Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Liner Notes: Signature Sounds 20th Anniversary Collection: Rarities From the Second Decade

If you’d been prescient enough, 20 years ago, to suggest that in 2014 Signature Sounds Recordings would have a catalog of more than 100 releases, a Top 20 album, and a three-day celebration of the label’s artists, the most astute of scene-followers in Western Massachusetts would’ve told you to dream on. Even Signature Sounds president Jim Olsen, who co-founded the label and runs it with Mark Thayer, would’ve thought you were crazy. “We started the label as a glorified hobby, with no grand ambitions,” Jim reflects. “And Signature Sounds has grown slowly and organically.”

Organically, for sure. The Signature Sounds moniker is first seen on a pair of CD compilations released in conjunction with radio station WRSI in 1992 and 1993 as benefit projects to help fight hunger in Western Mass. But Signature Sounds isn’t incorporated until September 1994 and its first official release, Boneyard, by former Van Morrison sideman John Sheldon and his band Blue Streak, innocuously bearing the catalog number SSRC 1227, appears in January 1995. Including a duet with James Taylor, the CD hints at big things to come.

Jim, already known back then as the host of The Back Porch, the popular Sunday morning radio show featuring an array of Americana, bluegrass, country, and alt-country music, slowly begins building a catalog and roster of artists for the label. In 1997, Signature Sounds becomes his full-time job. By the time the label celebrates its 10th anniversary, it’s been home to dozens of acclaimed releases, including ones by Josh Ritter, Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer, Lori McKenna, Mary Gauthier, Salamander Crossing, Mark Erelli, and Richard Shindell.

And that’s only the first chapter in the Signature Sounds story. During the next few years, in an environment where record labels are constantly becoming more and more generic and the trend toward downloading makes physical CDs less essential for some music fans, the independent Signature Sounds continues to buck the system and thrive. For proof, you need look no further than the CD you hold in your hands. Signature Sounds 20th Anniversary Collection: Rarities From the Second Decade not only showcases the artistry as well as many of the artists who’ve populated the label in its second decade, but it’s a treasure trove of hard-to-find and previously unreleased gems that help define the Signature Sounds sound.

“We had some great material that hadn't been heard, and it was fun to round it all up,” Jim explains. “We didn’t want any demos, home recordings, or live stuff. We wanted everything to be intended for a release.” So there’s a Lake Street Dive track that was released as a vinyl 45 for Record Store Day 2014;  rare tracks by Crooked Still and Jeffrey Foucault; a bonus LP track from Winterpills; a newly recorded track by Chris Smither; EP tracks including one by Zoe Muth & the Lost High Rollers; previously unreleased cuts by Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem, Peter Mulvey, and others; and much more from the vaults, including a celebratory hidden track by the Signature Sounds artists who hold the distinction of bursting onto the Billboard top-selling 200 albums chart at a lofty Number 18.

So what’s been a key ingredient in the success and the durability of the Signature Sounds label… especially at a time when most record labels no longer have a true identity? “I think there is a continuity in what we do,” Jim explains. “We’ve only added one or two new artists a year, and worked with many of artists for a long time. Our artists tend to be friends and tour partners, which lends a real sense of community to the label.”

Back in the day, a small handful of record labels had personalities of their own. If you were a jazz fan, for instance, chances are you could trust a label such as Impulse Records to put out music worth seeking out, even if you were unfamiliar with a particular artist. For Jim, Reprise Records, a subsidiary of Warner Bros. was just such an inspiration back in the 1960s and ’70s: “They signed amazing but non-commercial artists like Randy Newman and Ry Cooder. And they stuck with their artists even when their records didn't sell. In time it has become clear that they were a visionary label.”

Just like Signature Sounds.

And just like the selections spanning this 20th Anniversary Collection, music from Signature Sounds—yesterday, today, and tomorrow—is always worth listening to. After all, good taste is timeless.

—David Sokol, Hadley MA, November 2014

David Sokol was music editor for the Advocate Newspapers from 1977 to 1993, going on to edit New Country magazine, which featured early Signature Sounds tracks on its monthly samplers, and Disney Magazine.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

LUCIUS, DAWN LANDES, AOIFE O’DONOVAN OPINE ON KRISTIN ANDREASSEN’S NEW “SPECTACULAR” ‘GONDOLER’ (FEBRUARY 17)

WFUV’S JOHN PLATT: “GONDOLIER IS A BEAUTIFUL RECORD”

DAWN LANDES: “WARNING: THESE SONGS WILL FOLLOW YOU AROUND FOR DAYS”

Kristin Andreassen’s musical voyage from traditional folk to indie folk – culminating in the new album ‘Gondolier’ (February 17) – are apparent in the company that she keeps. On any given night, she might be hosting an old-time music jam in Brooklyn, recording backup vocals with Sufjan Stevens, calling a square dance in upstate New York, or singing onstage at Terminal 5 with Lucius.

WFUV’s John Platt, who hosted a set of hers at the On Your Radar concert Tuesday night, told the packed house, “‘Gondolier’ is a beautiful record.”

