Hear It First

  • Hear It First: Eliza Gilkyson, '2020'

    • April 03, 2020
    • Kim Ruehl

    All told, the album is a stirring, timely, beautifully written message about the importance of unity and collaboration in a time of great partisan divide. Timed on purpose for an election year, Gilkyson couldn’t have possibly foreseen the social and political environment into which the album would release.

  • Hear It First: Appalachian Road Show, 'Tribulation'

    • March 26, 2020
    • Henry Carrigan

    Appalachian Road Show’s new album, 'Tribulation,' perfectly speaks to our dark and unsettling times. On the one hand, the songs embrace the trials and tribulations of uncertain days filled with despair and loss and suffering, when any glimmer of hope only dimly shines through the darkness. And, on the other hand, they celebrate the community that gathers together in the face of such tribulation to celebrate love, to dance and to sing of the possibilities of redemption, to welcome home the weary from their travails.

  • Hear It First: Michael Doucet avec Lâcher Prise, 'Lâcher Prise'

    • February 10, 2020
    • Henry Carrigan

    There’s magic in this new music from Michael Doucet, and the album lives up to its title, which means to “let go.” Doucet and the band let loose in a simmering blend of Cajun, swamp soul, and Gypsy tunes that celebrate love and the simple joys of having a good time. From the gamboling fiddles of the opening tune, “Water, Water,” to the haunting Gypsy shuffle “Bad Woman,” Doucet and the band create a sonic landscape filled with soaring vocals, scampering fiddles and accordions, and haunting lyrics.

  • Hear It First: Charlie Parr, 'Charlie Parr'

    • September 23, 2019
    • Kim Ruehl

    Charlie Parr's eponymous album - his seventeenth in as many years (counting compilations) - was originally intended to be a live album. It just didn’t work out that way. Instead, it’s a studio album comprised largely of songs Parr has recorded before, alongside some he borrowed from other writers and four new originals. Though fans have likely heard many of these tunes before, they’re delivered here with a care and fit that can only come from being worn in—the way a pair of jeans eventually takes the form of the person who wears it.

  • Hear It First: Ana Egge, 'Is It the Kiss'

    • August 30, 2019
    • Linda Fahey

    With her new release, Is It the Kiss, Ana Egge adds some great, honest songs to the collective consciousness — songs that show us her heart in order that we might see our own reflected in it. There is sorrow here, and suffering. But so, too, exists hope and calm amidst the hurt and chaos. Egge makes sure of that, time and again, letting us hear every nuance of her voice. The cracks, the slides, the strains, the breaths — it's all right there on display.

  • Hear It First: The Small Glories, 'Assiniboine & the Red'

    • June 21, 2019
    • Kelly McCartney

    It's a wondrous moment in life when a person finds their place in the world, geographically speaking...for the Small Glories — Cara Luft and JD Edwards — that place is Canada, and that seems to be about as fine a point as they are willing to put on their new album, Assiniboine & the Red, which wanders across provinces and prairies, from coastal towns to inland cities.

  • Hear It First: Ellis Paul, 'The Storyteller's Suitcase'

    • May 24, 2019
    • Kim Ruehl

    Ellis Paul has always been a ruminative, deep-thinking songwriter/storyteller, and The Storyteller’s Suitcase is another example of his adept approach to his craft. Once again, we’re treated to his particular brand of narrative lyricism and expressive vocals, his catchy melodies and delightful, easy harmonies.

  • Hear It First: John Smith, 'Hummingbird'

    • March 21, 2019
    • Kelly McCartney

    John Smith is the latest entry into the English folk milieu and a more than welcome one. On his new release, Hummingbird, traditional tunes and contemporary themes effortlessly entangle themselves to create a wonderful and worthy addition to the English folk canon.

  • Hear It First: Mother Banjo, 'Eyes on the Sky'

    • March 18, 2019
    • Folk Alley staff

    Having employed the stage of the historic Sheldon Theatre in Red Wing, MN as her studio and recording the songs, live in a circle, with her band, Mother Banjo's Eyes on the Sky is her most intimate and most personal album to date - documenting six years of dramatic changes in the world and her personal life, including marriage, love, loss, and pregnancy.

  • Hear It First: Pierce Pettis, 'Father's Son'

    • January 11, 2019
    • Kim Ruehl

    Pierce Pettis has made a long career out of music that simmers just below the surface, releasing albums that are beloved by fellow songwriters for their sheer craftsmanship. His latest, Father’s Son (due Jan. 18 on Compass Records) is no exception.