Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Caroline Rose Says "Fuck Fear" at World Cafe Live

Man, what can you say about Caroline Rose? She rocks. Really, Caroline Rose and band rock.  There's no banjo/mandolin/violin to be considered folk, too much pedal steel to be punk, somewhere in between rockabilly and old school country, the gritty Vermont rocker doesn't seem to care where she fits. 

When describing the tip jar at the merch booth to the crowd, she said "if you don't like us, give us some money so we can go get real jobs."  But seeing as her bandmates were all wearing Caroline's new "FUCK FEAR" t-shirts, I doubt she cares whether if the crowd approves too much. 

Fortunately, while opening for Pokey LaFarge on this tour, she's found a lot of new fans.  World Cafe Live - Philadelphia was the 2nd night of tour, criss-crossing the east coast for Pokey and his "nice fans."

The band impressed with their singles, jumping right into twanger "Blood On Your Bootheels" and steel heavy "Tightrope Walker." She mixed in some new material amongst the set and really got things hot with hit "America Religious" followed by two scorchers/new comers "Casino" and "Yip Yip Yow".  And just in case you forgot she was undaunted, the band ended with "I Will Not Be Afraid"
                              "So long as I got my heart a-beating / So long as I got my soul a-feeling / So long as I got that spirit in me / I will not be afraid"

Caroline Rose - World Cafe Live - Philadelphia
5/1/15 Setlist
1. Blood On Your Bootheels
2. Tightrope Walker
3. Bad Feeling
4. You're Going to Fall in love
5. Goodbye May
6. America Religious
7. Casino
8. Yip yip yow
9. I will not be afraid

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Axis Mundi - The Story Brown Bird Never Planned To Tell - A Look Back & Album Review

Brown Bird - James Joiner

Today marks the release of the final Brown Bird album Axis Mundi.  The powerful album carries a full band sound filled with songs grappling with the concept of mortality.  While it would be easy to explain why the album is a quality one, it begs to have explained what preceded the album.  So let's go back a few years through the rise of Brown Bird.

2011 Newport Folk Fest Sunday schedule
Brown Bird, is an amazing band from Providence, RI.  For many, 2011 was the first notice of this "folk-duo" as they ascended to NPR darlings.  It was an incredible year for David Lamb and MorganEve Swain starting with the release of The Sounds of Ghost ep, peaking with a spot on the widely-known Newport Folk Festival, and wrapping up with expansive touring to support their most impressive album Salt for Salt.   2012 meant more touring, along side fellow Newport Folk Fest newcomers The Devil Makes Three.  

2013 was meant to be a great year for the band.  David Lamb had set his banjo aside taking out the electric guitar instead.  Touring would mean favorites would get re-imagined  Even more the year would birth a new album (Fits of Reason) that was released in the spring, and featured new sonic avenues.  Stealing a line from the back of their lyric book The Teeth of Sea & Beasts:  
"The Devil Dancing  and Salt for Salt, were strongly inspired by American Roots and Blues while flavors of Eastern European folk, Klezmer and Romani music existed more subtly in rhythms and string-work.  2013's Fits of Reason saw the addition of electric guitar and bass to the band's established arsenal of cello, violin, upright bass and one-man bass drum, tambourine and wood block foot percussion, as well as displaying a greater presence of Swain's vocals and emphasis n their Middle Eastern, International Psych Rock and Eastern European influences."

Here in Philly, the Brown Bird calendar already started with a bang and stayed strong.  It was New Years Eve with The Devil Makes Three at the Theater of the Living Arts, a spot at Kung Fu Necktie in February, and another great night shared with Joe Fletcher at the Arden Gild Hall, just down the road in Delaware.   

However, some things are not meant to be.  Just barely into touring for Fits of Reason, David Lamb fell ill.  While on the road, he was beyond worn down from the shows and travel and he went to the hospital.  Per the note on the Brown Bird page:   

"On Friday night, May 10th, Dave was admitted to a hospital in Houston, TX with complaints of fatigue and shortness of breath. After an initial blood test, we were told he was severely anemic, with dangerously low red blood cell levels. Dave had been fighting and been treated for flu-like symptoms for the past six weeks, but until now we were unaware of the seriousness of his condition. Since admittance into the hospital, he has had several blood transfusions, which he is responding to well, and has undergone several tests to determine what is causing his illness. As of yet we still do not have a diagnosis, but are maintaining optimism."

Despite many a fan's outpouring of support, it was a diagnosis that no one wanted to hear. 
A few weeks later the band posted again:
"Over the week, Dave has undergone blood tests and biopsies to narrow down the possible causes for his low blood levels and subsequent illness. There have been several doctors on the case, and they now agree that Dave has a form of leukemia. Brown Bird will be on hiatus while Dave undergoes chemotherapy treatment." 

