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Folkadelphia Session: Coal Town Rounders

KISS – keep it simple, stupid. You’ve probably been told this or something similar your entire life. They’re saying that things function best if they’re kept simple rather than made complicated, so this should be factored into the design of whatever it is you’re working on. A similar concept is Ockham’s razor, which says that among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. This is all highfalutin fancy-pants talk for simplicity being the key. This is what I’m thinking about when I think about Scranton, PA’s Coal Town Rounders. They’re not particularly flashy or showy, they’re not reinventing the wheel, they’re just making goddamn salt of the earth bluegrass. For one, you’ve got your instrumental chops, two- your tight harmonies, and three- a strong catalog of songs to mine from, so what more do you need? I promise you that if you get these guys in a room together, you’ll be moved to interaction – to dance, to sing, to clap, to grin like a fool. I know that’s how we were acting in the mixing booth during this session, which was tracked live at the WXPN Studio on January 11th of this year. Now, simplicity does not equal untalented or lacking in passion. Quite the opposite, it means that the Rounders have stripped away superfluous musical baggage that does nothing except weigh them down. As a mean and lean acoustic quartet, the boys are nimble and energetic, imbuing their fairly traditional bluegrass twang with a good chunk of reckless abandon, like the crazy train might be coming off the rails at any moment. Whoever needed guitar amps anyway?

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Download “Cherry Licorice” by The Felice Brothers

Photo courtesy of the artist
Photo courtesy of the artist

Catskill roots rockers The Felice Brothers have a new album, Favorite Waitress, that is being released on June 17th on Dualtone. In an interview with Esquire, James Felice talked about the new album:

This record, we definitely wanted it to be a reflection of our live show. We honed it on the road. When we went into the studio to record it, we recorded it mostly live, with the intention of playing these songs and having them sound similar to the way they do live, and vice versa. That was very important to us. When we first started, for the first couple of records, even, we hadn’t done a lot of touring. Every studio we ever worked in was one we sort of built ourselves, so to actually go to a real studio in a different city was completely illuminating, and it gave us the opportunity to really play the songs because we didn’t have the ceremony of building a studio and testing it out. The bulk of the record, 90 percent of it, was done in a week. Practicing the songs and playing them live a lot brought us to a point where we could bang them out pretty quick.

Below, download the ragtag rocker “Cherry Licorice.” The band is plays Union Transfer on Thursday, July 10th with Robert Ellis. Go here for tickets and more information.

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The Key Studio Sessions: The Interest Group

Philly psych-pop outfit The Interest Group made a splash before they were even really a band. On the heels of his involvement with local projects Blackhawks and Bananas Symphony, Yohsuke Araki teamed up with fellow singer-guitarist Marissa Lesnick to record a cover of the late 60s nugget “The Boys and The Girls” by The Network. The song was so infectious that, before The Interest Group had a full lineup or had even played its first show, it got a Pitchfork writeup. This set the bar relatively high for the fledgling band, and while it didn’t follow up immediately, it followed up admirably – with last summer’s Passenger 7″, a winning set at Little Berlin’s Fairgrounds Block Party, with another new EP in February, and even more new songs recorded this week for The Key Studio Sessions. The band is fleshed out with bassist Kyle Garvey and drummer Steven Urgo, and the songs they recorded are pure modern pop gold. Rooted in snapy sounds and jangling melodies reminiscent of The Left Banke, 13th Floor Elevators and The Zombies, the band adds nice contemporary experimental florishes – backwards loops, white noise, dissonant breakdowns – making the saccharine more gritty. Listen to their set and grab free downloads below; “Locked On” can be found on EP1, released in February, and the rest of the tracks are brand new. To hear more, mark your calendar for May 14th, when The Interest Group plays the Underground Arts black box with King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.

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Download “Shadow Of A Man” by neo folkies NEULORE

Photo by Rory White
Photo by Rory White

NEULORE are the Nashville based duo of lead singer Adam Agin and William T. Cook. They met in 2008 and released their debut EP, Apples & Eve, in 2010. The newest song, “Shadow of a Man,” was featured in Grey’s Anatomy and in May they’ll be on the Communion Music Tour with a stop in Philly at Underground Arts on Thursday, May 8th. Also on that bill are Bootstraps, Busy Living, Cub Sport, Joey Sweeney & the Long Hair Arkestra, Heyward Howkins and Our Griffins. Fans of Mumford & Sons, Imagine Dragons and American Authors will delight in both the “folksiness” and the hyper melodicism of this new song by NEULORE.

Below, download the anthemic “Shadow Of A Man.”

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Philly’s Ill Fated Natives deliver their raw, bluesy first single “That Don’t Mean I Don’t Love You”

Photo via soundcloud.com/illfatednatives
Photo via soundcloud.com/illfatednatives

Ill Fated Natives’ first single is tough love at its finest. The guitar serves as the crunchy backbone of the track that compliments the chastising vocal. They even further the sentiment through an age-old thought experiment: “that don’t mean I don’t love you, just because I ain’t always around/ just ’cause you didn’t hear the tree fall, don’t mean it didn’t make a sound.” It’s definitely a cheeky comeback for any lover explaining his/her habitual absence. Check out “That Don’t Mean I Don’t Love You” below from their upcoming debut EP SAVAGES.

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Download “Slow Motion” by PHOX

Photo by Jade Ehlers via facebook.com/phoxband
Photo by Jade Ehlers via facebook.com/phoxband

The World Cafe session with the Wisconsin band PHOX this past March in Austin, Texas, was one of our SXSW highlights. The band did an early morning session in front of an audience, performing new material from their forthcoming self-titled album, out on June 24th. The band is fronted by Monica Martin, a charming and charismatic front woman and musically they’re an inventive indie-folk and pop band. PHOX are playing Boot & Saddle on July 21st. Tickets and more information here.

Below, download “Slow Motion,” the first single from PHOX’s forthcoming album. It’s only available for 24 hours, so be sure to download it now.

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Download a World Cafe performance of “Lance Jr.” by Courtney Barnett

Photo by Lisa Sorgin
Photo by Lisa Sorgin

Singer, songwriter and guitarist Courtney Barnett was barely a blip on the American rock and roll radar when she played the College Music Journal (CMJ) conference in the Fall of 2013, but after a handful of positive reviews including this one by New York Times music critic Jon Pareles, music fans started to take notice. Barnett self-released her album, The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas, to fairly glowing reviews October, 2013 and since then she’s been signed to a label deal in the States (Mom + Pop), did a tour including a sold out show in Philadelphia at Union Transfer, played at Coachella, and is playing the Firefly Music Fstival on June 19th. The Australian rocker was featured recently on World Cafe in an interview and performance on April 11, 2014. You can listen to the entire session here. Below, download her World Cafe performance of “Lance Jr.” and watch her perform “Avant Gardener” in the cafe studios.