Andreassen says, “Being a part of the community in Brooklyn has been one of the most fulfilling parts of my career.” That respect is reflected right back at her from her peers:

Dawn Landes, with whom Andreassen has toured, says, "Andreassen has made another gorgeous album. These songs feel at once familiar and completely original. Her melodies seem to flow from a primeval stream. It's a perfect bed for these bemusing tales and subtle turns of phrase. Warning, these songs will follow you around for days! They are wonderful company."

Aoife O’Donovan, her former bandmate who sings on ‘Gondolier,’ says, “In Sometymes Why, we used to call Kristin ‘the mistress of metaphor.’ Her knack for drawing deep (and sometimes dark) meaning out of seemingly sweet lyrics is uncanny. On this new album, Kristin Andreassen has arrived at a whole new level- the production is spot-on, the songs eerily unique yet timeless, and her singing pristine. Gondolier is a spectacular record that we're going to be listening to for a long time…”

Holly Laessig of Lucius, with whom Andressen has sung backing vocals, says, “Kristin's new record Gondolier - it's an ear's chance to get a break from the New York winter and take a warm summer drive. "

Jess Wolfe, also of Lucius, declares, “Kristin's voice is effortless and silky smooth. The songs are refreshing and yet familiar. A gem for all to be delighted!”

Kristin Andreassen Tour Dates

12/17: Marlboro, NY - Concert & Square Dance (w/ Chris Eldridge & Mike + Ruthy)
12/31: Olivebridge, NY – Ashokan New Years Eve square dance
1/7/2015: New Haven, CT - Cafe 9 (w/ Chris Eldridge)
1/8/2015: Brooklyn, NY - Jalopy Theatre (APAP Showcase)
1/9/2015: New York, NY - Don’t Tell Mama (APAP Showcase)
1/10/2015: 1/10/2015: Cooperstown, NY – Cooperstown Concert Series (opening for David Wax Museum)
1/11/2015: Huntington, VT – Valley Stage (w/ Jefferson Hamer)
1/13/2015: New York, NY – Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 1
1/14/2015: Baltimore, MD – Calvert Street House Concerts
1/16/2015: Raleigh, NC – Duke Energy Center for the Arts (opening for Aoife O’Donovan)
1/18/2015: Charleston, WV - Mountain Stage
1/20/2015: Knoxville, TN - The Blue Plate Special
1/21/2015: Nashville, TN - Music City Roots

Monday, December 15, 2014

KINGSLEY FLOOD SET TO UNLEASH 2015 DOWNPOUR OF NEW MUSIC: EP ‘TO THE FIRE’ OUT JANUARY 13, FOLLOWED BY SUMMER EP, FALL LP, VIDEOS, TOURING, ETC.

NPR WORLD CAFÉ TO FEATURE BAND AS “NEXT” ARTISTS WEEK OF DECEMBER 22

NEWPORT FOLK FEST MAIN STAGE ’13 SET LAUNCHED BAND TO NAT’L RECOGNITION

Kingsley Flood will be unleashing a deluge of music throughout 2015, including the January 13th EP ‘To The Fire,’ a summer EP, a fall full-length album, multiple music videos, and a rigorous touring schedule. The ambitious volume of output from the Boston and DC-based six-piece recognizes that the music business has changed and moved on from the era of the traditional album cycle. It also represents a shift in leader Naseem Khuri’s songwriting, channeling his personal journey as the son of Palestinian immigrants struggling to make change.

Since their breakout set opening the Newport Folk Festival in 2013, Kingsley Flood has opened tour dates for Lucius and Josh Ritter; earned raves from AV Club, Paste, Rolling Stone, Billboard, NY Times; played a session for Esquire; and premiered a video with NPR Music.

For ‘To The Fire,’ the fast-rising band partnered with producer Paul Kolderie (Radiohead, The Pixies, Speedy Ortiz) and crystallized the musical traits that help it stand out: the horn/violin combination that alternates between epic orchestral sweep and lush, low-key ambience, electric guitars that move from melodic arpeggios to howling feedback, an ever-expanding palette of keyboard textures and a versatile rhythm section, all topped off by Khuri’s raspy, desperate lead vocals.

On To The Fire, Khuri turns the focus inward, shifting from the chronicles of failed American dreams depicted on previous release (and Boston Music Awards Album of the Year) Battles, to his own struggle as a wanna-be do-gooder struggling to change the world around him.  Shaped by his Palestinian-American heritage and his hard-working immigrant parents, he spent his twenties working for organizations focused on conflict and inequality, in the Middle East and in his own backyard. The songs showcase both biting ambition and a reckoning that change is hard to come by.

To The Fire begins to explore that evolution.  “All In All” sets a danceable beat to the voice of political leaders in Khuri’s adopted home of Washington who leave their own behind on the way up.

