Joe Troop’s new “Borrowed Time”; A Call To Action.

Joe Troop is a wildly creative force blending latin and american roots music usually with a social justice lense. Joe founded Che Apalache in Buenos Aires, Argentina while teaching bluegrass and old-time music there. The band went on to record two albums; most recently, Rearrange My Heart ,which was nominated for a Grammy Award.

During the pandemic, Joe spent his time and energies learning from activists, workers, poets and dreamers while traveling the rural backroads of the american south. Joe spent some of his boundless energy and enthusiasm in causes that are important to folks in these neglected rural areas. He learned from activist leaders like Baldemar Velasquez from the Farm Labor Organizing Committee to Dreama Caldwell who led the effort to raise the issue of cash bail’s insidious impact on people of color. These and many more were part of Joe Troop’s “Pickin’ For Progress” campaign aimed to get out the vote among rural progressives.

Somehow, Joe found the time and energy to record his first solo album ,”Borrowed Time” which was recorded in sessions in Durham,NC and Nashville, Tn. It seems the lessons learned from these campaigns have informed Joe Troop’s songwriting because these songs brim with passion and conviction. They also convey hope despite the themes of climate change, racial division, corporate take-overs of social movements, and continued inhumane immigration policies. The protest songs here have all been backed up with concrete actions. Documentaries and videos were produced, voter turnout and education campaigns made these issues real. Folks with very little power or influence were represented and highlighted.

In the end, it’s about the music and the power of song. “Borrowed Time” documents the possibilities that underrepresented people can have dignity and their voices can be heard. We begin the segment with Che Apalache’s song “The Wall” followed by a brand new song from “Borrowed Time” called “Love along the Way” which features Tim O’Brien. The song is a call for unity which claims “good hearted people doing the best they can with a messed-up system that don’t give a damn.” After a spirited discussion and just a few rants, we finish the segment with Joe’s radio premiere of “Horizon” which details our planet’s challenging climate crisis. Che Apalache’s song “The Dreamer” which documents our tangled dubious immigration policies finishes the segment.

I hope you enjoy the segment as much as I did because as Joe’s been quoted “music with a good cause is more fun.”

Graham Sharp paints a “Truer Picture” on NineVoltHeart.

Graham Sharp is an award-winning musician from the Asheville-based Steep Canyon Rangers. He’s a principal songwriter and banjo player in that IBMA and Grammy winning band but he’s spent the last year working on a solo album, “Truer Picture” is a decidedly singer-songwriter affair with Graham playing guitar and banjo and singing more intimate songs. While the Steep Canyon Rangers were (along with everyone else) on hiatus, Graham took the opportunity to write and record this batch of songs. “Truer Picture” will be released on 7/9 but we got a preview of a few songs from this new collection. We started the segment off with the Rangers hit “Radio” and then the title cut from Grahams 2021 release.

Our conversation covers some of the early days while the band members were at UNC Chapel Hill, their work with Steve Martin, and their upcoming Artist in Residence role in this year’s Freshgrass Festival at Mass MOCA on September 24-26. Mostly our conversation centers on Graham’s songwriting and his inspirations including John Hartford. We talk about his local roots in Asheville NC including his neighbor Anya Hinkle whom he wrote and played on her new release. We finish the segment with Graham describing the origin of his new song, “My Neighborhood”.

Lisa Bastoni and Sean Staples charm in Live In-Studio visit.

Lisa Bastoni’s new album, “Backyard Birds” comes out on 6/25 but NineVoltHeart got some previews of this heartfelt intimate release yesterday. Late in 2019, Lisa released her amazing “How We Want To Live” album which reached number One on the Contemporary Folk Album charts. It was also a NineVoltHeart Top Nine for the Year. She’s been nominated for a Boston Music Award in 2019 and 2020 and won Grand Prize at the prestigious Kerrville Folk Festival.

