Aoife O’ Donovan (Photo by Omar Cruz)
Singer-songwriter Aoife O’Donovan may have achieved her greatest visibility through her collaborative projects: the bluegrass groups Sometimes Why and Crooked Still, and the all-female Americana supergroup I’m With Her (with Sarah Jarosz and Sara Watkins). She’s been making critically acclaimed Americana records and performing as a solo artist for a decade now, however, and she is a compelling artist in her own right, a gifted writer and a talented performer and interpreter with a beautiful voice and a passion for classic folk songs and great songwriters.
Aoife’s recent appearance at The Kennedy Center was therefore must-see viewing for fans of American and folks music.
John Moreland performs at Union Stage on Feb. 20, 2022. (Photo by David LaMason)
“Play a sad one!” someone called out to John Moreland during his recent set at Union Stage. The irony here is that they are almost all “sad ones.” The Oklahoma resident’s songbook is filled with electric guitar-driven, minor choir-filled melodies and tales of hardscrabble, working class folks in America’s heartland. Moreland’s voice is gruff but tender, and he’s not afraid to bare his heart. Through his narrators, he reveals scars and vulnerability.
Though he plays a mixture of roots rock and Americana, Moreland didn’t follow the most straightforward path to this point. The foundation was there, in that his father introduced to the music of Neil Young and Creedence Clearwater Revival. But as he learned to play guitar and entered his teens, he followed a different route, playing in punk and metalcore bands. It was only when he was in his 20s that he began to gravitate toward the musical style he now favors.
SUSTO (Photo by Sully Sullivan)
Last year, Americana septet SUSTO returned with Time in the Sun, the band’s latest record, via New West Records. The 11-song set was produced and engineered by Wolfgang Zimmerman (Band of Horses) in the band’s hometown of Charleston, South Carolina.
SUSTO perform their new songs and more at The Hamilton Live in DC on Saturday, Feb. 26!
Hollis Brown performs at Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis on Feb. 6, 2022. (Photo by Casey Vock)
Few musical acts can pull off a cover album, let alone two — but when your group makeup is so dynamic and its skills so refined, bringing a tribute recording to life can yield fresh and forward-thinking interpretations of long appreciated music.
Hollis Brown, a seasoned indie rock band proud to be from Queens, is so distinct in its composition and so genuine in approach as to make that kind of effort happen with stylish nonchalance. Make no mistake, though — this group is anything but a “cover band.” Hollis Brown has recorded a venerated catalogue of its own music to position itself as one of the most authentic and astonishing acts to call New York home these days.
The Ward on Drugs performs at The Anthem on Feb. 2, 2022. (Photo by Ben Eisendrath for IMP)
From the late ’70s into the ’80s, two of the most vibrant strands of American popular music were heartland rock and the American underground. These two traditions were very distinct, and there was no overlap. The former, the more mainstream of the two, was the domain of rock gods like Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty, as well as acts like Bruce Hornsby. These artists and bands often employed keys and the saxophone, although they were primarily guitar-driven.
The American Underground evolved from the fast, aggressive, stripped-down attack of punk into the no-wave sound of bands like Sonic Youth and the shoegaze of My Bloody Valentine. Distortion was a key feature of their sound, and they tended to eschew large arrangements, often sticking to guitar, bass, and drums.
Formed in Philadelphia in the early ‘oughts by Adam Granduciel and Kurt Vile, The War on Drugs combines these two disparate traditions, with a heavily guitar-based sound that uses lots of distortion.
Joe Pug (Photo by Vivian Wang)
Midway through his set, Joe Pug stepped out from behind the mic and perform a cover of Tex Thomas’s “Deep Dark Wells.” When he finished, he commented, “there does not need to be any intermediary” between the performer and the audience.
When the pandemic put a halt to touring, the singer-songwriter pivoted to performing online once a week on Sunday evenings. While it’s helped him get through the past couple years, the virtual experience leaves something to be desired on both ends.
Keb’ Mo’ performs at The Birchmere on Jan. 20, 2022. (Photo by Ari Strauss)
Normally, when I can get a hold of a setlist before the start of a show, it makes my life as a reviewer that much easier. So I eased up a little when our photographer, Ari Strauss, sent a me shot of it just before Keb’ Mo’ started playing at The Birchmere recently. As I was to learn, however, for Keb’ Mo’, a setlist isn’t a firm plan.
An award-winning blues artist, Keb’ Mo’ is influenced by legendary figures like Son House and Robert Johnson, the latter of whom he’s played onscreen. Keb’ is a true raconteur, an entertainer who engages with his audience, exchanging banter and taking requests. He’s a warm, charming presence, and his shows have a comfortable intimacy between performer and audience.
The War on Drugs (Photo by Shawn Brackbill)
The War On Drugs has embarked on a North American tour in support of their fifth studio album, I Don’t Live Here Anymore, which is out now on Atlantic Records. The tour lands at The Anthem in DC on Wednesday, Feb. 2!
Red Wanting Blue (Photo courtesy Michael J. Media Group)
Midwestern Rock Heroes Red Wanting Blue Bring Passionate Longevity to the Concert Stage
By Mario Tarradell
Red Wanting Blue, armed with material from 11 studio albums, takes the stage for a powerful performance on Thursday, Jan. 27, at Tally Ho Theater in Leesburg, Virginia.
Tommy Stinson performs at Pearl Street Warehouse on Jan. 5, 2022. (Photo by Mickey McCarter)
When Tommy Stinson came to town to play some tunes at Pearl Street Warehouse recently, he probably didn’t expect to do so with a ribbing from his former manager, seated squarely in front of him in the audience.
But there he was on stage, playing solo songs and selections from his group Bash & Pop, and there she was at a table, serving him drinks to the stage, shouting requests, and affectionately goading him throughout the show.