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Folkadelphia Session: Town Mountain


Town Mountain, the self-described “hard-drivin’ Carolina string band,” is a group after our own heart. On their fifth album Southern Crescent released this April, Town Mountain plows through 12 excellent songs of rough and raw bluegrass, play-like-the-devil fiddling, and top-notch picking. Without much studio magic, the band recorded Southern Crescent relying on their superb live performance style. It is in that mode that the band arrived in Philadelphia and recorded this no nonsense in-studio session.
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Folkadelphia Session: Friendship (ft. Abi Reimold)

Friendship (sans Reimold), courtesy of the artist.
Friendship (sans Reimold), courtesy of the artist.

Back during the first half of 2015, we only knew Friendship as a social concept that we were bad at participating in. We ended 2015 with a new favorite band. Thanks to a “mysterious EP” (as posted by The Key) and a Folkadelphia house concert with Maine’s Jacob Augustine, Friendship really held our attention as we greatly anticipated their eventual debut full length, You’re Going to Have to Trust Me. With its somber country sound somewhere between Jason Molina and Gram Parsons (as WXPN’s John Vettese nicely describes it), Friendship hits that sweet spot where our interests in existentialism and pedal steel guitar converge.
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Folkadelphia Session: Andrew Combs


At the intersection of country, soul, and Americana, you’ll find Andrew Combs. I’m not talking about the country you hear on commercial radio, I’m not talking about the bombastic soul you hear channeled on countless current pop songs, and I’m certainly not talking about the millennial whooping of contemporary Americana. Andrew Combs is conjuring up music more classic and less trendy in approach. After a respectable showing on his debut Worried Man, Combs upped the ante and returned with All These Dreams, which I consider one of the finest offerings of 2015. The bedrock of the production is Combs’ adept songwriting, wholly accessible, smart, and catchy, upon which layers of twangy lap steel guitar, bowed orchestration, and a rock-and-roll rhythm section live and work together. The listener is treated to an album that will remain fresh and shiny after today’s gaudy music trends die away.
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Folkadelphia Session: Long Beard

Courtesy of Team Love Records
Courtesy of Team Love Records

Since Sleepwalker, the debut album from Long Beard, New Jersey musician Leslie Bear’s musical outfit was released in autumn 2015, I have found myself occasionally laying on my bedroom floor, with door closed, lights off, ceiling staring, putting the needle down over and over on this record. I have discovered that the semidarkness of twilight is the perfect time to listen to Long Beard, when the day and everything that it brought is being slowly snuffed out by the impending night. These soft boundaries between light and dark, awake and asleep, noisy and hushed release a magical power already latent in the aptly-titled Sleepwalker. Leslie and her band are also operating in the between. They are transitioning from a former state to a new one, where music plays the role of catalyst and catharsis and internal dialogues loop, build, and collide often in a restless release of energy. I find myself remaining on the floor staring up into darkness even after the needle pulls away from Sleepwalker, captivated by its spell.
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Folkadelphia Session: Julie Rhodes


Julie Rhodes is without a doubt one of the striking voices we’ve heard during a Folkadelphia Session. Sure, call her a powerhouse because there is certainly power – a brute, earthly force that jolts you up when she chooses to wield it. But let’s talk about the magnificent character of her voice, which is immediately charming, ear-catching, and totally malleable. Let Julie soothe your aching heart with a voice as smooth as butter, let her exfoliate the hurt away with that pumice stone singing, then let her drive you back the bottle with a voice that can get as gritty and raw as a gravel road swept up in a hurricane. Let us praise her passionate vocalizing and her soulful singing, which fit perfectly for songs that sit in the intersection between blues, R&B, rock, and folk. In less words, Julie Rhodes is a vocalist that makes you pay attention – are you listening yet?
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Folkadelphia Session: Mary Lattimore

Photo by Scott Troyan, courtesy of the artist.
Photo by Scott Troyan, courtesy of the artist.

Over the past decade, Mary Lattimore has mesmerized and delighted with her adaptive harp playing abilities, challenging preconceptions of where the many-stringed instrument sits in indie rock, folk, and experimental music. The long-time Philadelphian (though soon-to-be West Coaster [sad emoji]) has pushed and carried her audience, along with her hugely unwieldy instrument, to explore the far reaches of what the harp is capable of doing. What can it do? An awful lot apparently, especially when you add in electronics, sonic manipulation, amplification, a knack for improvising, and an awesome set of collaborators, notably go-to partner-in-crime multi-instrumentalist and producer Jeff Zeigler. I personally try to see Mary as much as possible, and I recommend you follow suit, because her performances always feels entirely special, like experiencing the birth of mini-sonic worlds that all start from the same place, a single pluck of the string.
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Folkadelphia Session: Dori Freeman


If you set the phone book to music, Dori Freeman could make me cry singing those string of numbers, names, and addresses. How is it that the mid-twenty year old, Galax Virginia resident can command such power with what her website describes as the “lulling mountain drawl of her voice”? Whatever it is – perhaps the sincerity of the words, the burning passion of the singer, the easy flow of her debut album, or any combination of aspects – whatever it is, Dori Freeman is nothing if not a deeply compelling singer and songwriter.
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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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