Essentially all the forward movement the band was making, came to a sudden halt.  No tour, no income, just treatment and staying home.  David Lamb passed less than a year later at age 36 on April 5, 2014.  In the time that David Lamb battled the disease, he and MorganEve were hard at work on new material.  Axis Mundi would become the final release for Brown Bird.  According to MorganEve in a press-release accompanying the new album:
"Axis Mundi is the album that Dave and I wrote during the year of his battle with leukemia. Excluding “Tortured Boy”, which I wrote for him in the first stage of our relationship, these songs were written in the months leading up to his diagnosis, and the months following his bone marrow transplant, when he was confined to our home. As long as he felt well enough to be working, he was. He would spend hours in our home studio, meticulously recording and rerecording his parts - full drums, guitar, vocals, and percussion ideas... This album is different from our others in that it is, in many ways, the album we always wanted to make. It is fuller, louder and more rock-inspired than our previous efforts, while still holding tight to the Middle-Eastern and Eastern European influences we'd become known for. We'd intended to record the record at home during Dave’s recovery, and release and tour on it when he was well enough to get back on the road.

After Dave passed, I poured myself into finishing the record, working with friend and engineer Seth Manchester at Dave’s and my home to record my parts into Dave’s existing demos. My brother, Spencer Swain, acted as producer. Staying true to Dave’s and my original vision for it, Seth, Spencer and I had the record completed just three months later."

Axis Mundi album cover

Axis Mundi is a powerful album.  While the last three albums were quickly paced at 42-43 minutes apiece, this album is a story not rushing to be told.  Length-wise it's just shy of an hour; story-wise it  slowly opens and slowly comes to a close.  "Focus" starts the album with just that; focus.  It's starkness is an immediate reminder that Dave is gone.  "The pain inside / Is yours and mine / We are standing here / Naked and alone / Take me home / I don't belong / An old man dies," these vocals swell over the somber violin and electric guitar.

While their album takes a journey in between, the close of the album features two genuine exchanges between MorganEve and Dave to remind what has been lost, is only in the physical sense.  Likewise, what husband and wife, Dave and MorganEve shared is immortal, if only through song.  The album wraps up in a very explicit way, with the self-evident "Tortured Boy" and "Avalon", a poignant, yet sweet vignette with just Dave accompanied by his acoustic guitar, :
"You're a huntress / And a healer / And a holder of hands / And your heart is the Avalon I seek for my end."

Throughout the middle of Axis Mundi, the other thirteen songs, the unfortunate theme of David's physical battle with Leukemia, his struggle, and reconciliations continue.  The difference in the rest of the album is the continuation of Brown Bird's expanding sound that was started during Fits of Reason.  Electric guitar stays as a featured instrument on the album, but the biggest change is a full drum set, that was notably missing from their previous albums and live shows.  Ragers- "Smoke Rising" and "Sackcloth and Ash" were clearly the next mutation for the band.  "Sackcloth" layered torture over driving drums and cello riffs.

What didn't change was David's uncanny knack for the excellent lyric.  Previously, he brought fantasy to folk, with pitchfork mobs, devils, angels, thunder, shipwrecks, floods, scars, and more.
In the case of Axis,  Dave brought perspective to his battle, not just to what he was going through, but to what MorganEve was also going through.  "Pale and Paralyzed", showcased this madness "Maybe the ground will open / Surely the earth will swallow her whole / One cracking blow to the temple / Doubt takes hold, she's lost control."  Coincidentally, "Bannerman" about a "willful fight forever more" was actually written before Dave's diagnosis according to MorganEve.  Whether these songs were David's true feelings or just songs he was writing we'll never know.     What we do know is Axis Mundi is filled with madness, triumph, decay, agony, battles, and true love.

Axis Mundi by Brown Bird

Monday, April 27, 2015

Dawes is back at their favorite record store - "How Far We've Come" live from Main Street Music (PA)

The view for most fans in the PACKED Main Street Music
With the help from a friend, here's a shoulder view of the In-Store session of Dawes

 Los Angeles band Dawes has a love affair with Philadelphia's WXPN and Main Street Music. This summer they are attempting their 4th appearance at XPoNential Festival, after releasing ALL YOUR FAVORITE BANDS. In the meantime, a trip back to Main Street Music was in order, to get fans ready for the new album. The band played 6 favorites in the store, but peaked out of the store onto the steps to play for the dedicated fans that didn't get into the event. Here's most (sorry I missed a few seconds) of "How Far We've Come".

Dawes "How Far We've Come" Live at Main Street Music In-Store Session


#ShareMoment with Caitlin Phillips of Pancakes and Whiskey


Limited Edition print #4 of 15 from Astral Twins

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival Preview

It can be fairly said, that what we consider today to be the Bluegrass style of music spent its formative years in Baltimore, MD. Still, somehow, Bluegrass isn't the first thing to come to mind when people are asked about Baltimore; the home of America’s national anthem, where Edgar Allen Poe sloughed of the mortal coil, and where Babe Ruth first swung a bat.