“Backyard Birds” was recorded during our national “pause” this past year with her co-writer and producer Sean Staples who also joined her for our in-studio visit. Our setlist includes “Silver Line” from last years release. Lisa and Sean then played the first single from “Backyard Birds” called “Bring It On” which is a powerful mission statement which asks us all to leave our “baggage” behind, start fresh, be bold, and bring it on! The studio version of “Beautiful Girl” follows from “How We Want to Live”; a lovely song with a motherly touch. One of my favorite songs from the new disc is “Sorrow’s A String” which details a visit to a cherished grandparents home only to discover so much has changed. Lisa and Sean did a lovely live version with delicate mandolin touches from Staples. Another premiere of “Hidden in the Song” from the “Backyard Birds” CD followed by a live take of “Nearby” from “How We Want to Live” which concludes our charming visit.

Our conversation includes topics like upcoming gigs(!) at Pulaski Park in Northampton’s Summer Music Series on 7/9 as well as a live stream CD release party from Club Passim on 6/26. We talk about Lisa’s grandmother’s influence in her life and songs, the autobiographical nature of her songwriting, her hobby of visual art projects and of course, the songs. This batch of beautifully crafted, intimately recorded songs are charming, insightful and even (gasp) cheerfully upbeat! It’s always a pleasure to reconnect with Lisa and her work and it was a treat to have multi-instrumentalist Sean Staples to give his insight on this music which he co-write and produced. Give this set of music and interview a listen. You’ll be as charmed as I was sitting face to face.

NineVoltHeart Tribute to David Kaynor

David Kaynor was a force of nature. As part of Montague’s May Day celebrations for many years, David would do it all; he would lead the parade, the beloved May Day songs, he even dug the hole for the Maypole! Sadly, ALS robbed his body not his spirit. David was essential in the New England contra dance communities, singlehandedly reviving both Greenfield’s Guiding Star Grange and Montague’s Grange which now bears his name. While our Montague center neighbors knew him as a local musician, the rest of the world knew his generous spirit internationally. He was given the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Country Dance and Song Society. For decades he lead Dance Music Week at the John Campbell Folk School in NC, he also led upstate NY’s Ashokan Northern Week teaching fiddle and contra dance bands. Twice a year he journeyed to the Pacific Northwest in the same capacity. More regionally he was the musical director of the Vermont Fiddle Orchestra as well as the Fiddle Orchestra of Western Massachusetts.

His philosophy of welcoming all to contra dancing was revolutionary at the time. Any musician was invited to “sit in” with the front line players. Any beginning dancers were also welcomed amidst the more accomplished dancers. This approach added many new generations of musicians and dancers to the community.

Our tribute keeps a local musical focus. We begin with “The Montague Processional” written and performed by David along with Susie Secco and 1susan Conger. We include a segment of a podcast with Betsy Branch which chronicles the making of “Midnight in Montague” album recorded in the Montague Grange. A version of “Sunday River Waltz” ends with a recording of the church bells chiming Midnight on the Town Common. We finish with a set of tunes called “David’s French Fiddle” from the Three Good Reasons CD, “Montague Processional” release.

While we’ve lost a cherished neighbor here locally, the music world has lost a musical icon. I expect that David is now happy to be able to do what he loved best; leading a group of dancers with his gentle guidance with a soulful fiddle accompaniment.

Old Town Crier debuts new songs on Nine Volt Heart.

My live in-studio guest is Jim Lough whose latest project is called Old Town Crier. He released an EP this Spring called “I’m Longing for you Honey in Middleboro Mass”. Its an admittedly lo-fi collection of diverse catchy songs which Jim plays all the instruments and does all the recording in his Colchester Farm barn. We were treated to three songs from the release as well as four additional songs live in-studio.

