Staff Picks: Ally’s Folk Picks

Up until recently, I definitely did not consider myself a fan of folk music—I barely could name a folk artist, and never thought to add folk music to my listening rotation. In the last few months, however, I’ve become hooked on folk as a new soundtrack to car rides, homework sessions, and everything in between. Here are a few of my newfound favorites.

The Head and the Heart - Let's Be StillThe Head and the Heart
Let’s Be Still

The Head and the Heart’s sophomore album has solved the problems of the bands overly fast-paced debut, slowing it down to allow for more thoughtful songwriting and lusher instrumentation. The melodies here are beautiful and complex, incorporating violin, banjo, piano and guitars into a smooth and mellow sound. Combined with singers Josiah Johnson and Jonathan Russell’s vocals, the album is the perfect combination of soulful and lighthearted.

This band masters the art of creating ballads that are heartfelt, not sappy, and it shows. Highlights like “Cruel” showcase the band’s excellent songwriting, which lends itself perfectly to their newly quiet and pensive sound. The result is a new kind of folk music—thoroughly modern, not lost or stuck in decades past—that seems to have real staying power. The Head and The Heart have discovered what works for them, and they’ll withstand any shifts in what’s popular in music. This album ultimately plays like a plea to just take a moment, be still and listen—the rest will work itself out in time, after all.

> Don’t Miss Tracks: “Cruel”, “Homecoming Heroes”

Indigo Girls - Indigo GirlsIndigo Girls
Indigo Girls

The Indigo Girls are everything a musical pair should be: they certainly collaborate, but their differences in style ultimately create a stronger and more interesting final product. This album at times has a split personality, moving from the upbeat, bouncy “Closer to Fine” (one of my personal favorite songs) towards brooding tracks like “Blood and Fire” that ruminate on topics like love and faith. Although the songs reflect each member’s individual personality, they nevertheless compliment each other seamlessly.

This album is raw and powerful—it feels almost unedited at times, but in a wonderful way. The tracks capture their passion and let their personalities and opinions shine through, never asking them to keep anything in check. The power that surges through these songs, however, suggests a musical duo whose talent will take them far. Combined with their truly poetic songwriting, the Indigo Girls create a commanding musical presence that captures attention and demands that you really listen to every last word they have to say.

> Don’t Miss Tracks: “Closer to Fine”, “Secure Yourself”
> Check out this Murfie Podcast that we recorded with Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls!

Joan Baez - Diamonds and RustJoan Baez
Diamonds and Rust

Although previous installments of Baez’s work centered around her anti-Vietnam war activism, Diamonds and Rust brings her back to her soulful, yet commercial, roots. The album is flush with outstanding music influences, including contemporary jazz greats like Larry Carlton and covers of legends the likes of Stevie Wonder. Although Biaz shines on cover tracks, original songs like “Children and All that Jazz” reveal a new style that’s personal and extremely appealing.

The real hero of this album, however, is the title track “Diamonds and Rust”, arguably Biaz’s finest achievement as a singer/songwriter. Written about her relationship with Bob Dylan, the track reminisces about what once was in a way that is intensely intimate.  Her most popular track ever, the song is a folk classic and a whole new standard for the soul-baring love song category. The sheer power of “Diamonds and Rust” combined with the album’s other shining moments makes this album the best of Baez.

> Don’t Miss Tracks: “Diamonds and Rust”, “Winds of the Old Days”


Ally Boutelle
@arboutelle

Ally is a communications intern at Murfie, blogging about all things music. When she’s not typing away, she cooks spicy food, does hot yoga, and reads weird history books. She’s also a college student double majoring in history and journalism.


This Week in Music History (April 23rd-29th)

What’s music history got for us this week? Learn up and boogie down!

6384-large4/23- On this day in 1971, The Rolling Stones released their classic album Sticky Fingers in their native UK. The album, which was the band’s first release on their own label via Atlantic Records, featured art by Andy Warhol, whom the Stones hired for $15,000.

