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Folkadelphia Session: The Sun Flights

Photo by Neil Kohl.
Photo by Neil Kohl.

On Monday, I heard from Claire Duncombe, one of the original duo of Philadelphia’s The Sun Flights that,with the release of this Folkadelphia in-studio session, they would be closing the book on this portion of their musical journey. Over the past handful of years, The Sun Flights, first just Natalie Butts and Claire, and then adding Tim Leslie and Jake Hager, became a staple in my area of the Philadelphia music scene. I’ve seen them play in bars, on porches, on top of a bus, in tiny shops. I’ve heard them play a song for the first time and I’ve seen them refine and rework it until it clicks like tumblers in a lock moving into place. I’m only one of many listeners that have fallen deeply for their easy harmonies, vibrant community spirit, and wild imagination, not even to speak of their songs and albums. The Sun Flights just made it so effortless to enjoy their performances, to root for them to succeed in winning over everyone in the room, so it is extremely bittersweet to watch it come to an end. But as they say, one door closes and another opens. I know that we’ll be closely following Claire, Natalie, Tim, and Jake on whatever it is that comes next because it is going to be great.
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Folkadelphia Session: Squirrel Flower

Photo courtesy of the artist.
Photo courtesy of the artist.

Sometimes out of the blue, apropos of nothing, we find a new favorite artist. You can’t plan this out, you can only be open to it happening. We were fully going-with-the-flow and open to happenstance when Squirrel Flower aka Ella Williams, a musician splitting her time between Boston and Grinnell College in Iowa, contacted us. As soon as we heard her album Early Winter Songs from Middle America, we were hooked.
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Folkadelphia Session: Mipso

Photography by Griffin Hart Davis, LLC.
Photography by Griffin Hart Davis, LLC.

Mipso is another example of community and collaboration going right. Wood Robinson, Joseph Terrell and Jacob Sharp, the original trio, along with Libby Rodenbough, now a permanent member of the band, all met at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Mipso is now based a hop-and-a-skip away in Carborro, and the hometown love and support continues to grow. The rest of us outside of North Carolina are finally catching up; on their third full length album Old Time Reverie, the band finds a refreshing way to channel all sorts of musical interests and experiments through the bluegrass and Americana foundation that makes up Mipso. The result is a refreshing collection of songs, chock full of harmonies and some of the best damn playing you’ll hear lately.
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Folkadelphia Session: Dar Williams (ft. Jill Sobule)

Photo courtesy of the artist.
Photo courtesy of the artist.

Dar Williams is something of a legend. She lives in this special reserved space in my music mind, occupied by few, whose names are said with inherent pride, whose music is deeply coveted, and whose work is held up as an example for all. Histrionics? A little, but not far off the mark. In my case, this mostly plays out on regular basis that when I hear “Dar Williams, such and such,” I think, “Man, Dar Williams is great,” or, if I see news or a link to her music, I’m very inclined to click. Small, but significant gestures in an ordinary life. I think many people out there are right with me in my Dar Williams’ feeling.
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Folkadelphia Session: Charlie Parr

Photo by Peter Lee
Photo by Peter Lee

I need you to listen to Charlie Parr. In some ways, it feels like my mission in radio is to convince every single person cruising the FM dial, surfing the web, or visiting the Folkadelphia website or archive to dig and to dig extra deep into Charlie’s music. If you love roots and acoustic music, Charlie’s your guy. If you love history and the rich tradition of American folk music, I’m pointing you to Parr. If you jive with Folkadelphia’s mission to help bridge that gap between old and new, I can’t raise up a better example than Mr. Charlie Parr. What more can I say?
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Folkadelphia Session: Olivia Chaney

Photo courtesy of the artist.
Photo courtesy of the artist.

Olivia Chaney’s music can be described as removed from time. The English songwriter and balladeer distills the essence – the blood, sweat, and tears, the love, life, and death from the songs she performs. Continue reading →

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Folkadelphia Session: Mischief Brew

Photo courtesy of the band.
Photo courtesy of the band.

I will bet you that the first time I heard Mischief Brew, I was sitting on a dilapidated couch in the basement level of 3210 Chestnut Street, deep within the confines of Drexel University’s non-commercial, free-format, student-run radio station WKDU. That’s where I, and so many open-minded, forward-thinking weirdos cut our teeth, got lost in the vinyl stacks, and figured out for ourselves what was good music. I thank my lucky stars for being in the right place at the right time.
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Folkadelphia Session: Brian Carpenter and the Confessions

Photo by Heather Byington.
Photo by Heather Byington.

I think it is telling that upon listening to Brian Carpenter and the Confessions, my audio engineer, Clark Conner and I starting naming a slew of diverse musicians and artists that the band reminded us of. We through out names like Willy Nelson, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Nick Cave, David Lynch, Johnny Cash, and beyond. If you could take those names, those vibes, and imagine an audio landscape built by their hands, I believe you’d fall upon what the Confessions channel. It’s dusty, dark, sparse, but lovely and thoughtful – the pessimistic side of Americana, staring at the half empty beer bottle in front of you.
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Folkadelphia Session: Circuit Des Yeux

Photo by Julia Dratel, courtesy of the musician.
Photo by Julia Dratel, courtesy of the musician.

Circuit Des Yeux‘s Haley Fohr worships at the altar of sound. I personally became a convert around Overdue, her release from 2013, but her whole body of work treats sound, all sound – the beautiful, the ugly, the harsh, the serene – as transcendent and worthy of consideration and use. She has faith in what is coaxed out of her instruments, circuitry, and voice, and she leads the audience to keep faith as well, to be led to extraordinary sonic locations.
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Folkadelphia Session: Nora Jane Struthers

Photo by Jim McGuire, courtesy of the band.
Photo by Jim McGuire, courtesy of the band.

Nora Jane Struthers and her group the Party Line give me what I always want from a band: kick-ass music that straddles the boundaries between typical genres, enthralling performances, and the best damn attitude. Bonus points given for being some of the nicest people around. These are folks here for the love of the game – all about creating and sharing, and when you’ve got that, you just know good music is apt to follow.
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