Chris Pierce calls out “American Silence” in his new release.

LA based musician Chris Pierce has been at it for awhile, working independently for decades. His sound has ranged from soul and R&B to his take on “The American Soul Songbook” and most recently has written a “folk protest” album called “American Silence” out this Friday. We caught up with Chris in advance of the album release to talk about this batch of songs and the times that inspired them. While Chris Pierce has faced obstacles both physical (loss of hearing at fifteen) and social (he outlines examples of racial profiling); he is a supremely positive guy. Our conversation was inspiring to me in it’s optimism despite this past year which has exposed many of our Country’s weaknesses and unfilled promises.

We talked about the value of a good record collection at a young age, his chance meeting with the musician Seal, his collaboration with musician Sunny War. We didn’t even touch on his co-ownership of a wine label, Ledbetter Syrah, or his stage production, “Reverend Tall Tree”. A full creative life; peaking with a new release that has prompted NPR and Rolling Stone to proclaim his latest the “Protest Album of the Year”.

Chris Pierce told stories about performing with Sunny War as the duo, War and Pierce, as well as his recording in the famed Muscle Shoals recording studios with the legendary backing band. We hear his soulful vocals belt out “Many Rivers to Cross” from the “You’ve Got to Feel It” recorded in that Alabama iconic studio. We also hear his duet with Sunny War called “Amen” written in response to the deadly Charlottesville protest. We conclude with the title cut of his new album, “American Silence” where he exhorts those who are allies to act in solidarity and not simply “post a facebook comment” and remain in the background.

Despite the fact that Chris has shared the stage with the likes of BB King, Al Green and Aaron Neville and toured the world with Seal, it’s my estimation that his most creative period has just begun. Listen to our conversation and you’ll agree that “American Silence” is a modern day master class in songwriting, no matter the genre.

Vivian Leva and Riley Calcagno

Vivian and Riley have merged their incredible talents to create a tasty roots music mix of old time, country and stringband music. While their 2018 album, “Time is Everything”, was decidedly a country and honkytonk affair centered around Vivian’s incredibly evocative voice, the new release shines more broadly into more varied sonic territory. Love songs, and songs of regret and longing still dominate the self titled release. The vocal duties are shared by both in songs that evoke the Americana duo, Mandolin Orange.

We begin our segment with the gorgeous “Will You”; one of the singles released in advance of the album’s March release date. Our conversation touches on both of the band members biography. Vivian is the daughter of parents who released a number of albums in the late 90’s as Jones And Leva and The Renegades. She was raised in Virginia and was exposed to music festivals as a youngster. Riley was a West Coast festival kid likewise drug around festivals from their Seattle base. They met professionally five years ago in a Washington state summer workshop while Riley was performing with his stringband, The Onlies. Vivian attended with her mother and joined the band on tour soon thereafter.

The newest disc was recorded (just in time) in January 2020 in Eunice Louisiana with the Grammy winning producer, Joel Savoy, a legend in Cajun music. Several other songs have been released along with gorgeous videos including “Love and Chains” along with “Leaving on Our Minds”. Both songs lyrically deal with issues of isolation and leaving loved ones; topics appropriate in this era. Our segment finishes with the band introducing both those songs. This is a very sweet duo with lovely vocal and instrumental interplay. The new self titled album will be available on the top-notch Free Dirt Records in March.

The Trailblazers transcend “Space and Time” on new release.

When it comes to prestigious awards, not many can match the track record of Western NC, The Trailblazers. Formed in 2016, they won Best Band contest at their local but acclaimed Merlefest followed by IBMA Momentum Awards for Best Band, Best Vocalist and Best Banjo nominations. 2019 brought the Freshgrass Award for Best Band. The band consists of brothers Daniel and Will Thrailkill on guitar and bass. Alex Edwards plays banjo and Jonah Horton plays mandolin. Daniel sings lead on all tracks. Their debut album, “A Place to Call My Own” is packed with instrumental burners and original songs along with some well placed covers of Mickey Newbury and Gordon Lightfoot.

The band released their sophomore album, “Space and Time” in November 2020. It was recorded again by Scott Vestal at his Digital Underground Studio in Tennessee. The new release shows maturity in both instrumental skill and songwriting. While the original songs are the disc’s strength, they pay homage to their eclectic tastes by covering artists as diverse as George Bensen and The Doobie Brothers. Our segment began with the instrumental “Dawson Springs” which features the fiddle of the Infamous Stringdusters’ Jeremy Garrett. It’s breathtaking in it’s speed and tone which made a believer out of Jeremy who states,” These guys are killing it right now. I love their passion and creativity and they bring a positive vibe with them wherever they play music. I’ll be paying attention to this group”. I suggest you do as well.

