Folk Alley Sessions are exclusive in-studio performances and interviews produced by Folk Alley (a service of the FreshGrass Foundation). Folk Alley Sessions feature exciting, up-and-coming artists and longtime veterans in folk, roots, and Americana music. Hear artists perform and talk about their music in their own words. Watch videos of these exclusive performances via FolkAlley.com, the Folk Alley mobile app, or our Youtube Channel: FolkAlleydotCom
2016 30A Songwriters Festival: Ani DiFranco
(Session first published April 2016)
by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for Folk AlleyOver the course of her more than 25 years of making music, Ani DiFranco has been widely celebrated and often emulated. The trouble is, DiFranco's work is a moving target which words and imitation fail miserably in hitting. She would argue -- and has -- that hers is a living, breathing body of performance art that makes its most comfortable home on stage. "I am a work in progress," she concedes in "The Slant," off her 1990 self-titled debut, adding some years later on the title track to 'Evolve,' "I don't take good pictures 'cause I have the kind of beauty that moves."In an interview with Cuepoint about her last release, 'Allergic to Water,' Ani upped the ante even more:"This is my problem making albums, to begin with, is that they do not move. There's a stagnant... I may as well write my words down on paper while I'm at it, if I want them to just f*****g sit there. ... I've made incredible mistakes along the way in my recording career because I'm so living in the moment ... Look at all these beautiful songs that have dubious to highly unfortunate recordings. ... But that's the kind of artist I am, though. The consummate moment, it happens on stage. It comes and it goes. That's where my art lives. That's where it's truest. All of my songs will be most resonant on a stage in a moment, not on a recording, because it's translating something there. The art, itself, when it comes to me, is happening in time. And, I think that's what I'm most comfortable with. ... the song is transforming all the time. To me, that's truth."Even so, DiFranco has made some truly remarkable records. From that eponymous, saber-rattling debut to the pointedly poetic 'Not a Pretty Girl' to the top-to-bottom solo set that is 'Educated Guess' to the sputtering prose of 'Allergic to Water,' Ani has never stopped searching for the answers and anthems that might help us all get through life with just a bit more honor in our hearts and fire in our fists. She's a folk singer through and through, cut from the same cloth as Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, but with a style completely of her own.Because of her absolute inability to color -- or stand -- within any culturally dictated lines, DiFranco amassed a rigorously anti-establishment fan base early on that, for perhaps the first time, saw something of themselves in someone else. And they claimed her as their own, clinging to her words in times of madness and mirth.Still, as she tells Folk Alley, they have never been shy about letting her know when she's not meeting their expectations. It's just that, these days, the floggings are much more public because of "this new kind of coliseum of social media where people get dragged out and skewered and people cheer":"My whole life one of my strengths, I think, is not being afraid -- not being afraid to just say it. And I've caught a lot of flak. But I've also got the respect of people that I respect, people that I care about, and people that I've stood up for. So that always just felt doable. But now, when you don't know where the attack will come from, when it could be the person you've been standing next to this whole time that will suddenly turn on you ... it's very disturbing."DiFranco did, indeed, get skewered a few years back over plans to host a songwriting retreat at a former plantation outside of her adopted hometown of New Orleans. Though she originally believed her song "Allergic to Water" to be about the birth of her son, she came to find out that is was a sort of subconscious foreshadowing of the deep hurt she would suffer over the controversy. In it, she sings about the need to look for empathy outside of ourselves... sometimes very far outside: "You may wonder what would possess someone like me to go on. You may wonder how it's possible something so basic could go wrong.
Indigo Girls at 30AFest
by Kim Ruehl, (@kimruehl), Folk Alley
When the Indigo Girls dropped by the Folk Alley house during this year’s 30A Songwriters Festival, the duo was gearing up for the release of its 15th album, Look Long. (A review is available here.)The disc, which released on May 22, saw the IGs backed once again by the same group of musicians who played on their 1999 album Come on Now Social - a reunion they both relished, which was a long time in the making. As they played an intimate set that included two new songs and one old fan favorite, the duo had much to say between songs about the new album, their decades of collaboration, their most requested classic, and much more.
Kim Richey at 30AFest
by Kim Ruehl (@kimruehl), Folk Alley
Glimmer was Kim Richey’s third album, released in 1999, but it contained so many fan-favorites that it has become one of her most beloved. To celebrate its 20th year, Richey revisited these old songs with new eyes and ears, and the result—Long Way Back—is a stirring emotional tribute to the way songs can grow and evolve over time, right along with their singer.
Indeed, at this year’s 30A Songwriter Festival in Florida, Richey dropped by the Folk Alley house to wrap her smooth vocals around some solo, acoustic versions of these old favorites that never get old. She also talked about the way the songs felt to her then and how they feel now, with 20 more years of life to them.
At the end of the day, Vancouver native and banjo player Taylor Ashton says, his new album is “pretty fun.” The Romantic (Signature Sounds Recordings) is a record that was 10 years in the making, a record that forced Ashton into the solo spotlight for the very first time in his music career, and a record that is, at its heart, about change.In March of 2020, Taylor Ashton joined Folk Alley at the gorgeous and eclectic studio space at The Porches Inn in North Adams, Massachusetts to share some thoughts about the winding road his music has taken him on and to share songs from his debut release.
at 30A: Kyshona Armstrong
by Kim Ruehl (@kimruehl), Folk Alley
Kyshona Armstrong was a music therapist before she shifted her focus to pursuing a career in songwriting. Drawing from her background experience of using music as a healing force in people’s lives, the songwriting on Armstrong’s latest album, Listen., is heavy on transcendence and empowerment. “Fear,” for example, digs deep into one of the emotions so many people tend to run from, encouraging folks to “call it by its name” rather than giving in to its pull. And that’s just the beginning of Armstrong’s fearless approach to intensely emotional lyricism.During this year’s 30A Songwriters Festival, we talked with Armstrong about all of this and more. Tune in and discover one of Nashville’s finest up-and-coming singer-songwriters.
at 30A: The Secret Sisters
by Kim Ruehl (@kimruehl), Folk Alley
The Secret Sisters have been through a lot in the last few years, from losing major label support to welcoming new babies into their families, along with other personal and professional landmarks. It’s par for the course around one’s Saturn Return—an occurrence during the end of your 20s, when the trajectory of Saturn returns to the same position it was in when you were born. According to astrology, this is a period of great change in one’s personal life and the duo—Laura Rogers and Lydia Slagle—felt this was an appropriate phenomenon after which to name their new, emotionally stirring, Brandi Carlile-produced album.
During the 2020 30A Songwriters Festival, we chatted with the sisters about all of this and more, as they performed some of the album’s finest songs at the Folk Alley beach house.
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These recordings are great! The artists are fantastic and the sound quality is first rate. I especially liked the Darrell Scott session. Thanks Folk Allley for allowing me to take these recordings on the road!