Category: folk

Throwback: R.I.P. David Crosby

JOVM’s William Ruben Helms celebrates the life and work of David Crosby.

New Audio: John Grant Tackles an American Folk Classic

Singer/songwriter and pianist John Grant started his career in earnest as the frontman and primary songwriter for alternative rock outfit The Czars. Over the past decade, Grant has carved out a reputation as a prolific and acclaimed, solo artist.

“God’s Gonna Cut You Down,” is a traditional American folk song that’s famously oft-covered, with the earliest known recordings going back to the 1940s with the likes of Elvis Presley, Bobbie Gentry, Mercury Rev, Moby, Tom Jones, and The Blind Boys of Alabama recording covers. The song famously re-entered public consciousness through a Johnny Cash cover, which appeared on the country legend’s Rick Rubin-produced American Recordings V,

Johnny Cash’s version appeared as temporary music in an edit of Netflix’s smash hit series Inside Man. The show’s director Paul McGuigan claims that it was composer David Arnold’s “brilliant idea to use the song.” They were looking at a cut of an episode when Arnold said “Well this is perfect, so why don’t we do a version of that?”

Grant was recruited to record a new version of the song — specifically for the show. Appearing as the theme song for Inside Man, Grant’s David Arnold-produced cover is a bold re-imagining of the song, giving the song a gritty, modern gospel meets electro rock air.

“I’m so incredibly honored to have the opportunity to sing this fantastic track and to work with David Arnold,” Grant says.

Live Footage: Kendra Morris Performs “Come Wander With Me” at Tupelo House Studio

JOVM mainstay Kendra Morris is a Florida-born, New York-based singer/songwriter, musician, and multi-disciplinary artist. As a singer/songwriter and musician, Morris can trace the origins of her music career to discovering the joys of multi-tracking and harmonizing with herself on a karaoke machine in the closet of her childhood home. 

Morris went on to play in cover bands in Florida before relocating to New York with her band, which played her original material. Her first band split up and she dealt with the aftermath by writing material alone on an 8-track recorder in her closet. Sometime after, she met longtime collaborator and producer Jeremy Page and signed to Wax Poetics, who released her full-length debut, 2012’s Banshee

The Florida-born, New York-based JOVM mainstay self-released her sophomore effort 2016’s Babble. She went on to collaborate with the likes of DJ Premier9th WonderMF DOOMCzarfaceGhostface KillahDennis Coffey and Dave Sitek among others. And while being a grizzled, New York scene vet, Morris’ work generally embodies a broader sense of American culture, drawing from a wide array of influences across music and film dating back to the mid 20th Century. 

Morris’ most recent album Nine Lives was released earlier this year, Karma Chief Records. While being her first full-length album in about a decade, the album for Morris represents a major turning point in her life both professionally and personally: For Morris, the album heralds the beginning of a new chapter, an evolution to the next level of adulthood — and the first on her new label. The album’s material encapsulates moments from what could easily be nine lifetimes lived over a chronological time period — or nine lives lived simultaneously in parallel and convergent realities in the multiverse.

I wrote about three of the album’s singles:  

  • Penny Pincher,” a slow-burning ballad about reaching the end of the road in a relationship, fueled by regret, heartache, acceptance and steely determination to go forward with your life.
  • Nine Lives” is a strutting, hook-driven bit of soul pop jam centered around Morris’ sultry vocals, stuttering boom bap beats, squiggling guitar, and glistening Rhodes arpeggios that sounds as though it could have been released between 1992-1996 or so. 
  • Circle Eights” is a slow-burning song centered around twinkling Rhodes, a sinuous bass line, a steady rhythm and Morris’ soulful vocals full of a deeply aching yearning.

Earlier this year, Morris stopped at Colemine Records’ Cinncinnati area-based Tupelo House Studio to lay down some stripped down version of tracks from her then-forthcoming album. While she was there, she recorded a hauntingly gorgeous version of the Jeff Alexander and Tony Wilson penned “Come Wander With Me,” a song written for and featured in a 1964 episode of The Twilight Zone with the same name. “Come Wander With Me” was the final episode to be filmed of the series — and interestingly, the song has a connection to Cincinnati: The Twilight Zone can trace its origins back to Cincinnati, where it was originally known as Rod Serling’s The Storm in the mid-’50s.

Both versions are so gorgeous, so haunting that I stopped in my tracks when I heard them. Rooted in heartache, longing, the desire to escape a sad world of devastating heartbreak and loss, “Come Wander With Me” at its core, is a lament older than time itself.

New Video: Toronto’s Shirley Hurt Shares Introspective and Gorgeous “Problem Child”

Sophie Katz is a Toronto-based singer/songwriter, musician and creative mastermind behind Shirley Hurt, her latest music project. Katz’s self-titled Shirley Hurt debut is slated for a December 2, 2022 release through Telephone Explosion Records.

