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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Adam Arcuragi at Kennett Flash, Sunset Recorder at Kung Fu Necktie, Ray LaMontagne at The Tower, The Helio Sequence at Underground Arts, The Feverfew with Psalmships at Burlap and Bean

Adam Arcuragi will be performing tonight at Kennett Flash. The death gospel singer will be returning to Philadelphia on his tour supporting the January release of his third full-length album, Like A Fire That Consumes All Before It…, which you can stream here. Tickets and information for the all-ages show are available here; doors open at 7. Below, watch Arcuragi and the Lupine Chorale Society perform “You’d Think This Was Easy,” the first single from Like A Fire That Consumes All Before It….

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Walking in the footsteps of Alan Lomax with The 78 Project

Arborea recording on the porch of Joe's Spring Mountain Hotel | Photo by Frank Reis for The 78 Project

Alex Steyermark and Lavinia Wright can’t quite pinpoint where they first heard the name Alan Lomax.

There was Wright’s father, who would tell her stories about The Cherry Tree, the West Philadelphia club where he worked; many of the blues musicians and folk singers who performed there were first recorded by Lomax. There was also the time Steyermark, a filmmaker and native of Wilmington, dug into the Lomax Archives first-hand when researching music for Ang Lee’s civil war period piece Ride With the Devil. But for each, those weren’t the first moments of discovery – they were already well aware and versed in the legendary folklorist.

“I feel like he’s always been present,” muses Steyermark.

For the past two years, Lomax has directly influenced Wright and Steyermark’s lives as they run The 78 Project, a music documentary series showcasing intimate field recordings of contemporary singers and songwriters, from Adam Arcuragi to Loudon Wainwright III. Using a 1930’s Presto direct-to-disc recorder and a single microphone – the same technology Lomax worked with when he traveled the country in the 1930s documenting blues singers and bluegrass ensembles – they record one-take, straight-to-acetate performances, film the artist playing, and film their reaction when they listen back to the hot-off-the-press record.

The collaboration began as a web video series, is raising money through Kickstarter to fund a feature-length documentary, but had its genesis in something more personal.

“We’re just huge junkies for folk music, roots music, the blues,” Wright said. “Alex and I started talking about our mutual passion for field-recorded music, and we realized this was a really grassroots approach we could take to exploring it.”

This year, Arcuragi recorded an a capella performance of “How Can I Keep From Singing” for 78 Project in a converted church in Harlem; Dawn Landes of the band Hem played her song “The Brown Girl” in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and mystical Maine duo Arborea performed “Red Bird” a porch near the Philadelphia Folk Festival. There’s a sense of immediacy and spontaneity to these songs – an unfussy, unrehearsed, genuine vibe. But before the project got to this point, the two running it had to learn how to use their antiquated equipment through an intense process of trial and error.

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New tribute to Springsteen’s Nebraska features Philadelphia’s Strand of Oaks, Adam Arcuragi (out Sept. 20)

With next month comes the release of Long Distance Salvation: A Tribute to Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska, an impressive collection of new folk and Americana artists putting their spin on the landmark 1981 album. The album is due out in digital and vinyl format on Sept. 20, with 100% of the proceeds benefiting hunger charity Project Bread. Among the artists featured are Philadelphia’s own Strand of Oaks with a haunting rendition of “Used Cars,” and sometimes-Philadelphian Adam Arcuragi with “Reason to Believe.” The set opens with a rendition of the title track by Canadian band The Wooden Sky, who played an excellent set at Philadelphia Folk Fest earlier this month. Below, listen to their take on “Nebraska,” watch a video of Oaks’ Tim Showalter covering “Used Cars” for a Hear Ya Live Session, and see the entire tracklist. Continue reading →

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Video: Adam Arcuragi records “How Can I Keep from Singing” a capella, straight to acetate

Adam Arcuragi might not live in Philadelphia anymore, but he made some incredible music while he was here – notably 2006′s Untitled and 2008′s Soldiers for Feet. Now somewhat nomadic (but technically living in LA), he still records regularly with many of his Philly friends, and regardless of his geographical affiliations, Arcuragi has one of the best voices in contemporary singer-songwriterdom. So it’s always exciting when something new from his world comes across our desk. This video from The 78 Project – which revives the straight-to-acetate recording method of pioneering folklorist Alan Lomax with today’s musicians – sees Arcuragi singing “How Can I Keep from Singing” in a converted church in Harlem.