The pandemic has had a significant impact on musicians, especially those in the roots and folk categories that essentially need to tour to make money. Bluegrass singer Rhonda Vincent caught the angst of the music community with her clever play on Johnny Cash’s famous hit I’ve Been Everywhere with the parody I Ain’t Been Nowhere (with a guest appearance in the music video by none other than Dolly Parton).
But musicians have been resilient, playing empty halls to live-streaming audiences, recording new music from their living rooms, and now…finally, hitting the road to make live music again. For this Saturday Soundtrack, I want to feature a few of my favorite musicians who are on the road this winter and early spring.
The gifted singer and songwriter Aoife O’Donovan begins her tour next month. It includes a February 25th date at the Kennedy Center in Washington along with the talented Yasmin Williams. O’Donovan’s new record, Age of Apathy, will also be released at that time, and a great New York Times review by music critic Jon Pareles captures where her music is at this moment two years into a pandemic.
O’Donovan’s songs are rooted in folk tradition but full of musical surprises: daring melodic leaps, unexpected chord progressions, subtle rhythmic shifts. “I’ve always just been drawn to melodies and chordal structures that were unexpected,” she said. “They’re just more fun. When you have the whole arsenal of the tone row in your head, you can just have a lot more freedom to mess around with it.”
A number of the tunes from the new album are out on You Tube. I especially like Phoenix, as the lyrics seem to fit the moment.
Everybody’s looking for somebody to blame
The stages of sadness how many can you name
I stopped at anger, never felt the same
They say it’ll fade my scars my tears will dry
And I’ll lie under the stars again
Not wondering where you are
Fever’s got me shaking it rises up like a road to meet me
Fever’s got me quaking like San Andreas fault
Just put a cloth to my brow I’ll soar like a phoenix from the ashes
Put a pretty blanket down I’m ready now
Here’s a very nice live version of the tune from a couple of months ago at FreshGrass 2021 at Mass MOCA.
Watchhouse (fka Mandolin Orange) is touring February through April beginning on the west coast then coming east. The folk duo plays at the 9:30 Club in Washington on April 15th and the Beacon Theatre in New York City the following evening. Here is New Star from their 2021 album, Watchhouse.
Punch Brothers began touring in January to support their new Hell on Church Street tribute album to Tony Rice. On February 26th the band will play the Lincoln Theatre in Washington. Here’s Hamilton Camp’s Pride of Man from the album.
Turn around go back down
Back the way you came
Babylon is laid to waste
Egypt’s buried in her shame
Their mighty men are all beaten down
Their kings are all fallin’ in the ways
Oh God, pride of man
Broken in the dust again
Molly Tuttle also has a new album on the way, and she is hitting the road to promote it. Tuttle is a multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter with a lifelong love of bluegrass.
On her new album Crooked Tree, Tuttle joyfully explores that rich history with bluegrass, bringing her imagination to tales of free spirits and outlaws, weed farmers and cowgirls resulting in a record that is both forward-thinking and steeped in bluegrass heritage.
The album was co-produced by Tuttle and Jerry Douglas, who also plays dobro on the recording. Other standouts in her studio band include Ron Block, Mike Bub, Jason Carter, and Dominick Leslie. Gillian Welch, Margo Price, Billy Strings, Old Crow Medicine Show, Dan Tyminski, and Sierra Hull all perform on Crooked Tree. The new album “marks a departure from the eclecticism of Tuttle’s critically lauded 2019 full-length debut When You’re Ready.”
Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway perform the title track in the video below. Their tour began last week on the west coast and will work its way east in the coming months.
The Infamous Stringdusters have a new album Into the Fray coming out in February, when they’ll take it on tour. The band is at The Anthem in Washington D.C. on February 4th and 5th.
The title track is a strong call for standing on the side of freedom, something we really need at this time.
Death unfolds before my eyes / A frightened man’s unheeded cries / People, oh people / Trapped beneath the knee / Of the law gone wrong / And the force of history
Another too soon laid to rest / Some folks weep, some beat their chests / People, oh people (Let us) stand on freedom’s side / For there can be no peace / Wherever justice is denied
As cities burn in summer heat / Temptation bids us to retreat / But people, my people / There’s is no other way / To love, except to turn / Our timid souls toward the fray.
Mandolinist Sierra Hull is on tour with a 2020 album entitled 25 Trips, taking her music into new areas of exploration.
25 trips around the sun / Is long enough to make a fool out of anyone / I’ve tried to keep my head on straight / To navigate the fate I’ve done my best to wait
But the clock is back up on the wall And even if I choose to look away / The hand will fall / And the time will just keep tickin’
Here’s the title tune from the album. Hull opens for Cory and the Wongnotes at the 9:30 Club in DC on February 5th and plays Charlottesville on the 7th.
And as is appropriate for winter and these times, Low Lily — which tours in Rhode Island and New Jersey beginning in March — reminds us that we can bring the light in times of darkness.
We bring the light in the dark / In the dark when all is cold / When all is cold and the earth is still / In the dark we bring the light
See the light, be the light, and enjoy the light of some live music this winter.
More to come…
Image by Jörg Vieli from Pixabay