Our segment ends with two songs, “Sleepy Eyes” and “Deja Vu” which feature Mr. Vestal on banjo synthesizer. “Space and Time” is a big leap forward for this NC based quartet. Expect them to be headlining festivals once such large events are back again.

Cloudbelly talks about “Thou/Them” and Home Sessions on NineVoltHeart.

Corey Laitman and Anand Nayak collaborated on Corey’s “Seafoam” CD which has led to this project dubbed Cloudbelly. The creative process between these two projects could not be more different, however. Cloudbelly has been composed remotely without rehearsals or even hearing other band member’s input. A huge amount of mutual trust and respect fueled the writing of these eleven songs. Many of these songs have been released as singles and EP’s over the last year. They are compiled in the album “Thou/Them”. Our segment begins with the song, “Up in Smoke” with it’s wintery images of snow and woodsmoke. We conclude the conversation with the band introducing another new song, “Leavened”.

Cloudbelly will perform these songs in a special livestream sponsored by Signature Sounds called the Home Sessions airing on Feb 23 at 8PM.

Corner House debuts their “Caribou Party” on Nine Volt Heart.

Corner House is a quartet of Boston area stringband players who’ve found a safe way to release new music this year. “Caribou Party” will be released in early March and it’s a gorgeous collection of virtuosic instrumental tunes. The band consists of Ethan Setiawan (my guest) on mandolin, Ethan Hawkins on guitar and vocals, Louise Bichan on fiddle and Casey Murray on cello.

The band was unable to record their anticipated full length album in Canada due to pandemic restrictions but they were able to safely work on an EP in a cabin in rural Pennsylvania this past summer. There are songs about gardens and instrumentals named after wildlife. Songs about spiritual conflicts and tunes based on favorite New England destinations. All in all, it’s a diverse batch of songs representing each of the member’s contributions. Old time banjo player Allison DeGroot puts it this way ,”Caribou Party weaves together lush instrumental textures, thoughtful arrangements and intimate lyrics, culminating in an exciting collection of tunes and songs that will keep you listening to the twists and turns, while drawing you into the space of four friends making music amidst a global pandemic.”

Our segment begins with the Ethan Setiawan tune “Woolwich” and finishes with Louise Bichan’s “Hawk, Hound and the Homers” both getting their radio debut. You can join the band for their online launch party on 2/19@7PM on Bandcamp’s new streaming platform. You’ll b glad you did, it’s gonna be a party, a Caribou Party!

IBMA winner Justin Moses releases “Fall Like Rain” with Hall of Fame crew.

Bluegrass Today calls Justin Moses “something of a bluegrass superman, playing all the instruments and singing all the parts and having performed with a who’s who of contemporary bluegrass bands”. Justin is a repeat winner of the IBMA Resonator Guitar/Dobro Player of the Year. His stints in bluegrass bands is jaw dropping, starting with Blue Moon Rising, Dan Tyminski Band, Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, Blue Highway, and the Gibson Brothers! These bands allowed Justin, who plays a half dozen instruments, to play on the Grand Old Opry. He also played on Grammy award winning albums and got to play with some of his musical heroes along the way.

Justin’s new release “Fall Like Rain” showcases those musical heroes including Del McCoury, Dan Tyminski, Stuart Duncan, Bryan Sutton, Michael Cleveland, Jerry Douglas and Justin’s wife Sierra Hull! Our segment started with Shawn Lane from Blue Highway singing “Looking for a Place” and finishes with “Walking to Lebanon”; both from the new release. The disc is a diverse collection of instrumental burners like “Taxland” and “Locust Hill”. It also showcases songs written by Justin with some co-writing with Nashville’s best.

Our conversation touches on the new release, of course, but also topics as diverse as working with his wife Sierra Hull to baseball to Ken Burns’ “Country Music” series that Justin played in the house band. We talk about his future plans to tour as a duo with Sierra Hull and his resurrecting his dormant podcast “Cos Moses”.

Tekla Waterfield and Jeff Fielder share thoughts on these “Trouble In Times”.

Seattle based duo Tekla Waterfield and Jeff Fielder have released the perfect pandemic antidote with “Trouble in Time”. The songs were all written during our national “pause” and released this January. Overall, the songs describe the uncertainty and unsettling fear that we all felt. This universality allows everyone to relate to and understand the emotions of songs like “Better Days”, “Alright”, and the title cut “Trouble in Time”.

