Folkadelphia Session: Marisa Anderson

To the uninitiated, the ocean of instrumental guitar style players, whom often use and meld original compositions, melodies, and effects together with traditional blues fingering picking techniques, must seem particularly difficult to navigate. A lot of this music, both past and present, is lumped into a genre box called American Primitivism, termed by one of the giant looming figures in the fretted world, John Fahey, which tinges all of the be-lumped players with the “primitive” or untutored, uneducated stigma. Sure, some of these players are self-taught, but many have had formal training, and most have been at this thing for a long time. This style, while a niche in folk music (and some might say commercial appeal), has not only existed since around the late 1950s, but has continued to grow and thrive since then. Father figures like Fahey and the musicians on his Takoma Records, like the transcendental Robbie Basho, eclectic Leo Kottke, and Delta blues Bukka White, passed the torch to players like the technical, yet expressive Glenn Jones and the raucous ragtime and blues of Jack Rose. Of course, these are just a handful of people, a couple of veterans in the game. I think we live in a great time for this style; guitarists continue to take up the mantle, but in true modern fashion, they manipulate, experiment, incorporate, augment, exclude, and mess around with the original framework. My mind jumps to the Tompkins Square label that not only reissues lost gems from cult icons like Don Bikoff, Mark Fosson, and Harry Taussig, but are committed to releasing new forward-thinking releases from Daniel Bachman, James Blackshaw, Ryley Walker, and nearly countless others in their fret-heavy Imaginational Anthem compilations. Through Folkadelphia alone, we’ve recorded, presented, and championed players like Chris Forsyth, Matt Sowell, Ben Seretan, Jesse Sparhawk, and William Tyler. And, of course, this doesn’t even include musicians and bands that dabble in the genre, that pull from its now rich history – Kaki King, Ben Chasny, Jim O’Rourke – where and why should you draw a line? To the uninitiated, perhaps much of it sounds similar, but I urge you to keep listening with focused ears because once you start digging, a world of diversity, complexity, and limitless imagination and possibility will present itself to you.

One of my now favorite guitarists is the Portland, Oregon based Marisa Anderson. Perpetually on tour, her playing style has developed to be fleet-fingered and impossibly adaptable, nimbly pivoting from meditative improvisation to electric blues inflection to twangy country and cosmic beyondness. She’s also very prolific. In 2013 alone, she released two albums: Mercury, a collection of original compositions, and the appropriately named Traditional and Public Domain Songs. The two releases showcase very different elements; Mercury is like a primer on what is possible with six strings and ten fingers, a blistering 16 songs in less than 35 minutes, while Traditional and Public Domain Songs stretches familiar tunes like “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “Pretty Polly” into uncharted experimental territory – pretty out there stuff! Whatever she is working on, Marisa Anderson is a guitarist to keep your eye on because you never know what she’ll come up with next.

Two things are certain. We recorded Marisa Anderson on her last visit to Philadelphia on October 18th, 2013. She returns to play a Fire Museum presented show at the Random Tea Room with Matt Sowell next Friday, May 9th (info. here).


Daniel Rossen mixes new and old in rare solo show at Underground Arts

Daniel Rossen | Photo by Michelle Montgomery |
Daniel Rossen | Photo by Michelle Montgomery |

Singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Daniel Rossen played a solo, seated show at Underground Arts on Monday. Best known for his work with Grizzly Bear and Department of Eagles, this is his first ever solo tour. Rossen released his debut EP Silent Hour/Golden Mile in 2012. Rossen’s intimate performance included a mix of songs off his EP and older, unreleased songs. Jokingly referring to the venue’s set up feeling a bit like an open mic night, Rossen played a cover of Judee Sill’s “Waterfall” requested by someone in the audience. Rossen closed the show playing banjo to his song “Balmy Night,” leaving the stage to a long and loud round of applause and cheering.

Nashville-based guitarist William Tyler opened the show playing a collection of songs off his 2013 LP Impossible Truth. Playing a set of emotionally charged instrumental music, Tyler entranced the crowd with his multi-layered guitar arrangements. Check out a photo recap of the show below.


William Tyler added to the Daniel Rossen show at Underground Arts on 4/14

Photo by Hunter Armistead
Photo by Hunter Armistead
Instrumental guitarist William Tyler had a banner year in 2013.  The Nashville native released his Impossible Truth LP to overwhelming critical and public admiration, played Bonnaroo and SXSW and toured across the country with friends Steve Gunn and Chris Forsyth.  His contemplative and eye-opening American Primitive-style guitar playing is a revelation, helping to broaden the awareness of the thriving but somewhat hidden genre.

