Nora Brown is a poised and talented teenager from Crown Heights in Brooklyn. Not the usual bio from a solo banjo and unaccompanied ballad singer specializing in the music of Eastern Kentucky and Tennessee. Her sound is amazingly authentic having gone to sit and learn from the masters of old-time music like the late Lee Sexton. Her latest EP, “Sidetrack My Engine”, released recently on Jalopy Records was recorded in her basement; not your average basement mind you. Her parents distribute cheese that they age in the century-old lagering tunnels beneath their building. This cave-like structure is the setting for the latest recording. Recorded on an ancient Ampex reel to reel with old RCA ribbon mics, the songs sound timeless. Our segment begins with the old time tune, “Wedding Dress” which she learned from one of her mentors, John Cohen, of the New Lost City Ramblers.
Our conversation touches on many subjects including her love for the mournful ballads of the South, her collaboration with Alice Gerrard, pioneering bluegrass performer, who produced her first release, “Cinnamon Tree”. We talk about the unusual sonic qualities of the cheese/beer lagering tunnel, her work with Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton who plays the bones on a few tracks.
Of course, we ask Nora to tell us about her trio of banjos and their unique styles they give her music. The release is only seven cuts because of the tunnel/analog equipment used there is another release in the works recorded in St Ann’s church, the site of the Brooklyn Folk Festival.
Nora Brown will be appearing at Northampton’s newly-reopened Parlor Room on January 30th. Tickets are on sale.
The Hobbledehoy is crazy about young Sierra Ferrell. Here’s our gal performing at the 2021 XPoNential Music Festival. Recorded live at Wiggins Park on the Camden Waterfront, NJ on September 19th, 2021.
This recently uploaded YouTube video is from Nanci Griffith’s first appearance on Austin City Limits, shortly after the release of her breakthrough album Once in a Blue Moon. I remember watching this amazing performance for the first time on PBS on 1985. It was my introduction to Nanci, whose music I’ve cherished for the following 35 years.
Rest in Peace, Nanci. Thanks for the beautiful music.
Frustrated about her career and fighting depression, the Canadian songwriter left the industry in 2014 to open a coffee shop called Quitters – before a partner ‘tried to deconstruct my sense of self’
When Kathleen Edwards opened Quitters coffee shop in Stittsville, Ottawa, in late 2014, customers would ask if she was the country singer. Yes, in a manner of speaking, she was. “Great!” they would say. “I’ll have a coffee.” Edwards laughs. “It was a wonderfully freeing experience where I didn’t have to be so precious about who I thought other people should think I was.”
Edwards is not really a country singer, but rather a Canadian songwriting star of two decades whose wry, openhearted Americana brings to mind that of Tom Petty. Six years ago, expectations around who she was crushed her, prompting her to quit music and start the cafe. A new album, Total Freedom, marks a fresh start. Her brother suggested she put a bald eagle on the cover to emphasise the title. “I know it sounds a little ‘doo doo-doo!’” says Edwards, mimicking a military bugle as she FaceTimes from her bed, her red hair tied back. “But it was the essence of where I’ve got to.”
Among fans, Edwards is beloved for her sharp lens on relationships and mounting feelings of discontent, and for putting a Springsteen-ish spin on Canadian lore, naming hockey players and domestic murder victims in her songs. Her 2012 album, Voyageur, attracted a different kind of attention. It was produced by Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, then on his own skyward trajectory. He was also Edwards’ boyfriend, following her divorce from the Canadian musician
That became the whole story: critics asking “if this was my divorce record produced by my new boyfriend”, Edwards says bitterly. “The reason that I had a record deal must have been because my work was OK, not because I made really good choices in my romantic partners.” She had hoped that Voyageur would elevate her career – not that that was why she made music, she clarifies. Yet Vernon’s mammoth success became a stark point of comparison: “It was hard getting a call saying: ‘I’ve just played to 20,000 people in Melbourne,’ and I can’t even sell 200 tickets in LA.” Continue reading →