Elevate Difference

Reviews tagged folk


I would not be the least bit surprised to learn that the ability to write a catchy pop song is a hereditary trait, in addition to being a skill developed over time. That definitely seems to be the case with Los Angeles sister duo Chapin Sisters.

Acoustic Project

When I moved to Virginia over four years ago, I didn’t know what folk music was. Growing up in Portland Oregon, I was raised on the quickly growing West Coast indie rock scene. But sometime in my teenage years I started finding artists like Sparklehorse, Nickel Creek, Laura Gibson, and Blitzen Trapper and I couldn’t get enough. I didn’t know then what it was about these different artists’ sounds that made my mouth water, but there was something they had in common, something earthy, something gritty, that I absolutely loved. And when I arrived in Virginia, it finally dawned on me.

Images of Women, Volume 2

Several years ago, native New Yorker Robin Greenstein issued Images of Women, Volume 1, which delivered fourteen folk songs about women’s depiction in the genre, based on her concert-lecture on the topic. Images of Women, Volume 2 delivers fourteen more numbers about women, mostly traditional in musical style.

Apple Core

So much folksy lady rock, so little time. Add Kendl Winter’s Apple Core to the ever-lengthening list of guitar-loving, country-inspired singer-songwriters with a flair for bluegrass. It may not be terribly original, but Winter makes a fine effort on her fourth solo album. At times, her work is hauntingly beautiful; at others, it’s frustratingly cliché.

A Record

A few months ago I reviewed the new record from People Eating People. Laura Stevenson and the Cans are certainly along the same sound profile—folksy female vocals with a tinge of She + Him and a pinch of Regina Spektor. As before, I ask, how can yet another folksy crew of musicians survive?

Fairytales and Lullabies

Sol Skugga is someone I need to keep my eye on. Her third album, Fairytales and Lullabies, is a well-mixed collection of electronica, ambiance, and folk. Skugga wrote, mixed, and produced her own tracks. Clearly a collector of sound, her long list of instruments include vocals, piano, acoustic and electric guitars, "electronic drums in all shapes," ambient sounds, synthesizers, samplings of Nordic nature, and rhythm instrumentation.

Oh, Hear the Wind Blow

The West Coast, indie feel to the Chapin Sister’s album Oh, Hear the Wind Blow could easily have made it my pick for this year’s perfect summer album. Sadly, it’s September as I write this, and soon flip-flops will make way for boots. However, I suggest you squeeze the last rays out of summer with this album. The Sisters are nieces of musician Harry Chapin and the daughters of Tom Chapin.


A disclaimer before listening to Ghosts: If you're not careful, loud English folk duo Smoke Fairies will consume you. With their swampy blues riffs, exquisite harmonies, and formidable command of songwriting, Smoke Fairies is truly enchanting. You might not believe that a nine-song collection (billed as “a collection of A-sides, B-sides, and an EP from the recent past”) would have such a mighty power. There's no harm in skepticism.

Made The Harbor

It’s deeply problematic that my first thought it is to compare the Mountain Man ladies to the men of Fleet Foxes. Why must my point of reference be boy bands, so to speak? But truly, Mountain Man sounds like a fusion of two bands, both gender-segregated, that I adore: Fleet Foxes and Au Revoire Simone.


Before reviewing the album, I have to admit, Ani Difranco and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, who are both major contributors to the project, definitely rake up the most counts on my iTunes top played lists. Bias. That said however, Anaïs Mitchell’s folk opera Hadestown is a masterful album in its own right, originally beginning in 2006 as a live show that toured New England with a cast of twenty-two performers.

Levantine Indulgence

Singer and composer Gaida’s debut album Levantine Indulgence is named for Levant, the Fertile Crescent’s desert oasis. Aptly named, this album offers listeners an abundance of vocal and instrumental styles that even the most resistant listeners can find nourishing and enchanting. The opening track, “Dream,” begins with rhythmic clapping and percussion and a chorus of male voices who share vocals with the lead singer.

Good Problems

Ah, spring time on a New England college campus! I always forget what it’s like when everyone emerges out of the stacks of the library, poorly-lit dorms, and stuffy classrooms to congregate on the sunny main green.

Live in Louisville

“Well you have it, you love it, now it’s your turn to shove it…I don’t want to play house anymore,” sings Carrie Rodriguez on her newly released live compilation album, Live in Louisville. Her soulful voice, accompanied by rousing fiddles, makes her point with grace and force.

No Rest

Brooklyn songstress roommates, longtime collaborators, and bestie brunettes Christy Edwards and Emily Manzo have hipster cred out the wazoo. So do loads of other borough-based bands, but few have the raw talent of these two singer-songwriter women—a label that hardly defines the true depth of their talent. Their music, at times hauntingly sparse, reverberates with their lush voices and minimal instrumentation, often just Christy’s guitar or Emily’s keyboard. Sound cloying? The opposite is true.

