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.


Interview with Amy Ray

One of my favorite Murfie podcasts is the Amy Ray podcast. Not only did I have a great chat with her in the basement of The Frequency, surrounded by walls that are covered in thousands of band stickers, paintings, and initials, but I stuck around for her show—and it was rockin’! We even got her song “Glow” on video!

Here’s a transcript of that podcast from May 2012. Read on!

INTRO: This is Kayla here, with your Murfie podcast. I’m pleased to say that I got to meet Amy Ray when she came to town. You probably know her as part of the Indigo Girls, the award-winning folk-rock duo from Georgia. Now, she has a solo career to go alongside that, and a rockin’ new album called Lung of Love. Here’s a clip from the chat that we had before her show at The Frequency.

[MUSIC: “Glow” by Amy Ray]

Kayla: So I’m talking to Amy Ray right now, at The Frequency in downtown Madison. Welcome to Madison, first of all.

Amy: Thanks, I always love bein’ in Madison—always, always.

Kayla: Awesome. So you’re here debuting your new CD—you’re on tour for that. And for the past ten years, about, you’ve been going solo; so what’s that like after two decades with the Indigo Girls?

Amy: Well actually, I still do both, so it’s like, I started going solo around 2000 and just interspersing it with Indigo Girls stuff. And so, I mean, at first, it was kind of crazy because we Indigos were playing kind of big places and then when I started doing solo, I started just doing small clubs like The Frequency—which I’m still doing. So, it was kind of at first like I adjusted, and just learned how to— We drive ourselves, you know, fix my own amp, fix my guitars, you know, whatever needs to be done. And so, for me it’s like kind of, extremely DIY [laughs], is what it is, and Indigo Girls are extremely the other way. So, it’s like this great sort of thing that I just go back and forth between, and it gives me perspective on both things.

Kayla: Awesome. So, is it different putting out music nowadays, compared to the earlier days when you got started?

Amy: Yeah, ‘cause when we started, it was still, like, ’85. I mean, we started in ’80, but we were putting out music starting in ’85, and we were just out of high school. And we were doing cassettes—like how you made your friend mix tapes, we would make our little cassettes of our songs, and we did like a little vinyl single, and a little vinyl EP, and LP. Yeah, and college radio was a really big deal then, so that’s what you wanted: you wanted to get on college radio—and you still do, but now it’s harder. And um, you just had like a network—like in each city, you sort of had this network: you had the record store, the indie art paper, the college radio station, and the venue, and you tried to get all those things to kind of stick together. And that’s still what you should do, but like the difference now is that we have so many great tools—Facebook and Twitter and all these things—and ways to record music, and ways to get music out there, and everything’s cheaper. It’s either like, a really great thing, or it can be a really bad thing, but I think personally I like to look at it as a really great thing, cause I think it’s like tools that we can use to sort of get music out there, and cross-pollinate more, and share with our friends, and have music take its place as more of a community thing.

Continue reading Interview with Amy Ray