Our conversation covers a lot of ground from his work as a farmer at Elliott Farm, his previous work in bluegrass/old timey band Riley Coyote, and his song writing process. These self described “toxic love songs” have a lot of soul and emotion packed into each verse. While not autobiographical in nature, the feelings underlying the songs seem genuine and heart-felt. While Jim plays a large amount of instruments on the recording, he came to Nine Volt Heart studio with his trusty acoustic guitar. We got to hear some new material along with some reworked earlier songs tailored to an acoustic setting.

Old Town Crier setlist includes a live version of “Moonlight Road”, an album cut of “I Might Get Lost” and a new love song called “Searching”. A new direction for Old Town Crier is more political content in his song as as evidenced by the song “You” written for political activist Howie Klein. Jim sings a new powerful song in this direction called “A Thin Blue Line” He finished the live cuts with an updated solo acoustic version of a Riley Coyote song, “Lonesome World” .We finish the segment with another album cut called “Don’t Go”.

It was a joy to have live in-studio guests again. Nothing beats the thrill of experiencing live music face to face. I hope you can share the joy of listening to this music and Old Town Crier, the pride of Lakeville, Massachusetts.

Rachel Baiman debuts new songs from “Cycles”.

Tennessee fiddler and singer-songwriter Rachel Baiman returned to Nine Volt Heart to talk about her new album, “Cycles”. It is a breakthrough release in terms of Rachel’s songwriting. She has honed that fine line between autobiographical and relatable. While the subject matter is personal to Rachel with songs covering her nephew’s birth to her influential grandmother’s death, they are told and sung in a way that seems universal; certainly genuine. Sibling relationships as well as marriage are mined in this collection along with a healthy dose of self doubt and anxiety. In other words, issues we all have been dealing with.

While Rachel and her musician husband, George Jackson, live in Madison Tn; the album was recorded in Melbourne Australia utilizing local musicians (as well as members of Oh!Pep!) The music reflects those elements by being less rootsy and leans into Melbourne’s indy rock scene. Either way, the strength is in the songs. We begin the segment with Rachel’s previous album’s title cut, “Shame” which wickedly indicts paternalistic religion. The new songs from “Cycles” include “Joke’s On Me” which explores the concept of ambition and it’s pitfalls. We finish with Rachel’s dedication of the song “When you Bloom (Colorado)” to her sister “Becca. We listen to “No Good Time For Dying” as well.

Our conversation covers topics such as her new label, Signature Sounds, and the decision to join Northampton’s local label. We also talk about upcoming tours with Molly Tuttle and Della Mae which will include an appearance at this year’s Green River Festival! Rachel talks about building a home on the edge of the John Hartford property in a tiny cabin that she and George remodeled entirely. Their efforts were chronicled in the blog, Apartment Therapy. They also remodeled an old trailer although Rachel claims it’s not practical to tour in their latest retrofit project.

The full release of “Cycles” will be on 6/11 on Signature Sounds, but you can get a sneak peek/listen in our segment.

Ryan Montbleau plays his latest EP, “Wood” on Nine Volt Heart.

Ryan Montbleau has a dozen albums to his credit; he’s been a real road dog warrior with 200 shows a year for almost two decades. He’s learned a lot; about songwriting, this crazy business and especially about himself. Our interview spans so many topics (and seven songs) but the main themes seem to be emotional growth and self-reflection. Ryan is a thoughtful guy with a lot to tell. His move to Burlington, Vt has paid dividends in his mental health and his song-writing. He’s finally got a home with some semblance of a family life. He’s also spent the most time being still, probably ever. We hear the results in his latest EP called “Wood” which will be followed by releases named for the other elements of “Fire”, “Water” and “Earth”.

Ryan performed all three of his newest, live in-studio (it’s been awhile since that happened) including “Ankles”, “Perfect” and “Outside Looking In”. In between, we got to chat about his songwriting process, his experience at Vt’s Guilford Sound, his weekly livestreams, and his upcoming shows in Pittsfield (5/8) and Hatfield (5/23).

