BONNY LIGHT HORSEMAN
The timeless qualities of traditional tunes can carry us across oceans and eons, linking us not only to the past but to each other as well. It was under the banner of those eternal connections that the trio of Bonny Light Horseman came together. From Wisconsin festival fields and a German art hub to a snowy upstate studio and everywhere in between, the astral folk outfit—comprised of Anaïs Mitchell, Eric D. Johnson, and Josh Kaufman—is mixing the ancient, mystical medium of transatlantic traditional folk music with a contemporary, collective brush. The resulting album, Bonny Light Horseman, is an elusive kind of sonic event: a bottled blend of lightning and synergy that will excite fans of multiple genres, eras, and ages.
Brett Dennen is telling us to get out and see the world at a time when we need it more than ever. Flame-haired, six-foot-five, and with a singular gift for meditating on life's most meaningful subjects with equal parts innocence and razor sharp wit, you know Dennen from his decade-plus career as a singer/songwriter. With a successful string of albums and four Top Ten AAA singles like "Make You Crazy," "Wild Child," and 2018's "Already Gone," which achieved his highest chart position yet, Dennen has cemented himself as a fixture in American folk music. What you may not know about Brett is that he did not set out to be a professional musician. It is a surprising revelation for someone who embodies the best of songwriting: singular storytelling, singability, and the unique capacity to hold up a mirror to our lives, our society, and the greater world.
Brett Dennen doesn't take his time on his beloved earth for granted. He is intent on exploring the world and exploring himself in the process. Hence, See The World. The album also happens to come at what we hope will be a turning point for all of us -- where we all hope to be doing just what Brett wants for us -- seeing the world. Quite tangible in the title track and the album as a whole is Dennen's newest and greatest pursuit -- that of father to his young son, Van, for whom this song was written. But it is also easy to imagine him writing it for all of us, gently encouraging us to pick up the paint brush, jump in the ocean, and climb whatever mountain lies in front of us. Peppered in equal parts with shrewd quips and vulnerable admissions, the album is ultimately an exploration of life's deepest meaning. And that is certainly emblematic of Brett Dennen, who spans wide as both an artist and a human being -- sometimes biting and somehow always generous of spirit -- his arms out to meet you where you are. See The World is, in short, reflective of a life well-explored, a life well-pursued, and, we can hope, a life well-lived.
It’s no secret that great art comes from the margins. From those who are either pushed to create from inner forces, or who create to show they deserve to be recognized. Los Angeles-based street singer, guitarist, and roots music revolutionary Sunny War has always been an outsider, always felt the drive to define her place in the world through music and songwriting.
As a young black girl growing up in Nashville, she searched for her own roots, looking first to the blues she heard from her mother’s boyfriend, and learning from a local guitarist. Moving to Los Angeles in her teens, she searched for herself in the LA punk scene, playing house shows with FIDLAR, and shoplifting DVDs from big box stores to trade at Amoeba Records for 80s punk albums. But here too she found herself on the outside, working to bridge her foundation in country blues and American roots guitar traditions with the punk scene she called home. She first made her name with this work, bringing a wickedly virtuosic touch on the fingerstyle guitar that sprang from her own self-discoveries on the instrument. But her restless spirit, a byproduct of growing up semi-nomadic with a single mother, led her to Southern California, where she’s been grinding the pavement for some years now, making a name for her prodigious guitar work and incisive songwriting, which touches on everything from police violence to alcoholism to love found and lost.
Twisted Pine has been praised by NPR for their "upbeat, poppy vibe; energetic, driving rhythms; and virtuosic solos.” Their skyrocketing pandemic release Right Now [Signature Sounds Recordings] ranges limitless from bluegrass to funk, jazz, pop, and soul. Twisted Pine is Kathleen Parks on five-string fiddle and lead vocals, Dan Bui on mandolin, Chris Sartori on upright bass, and Anh Phung on flute.
