BROWN BIRD - SALT FOR SALT
Recorded live to tape in Pawtucket, RI, "Salt For Salt..." is the first album by Brown Bird to capture the intense energy of the duo's live show, surging in waves that often swell into high-spirited, foot-stomping madness. David Lamb's lyrics are as well-written as they are emotionally intelligent, thankfully avoiding the pitfalls of the wish-wash known as "modern-folk" or "singer-songwriting". Lamb and his partner MorganEve Swain write simply, and the record is eerily sparse at times - a tambourine, a bass drum and the cello often the sole accompaniement to Lamb's (what a name) cracked, wood-smoke voice.
Brown Bird are also not afraid to write experimentally - "Ebb and Flow" and "Shiloh" (the latter a longer, entirely instrumental track) each boast melodies worthy of a dervish, the melodic structure reminiscent more of Turkish or Greek rebetika than old-time or bluegrass. Lamb and Swain work beautifully together, with his banjo providing a backbone to a fiddle break, her harmonies a lonesome echo of the melody. But Brown Bird also know too much to be pure romantics; Lamb's continual reference to ships clearly come from his years spent working at the shipyard in Warren, RI, just as their arrangements well only from a deep knowledge of the American folk tradition.
Paring down from five musicians on their last album to the duo of Lamb and Swain on "Salt For Salt" resulted in some necessary instrument changes - Swain, a lifelong violinist, spends most of the album on cello and double bass, instruments she picked up in the past two years. Lamb has a kick drum and woodblock/tambourine rigged to a second pedal in front of him, using his whole body and voice to carry the rhythm and melody simultaneously. This new configuration propels each song forward with a blur of hands, feet and voices.
A cantankerous and drafty two-man ship stationed in Providence, RI, Brown Bird plays original, traditional American music in the best sense possible. It is music that comes from a context but is not afraid of the context: a living root with a view towards the leaves.
- Professor Charles Booth, July 4th, 2011
ANNALIVIA - THE SAME WAY DOWN
At the cutting edge of acoustic and traditional music, Annalivia fuses old and new world sounds to create an authentic new sound, both steeped in tradition and alive with new energy, innovation and originality.
The members of Annalivia– Liz Simmons, Flynn Cohen, Emerald Rae, and Mariel Vandersteel– are all virtuosic on their instruments and have long histories with traditional music, ranging from bluegrass to Irish, Scottish, Norwegian and Old Time. These styles play a large role in the interpretations of their material, which include inventive, quirky fiddle tunes and lushly arranged songs. Their unique style, dubbed "Old Time Impressionism" by Pete Kennedy, has a distinctly American flavor, yet with the detail, precision and energy of their bluegrass and Celtic backgrounds. The members of Annalivia are all seasoned musicians, and have toured with the likes of Cathie Ryan, John Whelan, Ruth Moody, and Adrienne Young.
The Same Way Down features special guests Aoife O'Donovan and Corey DiMario.
SESSION AMERICANA LIVE
Session Americana is a Boston-based band consistently referred to in articles by variants of “a folk-rock supergroup,” a “who’s who” or “all-star” band featuring members Sean Staples (mandolin, guitar, vocals, mandocello, fiddle), Billy Beard (drums/vocals), Jon Bistline (bass/vocals), Ry Cavanaugh (guitar, mandocello, vocals), Jim Fitting (harmonica/vocals) and Dinty Child (mandocello, fiddle, banjo, guitar, accordion, keyboards, vocals).
This six member group of experienced musicians came together in 2004, for a series of informal shows at Toad (a Pub in Cambridge) on Sunday nights. Session Americana had a Sunday-night residency at Toad for two years, moving to the larger Lizard Lounge in Cambridge, MA when their popularity outgrew Toad’s small capacity. Their shows continue to involve the band facing each other around a table, passing instruments around as needed, harmonizing on old blues tunes, classic Americana songs, and original numbers written by the group members and their guests.
It's easy to leave a live Session Americana show and think "I wish I had a recording of that night", but most often live recordings are pale representations of experiences better left in the mind. Its just not the same without the energy of the room, the buzz of your companions, and other buzzes. Count the live albums worth listening to, and you'll find very few: Duke Ellington at Newport; Aretha at the Filmore; The Band's Rock of Ages, to name just a few.
A great live album should make you feel like you missed a really good party, like Listening to Dr Feelgood on Live at the Filmore. What Session Americana hopes to accomplish with this recording is exemplify the fun and energy of those unforgettable nights at the Lizard Lounge over the past few years. The songs may not sound exactly like you remembered them if you were there, and they don't sound technically as good as they would sound in a studio session, but the vibe is there, along with the energy, the fun, and a little magic, too. What more could one ask for?
Session Americana Live was recorded at the Lizard Lounge, Cambridge, MA on May 14, 2009, August 6 2010, December 21, 2010, January 11, 2011, and February 8, 2011.
THE TWO MAN GENTLEMEN BAND - TWO AT A TIME
Irreverent songwriters, expert instrumentalists, former street-performers, and consummate showmen, The Two Man Gentlemen Band has been barnstorming from coast to coast for half a decade, developing a reputation as a must-see live act on the roots and retro music circuits. A tenor guitar and string bass duo in the tradition of the great Slim & Slam, The Gents have obvious affection for pre-war American Jazz and Western Swing. But they’re no period piece. The decidedly contemporary feel of their lyrics and the hilarious, often ridiculous, improvised banter that peppers their live shows combine with the music for a thoroughly modern ruckus. “It’s as if,” one reviewer commented, “The Smothers Brothers were young today, wore better suits, and wrote hot jazz songs about drinking.” To The Gentlemen, that sounds about right.