Thursday, May 28, 2015


After raves from UK outlets like Q, MOJO, The Sunday Times, The Guardian, Diva, Mary Epworth’s indie-psych-folk-pop masterpiece ‘Dream Life’ has crossed the pond to the US. Epworth most recently performed on a 36-date nationwide tour with Welcome To Night Vale which saw many nights sold out. ‘Dream Life,’ previously released in the UK, was out last week on Highline Records in the US. She performs Friday in LA at Hotel Café before returning to her native UK. Here’s what we’re reading:

"Her blend of baroque pop and West Coast folky psychedelia is appealing." - Brooklyn Vegan

"A blend of Chelsea Wolfe and Mirah, Epworth puts out evocative and dreamy tunes inspired by nature and imbued with fuzzy guitar and plaintive synths. It's a little bit folk, a little bit rock, and a little bit psych, all forming together into a mix of sounds that's entirely intriguing... Fans of acts like Cat Power and Lana Del Rey should find something to enjoy for sure” – AV Club

“Soaring, expansive folk music connected by an underlying thread of keys and synths.” - Village Voice

“On her debut LP, ‘Dream Life,’ Epworth pairs the Dusty Springfield template of vintage American soul-pop made cloudly and wounded like a misty, British Sunday afternoon with some hefty riffs, traces of unexpected kraut-drone, some ’80s Kate Bush sweep and wheat field country melodies… really cool, fairly dark sonic choices.” – CMJ

“Atmospheric pysch-pop… [Epworth’s voice is] a potent blend of sweetness and power.” – Wall Street Journal

"Effervescent" - Chicagoist

“This folk sound is but one of many detours taken by ‘Dream Life,’ which also incorporates psychedelic and kosmische influences.” – Pop Matters

“Brace yourself before you listen.” – Surviving The Golden Age blog

Friday, May 22, 2015

Unsung heroes of roots music to perform at 2015 Newport Folk Festival Sunday, July 26

Music Maker Relief Foundation is pleased to announce a performance by pioneers of Southern Roots music at Newport Folk Festival on Sunday, July 26th. The show, called “Music Maker Relief Foundation Hosted by Dom Flemons,” will bring together musicians across folk genres for “three hours of the most authentic, rooted and dynamic Southern artists you’ve never heard,” says Tim Duffy, Music Maker’s founder and Executive Director.

Multi-instrumentalist, GRAMMY Award-winner and Carolina Chocolate Drops’ founding member Dom Flemons will host the performance featuring Daptone Records gospel trio The Como Mamas, keyboard player Ironing Board Sam, Piedmont blues guitarist Boo Hanks, rhythm and blues guitarist Albert White, trombone master Lil’ Joe, bassist Nashid Abdul, drummer Ardie Dean and Music Maker Founder Tim Duffy.

Watch: Newport Lineup Teaser Video from Music Maker here:

This will be the first performance at Newport Folk Festival for all the artists save Flemons, who has taken the stage at the festival twice before.

Dom Flemons is best known for founding the Grammy award winning Carolina Chocolate Drops and more recently for reviving the songster tradition.

Watch: Dom Performs “But They Got It Fixed On Right” on Folk Alley.

The Como Mamas, all granddaughters of Miles Pratcher, who was recorded by Alan Lomax in the 1950’s, share raw Mississippi gospel, with soaring harmonies unencumbered by instrumentation. The trio has releases on the Daptone label and has been spotlighted by Wax Poetics.

Watch: The Como Mamas “On the Battlefield”

Ironing Board Sam, 76, has been playing for over 55 years, and his powerful, soulful voice and remarkable piano prowess remain undiminished. Sam is the new celebrity spokesperson for Faultless Spray Starch and will be releasing a record on Big Legal Mess in September.  He was profiled on PBS Newshour last year and performed at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival earlier this year.

Watch: Ironing Board Sam on “The Night Train” in 1965.

