XPN Philly Local at the Philly Folk Fest: Helen Leicht on her camp stage picks

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Aaron Brown of Aaron and the Spell

Every year, the Saturday concerts at Philadelphia Folk Fest get moving with Helen Leicht’s Philly Local Showcase on the festival’s Camp Stage. This year’s lineup spans styles from soul to chamber rock, kicking off with Aaron and the Spell at 11:00, continuing with Carsie Blanton at 11:45, Harper Blynn at 12:30 and Andrew Lipke at 1:15. Today, Helen gives us a look at the homegrown talent she has in store.

Aaron and the Spell is the impressive acoustic soul project of Harrisburg’s Aaron Brown, an emerging songwriter who in the past has dabbled in punk rock and (in high school) jazz music. His songs are neither punk nor jazz and that’s totally fine, since his singing voice is warm and welcoming, styled after Otis Redding and Sam Cooke. “As soon as I heard him sing, I said ‘wow!’” says Helen. “At our Philly Local showcase, I try to feature different styles of music, and he’s a great representation of soul music, the soul sound of Philly. Plus, his cover of ‘Purple Rain’ blew me away. When I heard him do it, I said ‘seriously, this guy is for real.’” Aaron and the Spell will be featured in tomorrow’s Key Studio Session, and you’ll be able to hear the tracks debut on tonight on the Philly Local Hour on 88.5 FM. Below, check out a recording of Brown singing “God Bless America” at Citizens’ Bank Park for a Phillies game.



Virginia native Carsie Blanton has been a player in the Philadelphia scene for six years, and has released two albums since arriving here – 2009′s Buoy and this year’s Idiot Heart. In that time, she’s also appeared several times on the Folk Show on WXPN, as well as the Philly Local Hour. “She’s an exciting artist, an exciting live performer,” Helen says. “She’s also had lots of great opportunities – she toured with Paul Simon and worked with producer Oliver Wood. I think she’s one of the talented female artists from our area.” Carsie was featured in a Key Studio Session earlier this year; watch her video below.

The Key Studio Session – Carsie Blanton from WXPN FM on Vimeo.

The songwriting duo that fronts Harper Blynn – Pete Harper and Jay Blynn – have been featured on the Philly Local Show in various forms since they were teenagers. Blynn’s middle school jam band, Pea Soup, was a Philly Local Pick once upon a time, and Helen has enjoyed following their career. “That’s what’s exciting for me as someone who supports local music,” she says. “You’re able to find these artists, they send in a homemade CD, and you get excited, play it on the radio and watch them grow.” Blynn teamed up with Harper in Pete and J, a folksy duo, which evolved into Harper Blynn, a pop-rock oriented project that played the XPoNential Music Festival in 2010. “Their harmonies are amazing,” says Helen. “If you’re looking for harmonies, Harper Blynn is your band. That’s why I thought they’d fit in well with the Folk Fest crowd.” Listen to the song “Knife” from Harper Blynn’s most recent record, Busy Hands, below.

Capping the showcase off is an appearance by Andrew Lipke, who last year released an ambitious album about the end of the world, The Plague, his latest in a string of impressive recordings that have been spotlighted on WXPN. “He’s grown so immensely, he’s so talented,” Helen says. “He’s recording, he’s producing. He worked with Chris Kasper on his record, and Chris Kasper is playing Folk Fest. He’s become one of the go-to artists for the local community.” In November, Lipke recorded a Key Studio Session with a full rock band and a string quartet, before a live studio audience – watch a video from that session below.

The 51st Philadelphia Folk Festival begins on Thursday Aug. 16 and runs through Sunday Aug. 19 at the Old Pool Farm in Schwenksville. Check back throughout the week for continuing Folk Fest coverage; tomorrow, we’ll see who the don’t-miss artists from our in-house folk music authorities – Gene Shay of WXPN’s Folk Show and Fred Knittel of XPN2′s Folkadelphia.

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