“Set Me Off” may be the hardest-rocking Kingsley Flood song to date and one of its catchiest. The leftfield Ellie Goulding cover “Anything Could Happen” is reinvented as an indie rock song with hints of desperation. The Beatles-influenced “Thick of It” reality-checks that burning desire to change the world. The piano-based “Cavalry” fights complacency with the need to feel alive with Randy Newman-esque detail.

But like everything from Kingsley Flood, it’s the energy, dynamics, and musicianship that give life to Khuri’s reflections. From intricate arrangements and inspired lyricism to flashes of punk, the band behind To The Fire still delivers an experience that Paste Magazine said “is rapidly making an impression nationally [with its] rowdy on-stage anthems."

Upcoming Tour Dates:

January 9: Rock and Roll Hotel, Washington, DC
January 10: Boot and Saddle, Philadelphia, PA
January 16: Mercury Lounge, New York, NY
January 17: Stone Church, Newmarket, NH
January 30: The Sinclair, Cambridge, MA

‘To The Fire’ Track List
1.     Set Me Off
2.     All In All
3.     Thick Of It
4.     Anything Could Happen
5.     Cavalry

Of the band’s Newport Folk set, Rolling Stone said, "Kingsley Flood kicked off the main stage, shirking the rain with puddle-splashing, foot-stomping folk rock and their signature high energy."

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

SUGAR RAY & THE BLUETONES LEADS BLUES MUSIC AWARD NOMINATION FIELD WITH SEVEN


Sugar Ray & The Bluetones – the storied blues ensemble celebrating its 35th anniversary this year with the deeply felt new album ‘Living Tear To Tear’ (Severn Records) – led the Blues Music Award nominations today with seven:

+ Band of the Year – Sugar Ray & The Bluetones
+ Album of the Year – ‘Living Tear To Tear’
+ Traditional Album of the Year – ‘Living Tear To Tear’
+ Harmonica - Sugar Ray Norcia
+ Bass - Michael "Mudcat" Ward
+ Traditional Male Artist - Sugar Ray Norcia
+ Song for "Things Could Be Worse”

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

‘THE GLOAMING’ AMONG NPR’S 50 FAVORITES OF 2014

It’s been a remarkable year the Gloaming and NPR has capped it by naming the self-titled album (Brassland) one of its 50 favorites of 2014.

Bob Boilen writes, “There has never been an album quite like this, spare and textured, representing past and future as well as transcending all you may think you know about Irish music.”

Monday, December 8, 2014

SIGNATURE SOUNDS SCORES FOUR IN THE AMERICANA RADIO CHART TOP 100 FOR 2014, WITH LAKE STREET DIVE AT #7

LAKE STREET DIVE SHARES VIDEO FROM ‘SIGNATURE SOUNDS 20TH ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION: RARITIES FROM THE SECOND DECADE’

The Americana Music Association’s top one hundred airplay chart for 2014 has four Signature Sounds albums on it. Lake Street Dive’s ‘Bad Self Portraits’ came in at number seven. The others were Peter Mulvey’s ‘Silver Ladder,’ Zoe Muth’s ‘World Of Strangers,’ and Chris Smither’s ‘Still On The Levee.’

Signature Sounds is celebrating its twentieth anniversary this winter with a concert series, a tour, and celebration at next year’s Green River Festival. On March 3, the storied label will release ‘Signature Sounds 20th Anniversary Collection: Rarities From The Second Decade’ featuring thirteen unreleased tracks, eighteen tracks in total from the likes of Lake Street Dive, Crooked Still, Eilen Jewell, Chris Smither, and others.

Lake Street Dive has shared its in-the-studio video of “What I’m Doing Here,” from the ‘Signature Sounds 20th Anniversary Collection: Rarities From The Second Decade’:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

KRISTIN ANDREASSEN CASTS ‘GONDOLIER’ DOWNSTREAM FEB. 17

GORGEOUS NEW INDIE-FOLK ALBUM FEATURES COMMUNITY OF BROOKLYN MUSICIANS INCLUDING AOIFE O’DONOVAN AND CHRIS ELDRIDGE

CMT EDGE PREMIERES “AZALEA”

ANDREASSEN JOINING “ON YOUR RADAR” WFUV SHOW DEC 9 AT ROCKWOOD MUSIC HALL; AND SYNDICATED RADIO SHOWS MOUNTAIN STAGE JAN 18 & MUSIC CITY ROOTS JAN 21

Prairie Home Companion favorite and Brooklyn denizen Kristin Andreassen has created the gorgeous indie-folk album ‘Gondolier’ (February 17) by synthesizing and reorienting the core ingredients of the traditional folk tunes and old time music of her past. CMT Edge premiered the first track, “Azalea,” calling it “delicate beauty."

Lyrics from the album: “We lived by the freeway; I thought it was the ocean, Sounded like a seashell in my sleep in the night."