128999-large4/24- On this day in 1979, the state of Georgia made Ray Charles‘ “Georgia on My Mind” its official song. Charles, a Georgia native, recorded the track in 1960 as part of his album The Genius Hits the Road

146-large4/25- On this day in 1987, U2 began a five-week run atop the US album chart with their fifth studio album, The Joshua TreeThe album topped charts in over 20 countries and sold over 25 million copies. Bono and company also went on to win a Grammy Award for Album of the Year.

4999-large4/26- On this day in 1969, Led Zeppelin played their hit song “Whole Lotta Love” in front of a live audience for the first time. The show, which took place at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, was part of the band’s second North American tour.

35056-large4/27- On this day in 1976, David Bowie was detained by customs officers at the Russian/Polish border after attempting to board a train. The officers detained Bowie after finding Nazi books and memorabilia in his luggage, which he claimed were being used for research on a project about Nazi propaganda leader Joseph Goebbels. 

359561-large4/28- On this day in 1973, Pink Floyd‘s iconic album The Dark Side of the Moon hit No. 1 on the US album chart. The album went on to see a record-breaking 741 weeks atop the Billboard Chart, and now has sold over 45 million copies worldwide.

102762-large4/29- On this day in 1933, country music legend Willie Nelson was born. Nelson is one of country music’s most recognizable and influential singers and songwriters, and is also a poet, activist, actor and author. He has appeared in over 30 films, co-authored several books, and campaigned for numerous causes, including the use of biofuels.

All these pieces of music history are available in our music marketplace! Every CD purchase comes with unlimited streaming (Web, iOS, Android, Sonos) and downloads in mp3, aac, FLAC and ALAC.

Sounds Like Texas: The Best of the Lone Star State

We know everything is bigger in Texas, but is the music better? This week, check out reviews of three albums by The Lone Star State’s greatest!

PearlJanis Joplin
Pearl

Listening to Pearl feels a bit heavy, and there’s certainly reason for that: Janis Joplin’s last, the album was recorded near the very end of her life. After succumbing to an overdose at 27, she would never live to see it finished and released. Her tragic ending was a symbol of how she lived: erratically, but remarkably—an incredible voice and presence that belonged to a very troubled woman. Pearl is both a testament to her incredible talent and a hint of what could have been.

One of the album’s greatest strengths is Full Tilt Boogie, the backup band that’s with her through every track. Together with Janis’ big voice, they create a sound that lets her rock, but keeps her refined and smooth. She doesn’t overpower them, nor they her—it’s a harmonious combination. On tracks like “Cry Baby”, Janis is her full, belt-y self, brought down to earth with Full Tilt Boogie’s influence.

This album has an organization to it that other Joplin records lack, and it’s a refreshing and new take on her music. Previous albums like Cheap Thrills have essentially lacked structure; while letting Joplin’s trademark rawness show is great, the extra guidance in these songs lets her shine in a different way. Her intensity is kept in check just enough to let the songs fully develop, but not so much that she never has her big moment. This album has taken an already incredible talent and refined it into something that much more listenable.

Don’t Miss Tracks: “Cry Baby”, “Mercedes Benz”

 

370176-largeLos Lonely Boys
Los Lonely Boys

Los Lonely Boys are certainly true to their Texas roots—they call their musical style “Texas Rock n’ Roll”, a fusion of rock, soul, country, blues and Tejano. A group of three brothers, the band is forging those influences into a brand-new and extremely inspired sound. To cement their status as a true Texan band, the group recorded this album at Willie Nelson’s Pedernales recording studio.

At the heart of this album is their incredible music talent and creativity. Rather than making the album hard to follow, the group’s numerous musical influences instead work their way into a track list that is incredible varied and creative, yet cohesive. That variety turns out to be their greatest strength on Los Lonely Boys: “Crazy Dreams” is a masterpiece of guitar riffs, while “Dime Mi Amor” shifts effortlessly into a Latin-rock structure that echoes Carlos Santana.

Variety isn’t these brothers’ only talent, however: this album shines on instrumentals, vocals and songwriting. Rather than sticking to their Texas roots, their talent elevates them to what feels like a new genre: their songs are crafted with incredible nuance; they find a place in both your heart and your mind. Whether it becomes the soundtrack to your summer party or a quiet at-home listening session, this album deserves a place in any music collection.

