there with Anna Tivel on fiddle and backing vocals, guitarist Peter Perdichizzi, producer Tyler Fortier on keys and guitars and, as on the countrified opening break-up ‘Where I Go’ (“when you say it’s your way or the highway, this is where I go my way”), Bryan Daste on pedal steel, the songs reach out and touch familiar experiences and feelings.

Featuring Tivel’s fiddle and Peter Mulvey on backing vocals, ‘One Shot’, a mid-tempo song that finds a sixteen-year-old heading down the Silver Thread to marry his sweetheart, a winding highway that connects former mining towns in southwestern Colorado, looking to chase his hopes and dreams, the lyric actually a reflection on the morning after the 2016 election, war and sacrifice, the title carrying two meanings.

From one highway to another, the soulful title track slows the pace down for a five chords slow dance through painful memories (her marriage had recently fallen apart, something that informs many of the songs) and sense of feeling alone and adrift. The sentiments spill over into the fiddle-adorned ballad ‘Go Now’ where she sings about the geography of loss and how “grief is a river that we can’t cross” while the crystalline sung ‘Call When You Get Home’ with its simple piano, mandolin and fiddle sports a chorus of “Call me when you need me,call me when you don’t call me for no reason just to say hello and call when you get home”.

The more upbeat mood here is also reflected on ‘The Hard Way’, its two characters finding that moment when, as she puts it, they realise that dreams are ideas with wings that you have to decide to fly.

Billie Holiday provides the spark in the bittersweet dreamily reflective Janis Ian-tinged ‘Old Things’ with Fultz on upright bass, the lyrics drawing a relationship split by the gulf between sepia toned familiar comfort and full coloured uncharted horizons, the memories within a room reminding how “It’s just like you to like old things it’s just like me to be new”.

Organ and pedal steel providing the primary colours, ‘Painted Lines’ is probably the most Parton-like number, a testament from a travelling musician for who, the songs are the path (“I have overheard that it is absurd for a woman to take to the road/but I’ve got a dream and it’s a part of me/it’s written in my DNA code”) but also has a “heart that aches for home”.

The lushly arranged piano ballad ‘Heaven Only Know’ with its soaring vocals and string echoes the opening track in its theme of an unclear journey ahead where “we stumble and we stare/tripping over signs everywhere/a bargain that we never got to choose/when we love sometimes we lose”, the only certainty being “the way you make me feel”.

It ends on a perfect pairing to reinforce that notion of change, of letting go and finally moving on to whatever destination presents itself. First up is the jaunty Griffiths strum of ‘Leaving’ (“Thinking I might take a trip to somewhere I have never been before/drive until I feel like stopping sleep, wake up, then drive a little more”), to be followed by a perfectly complementary, rhythmically warm cover of Paul Simon’s ‘Slip Slidin’ Away’.

Wherever the road takes her, she’ll prove a welcome musical companion.

Mike Davies

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Artist’s website: www.bethwoodmusic.com

‘The Hard Way’ – live:

Willy Porter – Human Kindness

Willy Porter - Human Kindness

All our second chances come when we’re done closing our eyes,” writes Willy Porter in a lyric from “Human Kindness,” the title track of the new album of the same name. Porter’s new record encompasses more than the outstanding musicianship audiences and critics have come to expect from this indie-artist, it is also a call to make a positive impact in our own communities.

Human Kindness features the talents of artists such as Martin Barre, Natalia Zuckerman, Carmen Nickerson, and Peter Mulvey and sets Porter’s blistering guitar work against a big studio sound on a stunning book of songs that explore themes about connection, compassion, and the human journey.

The seeds of the album came from an incident Porter witnessed of a man pulling a woman out of the path of an oncoming bus. That remarkable and simple act prompted Porter to explore bigger questions about the nature of human kindness in all its many forms and to ask “What would be possible if we saw one another with open eyes? What would change if we engaged with each other on a human level just a little bit more?”

This mindset has inspired Porter to launch a year-long campaign connected with the release and tour of this record. The Year Of Kindness is a call to action for people to get involved in giving back to their communities. Willy Porter has been making first time listeners into diehard fans for more than two decades. It is his warmth and wit that keep people grinning, but it is his music and humanity that keep them coming back for more. Willy Porter will be touring the UK promoting Human Kindness during October 2015.

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com 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: www.willyporter.com

‘Freedom’ from Human Kindness:

 

PETER MULVEY – new album: Silver Ladder

Peter MulveyPeter Mulvey 2

Silver Ladder is an auditory shot in the arm from veteran touring songwriter Peter Mulvey. Produced by the indomitable Chuck Prophet, it is a lean, muscular collection of tightly constructed songs, leavening Mulvey’s tendency toward ruminative and yearning acoustic songs with a dose of sharp-witted, punchy rock and roll.