2014 seems to be starting off with the same kind of momentum, with Tyler announcing a supporting slot for Daniel Rossen‘s upcoming tour.  The pair will stop at Underground Arts on April 14th; tickets and information for the 21+ show can be found here.  Below, watch Tyler perform “Cadillac Desert” off of Impossible Truth for The Line of Best Fit and then revisit his June 2013 Folkadelphia Session after the jump.

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The Week So Far: 12 must-read stories on The Key (incl. Firefly, The Flaming Lips, The Downtown Club)


Relive the weekend’s Firefly Festival with reviews and photos [link]

William Tyler stops by for a Folkadelphia [link]

David Dye, Michaela Majoun and the XPN hosts list their favorite albums of 2013 so far [link]

Vampire Weekend will perform at the Mann Center on 9/19 [link]

Italian prog-rock film composers Goblin will make their U.S. debut this fall, playing Underground Arts on 10/5 [link]

The Flaming Lips will play Festival Pier with Tame Impala on 10/3 [link]

Members of Belle & Sebastian will DJ a party at Dolphin Tavern following their July 10th show at the Mann Center [link]

Dr. Dog drummer Eric Slick goes solo / acoustic on his new track “Creature Comfort” [link]

Stream local electronic / R&B duo Marian Hill‘s new single “Whiskey” [link]

Set times for this year’s XPoNential Music Festival have been announced [link]

Check out pictures of Wilco‘s Solid Sound Festival set, get ready to see them at XPo Fest next month [link]

Local new wave outfit The Downtown Club recorded this week’s Key Studio Session [link]


Listen to the Latest Episode of Folkadelphia (ft. William Tyler, Balto, Matt Sucich and more)


This week’s episode of Folkadelphia is now available to stream on SoundCloud, and brings you a new studio session by William Tyler (of Lambchop). Also featured on the two hour playlist is Portland-based folk collective Balto and singer-songwriter Matt Sucich, who both recorded a track for XPN2 Singer-Songwriter Radio. Listen to the show and check out full playlist below. You can catch Folkadelphia Sundays 3-5 p.m. and Mondays 9-11 p.m. live on XPN2.

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Folkadelphia Session: William Tyler

It would be easy to talk about William Tyler and his new full-length record Impossible Truth (out now on Merge Records) in purely musical terms. Describing his virtuosic instrumental guitar constructions, his sense of adventure and experimentation, but also of his command of melody and hook-driven passages – how Tyler challenges his audience, while rewarding them for focused, repeated listens. We surely could discuss how Impossible Truth is a versatile album that functions not only as a gift for real music fans and critics to bask in for hours on end, but also how the album is refreshing and easy to listen to on a peripheral or cursory level, fun for the whole family for any occasion.

However, it would be better or perhaps truer, in my opinion, to examine William Tyler’s musical explorations through an emotional lens. I like to consider what emotions Tyler’s music induces within me. Overall, I feel a sense of wonderment and possibility. I guess it’s interesting that I feel limitless potential in the music, yet the album is titled Impossible Truth. But, maybe, Tyler is saying that he has stumbled on or even just approached what is impossible to know with certainty – the impossible truths of the world and of the cosmos. Every once in a while, during a tranced listen, I think I can hear Tyler channeling some kind of deeper understanding within his songs’ passages. We are humans though, so our capacity to act as a conduit for this higher plane of erudition is ultimately flawed. But Tyler is able to display the beauty and power of what we cannot fully know or understand in scenes from every day life via his musical snapshots; I hear it in the Appalachian tinged acoustic “Missionary Ridge” or the more surrealistic “Cadillac Desert.” Let’s continue to listen and hope we glean some impossible truths that William Tyler might have found.

William Tyler arrived at the WXPN Performance Studio in the afternoon of April 14th, 2013 before his concert at Ortlieb’s Lounge that night. Thanks to William and Merge Records for the session.



Watch William Tyler perform “We Can’t Go Home Again” for Shaker Steps (playing Ortlieb’s Lounge on 4/14)

On a day that feels like the dawn of spring here in Philadelphia (let’s not look too far ahead on the weather forecast though), this video from Nashville musician William Tyler is the perfect accompaniment for a walk in the park or a daydream while gazing out the window.  Awakening with a repeating melody of trills and twang, the song gradually builds to an intricate crescendo of fingerpicked wonderment that will keep the warmth around long after this weekend’s snow showers descend.  Tyler performs at Ortlieb’s Lounge on April 14th; more information can be found here.  Watch the Shaker Steps-recorded video of “We Can’t Go Home Again” below.