Don’t Miss Tracks: “Crazy Dreams”, “Senorita”

 

67224-largeGeorge Strait
Troubadour

It’s impossible to write a compilation of Texas music without at least one country album, and there is no country star more worthy of such a spot than the King of Country: George Strait. Texan-born, George Strait has released dozens of albums and had dozens of No. 1 hits. Twang is a testament to his signature sound and the solidifying of his status as country’s music supreme ruler.

A true Texas star, Strait’s collection not only contains nary a bad album, but manages to stay true to his Texas sound. After releasing so many albums, Strait still manages to find a new sound on Troubadour. The album finds him looking introspectively, creating a soft, mellow sound that is calm and soothing without ever slipping into melodramatic or depressing. On this album, he certainly sounds like a Troubadour—a singer who has had a long and varied career, but always manages to emerge that much better.

It would be easy to mistake Troubadour’s 12 songs for simple tracks, but his sound and songwriting prove otherwise. He’s enlisted a lot of outside songwriting help here, including Buddy Cannon and Monty Holmes, but the songs weave together into a calming, cohesive collection. Despite the number of people involved, the album keeps its attitude going all the way through: it’s a subdued, intimate album that sounds like the soundtrack to events you’ll want to remember. Strait stays true to his Texas roots for a reason: why mix it up when you do it so well?

Don’t Miss Tracks: “River of Love”, “It Was Me”

 

This Week in Music History (April 9th-15th)

What’s music history got for us this week? Learn up and boogie down!

4/9- On this day in 1977, ABBA scored its first US No. 1 hit on the Billboard singles chart with “Dancing Queen”. The song was the group’s 7th US Top 40 hit, and would also hit No. 1 in 13 other countries. 

4/10- On this day in 1956, Nat King Cole was attacked onstage while performing a show at the Municipal Hall in Birmingham, Alabama. The attackers were five racial segregationists looking to make a political statement. The group was arrested, and Cole returned to the stage later that night for a second show.

4/11- On this day in 1994, Oasis released their first single, “Supersonic”. Although the track peaked at No. 11 on the charts, it eventually sold over 215,000 copies, making it the band’s 13th highest-selling single.

4/12- On this day in 1954, Bill Haley recorded “Rock Around the Clock” at Pythian Temple studios in New York City. The song, which went on to become a worldwide No. 1 hit, is widely considered to be the track that began rock and roll’s rise to fame.

4/13- On this day in 1967, Nancy Sinatra and Frank Sinatra were No. 1 on the singles chart with “Somethin’ Stupid”, making them the only father and daughter team in history to have a No. 1 single. The song was originally written and recorded by folk singer C. Carson Parks.

4/14- On this day in 1969, Paul McCartney and John Lennon recorded “The Ballad of John and Yoko”. Lennon performed lead vocals and guitar, with McCartney on bass, drums and piano. After the song was released, many radio stations banned it because of its controversial lyrics.

4/15- On this day in 1972, Roberta Flack began a six-week run at No. 1 on the US singles chart with “The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face”. The song, written in 1957 by Ewan MacColl, was featured in the Clint Eastwood film Play Misty For Me. 

Oh, so you wanna own these gems, and hear them in lossless format? Check out our CD marketplace where you can stream (mp3, FLAC) and download in your favorite format (mp3, acc, FLAC, and ALAC)!

This Week in Music History (April 2nd-8th)

What’s music history got for us this week? Learn up and boogie down!

4/2- On this day in 1977, Fleetwood Mac’s album Rumourswent to No. 1 on the US album chart. The album is the band’s most successful release, selling over 45 million copies worldwide and winning the 1978 Grammy Award for Album of the Year.

4/3- On this day in 2007, Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards denied in an interview that he had snorted his late father’s ashes while taking drugs. Richards had previously quipped about the “incident”, but his manager told MTV news that she could not believe anyone had actually taken the comment seriously.

4/4- On this day in 1964, The Beatles simultaneously held all of the top five places on the US singles chart, topped by “Can’t Buy Me Love” at No. 1. They also had another nine singles on the chart, which brought their total to fourteen singles on the Hot 100.

4/5- On this day in 1994, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain committed suicide at his home in Seattle. His body was not found until an electrician came to his home on April 8, when a suicide note was also discovered.