We listened to four additional tunes from Ryan’s deep catalog including his collaboration with Tall Heights on “Helplessly Hoping”, the title cuts from earlier albums “I was Just Leaving” and “Ships in the Night” as well as “Songbird”.

It was fabulous to get an in-studio guest again and I’m so glad that it was Ryan Montbleau who couldn’t have been more thoughtful and genuine. Catch a show of his if you can.

Rick Faris is ready to climb “The Next Mountain”.

Rick Faris has recorded his second solo release called “The Next Mountain” and plans to release it this summer. Rick was my guest on Nine Volt Heart to talk about the new release and his musical journey. He began as a member of the Faris Family Band at the age of seven on guitar. Taught by his father along with his brothers, the family band travelled widely and gave Rick a great introduction into this music “business”. When his brother Eddie was invited to join Ricky Skaggs’ band, opportunity knocked for Rick as well. The award-winning bluegrass outfit, Special Consensus, hired Rick to tour the world! Our conversation touches on this experience with Greg Cahill in Special C as a mentor and band leader. We talk about Rick’s decision to leave this bluegrass “juggernaut” to pursue his solo career. We also listen to a batch of songs from Rick’s first solo effort called “Breaking In Lonesome”. Our segment begins with a trio of songs from that album including “Stonemans Raid”, “If the Kansas River Can” and the title cut which is a barn burner!

We talk about his biography, his songwriting process, and his stellar bands that he’s chosen for these “solo” releases. Our chat touches on his luthier work, his co-writing experiences with folks like Rick Lang and even his his weight loss goals! We finish with his discussion of the first single released from the upcoming release called “Deep River”.

Rick is an absolute joy to chat with and his stories are stellar. He’s humble about his accomplishments and talents but a quick listen to his songs tell the real story. He’s a fabulous singer and picker with strong genuine songs. I look forward to more music from this album and many more to come. Give our segment a listen.

Rick Lang gives a master class in Songwriting on Nine Volt Heart.

Rick Lang is a songwriter in demand these days. He’s been writing songs in bluegrass for decades and has been recorded by over one hundred artists during that span. In our interview, he seems genuinely in awe of his good fortune; repeatedly and humbly deflecting attention. But attention he’s getting. Recipient of most every award genre there is; Grammys, Dove Awards, IBMA’s, Gospel Awards. He’s been collaborating with other songwriters well before “co-writing was cool”.

Born and raised in South Eastern coastal NH, he started regionally with New England musicians but as his associations grew, more time in Nashville beckoned. His connections with Jerry Salley and Stephen Mougin have landed Rick some recording opportunities in Nashville. They have been very successful indeed. The 2018 release on Salley’s newly hatched Billy Blue Records “Gonna Sing Gonna Shout” won nominations from the IBMA and the Grammy’s.! An all star cast sing Rick Langs penned tunes.

Rick’s recent signing with Stephen Mougin’s Dark Shadows Records will result in a Fall release called “A Tale to Tell”; a batch of what Rick calls “story songs”. Our segment closes with his song based on the real life history of the Quabbin Reservoir in nearby Western Massachusetts called “Lost Town”. This is the first single from the forthcoming album.

Our conversation touches many topics from the impact of living in New Hampshire, his work on a tribute to the Boston Marathon, his New England coastal ocean album called “Undertow”, his recording of the bluegrass gospel “Gonna Sing Gonna Shout” and his experience at the Grammy Awards. We talk songwriting as well. The value of authentic experience in creating great songs is explored. But of course, there are the songs! We begin with “Gonna Sing” with the vocal work of Claire Lynch as well as the Marathon anthem, “Running for the Glory”. The segment finishes with his latest release, “Lost Town”.

Rick Lang still exhibits the awe of the songwriting process which probably explains his longevity and continued success .He was a joy to chat with and I could have spent the full two hours with him telling stories and tracing his successful musical and personal journey. Give the segment a listen.