Our segment starts with the songs “Thief” and “Let There Be” from the new release. The tone of the entire album is mellow as a response to our surrounding chaos rather than echoing the political strife which so filled this past year. The songs do not avoid these issues however with examples of “No Justice, No Peace”, “Wrong Time State of Mind” and especially the title cut. “Trouble in Time” , in my mind, is an American Prayer and includes the lyrics, “remember unity, remember grace, leads us to a better place” followed by an indictment of our previous administration’s failings in these qualities. It’s a 2020 version of “Bridge over Troubled Water”.

Our conversation touches on the residency which allowed the duo to record on an idylic island in Puget Sound. The first song even includes some birdsong from the cabin window. We talk about the difficulty of writing topical songs which can transcend the specific time it was written. The fact that the entire world experienced these emotions and feelings help their universality. The tasteful touches of Jeff Fielder’s instrumental brushes are very effective throughout. Tekla’s vocals and lyrics are complemented perfectly in a quiet way yet bold flourishes abound. It’s a great marriage literally and figuratively.

“Trouble in Time” is a great example of fine music and art that has been inspired by our national dumpster fire that was 2020. Many artists have found creating in this past year difficult, I’m glad that circumstance is not universal. Tekla and Jeff have gloriously documented this past year resulting in a positive hopeful set of songs that will inspire other musicians to do the same.

Love Crumbs share their debut, Cavalcades, on Nine Volt Heart.

Massachusetts trio Love Crumbs have released their debut, Cavalcades, in January 2021. It has been added to playlists all over the world giving the band a nice blast of good reviews. Michael, Ali and Scott spent some time on Nine Volt Heart to discuss their musical path. The conversation centered on how the music “business” has changed over the years especially in today’s touring “pause”. We talked about their signing with the UK label, Animal Farm Records, and their approach to release singles over the next months.

The band’s sound is a nostalgic throwback to classic rock and a really bluesy belter that features the strong vocals of Ali McTavish. Her comparison’s to both Stevie Nicks and Janis Joplin gives you an insight to her versatility (even within this song). We listened to an acoustic duo tune called “All I Want” to open the show and we finish with “Cavalcades”. Watch for more music from this talented trio at love crumbs music on Facebook.

Wes Corbett, Nashville banjo phenom, talks about “Cascade” and Dinosaurs.

Wes Corbett is one of acoustic music’s most accomplished and melodic banjo pickers. Originally from Bainbridge Island Washington, he found his way east to Boston’s Berklee School of Music to teach in it’s recently minted Roots Music Program. He joined the string band Joy Kills Sorrow along the way while collaborating with this generation of all star players. He’s been part of many projects in acoustic music for a decade in New England. While he joined the roots exodus to Nashville two years ago, his presence is still strong due to his stints with Molly Tuttle and most recently, the Sam Bush Band!

Our segment begins with the first cut from his recently released album “Cascade” called “Boss Fight”. The conversation that follows is a mostly chronological inquiry about his influences, his peers and the amazing collaborations they’ve created. Topics include early piano lessons, meeting his future collaborators at an early age, and video game references. We talk Berklee School of Music heroes to Nashville tornadoes; producing some amazing young artists while learning all the Sam Bush songbook in a week. The final song we include is called “Dinosaur Party” where Wes confesses his continued fascination with Paleontology.

Give it a listen, or better yet, purchase a copy by this virtuosic band which includes Chris Eldridge, Sierra Hull, Paul Kowert, Alex Hargeaves, Casey Campbell and Simon Chrisman. “Cascade” is a great melodic listen and a long awaited entry into acoustic music history. Recommended.

The Green Sisters discuss “Blink of an Eye” on Nine Volt Heart.

The four siblings from Hubbardston Mass, The Green Sisters, have created original music ranging from bluegrass to folk to jazzy pop. They use traditional bluegrass instrumentation and the classic family sibling harmonies to create their own “genre-proof” sound. They’ve released their second album this past year called “Blink of an Eye”.

Our segment with two of the Sisters, Mel and Brie, begins with the title cut of this release. Our conversation covers their grandparents and their parent’s musicality as well as their early experiences singing together. Their Dad advertised a delivery of cordwood by his four singing daughters, possibly their first paying gig! An appearance at a wedding further confirmed their musical possibilities. In any case, all four sisters; Melody, Brianna, Betsy and Rebecca, play multiple instruments and all sing effortlessly together.

Their first album, “Endless Blue”, as well as the latest release, focus on original material. Each sibling writes individually which gives some diversity to both offerings. Most of the subject matter could be considered “rural country life” themed but in a modern way. Love songs and ballads are mixed with fiddle tunes and traditional songs. The easy laughter and jovial banter of our conversation mirrors the live show when each give good natured sisterly jabs at each other.

The segment ends with another original from “Blink of an Eye” called “Honeybabe” as well as “Here and Gone” from the debut release.