Recorded with a highly-accomplished backing band that features Fresh Pepper‘s and The War on DrugsJoseph Shabason (sax, flute), Chris Shannon (bass), Harrison Forman (guitar), Jason Bhattacharya (percussion), Jacques Mindreau (violin) and Nick Durado (piano), the Nathan Vanderwielen-produced, nine song album reportedly sees Katz and company traversing into the furthest corners of experimental indie folk, pop and country to create a singular sound that integrates elements of each with self-assured elegance, ease and unpredictability. Sonically, the album’s material is centered around skeletal arrangements that tastefully slink around Katz’s delivery, which subtly recalls the likes of Joni Mitchell, Carole King and others.

“This album feels lonely and roadworn to me. The woman who wrote this was definitely in the winter of her life,” Katz says. “The landscape feels blue and burnt orange. There is a wistfulness and longing, whether I like it or not.” The album’s persistent tone of propulsive contemplation wasn’t by chance; Katz came up with many of the album’s lyrical and structural ideas while on the road.

The self-titled album’s first single “Problem Child” is built around a 70s AM rock/troubadour-like arrangement featuring Bhattacharya’s assertive and propulsive percussion, Dorado’s dreamy and twinkling keys, meditative strummed and looping guitar lines and fluttering bursts of Shabason’s flute. The sparse arrangement allows Katz’s husky delivery and observant, longing and conversational lyrics to take the spotlight. The end result is akin to Nabokov being paired with gorgeous, spectral arrangements.

Directed and edited by Eli Spiegel, the accompanying video for “Problem Child” is set in a warm and gorgeous, suburban home, and features two women — presumably a grandmother and her granddaughter spending an afternoon together. The older woman is teaching the younger woman a recipe for pie. Throughout the video, there’s a palpable sense of tradition and love –and in a very lovely place.

New Audio: Emily Elbert Shares Sinuous and Sultry “Stream of Consciousness”

Emily Elbert is an acclaimed and highly-regarded singer/songwriter and guitarist, who has spent much of the past few years focusing on co-writes, studio work and touring with Gwen StefaniEsperanza Spalding, Leon BridgesSara BareillesJacob CollierJenny Lewis, and a lengthy list of others. 

The Elbert and Alex Krispin co-produced Woven Together is slated for a Friday release. Marking the first batch of original music from Elbert since 2018’s We Who Believe in Freedom, the album features additional instrumentation from bassist Solomon Dorsey, who has played with LuciusKT Tunstall and Jose James; drummer Abe Rounds, who has played with Meshell Ndegeocello, Andrew BirdBlake Mills and Seal; and Hailey Niswagner, who has played with Clairo and Kali Uchis on woodwinds. 

Woven Together sees Elbert and her collaborators meshing psych soul and folk over ideas of transcendentalism with the album’s material touching on themes of community, self-inquiry, vulnerability and gratitude with the album bringing the listener to the turbulence-free journey from self to universe. “Making it felt process-oriented and exploratory, without any sense of capitalistic pressure – music for the sake of making something loving and true.” Elbert says. 

“One thing that feels central to the whole project (and my being) is the idea that any act can be an act of prayer, pleasure or play,” Elbert adds “It felt that way making this whole album, really – rooted in the Earth, but reaching for the stars.” 

Last month, I wrote about “For Free,” a strutting bit of soul-meets-folk featuring sinuous bass lines, glistening bursts of Rhodes, Dylan Day’s swampy and funky guitar lines paired with Elbert’s effortlessly soulful vocals and her unerring knack for an infectious, euphoric hook. Seemingly indebted to Muscle Shoals and Bill Withers, the song is rooted in old-timey craftsmanship and earnest songwriting. “It’s about experiencing joy in simple, innate pleasures; but also a dig at the systems that try to convince us that we’re more ‘consumer’ than spirit or animal,” Elbert explains.

“Stream of Consciousness,” Woven Together‘s last single before its release is centered around a snaking bass line, trotting horse-like percussion paired with Elbert’s honeyed cooing. Sonically seeming like a slick synthesis of classic rock and neo-soul, “Stream of Consciousness” lyrically references the writings of philosopher J. Krishnamurti and the Buddhist concept of Mahamudra, the union of all apparent dualities. “It’s intention-setting, a prayer; lovingly and respectfully acknowledging the perpetual cycle of life and death,” Elbert explains.

After spending years leading Boston-based art rock collective The Solars, whose 2017 EP Retitled Remastered landed on DigBoston‘s Best Massachusetts Albums of 2017, Miles Hewitt returned to Harvard College to finish his award-winning collection of poems The Candle is Forever Learning to Sing.

