Darol Anger and Grant Gordy of Mr. Sun have fun on Nine Volt Heart.

Fun is at the heart of this collaboration’s success. These four musicians friendships span decades and their easy manner with each other translates to their intuitive extraordinary music. Mr. Sun is a collaborative effort of Darol Anger on fiddle, Grant Gordy on guitar, Joe K Walsh on mandolin and Aidan O’Donnell on bass.

Darol Anger was awarded a lifetime Achievement Award from the IBMA last year for his many contributions to the acoustic music world. He was a founding member of both the David Grisman Quintet and the Turtle Island String Quartet. He’s played with everyone from Stephane Grappelli to Tony Rice; from Vassar Clements to Mark O’Connor.

Likewise, Grant Gordy has transformed the role of acoustic guitar in bluegrass fusion music. He has as much jazz in his style as bluegrass but he did hold down the guitar chair in David GRisman’s Quartet for six years. He’s played with musical giants like Edgar Meyer and Tony Trishka among many others in his Brooklyn based home. Grant seems perpetually amused by his Mr. Sun bandmates antics.

Mr Sun appears in the region three times in September. On 9/18 they play the Fire in the Kitchen music series in Ct., on 9/22 the band plays the Watermelon Wednesday music series in Whately Massachusetts. They finish the run at the fabled Freshgrass Bluegrass festival in North Adams on 9/25th.

Our conversation includes the first reference I’ve heard about the origin of the band name, each member’s teaching and workshop experiences, the role of humor in their music and more. I ask about the band’s decision-making process regarding the virus protocols they encounter on the road.

We end up discussing the upcoming Mr. Sun release called “Extrovert”. The duo of Darol and Grant attempt a rare Zoom performance with Darol in Nashville and Grant in Brooklyn! They give a valiant effort at Charles Mingus’ “Better Git it in Your Soul”. The segment begins and ends with songs from Mr. Sun’s “The People Need Light” including the opening song “The Fiddler’s Boot” and finishes with “Key Signator”.

It was a joy and a hoot to speak with these acoustic music hall of famers. Check out the local show on 9/22 at watermelonwednesdays.com

Kittel and Co. Return to Watermelon Wednesdays 9/8

Jeremy Kittel is Grammy nominated musician, originally from Michigan, who has put together an ensemble of the best young acoustic musicians on the planet! I caught up with Jeremy on the road to a residency program in upper New York state where the band will rehearse and learn some of the new tunes he’s wrote in the last few years.

Kittel and Co. is doing a small New England tour starting September 7 at the Springville NY Center for the Arts which is a livestreamed event. The following day they will perform at West Whately’s Chapel as part of Watermelon Wednesday series. They follow that show with a Club Passim show on September 9th.

Jeremy’s band is full of world-class talent including mandolinist Josh Pinkham, guitarist Quinn Bachand, bassist Ethan Jodiwiecz along with Jeremy on fiddle.

Our segment began with the tune “Pando” from the Kittel and Co.’s latest release “Whorls” followed by “Bear Island Reel” from Jeremy’s “Chasing Sparks” CD. We finish the tunes with Aiofe O’Donovan’s “Bull Frog Croon” which features Jeremy on fiddle. Our conversation begins with a discussion of what the last two years have been like for the artists and what took place of the heavy tour schedule. The workshops, online teaching, and music study continued. Jeremy spent a lot of time studying film music. We also talk about the process of writing for a large orchestra compared to the ensemble pieces. Jeremy was commissioned to write for the Orlando Philharmonic during the past year as well as previously for the Detroit Symphony. Jeremy also divulged that he’s been practicing singing during the past year as well as guitar to increase his repertoire.

We finish our segment with Jeremy introducing “The Boxing Reels” from “Whorls”.

NineVoltHeart welcomes David Ferguson, “The Ferg”, legendary Nashville sound engineer.

In the words of Sturgill Simpson, “The Ferg is a bona fide card carrying legendary hillbilly genius and when he talks you better shut up and listen” I took Sturgill’s advice! Fergie told amazing stories from nearly 50 years of musical history. Our conversation covered a lot of the influential folks who called Ferg a friend. He spoke at length about Cowboy Jack Clement, Johnny Cash, John Prine and Sturgill Simpson! Our topics included the studio and house fire at Clement’s legendary “Cowboy Arms Hotel and Recording Spa”, Ferguson’s own Butcher Shoppe Recording studio and all things Nashville along the way.

We also found time to talk about The Ferg’s new album “Nashville No More” due to be released September 3rd on Fat Possum Records. As you might expect, he has a stellar cast of players on this release including Stuart Duncan, Bela Fleck, Tim O’Brien, and Jerry Douglas.! Margo Price makes a duet appearance as does Sierra Hull! So far, there have been three singles which are included in the segment. These include the opening tune, “Knockin Around Nashville”, Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times Come Around Here No More” and Guy Clark’s “Boats to Build”.

The story telling makes evident that Ferg loves what he does. With lots of humor, he relates Nashville drinking spots where the real deals were made. His intimate friendships with Nashville (and America’s) elite musicians like Cash and Prine are genuine and no mere “name dropping”. On the contrary, these legends are simply Ferg’s pals. It makes for a fascinating listen. I hope you’ll give it a listen. It was a joy to document and as Sturgill advised, I just shut up and got out of Ferg’s way!!

Tim Duffy, founder of Music Maker Relief Foundation, visits The Town Crier.

Bentonia Miss is the latest area Music Maker Relief Foundation has helped.

Tim and Denise Duffy make extraordinary things seem possible. The founders of Music Maker’s Relief have touched hundreds of lives in real and authentic ways. They’ve concentrated on partnering with mostly eldery, African-American musicians throughout the American South. For over 25 years, their organization has worked with these musicians not only in finding them gigs and opportunities but also by helping to sustain them. They could help with medical expenses, rides to doctors visits, sometimes just checking in with them to help their isolation during these tough years.

Our conversation spans lots of topics including Tim’s journey through his education and his landing in Winston Salem NC beginning this work. We talk about the many projects the organization sponsors like a tribute to Elizabeth Cotten; the Freight Train Music Series held in Carrboro NC yearly. We chat about the amazing artist Freeman Vines who fashions guitars into works of art from trees used in lynching in the South. Tim partnered with Vines in both a book of photographs and a music CD called “Hanging Tree Guitars”. We also find out the ever busy Duffy has an exhibit of his tintype photographs at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum.

Music Maker has helped hundreds of artists, recorded more than 7000 performances, released 2500 songs on CD and just last year wrangled over one thousand grants to these donor artists exceeding $200,000.

Tim Duffy’s energy and enthusiasm is clear when he speaks about his organization’s mission, his relationships built with these artists and the work ahead. People interested in exploring his organizations work can find more at musicmaker.org. Give this conversation a listen, it’s already a Town Crier favorite.

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.