During his initial email exchange between WXPN’s John Vettese and Philadelphia-area musician Joe Kille, Kille, while announcing the album release of his solo album Arkadelphia, admits that he’s “not too good at the internet.” Something about that little amusing acknowledgement provides a rather poignant picture in my mind – I imagine Kille coaxing his dial-up to provide a few minutes of connectivity, hunting and pecking on the keyboard with two fingers drafting the note to Vettese. Of course, it’s probably the furthest from reality. I’m being influenced by the rustic, homegrown nature and magic of Arkadelphia, with its fiddles blazing and bass jumping, and converting Kille’s Southern NJ into backwater Appalachia.
John Vettese kindly recommended the group to me. The Morning River Band, a group that Kille is associated with and who we’ve featured on Folkadelphia before also told us to keep our ears open for the fiddle player. I’m glad they did because Arkadelphia, a smart set of timeless sounding country-noir songs, has become a favorite of mine. If you haven’t heard the name Joe Kille before, it’s time to put him on your radar. Start with our session, recorded October 2013.
Mirel Wagner – a name, a songwriter, and a voice (oh, what a voice!) that you may not know at the moment, but I assure you, kind reader, you will. In 2012, the Ethiopian-Finnish musician released her eponymous debut, an extremely stark and intimate affair. The songs delve deep, and exhume something primal within. She recently became a new signee to Sub Pop Records. The label will release her forthcoming album this summer worldwide and hopefully to great acclaim. During the radio show, we’ll hear a song from her debut. Watch her video for “No Death” below.
Photo by Fred Knittel
Photo by Fred Knittel
Photo by Fred Knittel
Welcome to a historic Folkadelphia Session. Before this point, we have never recorded a repeat session with any artist. Sure, they always say that they will write or call, but bands get wrapped up in being in a band, hitting that dusty road. We’re just a transitory frequency on their dial en route to another city. Truly we’d like to think that we’re the “going steady” type, but thus far we have had only “one session stands.” That all changes today. Enter Boston-based psych-rockers Quilt, officially a trio of Shane Butler, Anna Rochinski, and John Andrews, but who tour as a quartet featuring Keven Lareau on bass. They finally got us to settle down – at least for an encore session. They told us they were going out for cigarettes and would be right back, and they actually came back! Less than a year passed between our sessions, but it’s obvious that the Quilt have grown into formidible and rightful torchbearers of the contemporary psychedelia genre. On their just-released second album, Held In Splendor, Quilt focuses on mastering the long playing record format as a singular sonic portrait instead of a collection of singles. The result is an intrepid effort where there is no designated start or stopping point, but a sunlight-bathed, ruby-gleaming swirl of musical materials. Get on the ride and get off the ride whenever you choose. Your friends in Quilt will always welcome you back for a new adventure.
On their recent Folkadelphia Session, the band gave us a taste of their new record, holding us in rapture. They couldn’t hear us through the soundproof glass of the studio, but we were applauding loudly. Bravo Quilt – don’t forget us on your cosmic journey down the river of life.
Quilt performs tonight, February 27th, at Boot & Saddle with Lazer Background and Mike Bruno & The Magic Family Band for a night of supremely transcendent trance-inducing tunes.
Calling all fans of live folk and acoustic music: this is your week(end)! Throughout the radio show, we’ll preview a few of the more notable concert choices you can make as we close the book on February. You’ll hear from roots-rocker Caroline Rose (playing World Cafe Live on Thu. 2/27), raucous electric country from The Whiskey Gentry (playing Milkboy Philly on Fri. 2/28), and indie folk star Sera Cahoone (supporting Band of Horses at the Merriam Theater on Sat. 3/1). While we aren’t playing Mark Fosson or Nathaniel Earl Bowles, we also recommend their evening of American Primitivism folk at the Rotunda this Friday, 2/28. Listen to Caroline Rose and Sera Cahoone’s previous Folkadelphia Sessions:
Harpist Gillian Grassie‘s musical resume is impressive and extensive. She has been a recipient of competitive grants to perform, travel, and teach around the world. You can’t keep her in one place – she is often found on the road, carrying her sizable instrument in tow. Last year, she crowd-funded her latest album, The Hinterhaus, via Kickstarter (and raised 175% of her initial goal). It only makes sense that her music is the subject of frequent critical & peer acclaim. As you can tell, Grassie is an accomplished musician – an inventive singer, songwriter, composer, and performer with influences that run the gamut. You can hear stylistic fragments of Baroque fugues here, Joni Mitchell there, Weimar era influence here, American folk song there. Grassie absorbs, interprets, and creates a new world from a collection of bits and pieces, a sonic stitching where the harp is her loom.
But I did not know any of Grassie’s accolades before I asked her in for this Folkadelphia Session. I was certainly aware of her local popularity as a sought after musician (technically, she’s not so local now, as she splits her time between Berlin and Philadelphia). When I first heard The Hinterhaus through peer recommendation, that was all it took to convince me that we had to pursue recording together. Her music is rich and textured with the harp plucking and vocal runs flowing hand-in-hand, weaved together with precision and imagination. The harp and the voice – these two instruments remain the center of the album. What truly makes Grassie an uncommonn performer is the amount of soulfulness and strength she brings to each song, drawing from a deep well inside herself. You can hear this depth of spirit in her Folkadelphia Session, which features the traditional “Saro,” as well as a cover of Barry Manilow’s “Can’t Smile Without You.”
Charlie Parr is one of the most important contemporary American folk musicians that you probably know nothing about. Based in Minnesota where he also grew up, Parr taught himself guitar and banjo listening to folks like Charley Patton, Woody Guthrie, and Dock Boggs. His online biography is quite right when they say “he sounds like he would have fit right into Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music.” Parr’s most recent records are Hollandale, an all instrumental record, produced and played on by Low‘s Alan Sparhawk, and Barnswallow, a live-to-tape album featuring traditional and originals.
Folkadelphia presents a concert with Charlie Parr, along with Philadelphia musicians Ryan Petrillo (of the Bailey Hounds) and Snagwing at HubBub Coffee (University City location) this Saturday, February 22nd. More information can be found here. Watch Parr perform “Motorcycle Blues”:
Declan O’Rourke may not be the most familiar name here in the States but over the pond in his native land of Ireland, he certainly is well-known. His three albums, including last year’s Mag Pai Zai, all have charted, he receives extensive radio play, and he performs across the country. He is lauded not just as a musician, but as a seriously deft songwriter. And rightly so – the Dublin-based musician exists in that vaulted upper eschelon of musical wordsmiths, reserved for those few that have an expert grip on their craft, but also challenge themselves with each new release.
With Mag Pai Zai, O’Rourke displayed both expertise and development, putting together a collection of story songs that are dramatic, exciting, humorous, tongue-in-cheek, and always terribly clever. Perhaps he does not go in for the obvious hook, the poppy played-out chorus that a lesser songwriter would have lifted. Perhaps it is because of this that O’Rouke, outside of his country, is something of a songwriter’s songwriter, less known to the general public than his musical peers. However, it is because of this very fact that O’Rourke’s music will have staying power; this guy is going to be around for a while, and, I hope, with even greater acclaim and popularity. While O’Rourke may not go in for that obvious chord change or lyrical progression, his songs are far from dissonant or complex beyond enjoyment; he skirts the line between syrupy simplicity and over embellishment with ease, and the result are immensely enjoyable and re-listenable songs. Enjoy this selection of songs from Declan O’Rourke’s catalogue, tracked in Philadelphia before his show at the Tin Angel this past September.