Philadelphia is blowing up NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert Contest and it’s amazing

Levee Drivers' Tiny Desk submission | photo by Bob Sweeney
Levee Drivers’ Tiny Desk submission | photo by Bob Sweeney

For those of you who don’t know about NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts, you may want to head over to their site and root through their enormous and equally impressive archive. Their 15-minute videos feature live performances from artists of all genres held in the quaint offices of NPR at All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen’s desk.

Ranging from big names like Adele and Alt-J to up-and-coming artists such as Angel Olsen and Rubblebucket, viewers are able to watch the artists perform in the intimate setting, giving the performances a stripped-down, no B.S. vibe. While these videos are ultra fun to watch (perhaps continuously, one after another…), NPR kept things interesting this winter by kicking off a contest to feature a new artist in their series.

Based entirely off of video submissions from all over the United States, an artist will be chosen to perform a Tiny Desk Concert at NPR headquarters in Washington D.C. as well as snag a slot in the big Lagunitas Couchtrippin’ showcase in Austin, Texas. Philadelphia, brimming with the amazing musical talent that it is, seems to have jumped at this opportunity. Continue reading →


Folkadelphia Session: Psalmships (from April 2014)

In our rather short history of Folkadelphia, the artist we’ve probably worked with the most is Psalmships. Psalmships is the ever-evolving musical project of Joshua Britton, Bucks Co. resident and all-around good guy. A guy that’s been put in a hard place and perhaps that hard place is just life, existing, and coping with the day-to-day. Human problems blown to cinematic scale by the endless black of night and the tireless workings of the imagination. At least, that’s what he sings about and why we continually gravitate towards finding new ways to bring Britton’s artistry and creativity into the fold of what we’re doing here. Britton is a restless musician, always at work on songs – he’s something like the Robert Pollard of slowcoustic music (did I really just write that phrase?) But it’s true – not even a year ago, Psalmships released the expansive EP Songs For A Red Bird and, about a year before that, Hymn of Lions, his tumbleweed country album (or at least their take on that style). His brand new full-lengthed record I Sleep Alone is the distilled essence of what Britton has been honing in on with his music and writing in recent times; it’s sparsely populated with instruments – a rough acoustic guitar generally acts as forward motion with effected lap steel guitar, keyboards, and atmospherics coloring the scenes. Often, the silence, space, and breaths between words speak as loudly as what Britton is singing. Sure, it’s a deeply emotional trip, sometimes painfully so, but in that sense, it is also cathartic to work through. Instead of giving, you gain with each listen, becoming more solid and stronger for it. Not all music is designed as diversion or cotton candy. This is an album with purpose. On the opening track “You’ll Never See The Morning,” Britton cautions “The night time is so long, it can last your whole life and you’ll never see the morning if you cannot see the light.” From the very start, as dark as I Sleep Alone becomes, it brings the listener to a place where (s)he is most able to look for the light if (s)he is willing to go there. Instead of being lost in the void without purpose or direction, Britton helps us to believe that the darkness is just another side of the light and the light is coming. It’s hopeful because while I sleep alone now, I might not forever.

On his latest session for Folkadelphia, Britton, joined by Brad Hinton and Chelsea Sue Allen, recorded a number of songs from I Sleep Alone. Psalmships, along with Nathan Edwin and Chelsea Sue Allen, will be celebrating the release with a concert at Bourbon and Branch this Friday, July 11th. For even more Folkadelphia & Psalmships collaboration, listen to My Endless Black, a previous session from October 2012.


