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Folkadelphia Session: Lizzie No

Photo by Sydney Lowe

With this year’s debut album Hard Won, Lizzie No graciously provides a bright spot in the all-too-crowded Americana landscape. Soundalike bands and songwriters of all genres nowadays give off the impression that they create music algorithmically and not organically, probably thinking about playlist placements on Spotify than dreaming up great art. Rather than by rote, Lizzie No creates by gut, by experience, by feeling, by imagination, by inspiration, and through tremendous musical ability and collaboration. It leaves her “Americana” album often not sounding much like your standard issue roots and twang band; look no further than the fact she busts out a harp, which she dazzles on. It’s just the exciting beginning for Lizzie No, but she’s already giving me hope that I may never have to hear another “hey-ho,” millennial whoop again.
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Folkadelphia Session: Sam Moss (with Honeysuckle)

Photo by Emily Haviland Baker

In the time since his last visit to us in 2014, Sam Moss moved to a new city (Boston), released a beautiful, intricate album (2016’s Fable), and logged countless hours on the road performing. That’s a good amount of change for few years. What has stayed the same is Moss’ deep attention to songcraft, whether he is operating within or without the folk music idiom.
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Folkadelphia Session: Emperor X

Emperor X is Chad Metheny and he’s been releasing music out under that moniker since 1998. I’ve been listening to Emperor X for far less time than that, but in a short while, his songs, especially from his latest album Oversleepers International have made a tremendous impact on me and everyone I know that has heard a song, bought a record, or seen him play a show. Whether the music tends towards straight-up folk-punk acoustic strumming, skittering electronics, or even ambient minimalism, there is an inherent passion, energy, and DIY-ness to what Emperor X is bringing to the table.
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Folkadelphia Radio: Adam Torres

Photo by Rambo

I would follow Adam Torres‘ voice to the ends of the earth. There is a magical, slinking, serpentine quality to his falsetto and the interplay between it and his music that, as a listener, I’m trying to figure out why it is so utterly affecting. After years without a proper full length, Torres released Pearls to Swine last year, a proper follow-up album that makes good on the promise he exhibited on the 2006 indie cult classic Nostra Nova. On Pearls and this year’s EP I Came to Sing the Song, that songwriting spellwork is as potent and refined as ever, in a quietly rousing way like the warm, bright morning light on the sleepy world. You’d follow him too.
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Folkadelphia Session: Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster

Courtesy of the artist.

Though Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster‘s (of Mississippi favorites Water Liars) debut solo album is called Constant Stranger, the record has been more of a constant companion than anything else since its release towards the end of last year. When I needed it, the record has at times acted as a friend, a mirror, a salve, a question, but mostly a reminder about what I hold dear. Yes, it’s that powerful. Pitch perfect instrumentation flesh out the brilliant stories and poetry Kinkel-Schuster conjures up; I was hooked with the rich imagery from line one, “Used to walk my black dog late at night / without a moon it felt just like / being drawn by an unseen hand / into a country ancient and unplanned / Where it ain’t no use to try and turn me ’round / But I will sing these songs till I can no longer can.”
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Folkadelphia Session: Julie Byrne

Photo by Jonathon Bouknight

Julie Byrne‘s flawless new album Not Even Happiness is about travel, transition, journeys, and discovery. On the first track “Follow My Voice,” she leaves behind the city for the light, the sky, and the green and on “Sleepwalker,” which you can hear as part of our in-studio session, she “crossed the country and…carried no key.” Byrne is nomadic, but she treats it like destiny, as on “I Live Now As a Singer,” where she describes how she has “dragged my life across the country and wondered if travel led me anywhere.” She sings with an inherent bravery, a deep humanity, and an admirable self-knowledge of herself, but there is always more to learn and to seek out, within and without. Not Even Happiness from its message to its music may seem simple and overly subtle, but the depth of its beauty and power are truly remarkable.
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Folkadelphia Session: Western Centuries

Photo by Brooke Warren, Courtesy of Free Dirt Records

Over the last few years Pacific Northwest based “new-old time” duo Cahalen Morrison and Eli West released a number of expertly crafted albums until going their separate ways. Then in 2016, I kept hearing about Cahalen Morrison’s new project Western Centuries, a rollicking country group of sorts with other band members holding deep musical accolades: Jim Miller (of Donna the Buffalo) and Ethan Lawton, along with Travis Stuart on bass and Leo Grassl on pedal steel for this Folkadelphia performance. As you expect, Western Centuries is more than proficient in their country stylings, but where they really shine is bringing to the fore tinges of funk, honky tonk, and rock with a good sense of fun. As a listener, I find it comforting to be led on a musical trip in the hands of an expert group of artists and Western Centuries are very capable on their release Weight of the World.
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Folkadelphia Session: Shannen Moser


Word of mouth is still the best way to find out about music, so I am entirely and constantly indebted to John Vettese of WXPN and The Key for cluing me (and many blog readers and radio listeners) in to amazing artistic endeavors, especially when it comes from our hometown of Philadelphia, like this week’s in-studio session featuring Shannen Moser and our first collaboration with The Key. In the past, music sometimes did not make it to listeners because of gatekeepers; if you weren’t signed to a label, weren’t played on a radio station, weren’t part of the music biz mechanism, you might not be heard. Nowadays the problem is an excess of content, as the Internet people would say. Try to take in all of the art, music, writing, videos online and you quickly become an oversoaked sponge. That’s why people like John Vettese are so crucial. So I’ll repeat, I am entirely and constantly indebted to John Vettese for pointing us to Shannen Moser.
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Folkadelphia Session: Shadow Band

Photo by Paul Benson, courtesy of Mexican Summer Records

Down in South Philly, I daydreamed what Mike Bruno was getting into that produced such interesting psychedelic music, what uncharted realms of musical magic, sound experimentation, and audio alchemy was he dabbling in? I imagined an unfinished basement, big, loud amps, a mess of guitar pedals, electrical cords, homespun tunings, and various drum hardware strewn about, Bruno in the middle of it summoning or perhaps exorcising sonic demons. I also pictured that he was in repose on a sun-dappled wood floor in a cozy room invaded by green potted plants, six-string in hand, drawing on the spirits of Pentangle, Steeleye Span, Sandy Denny, or maybe folks closer to home – John Fahey and the Takoma crew. He certainly conjured up both images while performing over the years in Philly groups like Bad Braids, The Black Magic Family Band, and now in Shadow Band.
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Folkadelphia Session: Mitch Esparza

Photo by Chris Beat

Maybe Mitch Esparza is a scrapbooker. I always called him a musical chameleon because in my mind what was so compelling and admirable about his performances and albums, from his ensemble The Love Club to his psych solo project (((taco))) (or is it M.E.?), to music under his own name, and even more than I can recall, was that he could adapt. Throw him in a new situation, change up the genre, give him a new instrument or toy to play with, or start a new band with brand new people, he would adapt and thrive, always able to present interesting sound, music, and art. I would like to take this opportunity to adjust my mental image of Mitch Esparza. Maybe Mitch Esparza is a scrapbooker, building a cosmic sonic dreamboard, rifling through a universe of waveforms and artforms, pilfering what he enjoys and putting aside the rest, weaving a “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure” patchwork. I like this image more because a musical chameleon, while inventive, is perhaps without a unique style or vision. A scrapbooker not only has style, but a strong, distinctive vision for his art, which totally describes Mitch. Long may he dream and weave.
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