‘Gondolier’ abounds with inventive, unexpected melodies, lyrics, and arrangements, which contrast the pastoral with the urban. Largely written on Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire but with her Brooklyn home in mind, ‘Gondolier’ finds Andreassen contemplating the differences between expectation and reality, from a cold night in Louisiana to wishing one’s childhood pet dog was a horse, to the way that dreams morph over time.
Another sample: "For some reason my dreams are all about water. It replaces the concrete; I can breathe it like air."

Starting out in Annapolis, MD as a professional clogger with the Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble, she soon joined the old-time band Uncle Earl (Rounder Records). Soon, she became one third of the original singer-songwriter group Sometymes Why, with Aoife O’Donovan and Ruth Ungar, who each sing on ‘Gondolier.’ (O’Donovan mentioned Andreassen in the NY Times as one of the “amazing people” in the Brooklyn scene.)

Other accompanists heard throughout Gondolier include bassist Paul Kowert (Punch Brothers), multi-woodwind player Alec Spiegelman (Cuddle Magic), cellist Rushad Eggleston (Crooked Still), former Pere Ubu bassist Tony Maimone (heard here on clattering banjo bass), guitarist Jefferson Hamer, fiddler Stephanie Coleman (who has played alongside Andreassen in Uncle Earl and with whom she co-hosts a popular weekly old time jam session), and vocalists Aoife O'Donovan, Ruth Ungar Merenda (the Mammals, Mike+Ruthy), and Cassandra Jenkins.

Andreassen has spent her career building a community of folk musicians, hosting a weekly old-time jam at Brooklyn’s Lowlands Bar and founding the Miles of Music Camp for all ages but ‘Gondolier’ marks a new phase in her life and career and a powerful songwriter reaching new heights.

New Yorkers: Andreassen will perform duo with Chris Eldridge as part of John Platt’s WFUV On Your Radar show at Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 3 on December 9.

Kristin Andreassen Performance Schedule

12/9: New York, NY - WFUV’s On Your Radar at Rockwood Music Hall (Duo w/ Chris Eldridge)
12/17: Marlboro, NY - Concert & Square Dance (w/ Chris Eldridge & Mike + Ruthy)
1/4 - 5/2015 - Cambridge, MA - Club Passim (as member of Sub Rosa Collective)
1/6/2015 - Northampton, MA - The Parlor Room (as member of Sub Rosa Collective)
1/7/2015: New Haven, CT - Cafe 9 (w/ Chris Eldridge)
1/8/2015: Brooklyn, NY - Jalopy Theatre (APAP Showcase)
1/9/2015: New York, NY - Don’t Tell Mama (APAP Showcase)
1/11/2015: Huntington, VT – Valley Stage (w/ Jefferson Hamer)
1/13/2015: New York, NY – Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 1
1/16/2015: Raleigh, NC – Duke Energy Center for the Arts (opening for Aoife O’Donovan)
1/18/2015: Charleston, WV - Mountain Stage
1/21/2015: Nashville, TN - Music City Roots

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Kristin Andreassen - Gondolier Album Preview


ANTIBALAS AND ZAP MAMA ANNOUNCE FIRST-EVER NATIONAL TOUR

Two World Music Trailblazers Unite as Zap Mama Returns for First US Tour Since 2009

(New York, NY) America’s premier afrobeat band, Antibalas, is excited to announce a collaborative tour with Zap Mama, Marie Daulne’s international polyphonic vocal group, that will travel across North America in January and February 2015.
Antibalas, founded in 1998, evolved out of the same Brooklyn-based musical nucleus as Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, and emerged onto the world music scene around 2000. After years of heavy international touring the band rose to greater prominence in 2007 for its role in the musical direction of the Broadway musical “Fela!.” 
“I've been a fan of Zap Mama for twenty years. We’ve never had the chance to collaborate before, nor with any other group on this scale. This is a thrill and a privilege for us to be working together,” says Martín Perna from Antibalas. "I think the energies and talents of each group are complementary and really exciting things will happen when we get to perform."

The 29-date Zap Mama / Antibalas tour, produced by Columbia Artists Management LLC, will be presented at performing arts centers around the country, as well as venues including the Fillmore in San Francisco, Park West in Chicago, and the Highline Ballroom in Manhattan.  The tour begins at the University of Florida at Gainesville on Jan. 21, 2015 and concludes on Feb. 27 at the University of Texas, El Paso.
The concerts will feature a brand-new presentation, deeply combining the two groups into one show specially created for this tour.  “Every time I do a tour, I want the show to have its own unique story arc which, even if it’s not explicitly expressed, still gives a certain flow or cohesiveness to the presentation,” says Zap Mama founder Marie Daulne.  “I’m very excited to explore the intersections between our globally influenced vocal harmonies and the polyrhythmic rhythms of Antibalas.  I’m sure it will be an exciting and fun journey.”  
Antibalas (Spanish for "bulletproof"), is a Brooklyn, NY based big band inspired by the golden age of West African and Afro-Caribbean musical styles of the 1970s as well as the jazz and improvised music traditions of their native New York. Members of Antibalas are sought-after session and touring musicians, regularly recording and performing with a spectrum of artists including the Roots, TV on the Radio, Jovanotti, Arcade Fire, Allen Tousaint, David Byrne and St. Vincent, Angelique Kidjo, and Betty Lavette.
Zap Mama, is an all-female troupe of afropop vocalists based in Europe who first created a sensation in the US world music scene in 1991 with their critically-acclaimed self-titled release on David Byrne’s Luaka Bop label. Marie Daulne, known worldwide as the creative force behind Zap Mama, redefines the word "vocalist” by creatively expressing sound and storytelling through tone and pure voice. Melding afropop and with American and European urban music using ethnic polyphonic vocal structures, Zap Mama is a world-music revue that can transport the listener around the globe in the course of a song.
# # # 