Following his graduation in 2018, Hewitt relocated to Western Massachusetts’ Pioneer Valley, settling in a small hill town, just down the road from a friend’s recording studio — and a few miles from where he spent the first year of his life. It was amidst the cycling greens, browns and blues of the Pioneer Valley, where Hewitt began writing the songs that would become Hewtti’s ambitious and wide-ranging solo debut Heartfall. Drawing from British and American folk music, 70s songwriter rock, psychedelia, krautrock and electronic music, Heartfall‘s is reportedly an album for album-lovers. And while the material is formally spare, few of the album’s arrangements have recognizable verse/chorus structures, instead holding patterns that melt away only when fully exhausted. “As I became interested in a less anthropocentric mentality, I wondered if this could be expressed through formally organic songs, built from looping phrases or motifs and evolving at the level of the line,” Hewitt explains.
The effect of these slow changes — a kind of temporal dilation that can make it easy to forget just how long you’ve been listening to a given song — invites a state of consciousness more familiar in drone and ambient music than most rock ‘n’ roll. 

After relocating to Brooklyn in 2019, Hewitt began recruiting a variety of serious session players including members of the backing bands for Devendra Banhart, Kevin Moby and Aldous Harding, including Jared Samuel (organ), David Christian (drums), Shahzad Ismaily (piano) and Jack McLoughlin (guitar) and a cast of others, who all contributed to the Hewitt-produced recording sessions.

Heartfall‘s latest single, the vibey “The Ark” begins with the sound of rushing water, before quickly morphing into a tempest of jazz fusion drumming, glistening Rhodes, sinuous bass, atmospheric electronics. The song’s second section is a dreamy bit of guitar-driven Pink Floyd meets Radiohead-like psychedelia that slows down to a laconic fade out. The song ends with a folksy piano-driven coda. Although the song doesn’t hew to a familiar or recognizable chorus, verse, bridge structure, it’s all held together by the deft and seemingly effortless rhythm section and Hewitt’s tender vocals. Thematically, the song details the search for the Biblical — and mythical — vessel that can deliver humanity from certain doom.

Heartfall is slated for an August 26, 2022 release.

Hewitt will be embarking on a tour to support his full-length debut. Check out the tour dates below.

TOUR DATES

    Aug 03 – Khyber Pass Pub – Philadelphia, PA
    Aug 04 – Garden Grove Brewing Company – Richmond, VA
    Aug 05 – Down Yonder Farm – Hillsborough, NC
    Aug 06 – Story Parlor – Asheville, NC
    Aug 09 – 5 Spot – Nashville, TN
    Aug 10 – Northside Tavern – Cincinnati, OH
    Aug 11 – Rear End Gastropub – Pittsburgh, PA
    Aug 12 – The Avalon Lounge – Catskill, NY
    Aug 13 – Lilypad – Cambridge, MA
    Aug 14 – Sun Tiki Studios – Portland, ME

Emily Elbert is an acclaimed and highly-regarded singer/songwriter and guitarist, who has spent much of the past few years focusing on co-writes, studio work and touring with Gwen Stefani, Esperanza Spalding, Leon Bridges, Sara Bareilles, Jacob Collier, Jenny Lewis, and a lengthy list of others.

The Elbert and Alex Krispin co-produced Woven Together is slated for an August 19, 2022 release. Marking the first batch of original music from Elbert since 2018’s We Who Believe in Freedom, the album features additional instrumentation from bassist Solomon Dorsey, who has played with Lucius, KT Tunstall and Jose James; drummer Abe Rounds, who has played with Meshell Ndegeocello, Andrew Bird, Blake Mills and Seal; and Hailey Niswagner, who has played with Clairo and Kali Uchis on woodwinds.

Woven Together sees Elbert and her collaborators meshing psych soul and folk over ideas of transcendentalism with the album’s material touching on themes of community, self-inquiry, vulnerability and gratitude with the album bringing the listener to the turbulence-free journey from self to universe. “Making it felt process-oriented and exploratory, without any sense of capitalistic pressure – music for the sake of making something loving and true.” Elbert says.

“One thing that feels central to the whole project (and my being) is the idea that any act can be an act of prayer, pleasure or play,” Elbert adds “It felt that way making this whole album, really – rooted in the Earth, but reaching for the stars.” 

Woven Together‘s second and latest single “For Free” is a strutting bit of soul-meets-folk featuring an arrangement of sinuous bass lines, glistening bursts of Rhodes, Dylan Day’s swampy and funky guitar lines paired with Elbert’s effortlessly soulful vocals and her unerring knack for an infectious, euphoric hook. Seemingly indebted to Muscle Shoals and Bill Withers, the song is rooted in craftsmanship

 “It’s about experiencing joy in simple, innate pleasures; but also a dig at the systems that try to convince us that we’re more ‘consumer’ than spirit or animal,” Elbert explains.