Boo Hanks, is the greatest Piedmont Blues rediscovery in many years, whose style is reminiscent of the legendary Blind Boy Fuller. At 85 years old he has performed at prestigious venues all over the US and abroad, including the Lincoln Center. His most recent album, Buffalo Junction, was a collaborative project with Carolina Chocolate Drops co-founder Dom Flemons and was reviewed positively in the Washington Post.

Watch: Boo Hanks & Dom Flemons.

Albert White began playing guitar in the late 1950s with his legendary uncle, Piano Red, and his group “Dr. Feelgood & the Interns.” Since, Albert has performed with Joe Tex, The Tams, Ray Charles, Elvin Bishop, and others.

Trombone player Lil’ Joe’s career began in 1964 with the late, great, Junior Wells.  He has appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, Midnight Special, Soul Train and toured with B.B. King for ten years. Joe is known for his heart-wrenching solos and tasteful high-energy performances.

Tim Duffy, co-founder of Music Maker Relief Foundation, has spent his life recording and documenting and performing alongside the greatest unheralded roots musicians of our time. An accomplished guitar player in his own right, Duffy has backed up many Music Maker artists on stage during the last two decades.

Nashid Abdul, a graduate of Berklee College of Music, played with Muddy Water's son Big Bill Morganfield. On his incredible jazz album and through performances around the globe, Nashid showcases his musical versatility and smooth six-string bass skills.

Ardie Dean has been keeping blues time since 1969. He started out with Homesick James and then paid his dues on the Chitlin’ Circuit leading the band for R&B singer Chuck Strong. Dean has been performing and managing with Tim Duffy and Music Maker since the organizations’ founding twenty years ago.

Tim Duffy said of the invitation to perform at Newport, “I grew up listening to Pete Seeger, and we are so deeply honored to have Music Maker pay tribute to him on the ‘For Pete’s Sake’ stage. The authentic Southern artists presented in our show are those whose musical traditions are at the very heart of American culture. Music Maker works with these artists to help them share their music with the world, and what better stage to make their voices heard than the finest folk festival in the world.”

Thursday, May 21, 2015



Before he passed away, Jim Dickinson heard Ted Drozdowski’s Scissormen, whose new album ‘Love & Life’ comes out July 31. Dickinson had this to say about Ted’s music:

“Ever wonder what would have happened if Bukka White had discovered the Fuzz Tone? Or if Skip James had played piano with Antenna Jimmy and Drumbo from the Magic Band? Scissormen is acid blues for the 21st century... Robert Palmer would indeed be proud.”

Early buzz on ‘Love & Life’ has been excellent. In a premiere of “Beggin’ Jesus,” Diffuser.FM praised Drozdowski’s “Staggering guitar skills [on] music that will stand the test of time."

Wax Poetics said, “Ted Drozdowski’s Scissormen weaves together Hill Country blues, Memphis soul, and psychedelic/garage rock.”

Beale Street Caravan is taping the band’s performance on June 2 at Rum Boogie in Memphis, TN for broadcast on its nationally syndicated radio program.

Elmore called the album an “exciting journey of experimental, genre-hopping, electric and eclectic music making.”

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Music Maker Relief Foundation at Newport Folk Fest 2015



Entertainment Weekly is streaming Eilen Jewell’s new album ‘Sundown Over Ghost Town,’ out next week on Signature Sounds. EW writes, “Packed with vivid lyrics, steel guitars, and hot licks, Jewell’s Americana-driven brand of country music sounds tailor-made for sweltering, stagnant summer nights."

Jewell’s acoustic guitar sports signatures by her living heroes Wanda Jackson, Emmylou Harris, Mavis Staples, Loretta Lynn, and Lucinda Williams. Immediately after one notices that these are all strong women, one can see the variety of music in Eilen’s personal canon. That broad-eared Americana approach has bled into Jewell’s own music. In concert, Jewell will cover material as varied as Lynn songs, “Drop Down Mama” by blues great Sleepy John Estes, rock n' roll classic “Shakin’ All Over,” Stonewall Jackson's country classic “Why I’m Walkin’,” Eric Andersen’s “Dusty Boxcar Wall.” As a bandleader and writer, her musical experiences have culminated in new album ‘Sundown Over Ghost Town,’ out May 26 on Signature Sounds. Jewell has been added to the Americana Music Festival with a show at Nashville’s City Winery on September 17 in addition to many other tour dates listed below.