Itinerary listed below:
ZAP MAMA and ANTIBALAS on tour: 
Date
City
State
Venue
1/21/15
Gainesville
FL
Curtis M. Phillips Performing Arts Center - Mainstage
1/22/15
Tampa
FL
Ferguson Hall
1/23/15
West Palm Beach
FL
Michael and Andrew Gosman Amphitheatre
1/24/15
Cutler Bay
FL
Main Stage South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center
1/25/15
Lake Buena Vista
FL
House of Blues - Lake Buena Vista
1/27/15
Atlanta
GA
Variety Playhouse
1/28/15
Richmond
VA
University of Richmond - Carpenter Theatre
1/29/15
Newport News
VA
Ferguson Center for the Arts Concert Hall
1/30/15
Washington
DC
The George Washington University Lisner Auditorium
1/31/15
Union
NJ
Kean University - Wilkins Theater
2/3/15
University Park
PA
Pennsylvania State University - Eisenhower Auditorium
2/4/15
Pittsburgh
PA
Byham Theater




2/6/15
Detroit
MI
Music Hall Center for Performing Arts
2/7/15
Toronto
ON
Koerner Concert Hall
2/9/15
Brattleboro
VT
The Latchis Theatre
2/10/15
St Johnsbury
VT
Fuller Hall
2/11/15
New York
NY
Highline Ballroom
2/12/15
Storrs
CT
University of Connecticut - Jorgensen Auditorium
2/14/15
Chicago
IL
Park West Theatre*
2/15/15
Madison
WI
Wisconsin Union Theater
2/18/15
Chico
CA
California State University, Chico - Laxson Auditorium
2/19/15
Arcata
CA
Humboldt State University - John Van Duzer Theatre
2/20/15
San Francisco
CA
The Fillmore*
2/21/15
Santa Monica
CA
The Eli and Edythe Broad Stage
2/22/15
Solana Beach
CA
Belly Up Tavern
2/24/15
Scottsdale
AZ
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts - Piper Theater
2/25/15
Tucson
AZ
Fox Tucson Theatre*
2/27/15
El Paso
TX
UTEP *
 
* = On sale date TBA

The Strike 3 Foundation Presents Brewing with Breslow

...in Newton, MA

Monday, November 24, 2014

Kristin Andreassen bio

Gondolier was born in isolation – a solitary flintspark nurtured into lantern light. Given life by a community of musicians committed to translating traditional music's lasting lessons into indefinable new truths, the result is beguiling, enticing. It’s an album that asks but only sometimes answers – and, for that reason, is all the more moving and uplifting.

At the back of the craft, her hand on the rémo, is Kristin Andreassen. She says her feet were her first instrument – and her years as a professional clogger lend an undeniable rhythmic undercurrent to her music. On her debut album, 2007's Kiss Me Hello, that rhythm bounced and swayed. Gondolier's pulse is more of a heartbeat: consistent, comforting, almost tidal – in keeping with the thematic elements that bind its songs. “Most of these were written on a quiet island in New Hampshire,” she explains. “So the lake itself shows up everywhere — rainstorms, boats, fish — submersive sounds and layers in the lyrics and the music.” Throughout Gondolier, rural and urban play against each other, in parallel to Andreassen’s explorations of the lines dividing fantasy from reality. “For some reason my dreams are all about water,” she sings in the title track “The Boat Song.” “It replaces the concrete, I can breathe it like air.”

These songs coalesced over a period of years – years in which Andreassen was performing and recording as a supporting musician and harmony singer with Aoife O'Donovan, Sufjan Stevens and Jeffrey Lewis, among others. She hosted a weekly old time session in Brooklyn, called square dances, founded a popular week-long music camp for adults, and occasionally performed her own music for a range of audiences. Over time, the sum of these experiences progressed into a sound both grounded and ethereal, brought to life by a unique ecosystem of performers and writers. “I feel very lucky to be a part of this community where many of us have some background in traditional music,” Andreassen says. “When we write songs, I think we're choosing what to carry with us from the folk music we know, and we’re asking what newness we have to offer from our own modern experience.”