Many of the components of Bluegrass are at home in Baltimore. In fact, the form is firmly rooted and for many years revolved around the Charm City. Meaning, one of Baltimore’s best secrets is its deep bluegrass roots. Even the name “Banjo” was coined there. It was used the first time in an advertisement for the plucky off-shoot of the original African instrument produced in downtown Baltimore.

It's fitting that in its third year, The Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival, being held in Druid Hill Park on April 25th, is reclaiming some of that history.

Though this year's lineup is a mighty one; besides the wondrous location, what makes Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival special is founders Phil Chorney and Jordan August’s desire to “...put on bluegrass for everyone to see, whether it was on the porch, at a show, or a bigger party.”  Mission accomplished gentlemen.


Listen to a Bluegrass station on the radio, web, or even satellite radio for a little while and you’ll hear The Travelin’ McCourys at least twice. With brothers Ronnie and Rob McCoury (Sons of the great Del McCoury) at the helm, they are almost constantly on tour playing a mix traditional and progressive bluegrass with the same fire and dedication as their father.

Here's an introduction for you:


If you haven’t heard The Wood Brothers, you need to because this is a band for everybody. It’s Americana and it's blues, but also the kind of music that stuns a crowd. The band, on tour following the release of their new Album The Muse, is anchored by Oliver and Chris Wood - brothers who didn’t start their careers out together, but have found a deep synergy that is almost palpable. Very quickly into a set, you’ll hear your thoughts and feelings dragged out, hear how you wanted to say it, and think “so it’s not just me then...” Then your feet start tapping, and at some point in their show, you’ll just stand there thinking “holy sh..”

Take a listen to the Wood Brothers:


Where do you start with a group like The Seldom Scene? How about two fun facts?
Founded in 1971, by a mathematician, a physician, a graphic artist, and a cartographer for National Gepgraphic. The Mathematician and banjo payer, Ben Eldridge, has been there the whole time.
The Seldom Scene began their epic run in Bethesda, MD with a progressive form of bluegrass that was reaching huge popularity in the late 70’s. The thing was, each of the founding members had a day job and had agreed to not tour and only play on the weekends. That said, they still managed to release 7 albums in the first 5 years. Fast forward to today, and you’ll see a large change in membership but no loss in enthusiasm, values or talent. Very few bands today can capture the magic of bluegrass’ traditional roots while still balancing in the progressive sound like the Scene.

After all that talk of traditionalism and roots, here’s a more progressive track from the album SCENEchronized - "A hundred and Ten in the Shade"


Baltimore based Singer/Songwriter Cris Jacobs should be on your Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival must see list. He began his career fronting the band The Bridge, but has embarked on a solo career that seems to have set him free. He’s recently been tapped by Steve Winwood for a tour, is beginning his second live album, and has written for bands like Audie Blaylock and Redline. At last year’s Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival, he appeared on stage  more than he was off stage, between his own set and jamming with other bands. To say he is a local favorite is an understatement to be sure. Pop over to his site for a free download of his acoustic sessions.

Here is Cris Jacobs on a local Baltimore webcast Listen In with Ellen Cherry with "Station Blues"

Photo: The Bumper Jacksons

This is going to be a fun set. The DC based The Bumper Jackson's won "Best Traditional Folk Band" at the 2013 and 2014 Washington Area Music Awards, and play a revived form of swingy jazz that will have the crowd dancing in no time. Their sound harkens back to the roots of jazz, the jump of the 20’s and they’re not afraid of the kazoo either. They are undeniably talented and for sure a must see at the festival. you can preview and buy their album Sweet Mama, Sweet Daddy, Come In on

Here they are playing the enigmatic "Darkness on the Delta" at WAMU’s Bluegrass Country

Photo: Jeff Coon
Grand Ole Ditch formed in 2012 and is making a second (and very well deserved) appearance at Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival. Last year they won the battle of the bands and opened the festival. This year, they didn’t need to fight for a spot. Why? Because they’re just that good. The sound is the iconic and traditional sound of the Appalachians. The energy is a can of Red Bull mixed with Mountain Dew and rocket fuel. This set is a can’t miss. Seeing Grand Ole Ditch live is like finding $20 in a coat pocket from last fall: Totally unexpected and makes you very happy. Grand Ole Ditch has appeared with The Travelin’ McCoury’s, The Seldom Scene, The Steep Canyon Rangers.

