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Folkadelphia Session: Sierra Hull

Sierra Hull | photo by Fred Knittel for WXPN
Sierra Hull | photo by Fred Knittel for WXPN

They are now Grammy-nominated for Best Folk Album, and rightly so. In 2016, Sierra Hull returned with her third album Weighted Mind for Rounder Records, and it has made a lasting impression in the world of folk and bluegrass, as if she hadn’t already with her prodigious talent (crazy skills on the mandolin and only in her mid-twenties) and collaborations (Alison Krauss, to name one of many).

Like any great roots record, Weighted Mind is completely absent of BS, filler tracks, or studio magic as a crutch. Instead, the album which feels like a single, captivating concert primarily features Hull, singing and picking, and Ethan Jodziewicz playing bass with guest spots that add just a touch of sparkle from Bela Fleck, Alison Kraus, Rhiannon Giddens, and Abigail Washburn. That’s it, nothing more and it is more than enough.
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Folkadelphia releases Volume IV compilation featuring John Reilly, Stray Birds and more

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John Reilly and Friends | Photo by Laura Jane Brubaker for WXPN | http://www.laurajanebrubaker.com/

Wrapping up another year chock full of intimate, eye-opening, and always enjoyable recordings, Folkadelphia has shared its Folkadelphia Sessions Volume IV compilation. The 16-song sampler cherrypicks highlights from the wide range of artists that curator Fred Knittel welcomed into the studio between November 2015 and November 2016, from ethereal up-and-comers to well-traveled veterans.

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Folkadelphia Session: Eva Salina (with Peter Stan)

Eva Salina and Peter Stan at WXPN
I can’t understand the language that Eva Salina sing in, but I know that what she is saying and conveying is mighty powerful. Eva Salina sings in Romaneste, an Indo-European language with speakers all around the world, especially in the Balkan region. Salina describes herself quite aptly as an interpreter of this mode and tradition of music, of which she’s been performing for over fifteen years. On her most recent album, Lema Lema: Eva Salina Sings Saban Bajramovic, Salina presents the music of Saban Bajramovic, the late mysterious Serbian-Romani musician, as seen through the lens and style of modern music, while holding true to rich traditions. Despite the language barrier, the emotional component of each song – the drama, the tension, the ecstasy, the joy, the sorrow are all vivid and clear with Eva Salina front and center.
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Folkadelphia Session: Weatherman

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Chicago’s Weatherman is the result of three established artists coming together for something different and new. Singer and pianist Annie Higgins comes from the boundary-pushing world of modern classical music, drummer and percussionist Jason Toth comes with a loaded CV after playing with Daniel Knox, The Handsome Family, Fruit Bats, and more, and Joshua Dumas, in charge of electronics, soundscapes, and atmospherics, works his sonic magic in brilliantly fresh ways.
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Folkadelphia Session: Bob Brown

Courtesy of the artist.
Courtesy of the artist.

Bob Brown‘s story is a fascinating one. In the late 1960’s, Brown, a young burgeoning musician at the time, linked up with Richie Havens, eventually signing with Haven’s Stormy Forest record label. In 1970 and 1971, Stormy Forest released The Wall I Built Myself and Willoughby’s Lament. Soon after, Stormy Forest closed up shop and throughout the ’70s Bob struggled to make traction with other labels, leading to a final live performance in the early 1980s.
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Folkadelphia Session: MiWi La Lupa


“What are you listening to these days? Any current influences?” were the questions posed yesterday to Conor Oberst, Mr. Bright Eyes himself. during a New York Times Facebook live streaming event. Oberst responds that “he’s really into this guy, MiWi La Lupa, he’s from Buffalo, New York, and he just put out a new record called Beginner’s Guide. I’ve been playing that one a lot lately.” And I thought to myself that between Beginner’s Guide and his other new album from this year Ended Up Making Love, we’ve been listening to MiWi a lot too, and for good reason. In some ways it might be because Ended Up Making Love reminds me of those now classic Saddle Creek Records albums from bands like Bright Eyes, Rilo Kiley, Cursive, Son Ambulance, and others – full of bombast, collaboration, and energy. Those records and now MiWi’s have a true voice and perspective – something to say. It doesn’t hurt that MiWi moved to Omaha (home of Saddle Creek) to work with Conor Oberst alongside long-time Saddle Creek staple Mike Mogis on Ended Up Making Love.
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Folkadelphia Session: The Bones of J.R. Jones

Photo courtesy of the artist.
Photo courtesy of the artist.

The Bones of J.R. Jones is actually the bones of Jonathon Linaberry, the main (only?) member of the band, which if you listen or see him live, is quite the feat. He certainly puts those bones and body to work, strumming, picking, kicking, thrashing, pounding, whispering, growling, and crooning. On his newest album, Spirit’s Furnace, The Bones takes that rough and raw roots & blues sound we know him for and amplifies it. Sometimes he literally amplifies it, full on band style. Sometimes he amplifies the stylistic elements, hitting the listener at the right time with the right phrasing or the right guitar slide. Those are victorious moments and they come often. Spirit’s Furnace is a record I have often revisited over the year since it came out and it is a rewarding listen every time; I highly recommend it.
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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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