Gondolier entered the water when producer and percussionist Robin MacMillan invited her to record a few songs in his home studio in Williamsburg, just for fun. “Robin is one of the purest artists I’ve ever encountered,” she says of MacMillan, who has performed and recorded with Aoife O'Donovan, Mike + Ruthy (aka Michael Merenda and Ruth Ungar of The Mammals), and Christina Courtin. “He wants to make beautiful sounds and serve the song, and he doesn’t care how long it takes. He’ll try any number of different things before settling on one approach. That was great for me, because it got me off the obvious path. I could have made a record more quickly with strumming guitars, fiddles, and banjos, but we chose to do something else.”

That “something else” is as difficult to describe as it is to resist. Beds of circular finger-picked figures blur the boundary between organic and mechanical; wood-toned clarinets give the sensation of breath; percussion alternately laps like waves and rolls like thunder. While every element is identifiable, the ensembles are arrayed and arranged in intriguing, counter-intuitive ways that beautifully illuminate Andreassen's observations and ruminations.

The musical approach, deriving from hours of experimentation, is decades away from the “old time” sound that Andreassen was known for in her time touring with the clogging company Footworks or with her stringband Uncle Earl, or even from the friendly kitchen folk sound of Kiss Me Hello. “With these new songs  traditional music seeps in through the lyrics above all,” she says. The song “‘Simmon” self-consciously steals verses wholesale from the folksy standard “The Crawdad Song,” while the choruses pay back the theft with a poetic nod to nostalgia itself, and the way human memory is the traveling companion of any old song.

Other fragments of traditional songs appear like trail markers, carefully placed throughout Gondolier to guide the listener. “The Boat Song” echoes an ageless children's round while reflecting on choices one makes from childhood to the present day. “That's the most autobiographical song on the record,” Andreassen says. “The first verse is completely true: If you ask my parents, they'll say all I ever did as a kid was daydream and bounce a ball against the garage door.” Twin organ parts recall aging fairground calliopes, as Andreassen's observations spiral outward from childhood dreams to adult consequences – searching for the wonder and truth in both.

The gently swinging “Azalea” emerged from a specific moment – a chilly, early spring wedding in Louisiana. “I started writing it the day of the wedding,” Andreassen says. “These friends of mine got married in their backyard. It was cold and grey, and they built a big fire. It started raining, and we ended up dancing a big hole in the lawn.” Embroidered by lightly twanging guitars and accented by harmonizing clarinet and flute, “Azalea” becomes a meditation on commitment and change. “As I get older,” she continues, “these are questions that I'm asking myself now. How do you stay with the people you love? How do you grow and change but still be in that relationship?” The answer comes to her in this song, as she realizes that, to keep time and love in balance, she must “change like a tree, slow and even…”.

Gondolier's original sessions with MacMillan at the helm were subsequently complimented with three songs recorded with percussionist Lawson White acting as producer. These recordings share the same spirit of adventure and experimentation, while adding a bracing dose of immediacy. “Some Do” was recorded live on the studio floor with Andreassen on tenor guitar and harmonica, White on percussion, and Chris Eldridge of the Punch Brothers on acoustic guitar. Other accompanists heard throughout Gondolier include bassist Paul Kowert (Punch Brothers), multi-woodwind player Alec Spiegelman (Cuddle Magic), cellist Rushad Eggleston (Crooked Still), former Pere Ubu bassist Tony Maimone (heard here on clattering banjo bass), guitarist Jefferson Hamer, fiddler Stephanie Coleman (who has played alongside Andreassen in Uncle Earl and with whom she co-hosts a popular weekly old time jam session), and vocalists Aoife O'Donovan, Ruth Ungar (The Mammals, Mike + Ruthy), and Cassandra Jenkins (Eleanor Friedberger).

A native of Portland, Oregon, Andreassen's own roots as a performer stretch back to her early years touring as a featured dancer in the Maryland-based Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble. In 2003 she joined Uncle Earl, a pioneering all-g'Earl stringband that blended traditional and modern influences. With Uncle Earl, she toured the world, appearing on such festival stages as Bonnaroo, Telluride, and Celtic Connections, and released two well-received albums for Rounder Records, including the acclaimed Waterloo, Tennessee,  produced by former Led Zeppelin multi-instrumentalist John Paul Jones. Andreassen's debut record, Kiss Me Hello, was released in 2007 and featured her song “Crayola Doesn't Make a Color for Your Eyes” – co-written with fellow dancer Megan Downes and winner of the children's music category of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. She also recorded two albums with Sometymes Why, the irreverent and evocative trio she formed with Ruth Merenda and Aoife O'Donovan.

Constantly on the road, Andreassen only put down roots in Brooklyn a few years ago, where she quickly integrated herself into the vibrant avant-roots scene that helped bring Gondolier into the world. Depending on the night, she can be found driving fiddle tunes on acoustic guitar, adding bells, ukulele, or harmonica to an indie-folk outfit, or performing her own songs on her own. It's the latter that intrigues her most these days. “I feel like I've gone in reverse,” she says. “I started with full bands playing old time tunes, but lately I've been dialing it back to just me, a guitar, and a song…I like the freedom of being able to interpret my own song on the spot.”