Here’s a quick sample of Grand Ole Ditch with "Foolish Pride"

Photo: Facebook

Charm City Junction is aptly named. The quartet was formed in Baltimore in January 2014, and here meets the styles of Roots Americana, Irish/Celtic, Bluegrass and old-timey goodness. The world got a sample of the band at last year’s Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival inadvertently as several of the members were repeatedly called to the stage to jam with other bands throughout the day. The band’s sound is smooth and polished and you can tell that the four young members have very long careers ahead of them. Talent runs deep with this group and you really shouldn't miss them.

Check out "Torn Jacket/Come West Along the Road"


Letita VanSant
Community Activism, Social Justice, and Environmental Awareness. Most singer songwriters have some sort of pedigree that informed and lead them to their appreciation for a certain sound. Leticia VanSant was working for various non profits, supporting noble causes, prior to becoming a musician. According to her bio, it took a while for her to even think of herself as a musician, and it was not until she returned to her hometown of Baltimore that she even sang in public. One listen to her work will convince you that it was worth the wait. Her lyrics are touching, her voice is beautiful and heartfelt, and her music altogether refreshing. While her day job is working at a “peace and social justice lobby group in Washington, DC.”, thankfully, we music fans get the off-hours.

Take a good listen to Letitia and her band, The Bonafides, as they play "Step in Line"


Hailing from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Chester River Runoff originally started playing together in order to learn their instruments. They debuted in 2004 and have been playing festivals and clubs ever since. They put on a great show with huge harmonies and tons of energy. When they mount the stage be ready for high energy, deep roots, original songs, and enough enthusiasm to spread around to the whole crowd.

Here is Chester River Runoff playing an helluva cover of the classic bluegrass tune "Shady Grove"


This is folk music, kids. Since 2006 The Manly Deeds have been bringing the sounds of Appalachia mixed with American roots, and maybe a little honky-tonk to the streets of Baltimore. Their self titled album, released in July 2014, was recorded in barn from the 1800s and really pulls you in. The added “Found Instruments” (like a saw) added a huge sense of authenticity to the style of the very mountains they were in during recording, and the addition of new member, banjoist Jacob Panic, really pushes the band’s sound over the top.

You can listen to the full album at

Photo: Facebook

Fans of bluesy- foot stomping -American rock rejoice! Your band will soon be arriving at the Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival. Founded in 2007, The Herd of Mainstreet have released two albums, toured nationally, opened, head lined, and undoubtedly rocked their audiences at every turn. Baltimore really gave birth to a great one here. The Herd of Main Street will have the crowd on their feet in no time and everyone is going to need a break afterwards.

They say not to believe everything you read on the internet, so here you go. The Herd of Mainstreet playing "Black Horse"

You simply can’t call the Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival a fledgling festival anymore. The 2014 festival was, in a word, outstanding. It drew acts like Jerry Douglas, Noam Pikelny and Friends (with Aoife O’Donovan no less), Sierra Hull, and local favorite Cris Jacobs, to name a few. Not only did they find a seamless blend of hometown talent and national acts - but they drew a massive crowd and are now even sponsored by the venerable Del Fest. Thanks to the tireless work and deep love of the form brought to the table by the founders, Phil Chorney and Jordan August, and there amazing staff, Baltimore is once again home to something wonderful. Don’t miss out on your chance to experience 12 hours of truly outstanding music.

The Festival runs from 10:00am to 10:00pm, April 25th, and tickets are still available!

Head over to for more information

Monday, April 20, 2015

Song Dogs Exlusive Premiere: "Sun In The Valley"

Philadelphia Americana Rockers Song Dogs are finally ready to present their next best work, Heartlands.  Over two years since the Bill Moriarty produced Wild Country, the band is poised and proud of their newest effort.  The self-produced album contains songs ranging from several years to a few months old. This collection, or more so, this atlas of songs speaks to the "people and places in [their] lives."  The band continues as a shared experience, rather than Mike Southerton's or Sam Conver's band. With each member sharing writing duties, it's a storytelling session amongst great friends.  Likewise, the band now features five vocalists throughout Heartlands with Mariama O'Brien and Emily Southerton each making their lead vocalist debut.

To give a taste of the new album, Song Dogs have leaked "Sun In The Valley" to Root Down In The Shadow to share with readers as a free download.  The album will be on hand at their release party at Franky Bradley's this Saturday night.  Joining Song Dogs are Philadelphia eclectic guitar-hounds The Rivals and Arden, DE rising stars Can You Canoe.

"Sun In The Valley" was a Wild Country casualty, but rose like a phoenix as the center-piece of this new album. Featuring Mike Southerton on vocals, the band is joined on fiddle by virtuoso Sarah Larsen. Also written by Mike Southerton, it is based on a story of a friend going through some tough times; switching perspective allows Southerton to reconcile his own life by understanding others.

See Song Dogs this Saturday at Franky Bradley's!