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Folkadelphia Session: Sammus

At its most basic, the website Bandcamp is a publishing platform for artists, another site to share work. But in this age of micropayments-per-play on the streaming service juggernauts like Spotify, YouTube, and Apple Music, with either a shield around those tech companies’ editorial and curatorial staff, or curation via computer algorithms and trends (lame!), it’s tough to be a self-sustaining musician on the web. Bandcamp offers a different experience for both creator and fan. The platform has evolved into a streaming service, merch store, social site, expertly selected radio station, a zine, and beyond. Best of all, the artist has much more freedom and control over their presence on the site. In many instances, Bandcamp has created the opportunity for niche, independent, and DIY musicians to find their people, their fans, and truly connect. We at Folkadelphia have had success using Bandcamp as our in-studio session archive. Now Philadelphian, former Ithacan producer and rapper Sammus also connected to a huge and hugely supportive community on the site, which is where we first discovered her music.
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Folkadelphia Session: Harmony Woods


Give Sofia Verbilla a chance to blow you away with her music. Verbilla leads Harmony Woods, a new Philly-area band whose debut Nothing Special is actually absolutely special for many reasons, least of which being that their talent is far beyond any member’s age. And people are listening; the excitement and enthusiasm around Harmony Woods right now is palpable: the Internet is aflutter with support, gigs are being booked, plans are being made, in-studio sessions are being recorded (after high school graduation parties, of course). John Vettese of WXPN/the Key writes that listeners might hear echoes of emo-revival acts like Sorority Noise and Modern Baseball or emotive songwriters like Mitski, I heard traces of groups like Rainer Maria and Seam too. However, any hype you feel or I create should not distract from the fact that Verbilla and Harmony Woods are just starting to scratch the surface of an immense imagination, flex a muscular gift for songcraft and storytelling, and put on display a compelling and energetic live show. You’re damn right it’s powerful stuff.
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Folkadelphia Session: Lizzie No

Photo by Sydney Lowe

With this year’s debut album Hard Won, Lizzie No graciously provides a bright spot in the all-too-crowded Americana landscape. Soundalike bands and songwriters of all genres nowadays give off the impression that they create music algorithmically and not organically, probably thinking about playlist placements on Spotify than dreaming up great art. Rather than by rote, Lizzie No creates by gut, by experience, by feeling, by imagination, by inspiration, and through tremendous musical ability and collaboration. It leaves her “Americana” album often not sounding much like your standard issue roots and twang band; look no further than the fact she busts out a harp, which she dazzles on. It’s just the exciting beginning for Lizzie No, but she’s already giving me hope that I may never have to hear another “hey-ho,” millennial whoop again.
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Folkadelphia Session: Sam Moss (with Honeysuckle)

Photo by Emily Haviland Baker

In the time since his last visit to us in 2014, Sam Moss moved to a new city (Boston), released a beautiful, intricate album (2016’s Fable), and logged countless hours on the road performing. That’s a good amount of change for few years. What has stayed the same is Moss’ deep attention to songcraft, whether he is operating within or without the folk music idiom.
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Folkadelphia Session: Honeysuckle

Courtesy of the artist.

Accolades, accomplishments, and positioning aside, at their most fundamental level, burgeoning Boston-based trio Honeysuckle write damn good songs and nothing beats that. Holly McGarry, Benjamin Burns, and Chris Bloniarz have immense chemistry and a real ease to their playing, which makes their creativity expressed through their music that much more impactful for the listener. The band’s most recent release, their eponymous 2016 album, displays this gelling of wild imagination and skillful execution, but where they shine is in the live domain. Catch them on tour in your area!
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Folkadelphia Session: Emperor X

Emperor X is Chad Metheny and he’s been releasing music out under that moniker since 1998. I’ve been listening to Emperor X for far less time than that, but in a short while, his songs, especially from his latest album Oversleepers International have made a tremendous impact on me and everyone I know that has heard a song, bought a record, or seen him play a show. Whether the music tends towards straight-up folk-punk acoustic strumming, skittering electronics, or even ambient minimalism, there is an inherent passion, energy, and DIY-ness to what Emperor X is bringing to the table.
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Folkadelphia Radio: Adam Torres

Photo by Rambo

I would follow Adam Torres‘ voice to the ends of the earth. There is a magical, slinking, serpentine quality to his falsetto and the interplay between it and his music that, as a listener, I’m trying to figure out why it is so utterly affecting. After years without a proper full length, Torres released Pearls to Swine last year, a proper follow-up album that makes good on the promise he exhibited on the 2006 indie cult classic Nostra Nova. On Pearls and this year’s EP I Came to Sing the Song, that songwriting spellwork is as potent and refined as ever, in a quietly rousing way like the warm, bright morning light on the sleepy world. You’d follow him too.
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Folkadelphia Session: Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster

Courtesy of the artist.

Though Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster‘s (of Mississippi favorites Water Liars) debut solo album is called Constant Stranger, the record has been more of a constant companion than anything else since its release towards the end of last year. When I needed it, the record has at times acted as a friend, a mirror, a salve, a question, but mostly a reminder about what I hold dear. Yes, it’s that powerful. Pitch perfect instrumentation flesh out the brilliant stories and poetry Kinkel-Schuster conjures up; I was hooked with the rich imagery from line one, “Used to walk my black dog late at night / without a moon it felt just like / being drawn by an unseen hand / into a country ancient and unplanned / Where it ain’t no use to try and turn me ’round / But I will sing these songs till I can no longer can.”
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Folkadelphia Session: Julie Byrne

Photo by Jonathon Bouknight

Julie Byrne‘s flawless new album Not Even Happiness is about travel, transition, journeys, and discovery. On the first track “Follow My Voice,” she leaves behind the city for the light, the sky, and the green and on “Sleepwalker,” which you can hear as part of our in-studio session, she “crossed the country and…carried no key.” Byrne is nomadic, but she treats it like destiny, as on “I Live Now As a Singer,” where she describes how she has “dragged my life across the country and wondered if travel led me anywhere.” She sings with an inherent bravery, a deep humanity, and an admirable self-knowledge of herself, but there is always more to learn and to seek out, within and without. Not Even Happiness from its message to its music may seem simple and overly subtle, but the depth of its beauty and power are truly remarkable.
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Folkadelphia Session: Western Centuries

Photo by Brooke Warren, Courtesy of Free Dirt Records

Over the last few years Pacific Northwest based “new-old time” duo Cahalen Morrison and Eli West released a number of expertly crafted albums until going their separate ways. Then in 2016, I kept hearing about Cahalen Morrison’s new project Western Centuries, a rollicking country group of sorts with other band members holding deep musical accolades: Jim Miller (of Donna the Buffalo) and Ethan Lawton, along with Travis Stuart on bass and Leo Grassl on pedal steel for this Folkadelphia performance. As you expect, Western Centuries is more than proficient in their country stylings, but where they really shine is bringing to the fore tinges of funk, honky tonk, and rock with a good sense of fun. As a listener, I find it comforting to be led on a musical trip in the hands of an expert group of artists and Western Centuries are very capable on their release Weight of the World.
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