From its most orchestrated moments to its smallest gestures, that conversational intimacy and willingness to take changes enriches every aspect of Gondolier. “We took our time making this record,” Andreassen concludes. “Looking back, I can still feel how the quiet space of being on that island informs these songs. They are thoughtful and more philosophical than I've been in the past. I can't shake the idea that, when you chose to do something, you close off a door to something else. I wanted to pay respect to the various dreams that we've all had but chosen not to pursue: Those dreams have a certain untapped power that, if we let them, can inspire us while telling us more about who we are…”.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

WFUV WELCOMES KRISTIN ANDREASSEN FOR ON YOUR RADAR CONCERT AT ROCKWOOD MUSIC HALL STAGE 3 DECEMBER 9

Kristin Andreassen – the former member of Uncle Earl and Sometymes Why whose new indie-folk album ‘Gondolier’ comes out in February – will join a WFUV-curated concert hosted by John Platt December 9 at Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 3. Possessing one of Brooklyn’s finest singing voices, Andreassen has already joined Black Prairie and Dawn Landes for tours and is confirmed on nationally syndicated radio shows Music City Roots (Nashville, TN) and Mountain Stage (Charleston, WV) for early 2015. Andreassen’s sound benefits from the unexpected, both lyrically and melodically.

WHO: Kristin Andreassen, with WFUV’s John Platt, Zak Smith, and The Hello Strangers
WHAT: WFUV On Your Radar Concert
WHEN: 7pm, December 9, 2014
WHERE: Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 3, 196 Allen Street, NYC 10002
TICKETS: $12 via Rockwood box office or at TicketFly

Thursday, November 13, 2014

‘SIGNATURE SOUNDS 20TH ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION: RARITIES FROM THE SECOND DECADE’ (MARCH 3) SEES LABEL CELEBRATING AFTER ITS MOST SUCCESSFUL YEAR TO DATE

COLLECTION OFFERS LAKE STREET DIVE, EILEN JEWELL, CHRIS SMITHER, CROOKED STILL, AND MORE; TWELVE UNRELEASED SONGS, COVERS OF RANDY NEWMAN, ERNEST TUBB, AND MORE; AND 18 TRACKS OVERALL

Signature Sounds – the Americana and folk label that launched the careers of Josh Ritter and Lake Street Dive and sustained that of Chris Smither – will release ‘Signature Sounds 20th Anniversary Collection: Rarities From The Second Decade’ featuring twelve unreleased tracks, eighteen tracks in total from the likes of Lake Street Dive, Crooked Still, Eilen Jewell, Chris Smither, and others. The label is coming off of the most successful year of its existence, which saw Lake Street Dive catapult to Billboard’s top 20 and become "this year's best new band," according to Rolling Stone.

Entertainment Weekly said last month, “Folk music’s having a moment right now–maybe its biggest in decades” and Signature Sounds has helped fuel that trend. Tracks on the ‘20th Anniversary Collection’ draw on the rich strains of Americana music, country music, and folk music that have marked Signature Sounds’ entire oeuvre. Van Dyke Parks joins Jeffrey Foucault on “Real Love”; Parsonsfield’s version of the traditional song “Moonshiner” was recorded at Sam Kassirer’s Great Northern Sound Society (which has also been covered by Bob Dylan and Uncle Tupelo); Peter Mulvey covers Randy Newman’s “Lonely At The Top” while Eilen Jewell tackles “Why I’m Walkin’” (which was a #6 Billboard Country charting hit for Ernest Tubb in 1960 and which Elvis Costello and Loretta Lynn also recorded) and Zoe Muth & The Lost High Rollers interpret Dock Boggs’ “Country Blues,” which originally appeared on the Gold-certified, GRAMMY-winning Anthology of American Folk Music. (Boggs is discussed in Greil Marcus’ book Invisible Republic: Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes.) Eilen Jewell’s barn-burning gospel band Sacred Shakers takes “Samson & Delilah” for a spin, which has also been performed by the Grateful Dead. These tracks are accompanied by strong originals by Lake Street Dive, indie folk band Winterpills, Chris Smither (who is celebrating his 50th anniversary in music this year), Kris Delmhorst (with Foucault backing her) and a hidden, bonus track by Lake Street Dive.

Since its founding in Whately, MA in 1994, Signature Sounds has released over 150 albums; moved to Northampton, MA; established its own venue the Parlor Room; landed songs in Six Feet Under, True Blood Weeds, Grey's Anatomy, Sons Of Anarchy, Nashville, Modern Family and in a T-Mobile ad campaign. Originally launched as a label to spotlight the burgeoning western Massachusetts folk scene, it has gained national prominence behind acts such as Mary Gauthier, Erin McKeown, Crooked Still (from which Aoife O’Donovan has emerged), Patty Larkin, Lori McKenna, and Eilen Jewell.

Signature Sounds will also host a 20th anniversary celebration the weekend of November 28-30, as a thank you to its fans, featuring 19 different artists over four concerts in Northampton, MA. Here is a Signature Sounds 20th Anniversary Playlist of artists playing the November shows.