Under the ground and the skin: a song feature on The Springhill Mining Disaster and a session with Psalmships, tonight on Folkadelphia Radio


Folksingers often act as the voice of the people, creating a memorial, protest, speech, opinion piece, or treatise in verse and music. Peggy Seeger along with Ewan MacColl took up the mantle to tell the tale of the industrial accident at Springhill, Nova Scotia. The Springhill mining disaster can refer to any of three Canadian mining disasters which happened in 1891, 1956, and 1958 within the Springhill coalfield, near Springhill, Cumberland County, Nova Scotia. Seeger wrote a vivid song to comemorate the 1958 tragedy. What occurred on October 23rd, 1958 is referred to as a “bump,” or an underground earthquake caused by increased tensions in the earth due to the removal of coal without support replacement. Smaller bumps had been felt that day, but at 8:06 a bump large enough to register on seismic monitoring caused the floor and ceiling of the mine to abruptly crush together, while releasing debris and gasses. Of the 174 men working in the mine at the time, a total of 75 died, with 74 being killed either instantaneously or soon after due to suffocation. As rescue operations strove to free any remaining survivors trapped underground, Canadian and international news media went to Springhill, notable for being the first major international event to appear in live television broascasts (on the CBC). On the sixth and seventh day after the bump, two groups of trapped miners were freed and brought to the surface. The intensity of the event, its widescale media coverage, and the vividness of Peggy Seeger and Ewan MacColl’s “The Ballad of Springhill” have continued to captivate musicians, especially those wishing to honor those who were trapped and lost. Tonight, we’ll hear a few renditions of the song.

We’ll also premiere a Folkadelphia Session with our longtime friend and supporter, Joshua Britton and his musical project Psalmships. Wildly prolific and a new set of songs always in the works, Psalmships has just completed and released I Sleep Alone, a brand new album that keeps haunting long after the final note rings out. Back in April, Britton, along with local greats Brad Hinton and Chelsea Sue Allen, stopped by the studio to share a few of the new cuts with us. I Sleep Alone is now available and Psalmships will be celebrating the release this Friday, July 11th at Bourbon & Branch with Chelsea Sue Allen and Nathan Edwin. A previous Psalmships + Folkadelphia collaboration, known now as My Endless Black, can be heard here.


Watch Brad Hinton and Katie Frank cover Tin Bird Choir for latest Cover Club episode

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 1.24.48 PMFor their most recent installment of the Cover Club series, local music blog Root Down in the Shadow welcomed acoustic folk singer, Brad Hinton.  Hinton is no stranger when it comes to covering songs by other Philly artists.  He is the organizer for Philly Sings Philly, an event that takes place each week in November which has artists from around the Philly area cover each other.  Hinton has been covered during both Club sessions and Philly Sings Philly sessions, so it only seemed natural that he received a Club series session of his own.

In the video below, Hinton is joined by Katie Frank of The Pheromones to perform a cover of Tin Bird Choir’s “Take Me With You When You Go.”   On his own, Hinton’s vocals achieve a clean, crisp sound and the addition of Frank during the choruses adds another layer to the song that really gives it that folky-bluegrass affect.

Watch the full Cover Club video below and don’t miss Brad Hinton perform live this Saturday at Steel City Coffeehouse alongside Bethany Brooks.


Christopher Davis-Shannon reworks Brad Hinton’s “Mourning Dove” for Cover Club series

Photo by Jeff Coon

Christopher Davis-Shannon is the featured artist in Cover Club, a new weekly series series from local blog Root Down in the Shadow. The concept is spotlighting  a Philadelphia musician who covers one of their peers on Monday, and showcases an original track on Thursday.

This week that spotlighted musician is Davis-Shannon, a bassist in the jazz and singer-songwriter circuit who has performed with Angel Ocana, the Kelli Campbell Trio and others. “Mourning Dove” is a grass-roots folk song by fellow local Brad Hinton, and it is organic, simple and twangy in just the right way. Root Down describes Davis-Shannon as a musician into “honoring eras past”, and “Mourning Dove” is perfect old time finger pickin’ music. Watch Root Down’s video, recorded at Break Neck Studios, below.