"Twisted Pine doesn’t just break the rules, they rewrite them,” writes Glide. Check out Twisted Pine here in their April 2022 Paste session: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hJBc2h70gA "They were once bluegrass," writes The Boston Globe, "but ... this Boston band has become something else, a wider version of string band, boundary jumpers akin to outfits like Punch Brothers, Nickel Creek, and Crooked Still.”
A curious mind and a sense of adventure make for quite a collection of stories. Some play out over the course of a few minutes while others, more profound and complex, take years to untangle. Sean Rowe, an artist and nomad at heart, has made himself into the perfect repository for volumes of every variety — hysterical, terrifying, heartbreaking, mystifying, and ridiculous — and on his new record, he makes it clear that at some point it’s hard not to feel them all at once.
The Darkness Dressed in Colored Lights is ripe with both dimensions. It was produced by Rowe’s friend and longtime collaborator Troy Pohl, whom he has known since he was in his early twenties while Pohl was still a teen. The two grew into their professionalism together and here, they make the most of their combined ambition and experience. The studio Hive in Eau Claire, Wisconsin was chosen so that they could work with the Grammy-winning engineer, Brian Joseph (Bon Iver) and for its proximity to a group of musicians that Sean came to admire while listening to Anna Tivel’s remarkable album, The Question, in his manager’s basement studio. That group includes drummer/percussionist, and producer Shane Leonard, along with Jeremy Boetcher on bass, and Ben Lester on keys and pedal steel. Courtney Hartman was flown from Colorado to provide background vocals and guitar. Chris Carey provided additional bass, while John DeHaven, Jeff Nania, and Joel Yannuzzi made up the album’s brass section.
Blending classic soul power with a folk songwriter lyricism, Ali McGuirk has the rare ability to silence a room with just a few words of a song. With a voice that is raw and sultry and a style rooted in improvisation, her sets are a hypnotic and intimate journey. Her earliest years as a performer were spent earning residencies across four continents, from Santorini to Hong Kong.
McGuirk’s debut album, Slow Burn, made rock critic Steve Morse’s “Top Ten albums of 2017” in the Boston Globe and earned her recognition as one of New England’s most compelling artists. Her latest single “That’s the Way I Feel About You” by Bobby Womack is out now and benefits the Sweet Relief Musicians’ Fund.
McGuirk relocated to Burlington, VT during the early stages of the global pandemic. She penned her newest album while living there. It’s currently scheduled for a summer 2022 release on Signature Sounds Recordings.
Cloudbelly is the moniker of Great (Turners) Falls, MA based singer-songwriter Corey Laitman. Among the newest members of the Signature Sounds family, Laitman's poetic lyricism, stirring vocals and disarming stage presence have earned them a strong and growing following in the Pioneer Valley and beyond. They are accompanied by a rotating cast of inspired instrumentalists and friends.
KIMAYA DIGGS is a musician and writer, born and based in the rolling hills of Western Massachusetts. The sounds of her childhood included Emily Dickinson, Ella Fitzgerald, Whitney Houston, 70’s soul, and songs around the table with her family.
A fourth-generation artist, Kimaya grew up singing with her sisters, and found her voice across the facets of neo-soul, jazz, and R&B. She’s crafted a genre-defying style that celebrates the power and dexterity of her voice. Slippery and acrobatic at times, earthy and urgency-filled at others, her voice has been called “smoothly captivating” by the Daily Hampshire Gazette. Her songwriting beautifully captures the spectrum of her vocal range, and the singular control she has over her instrument.
More recently, to commemorate Black History Month in 2022, she released a cover of Solange’s “Cranes in the Sky,” a song that documents a journey towards self-love. Her single They Can Say What They Like, released in 2021 on A-Side B-Side Records, written to benefit Cancer Connection, Inc., raising over $2000 for the organization. It placed #6 in 93.9 The River’s Best New Songs of 2021. Her sophomore album is expected in late 2022.