“Hallelujah Band” is based on two true stories from Eilen’s life growing up: “The first is about an experience I had as a teenager with my best friend. Her boyfriend somehow knew of an unmarked, underground cave in the middle of the desert. We climbed down there with flashlights in our teeth and hiked around for hours. There was water down below and freight trains up above. It was a religious experience for me that has stuck with me to this day. Something poignant like that happens and you realize what a big life it is, what a glorious world. I may not be worthy but I’m going to join in anyway. And the second story in that song is about how, when I was a little girl I had a secret land that I would go visit. It was just a little indentation in the ground, and I’d sit on the pine needles with my doll. But it carried a lot of importance for me and still does.” Meanwhile, the refrain pays tribute to her love of gospel music, which she also performs in side project the Sacred Shakers.

Eilen Jewell Tour Dates

May 23 - Grass Valley, CA - Strawberry Music Festival
May 27 – Eureka, CA - Palm Lounge at the Eureka Inn
May 28 – Winters, CA - The Palms
May 29 - Berkeley, CA - Freight and Salvage
May 30 - Santa Cruz, CA - Kuumbwa Jazz Center
June 10 – Portland, OR – Alberta Rose Theatre
June 11 – Seattle, WA - Tractor Tavern
June 12 – Palmer, AK – Palmer Musk Ox Farm
June 13 – Soldotna, AK – Kenai River Festival
July 3 - Berwyn, IL - Fitzgerald’s American Music Festival
July 8- Cambridge, MA - The Sinclair
July 9 - New Haven, CT - Cafe 9
July 10 – Greenfield, MA – Green River Festival
July 11 - Hudson, NY - Club Helsinki
July 12 - Woodbridge, NJ - Woodbridge Country Sundays
July 14 – New York, NY – City Winery
July 16 – Washington, D.C. – The Hamilton
July 17 - Philadelphia, PA - World Cafe Live
July 18 – Pittsburgh, PA – Club Café
July 19 – Wakeman, OH – Music at Riverdog
August 7 – Challis, ID – Braun Brothers Family Reunion
August 9 – Bozeman, MT – Sweet Pea Festival
August 22 - Liberty, UT - Ogden Valley Roots & Blues Festival
September 3 – Collinsville, CT – Bridge Street
September 4 – Charlestown, RI – Rhythm & Roots Festival
September 9 – Portland, ME – Port City Music Hall
Stepember 16 – Asheville, NC – The Grey Eagle
September 17 – Nashville, TN – City Winery (Americana Music Festival)
September 19 – Tampa, FL – Skipper’s Smokehouse
September 20 – Decatur, GA – Eddie’s Attic