Listen to three tracks from Dawn Hiatt’s new LP Goodnight Boots (playing World Cafe Live on Sunday)

DawnHiattDawn Hiatt is one of those faces you’ve seen and voices you’ve heard if you frequent the Philly-area roots rock scene. She’s collaborated with The Lowlands as well as Johnny Miles and the Waywards, and is getting ready to release her latest solo album, Goodnight Boots. Recorded in collaboration with her husband, Turtle Studios honcho Jeff Hiatt, the record runs a range of styles, from very Nashville country-pop (“Blue”) to introspective folk (“Meet Me In the Middle”) and expressive, Fiona Apple-esque piano numbers (“Bad Chemistry”). A lineup of major scene players worked with Hiatt on the album as well, including Ross Bellenoit and Brad Hinton, and Hiatt performs with them and others at a CD release party this Sunday, September 22nd at World Cafe Live. Also on the bill are Divers, Adrien Reju, Honey Watts and Chelsea Reed; tickets and information can be found here. Below, listen to a three-song sampler of Goodnight Boots.


The Key’s Week of Folk: John Hartford’s classic 1971Aereo-Plain to get the full album tribute treatment at #PFF2013

left to right: John Hartford, Norman Blake, Tut Taylor
left to right: John Hartford, Norman Blake, Tut Taylor

The Key’s Week of Folk is our series of interviews, reviews, artist spotlights, playlistings and general ephemera to get you ready for the 52nd Annual Philadelphia Folk Festival, happening now through this Sunday at Old Pool Farm in Schwenksville.

In 1971, folk/country/bluegrass singer-songwriter John Hartford released his groundbreaking Aereo-Plain album on Warner Brothers Records. For many, it become the blueprint (a very early one at that) for “newgrass.” No Depression, who says Hartford put the “American in Americana,” assembled a band of virtuoso players and acoustic music legends: Norman Blake, Vassar Clements, Tut Taylor, Randy Scruggs (son of bluegrass / country legend Earl Scruggs). The album was produced by David Bromberg. Old timey, eccentric, often tender yet equally as bizarre, Aereo-Plain was richly steeped in folk tradition. The album has some of Hartford’s most memorable songs on it including “Boogie,” “Turn The Radio On,” and “First Girl I Loved.” All this from the same musician who wrote the classic mainstream Grammy award winning pop hit “Gentle On My Mind.”


Tomorrow at the Philly Folk Festival (2:30PM at the Craft Stage), Hartford’s Aereo-Plane gets the album tribute treatment by a group of Philly’s most talented players: Phil D’Agostino, Brad Hinton, Jay Ansill and Michael Beaky. John Vettese of The Key reached out via e-mail to Phil and Brad to hear more about the project and to get their perspective on the importance of the album. Continue reading →


Tonight’s Concert Picks: Autre Ne Veut at Voyeur for Making Time, Divers at The Fire, Janelle Monae at Penn’s Spring Fling, David Bromberg Quartet at Landis Theater, Netherfriends at Church of the Advocate

ANVAutre Ne Veut headlines tonight’s Making Time event at Voyeur Nightclub.  Based in Brooklyn, Autre Ne Veut is the electronic R&B / pop project of former jingle composer Arthur Ashin.  Anxiety, released in February, is Ashin’s second effort under the moniker, which means “I think of none other” in French.  Also performing at tonight’s party are Delorean, Jacques Greene and Doldrums.  Tickets and information can be found here. Below, watch Autre Ne Veut’s video for “Counting.”

Continue reading →


Photo Recap: Ron & Marley Present Levon Helm Tribute at World Cafe Live

Last night, the World Cafe Live stage was full of country rock ‘n rollers all from Philly, playing tribute to legendary southern rocker himself, Levon Helm. The audience was dancing up a storm and enjoying the good vibes, with two keyboards, two drum sets, and seventeen bands total, it was an evening to remember.
All photos by Rachel Barrish.


Market East debut new video for “Elena” (playing North Star Bar on Thursday, May 24th)

Market East have debuted a new video for the song “Elena,” from their self-titled debut album. You can download the album for free here. Market East play at the North Star Bar on Thursday, May 24th, opening with Lucy Stone and Henry Wolf for Brad Hinton. Watch the video below for “Elena,” and download Market East’s cover of The Everly Brothers’ “Bye Bye Love.” Go here for tickets and more information about the show.