4/6- On this day in 1965, Pixies singer and guitarist Frank Black/Black Francis (born Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV) was born. In addition to Pixies, Black was a member of Frank Black and the Catholics and a solo artist who released numerous solo albums.

31918-large4/7-  On this day in 1981, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band kicked off their first full-scale tour with a performance in Hamburg, Germany. The 10-country tour was Springsteen’s first outside North America.

4/8- On this day in 1964, The Supremes recorded “Where Did Our Love Go” at Motown Studios in Detroit. The track was the group’s first No. 1 hit single, although they would go on to have 12 No. 1s on the Billboard Hot 100.

Check out these albums in our CD marketplace—all ready to stream and download in mp3, aac, FLAC and ALAC!

This Week in Music History (March 26th-April 1st)

What’s music history got for us this week? Learn up and boogie down!

3/26- On this day in 1985, radio stations in South Africa banned all of Stevie Wonder’s songs from the airwaves after he dedicated his Oscar win the previous evening to Nelson Mandela.

3/27- On this day in 1965, “Stop! In the Name of Love” became The Supremes’ fourth US No.1 single. The song was nominated for the 1966 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Rock & Roll Group Vocal Performance.

3/28- On this day in 2005, U2 kicked off their 131-date Vertigo tour at the iPay One Center in San Diego, California. The tour grossed $389 million, the second-highest number ever for a world tour.

3/29- On this day in 1967, The Beatles began recording “With a Little Help From My Friends” at Abbey Road Studios in London. They recorded over 10 takes of the track during the first day of work.

224303-large3/30- On this day in 2013, famed US music producer and music pioneer Phil Ramone died at 79. Ramone was one of the most successful producers in music history, having won 14 Grammy Awards and worked with stars including Bob Dylan, Elton John, Paul McCartney and Ray Charles.

3/31- On this day in 1967, Jimi Hendrix set his guitar on fire onstage while appearing at the Astoria in London. Lighting guitars on fire became symbolic of Hendrix’s performances, and the Fender Stratocaster that he burned was sold for $280,000 at a 2008 London auction.

4/1- On this day in 1966, David Bowie’s first solo single, “Do Anything You Say”, was released by Pye Records. Before the single, Bowie had previously recorded as David Jones and the Lower Third.

Check out these pieces of music history in our CD marketplace! Every album you buy is made available to stream (via Web Player, iOS, Android and Sonos), download (mp3, aac, FLAC and ALAC), and ship!

This Week in Music History (March 5th-11th)

What’s music history got for us this week? Learn up and boogie down!

3/5- On this day in 1983, Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” started a seven-week run at No.1 on the US singles chart. The song was his fourth solo No.1 in the United States, and also went to No.1 in the United Kingdom.

3/6- On this day in 1965, The Temptations became the first male group to have a No.1 hit for Motown with their single “My Girl”, written by Smokey Robinson.

3/7- On this day in 1969, Led Zeppelin appeared at the Bluesville 69 Club at the Hornsey Wood Tavern, Finsbury Park, in London. The venue was a tiny room in back of the pub, with a stage that was so small that only the drum set fit onstage. The rest of the group was forced to stand on the floor with the crowd.

3/8- On this day in 2008, China began to impose tighter regulations on foreign pop stars after singer Björk caused a controversy by screaming “Tibet, Tibet” after performing her song “Declare Independence” at her concert in Shanghai.

3/9- On this day in 1991, British punk band The Clash scored their only UK No.1 single with “Should I Stay or Should I Go”. The song shot to popularity after it was used in a Levi’s TV advertisement.

3/10- On this day in 1964, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel recorded “The Sounds of Silence” as an acoustic duet. The song did not become a hit until late 1965, when record company producers added electric guitar, drums and bass to the track.

3/11– On this day in 2008, Madonna was inducted into the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at a ceremony in New York City. The singer thanked her detractors in her acceptance speech, particularly those who “said I couldn’t sing, that I was a one-hit wonder”.

Pick up these pieces of music history in our CD marketplace! Every album you own comes with unlimited streaming and downloads in mp3, aac, FLAC and Apple Lossless! :-)