Western Theater

Mighty Tiger are the sort of band to open for Animal Collective or Grizzly Bear on tour—and not just because of their similar four-legged names. It’s easy to compare bands in folksy sub-genres, but the truth is, Mighty Tiger are a solid pop-driven fit among more established bands of similar persuasion. On Western Theater, Mighty Tiger do what other comparable bands do not.

Beyond Living

As the title of this album suggests, Beyond Living is a collection of folk songs about death, many of them written by musicians who have passed.


A beautiful album, Monika Jalili’s Élan evokes a romantic, and at times, haunting journey through a collection of popular, acoustic Iranian songs. The talented New York-born vocalist originally trained in musical theater, and shares her enchanting voice and love of Iranian poetry in a simple yet sincere album, which features tracks in Persian, Azeri, English, and French.


The first Wolf People album released in the U.S., Tidings is comprised of three years worth of psychedelic, folksy Brit rock recordings, some of which were composed before the formation of the current lineup.

Somewhere Gone

More subdued than X, less twang than the Knitters, this album might be what you listen to once glad bags have been replaced by retro shifts as the little black dress of choice—more spirit than spit.

Emmylou Harris (10/27/2009)

No matter how many songs Emmylou Harris sings or how many chords she strums, this legendary artist consistently sounds fresh and vibrant. At the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, Wisconsin, I had the pleasure of seeing Emmylou and her Red Dirt Boys, along with special guest and opener Buddy Miller.

Gina Villalobos

The fourth studio album from indie folk rocker Gina Villalobos rolls off right away with “Take a Beating to You” and from then on out, Villalobos and her voice go on a journey both swift and slow. With honest and painful lyrics penned mostly by Villalobos herself, the record rises to the top of the alt country/rock genre and may be a breakout hit for this year.

Truth Be Told

Ronda Matson delivers a solid collection of songs on her second outing, Truth Be Told, and her traditional folk approach, heavy on strumming guitar and harmonica, will please purists. Her plaintive, husky voice sets her apart from other singers, and it’s refreshing to listen to a record that doesn’t rely primarily on love songs.

Troubled, Shaken Etc.

British rock band Sian Alice Group’s latest effort can be categorized somewhere between prog rock, ambient folk, and experimental. Clocking in anywhere between two and eight minutes, their songs wind around and bump up against one another, creating a cohesive sophomore album.

A Ways Away

I think I’m genetically predisposed to rock; it’s in my blood or something. I want things to be loud, sometimes fast, and always frantic. I like it when a bass line’s so fat you can feel it in your crotch. I like it when guitars rip through your eardrums. I especially like it when a drum beat is so loud you can mistake it for your own pulse.

Bridge and Tunnel

Linda Draper makes folk music of the best sort: lighthearted and charming with firmly grounded melodies and honest, straightforward lyrics with a poetic yet realistic slant. Bridge and Tunnel's opening track, “Limbo,” is a good indication of what’s to come.

Rotting Slowly

Their name, Curious Mystery says so much. Curious instrumentation crossed with a mysterious sound as they fearlessly cover the gamut—a grab bag of indie noise rock, folk, psychedelia, country, and blues. It all works whether it’s attributed to their experimentation of sounds, or that they are just an experimental bunch, a breath of fresh air in an arguably stale climate.

Royal City

Whenever I’m having an existential crisis sort of day—yes, it can come in daily doses—listening to songs like Iggy Pop’s “Success” soothes my insecurities and favors my sardonic humor that is both a coping mechanism and a genetic condition. How fortuitous then, among the early tracks from Canadian band Royal City, is a humorously lo-fi cover of Mr. Pop’s infectious tune.

A Chopping Block

The death of Jim Henson was probably one of the single most traumatic events of my childhood. By that time, I was old enough to realize that Kermit was created by Jim Henson, but still young enough to have a certain amount of love for Sesame Street. (Okay, I was ten, which is a bit old for Big Bird, but I was a late bloomer.) You are probably asking yourself a variety of questions at this point.

Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle

I once happened upon a Callahan show at Boston’s MFA with friends who are seasoned fans of the Smog oeuvre.

Poseidon and the Bitter Bug

For more than twenty years, the Indigo Girls have been known for their gorgeous, close harmonies and riveting, emotional lyrics. Amy Ray and Emily Saliers are both exquisite singers and talented guitarists. Poseidon and the Bitter Bug is sure to delight fans with ten tracks of mostly-folk songs with pop, rock, and soul influences.