The celebration will continue July 10-12 at the Green River Festival, which is produced by Signature Sounds in Greenfield, MA.

‘Signature Sounds 20th Anniversary Collection: Rarities From The Second Decade’ Track List

1.      Lovesick Redstick Blues - Crooked Still
2.      Real Love - Jeffrey Foucault*
3.      Be Back Home - Sweetback Sisters
4.      Moonshiner - Parsonsfield*
5.      What I'm Doing Here - Lake Street Dive
6.      A Tree In The Lung - Winterpills*
7.      Such Great Heights - Joy Kills Sorrow
8.      No Shortcuts - Heather Maloney & Darlingside
9.      It's Lonely At The Top - Peter Mulvey*
10.     That's Why I'm Walkin - Eilen Jewell*
11.     Carey - Barnstar!*
12.     Here In California - Caroline Herring*
13.     Drive You Home Again - Chris Smither*
14.     Country Blues - Zoe Muth & The Lost High Rollers
15.     Violent Love - Sweet & Lowdown (Miss Tess and Rachael Price of Lake Street Dive)*
16.     Samson & Delilah - Sacred Shakers*
17.     If This Ain't Heaven - Kris Delmhorst & Jeffrey Foucault*
18.     I’m Satisfied - Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem*

* Previously unreleased.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Kristin Andreassen artwork

 credit: Laura Crosta
 credit: Laura Crosta

FORMER HIGH SCHOOL LITERATURE TEACHER JOE FLETCHER’S ROOTS MUSIC ELECTIVE KEEPS THE CIRCLE GOING

DEER TICK ANNOUNCES FLETCHER SUPPORT SLOT IN NYC DECEMBER 28 AS ‘YOU’VE GOT THE WRONG MAN’ GATHERS STEAM

Joe Fletcher was not always a fast-rising Americana music artist and veteran of two Newport Folk Fests. For ten years, he was Mr. Fletcher, English teacher at Foxborough Regional Charter School in southeastern Massachusetts. Already playing in a band and reading deeply on roots music, he also taught an elective course on the subject on the subject for three years.

In other news, Deer Tick has announced its annual New Years Eve residency at the Brooklyn Bowl and Joe Fletcher will open the December 28 show. Outlets such as Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, Esquire have raved about ‘You’ve Got The Wrong Man,’ which premiered on the Billboard Heatseekers chart and is featured on a Spotify-curated playlist. The Entertainment Weekly full album stream is here.

Fletcher says, “We'd start each year by watching PBS’ American Roots Music documentary series to prime them for the variety of styles we'd be talking about. It was important to me to show the lineage of Howlin’ Wolf to Led Zeppelin to the White Stripes. We used a large timeline to mark the careers of Hank Williams versus that of Skip James to get perspective on what was going on in what part of the country at the same exact time. Jack White was always a great modern example to tie Blind Willie McTell, Led Zeppelin, Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan all together.

For two of the years, they did a concert at year’s end. Fletcher recalls, “We had kids fighting over who would get to do Hank Williams or Robert Johnson songs. That's when I really knew I'd done my job."

Several students have taken up the mantle of roots music champions. Eric George lives in Burlington, VT and plays harmonica, guitar, banjo, and fiddle. Fletcher remembers, “He got really good really fast. I had him in 10th and 11th grade. He was the student ringleader. He's told me this class was a pivotal musical experience for him. He’s an incredible musician and was my guitar tech at Newport 2012.” George is in the process of recording his first album right now and has a tattoo in honor of the class on his arm. In fact, he kickstarted a Newport Folk afterparty with only his harmonica, voice, and boot.

For Fletcher, his love of literature has informed his sense of songwriting. He simply says, “All of these things go hand-in-hand.”

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

THE GLOAMING’S MARTIN HAYES ACCEPTS SPIRIT OF IRELAND AWARD FROM IRISH ARTS CENTER IN GALA ALONGSIDE STING, LIAM NEESON, & GABRIEL BYRNE

DEBUT ALBUM AVAILABLE FOR YOUR GRAMMY CONSIDERATION, AS MOJO NAMES IT ONE OF 2014'S BEST (THUS FAR)

The Gloaming – whose self-titled debut premiered at #1 on the iTunes World Chart (#2 on Billboard) – are riding yet another wave of international acclaim. For Recording Academy members, the album is now open for your GRAMMY consideration in the category Best World Music Album in the 57th Annual Awards.

In other news, bandleader Martin Hayes was just honored with the Spirit of Ireland Award in a gala thrown by the Irish Arts Center on October 10. Feting him were honorary Irish Arts Center chairs and hosts Liam Neeson and Gabriel Byrne and special guest Sting. The evening featured a special performance from Hayes, Sting and fellow members of The Gloaming Dennis Cahill and Thomas Bartlett. The gala raised over $1.1 million for the Irish Arts Center:

Facebook photo for download/sharing is here.