Tag Archives: Folk

Fall into Barna Howard

13 Dec

Barna Howard is a fresh sounding voice in today’s landscape that has an old school vibe. “I Don’t Fall Much Anymore” is nothing short of a masterpiece right from the start with Howard’s expert storytelling ability and a voice that begs to be compared to Bob Dylan.

This is what folk music is about ladies and gentleman. Acoustic guitar, earnest lyrics, a simple melody, and a pure voice. It sounds a bit like Dylan’s “Blowin’ In The Wind” in the best possible way. Both songs are poetic and glide smoothly through the folk landscape. What makes “I Don’t Fall Much Anymore” such a stunning retro feat is the simplicity in the tune. It doesn’t try to be retro, it simply is with its honesty and the way Howard wears his heart on his sleeve.

It’s the type of song that you want to listen to while curled up with a cup of tea watching the rain fall. Emotions run high in this track both from Howard and from you as a listener as this is a track that begs you to sympathize with Howard while also relate to him and his situation. There’s a universal feeling to “I Don’t Fall Much Anymore,” and that is part of why it makes it so easily retro folk.

Discography: Barna Howard (2013), Quite a Feelin’ (2015).

Official Website: http://www.barnahoward.com/


The Wise Choice

15 Feb

The Staves, a  three piece act consisting of sisters Emily, Jessica, and Camillia Stavely-Taylor, have concocted a song straight from the folk spirit of the past on ”Wisely and Slowly.” With their immaculate and on point three piece harmonies, the group is like an all female version of Peter Paul and Mary.

With little to no instrumentation for the better part of the track, all attention focused on the vocal talents of the sisters, “Wisely and Slowly” could easily be compared to “Cruel War” by Peter, Paul, and Mary.” When heavier instrumentation, some guitars and drums, do come to play later in the tune, it helps to bring the song into modern times.

Still, the main focus is the past, and The Staves give off that old fashioned folk charm not simply with just their minimalist approach and haunting harmonies, but with their lyrics as well.

brother, you will never know

all the things I did for you many years ago

singer singing songs of pain

time may spin and years may pass the song is still the same

tender woman mourns a man

sits in silent sorrow with a bottle in her hand.

They seem to come out of another time long ago. A time when oral tradition was used as the main way to pass down stories. Beautiful, sad, and haunting, The Staves “Wisely and Slowly” will make one think they are at The Newport Folk Festival in the 60s.

Discography: Dead & Born & Grown  (2012), If I Was (2015).

Official Website:


Bouquet of Fresh Music

6 Jul

Paul McDonald. Nikki Reed. You may have heard of them before. He was on American Idol. She is best known for her role as Rosalie in The Twilight Saga films. But put the two together and authentic, retro, Americana – folk fusion is born.

In “Bouquet of Lies (Ghost in Apt. 8,”) McDonald does the heavy lifting, carrying the verses in his signature Rod Stewart like, raspy vocals while Reed joins in to harmonize adding a soft wisp of elegance and light when needed.

The tune itself has remnants of Rod Stewart’s “Mandolin Wind” keeping itself gritty yet polished. It’s soothing to listen to, but also has just enough rock to elevate the track up a notch.

By the time McDonald and Reed reach the chorus it’s as if a musical firework has been shot off, bright with color and heartfelt emotion. And if you don’t already have chills after that, the bridge is a surefire clincher with McDonald wailing

“And I can’t keep on living with all of the lights on/And I can’t move on, I’ve been spending all of my time alone.”

With imaginative lyrics, a hint of early 70s folk rock, and harmonies to die for, “Bouquet of Lies (Ghost in Apt. 8)” is one beautifully sorrowful spirit you may hope never leaves.

Discography: I’m Not Falling (2014).

Official Website: http://www.thepaulmcdonald.com/

Wake up with The Apache Relay

8 Sep

A humming sound followed by electric guitar and percussion crashing mimicking the cacophony of transitioning from a sound asleep state to one of alertness is the perfect jolt of energy to start The Apache Relay’s “Can’t Wake Up.”

Folk-rock-alternative and soul combine into 4:30 minute musical melting pot. While the tune relies heavily on Americana twang, it is when lead singer (and Bassist) Michael Ford Jr slips into his higher register and r&b soul sound that “Can’t Wake Up” makes you stand up and take notice. Part Smoky Robinson and the Miracles “Tracks of my Tears,” Ford wails and croons so smoothly, one can’t help but wonder what other musical talents he has up his sleeve.

With just a hint of retro soul intertwined within the song “Can’t Wake Up” proves that a little bit of old fashion goes a long way.

Swim Into a Musical Ocean

1 Sep

Amanda Sudano and Abner Ramirez better known as Johnnyswim have been compared to contemporary folk duo The Civil Wars. And while the similarities are sometimes uncanny, such as the electric energy in their live performances, Johnnyswim can hold its own especially in standout tracks such as “Adelina.”

The tune is a poetic ode to Ramirez’s mother, and is reminiscent of John Denver’s “Annie’s Song” lyric wise. The song also shines a spotlight on the duo’s voices which are the main attraction. While Ramierz powerfully and tenderly sings lead on this track, Sudano proves she also has chops to showcase. By herself, Sudano evokes the sound of Ronnie Spector . When the two voices join together the harmonizing is pure folk perfection.

Combining elements of both the past and present, “Adelina” is a love song for the ages.

Discography: “Johnnyswim” (2008), “Home Vol 1” (2012), “Heartbeats” (2013)

Official Website: http://www.johnnyswim.com

God or Man or Ivan & Alyosha

18 Aug

You won’t find anybody named Ivan or Alyosha in this indie band, but what you will find is a retro spin on current folk music.

“God or Man,” an introspective look at what love really stands for and the design of life, clocks in at close to five minutes but is well worth a full listen.

Guitar and drums make up the musical backbone of this track, with a piano adding just a pinch of vulnerability.
The lyrics lend themselves to several interpretations including an open letter to a higher being and it is perhaps that deeper level, combined with Tim Wilson’s upper register, that connects song with audience.

Understated and thought provoking, “God or Man,” recalls John Lennon’s solo work such as “Isolation.”

If you’re in the mood for solid indie, deep thought, music this is the song for God, man or you.

Discography: All The Times We Had (2013)

Official Website: http://www.ivanandalyosha.com

Carnival of Songs

4 Aug

After a one week hiatus, I am back from the Newport Folk Festival, and ready to bring you new, retro inspired music.

One of the main reasons I attended the festival was to see the folk rock duo Shovels & Rope and they did not disappoint.

Though they did not perform “Carnival,” a song reminiscent of Patsy Cline’s “She’s Got You” I am giving it full attention here.

Both Cline and Cary Ann Hearst sing with mourning and sorrow about a lost love with a magical maudlin quality and country croon.

The lyrics showcase the imaginative interweaving of a dying love with that of a county fair, written and delivered so well, you can almost see the twinkling lights of a carnival at night

“No one can hear our voices.
I can tell your future and past
by the light of the carousel horses.
Across the world I wonder,
my moments made from years.
On a still and silent midway,
I wait for you to reappear.”

With the harmonica wailing like an old fashioned carousel itself, listeners are brought not only to the midway, but to another time, tying in the retro aspect of the tune.

Discography: Shovels & Rope (2008), O’ Be Joyful (2012)

Official Website: https://www.facebook.com/shovelsandrope