After a turbulent stretch in his personal life left him at sea, Mulvey decided to write his way out of it: “I’ve been through it. I bet you have too,” he said, “but there are times in life when you turn a corner and suddenly everything is simple: let’s make some songs, people! Let’s play!” Committing to writing one song a week relieved him of the precious, self-involved artist’s question, What Do I Have To Say? The songs came flooding out over the weeks and months, and within a year he had more than enough for a new record.

Reaching out to Chuck Prophet was meant to continue shaking himself loose. The two had met only once, at a gig. After Prophet agreed to produce, Peter flew to Los Angeles to meet the band of complete strangers Chuck had assembled, and within hours they were tracking tunes. David Kemper, Bob Dylan’s drummer on the road and in the studio, made up the rhythm section with Tom Freund (Ben Harper) on upright bass. Chuck and his Mission Express guitarist James DePrato provided the electric guitar fireworks, and Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek) supplied touches of harmony vocal and violin. Aidan Hawken (Highwater Rising, The Quiet Kind) provided textures unheard on Mulvey’s past fifteen records: celeste, Chamberlin, Mellotron.

From its first track, Silver Ladder brims with confidence and grit. From the unapologetic rock of ‘Sympathies’ to the starkly beautiful ‘Trempealeau’, from the conspiratorial swagger of ‘Lies You Forgot You Told’ to the joyous release of ‘Back in the Wind’, Silver Ladder is the work of an artist in his prime. After nine sharp songs, the record ends with a vigorous left turn: the swampy groove of ‘Copenhagen Airport’ at first seems to be an instrumental, until its simple two-line lyric delivers a universal jolt of recognition. Then the vertiginous sweep of ‘If You Shoot at a King You Must Kill Him’ is offset by the concise, piercing coda, ‘Landfall’.

Silver Ladder is an artistic rebirth for Mulvey, the work of a poet who has discovered his inner rock-and-roller, a man who has been through the eye of the needle and come through it with a haul of songs to spark and encourage his fellow humans.

“His voice feels like fine old leather, and his guitar sounds like it’s on steroids… a superb technician…” The Boston Globe

“Peter Mulvey is consistently the most original and dynamic of the US singer-songwriters to tour these shores…

A phenomenal performer with huge energy, a quick-fire, quirky take on life, and an extraordinary guitar style… a joy to see.” The Irish Times

“The subtle power of his voice, a husky, hushed baritone… understated, at once sophisticated and intimate… as cover-worthy as Randy Newman, Elvis Costello and Dar Williams.” The Washington Post

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com 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: www.petermulvey.com

David McGraw and Mandy Fer – Seed of a Pine

This album encapsulates, everything I love about the Americana music scene, namely, heart, soul, places, travel, song and fine musicianship. I have Darryl Purpose and his “Travelers’ Code album back in 2001 (see http://folking.com/darryl-purpose/ ) to thank for my introduction to it and my subsequent love affair with it.

Human chemistry is indeed a mercurial thing, and adding any artistic endeavour into that mysterious balance can, every so often, create some true magic. For David McGraw and Mandy Fer (pronounced fair), the delicate intertwining of music, life and that always-fine interpersonal equilibrium has born fruit in the shape of a truly one of a kind artistic partnership.

With the release of the song writers first official collaboration, Seed of Pine, the duo’s ability to blend their lush folk and Americana – influenced styles is on full display. McGraw’s consoling, velvety baritone voice, reminiscent of Greg Brown, coupled with Fer’s soaring and subtly powerful vocal approach, likened to that of Patty Griffin, puts a spit-shine polish on the finely crafted body of songs they have generated together.

The  intricate weavings of their vocal harmonies are undeniably exceptional. McGraw’s hard-hating tunes echoed narratives of the culture and landscape of the American West, wherein he thoughtfully spins tales of everyday folks looking for something more in their earthly existence. Fer takes a more dreamy approach, invoking complex and etherial imagery within her sultry and haunting melodies. Her potent electric lead guitar playing, in the vain of jazz-fusion guitarist John Scofield, bravely propels this duo through their uniquely heartfelt and spirited live performances, winning over audiences night after night,

McGraw and Fer have amassed an admirable resume and an ever-expanding fan base during their time playing music together.

Having toured the U.S. from coast to coast, performing in highly esteemed theatres to intimate listening rooms, the pair has honed their skills sharing stages with fellow troubadours including Willy Porter, The Swell Season, Tony Furtado, Jeffrey Foucault and many others.

Seed of Pine itself was recorded in Chicago during the summer of 2011 with renowned producer Zach Goheen and includes contributions from a litany of acclaimed musicians, including Wisconsin singer-songwriter Peter Mulvey, Po’ Girl songstress Allison Russell, and Chicago’s JT Nero (of JT and the Clouds).

Let’s hope that they make it over to the UK at some point in the future. We’ll be straight back to you if we hear their a coming!

Folkmaster

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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