Friday, May 15, 2015

Captain Luke, 1927-2015

Blues man and Music Maker Relief Foundation artist Captain Luke passed away on Tuesday, May 12, 2015, at the age of 87. He will be greatly missed by all, but we are grateful that his music will live on, and with it his indomitable spirit.
Luther Mayer, known as “Captain Luke,” was born in Greenville, South Carolina, in 1927. He grew up on his grandparents’ farm in nearby Clinton, where he followed the furrows barefoot behind the plow as his Uncle Jesse worked and sang to his mule. Luke’s ambition at the time was to learn to drive a mule. It was one he never achieved, but he soaked in the music of the countryside as Jesse played his harmonica on the evening porch. At 14, Luke moved to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, with his mother and sister, where the exigencies of the situation carried him increasingly out of school and into the work force. At 17 he went to work for a junkman who demanded a day’s work from his young employee. His boss was a large man and Luke soon learned to lift his own end of a scrap motor and heave it onto a flatbed truck without pause or complaint. Early on he had developed a talent for imitation, and Luke began to sing the songs he heard on the radio, everything from the big band singers to hillbilly ballads. (“Back then I had eleventeen voices,” Luke said frequently.)
Luke was blessed with a deep natural baritone. He was accustomed to carrying the low parts in church, and his abilities soon caught the attention of Otis King, who taught him how to hold the low notes and make them rise and fall. Soon Luke was singing bass professionally in King’s Gospel Quintet. He also began to entertain at informal gatherings, an avocation that would endear him to friends and strangers alike throughout his life. Accompanied by whatever instrumentation was available, Luke would travel in a wide circle from Winston performing in drinkhouses, the social hubs of the African-American community in the North Carolina Piedmont. His repertoire changed with the popular music of the changing times and grew to include comedy routines, notably renditions of Amos ’n’ Andy skits with inflection-perfect renditions of every character. He worked continuously, raising four girls and two boys in Winston-Salem. In 1969 he moved to New York City and worked for four years in the garment industry until called back to Winston for a family emergency. He has remained there since.
A chance encounter in the early 1970’s led to a long association with Guitar Gabriel. Gabe was a master of the country blues, another musical form that suited Luke’s voice perfectly, and the two became fixtures in the Winston-Salem drinkhouse scene, providing a nucleus of entertainment in their community, alongside such local luminaries as Macavine Hayes, Whistlin’ Britches, Willa Mae Buckner and Mr. Q. Sometime early in this period an admiral’s hat caught Luke’s eye in Miller’s Variety Store and he became in an instant “Captain Luke.” Although completely unfamiliar with boats, Luke was a leader of men by anyone’s standards: the handle fit and it stuck.
Answers to questions came easily to Luke. His uncommon combination of youthful demeanor and ancient wisdom were perhaps born of his direct approach to everyday life. Luke took care of business for a long time. His was the yogi of a man who had worked hard, played hard, and slept well, and his terse evaluations of the situation left little room for doubt or argument.
Luke’s music and art were rooted firmly in the African-American working class of the Carolina Piedmont and the mystique of his message referred continually to the blues experience. However, as a pure entertainer in the milieu of the drinkhouses, Luke’s style and song selection periodically changed to suit the needs and desires of his audience. Luke explored the broad ranges of music, from its roots in the deep country with blues and country, all the way to modern pop/showbiz manifestations. From the primitive nursery rhyme “Old Black Buck,” to more familiar sounds of Lightnin’ Hopkins and Guitar Gabriel, through the rhythm ’n blues of Joe Simon, to the sentimental songs of Billy Eckstein and Brook Benton, Luke’s rich dry baritone provided a panoramic tour of his musical influences. It arrived at an unusual convergence that might be called Outsider Lounge Music. The sound was basic and sophisticated in the same moment, speaking to us with the savage perspicacity of Satchmo in his prime and swinging with the easy grace of a young Dean Martin.
Luke’s art exhibited the same eclecticism as his song bag. Decades ago a glistening beer can by the roadside spoke to him of beauty and function, and from that time he fashioned homemade ashtrays, lamps, airplanes, and cars from society’s debris. Ubiquitous in the knick-knack shelves and card tables of his Winston-Salem neighborhood, they have become sought-after pieces in the folk-art collector’s market.
In 1991 Captain Luke and Guitar Gabriel began working with Tim and Denise Duffy, and in 1994 they helped found the Music Maker Relief Foundation. In the two decades since, Captain Luke performed at Lincoln Center and prestigious festivals through out the United States, Europe and South America. His last recording ‘Live at the Hamilton’ was issued early this year, a truly classic record along with his long time partner Cool John Ferguson. In 2003, Music Maker Relief Foundation released his album ‘Outsider Lounge Music.’ He is also featured on the compilations ‘A Living Past’ (1995) and ‘We Are the Music Makers’ (2014).

Captain Luke was a leader in his community of East Winston-Salem, he had an open door policy for anyone to come in from the cold to sleep, and he would share what food he had on the stove. Captain Luke was a dedicated father, and is survived by his six children.

Craig Breslow: Strike 3 Foundation's Sip Happens Event Recap Video