One day, as The Mastersons were driving down that endless highway on the way to another gig, a song came on the radio. As they tell the story, it was a sort of a sort generic Americana tune with a songstress going on about trains and whiskey. Eleanor Whitmore, who makes up half of the duo with her husband, Chris Masterson, said, “If I hear one more fucking song about trains and whiskey…”
This was seed for what would become the title cut of their fourth and most recent record, 2020’s No Time For Love Songs. They released it, and they took off on tour opening for alt-country heroes The Jayhawks, which came to a stop after just a few days. While the record got some strong buzz, the pandemic killed all their momentum in 2020, just as it did for everyone else in a similar situation.
The Mastersons regained that momentum significantly in a star turn at City Winery DC recently, when Eleanor headlined with Chris and then opened for herself with her sister.
Langhorne Slim performs at The Birchmere on March 22, 2022. (Photo by Casey Vock)
I feel a certain kinship with soulful folk-Americana troubadour Langhorne Slim. We’re a couple of Jewish kids who were born just two days apart, and we grew up in neighboring states; he named himself for the suburb of Philadelphia he hails from, while I grew up just outside of Akron, Ohio. We love a lot of the same stuff: Dylan, Waits, Cat Stevens, Woody Guthrie, Captain Beefheart, Will Oldham, and Uncle Tupelo.
Langhorne is a high-energy performer, someone who is more than dynamic enough to capture an audience when he’s out there on his own with just an acoustic guitar. There’s a lot of motion in his performance and you couldn’t miss it at The Birchmere in his recent date there: He moved around the stage, he came out from behind the mic, he went into the crowd. Slim had a lot of energy, and I could relate to that!
Foghorn String Band performs a late-night lounge set on March 19, 2022, at the third annual Baltimore Old Time Music Festival held at the Creative Alliance. (Photo by Casey Vock)
Fortunate is the American city brimming with visionary artists who each year stake claim on a weekend to celebrate one of the most underappreciated, yet ubiquitous styles of music being played across the continent.
The third annual Baltimore Old Time Music Festival, held this past weekend at the Creative Alliance, has in just a few years’ time turned into an important gathering of some of today’s most influential fiddlers, banjo pickers, mandolin pluckers and folk guitarists.
Thoughtfully organized and curated by Charm City’s father-son duo of Ken & Brad Kolodner, the Old Time fest featured a packed schedule on March 18 and 19 as artists and fans filled the community arts and performance space for two straight days of live music and an impressive lineup of workshops led by some of the best of their craft.
Trapper Schoepp performs at Jammin’ Java on March 13, 2022. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)
Trapper Schoepp established his songwriting bona fides long before co-penning a tune (“On, Wisconsin”) with Bob Dylan in 2019. Trapper self-released his first and second albums, A Change in the Weather (2007) and Lived and Moved (2009), to little fanfare but by his third album, Run, Engine, Run (2011) things began to happen.
Run, Engine, Run was reissued by SideOneDummy in 2012 and Trapper found himself touring alongside Frank Turner, the Jayhawks, and Social Distortion. Trapper recently headlined a show at Jammin’ Java in Vienna, Virginia.
Easing into their third decade as a band, jam-scene pioneers Railroad Earth have been hard at work keeping their bluegrass soul and rock and roll spirit alive and well. On April 22nd, the next chapter of RRE will unfold with the release of their new album All For The Song; a 10-song collection filled with tales of biblical road-trip rainstorms, Louisiana getaways, and losing their brother too soon.
Trapper Schoepp explores themes of ghosts and rebirth, springtime and renewal on his latest album, May Day. You can explore those themes with Trapper yourself in a show at Jammin’ Java on Sunday, March 13.
Parklife DC is giving away up to 10 tickets to the show! To get on the list, leave a comment on this blog post below!
For Allison Russell, taking a chance and sending a message to Brandi Carlile’s Instagram paid off. It started a conversation with Carlile’s wife, which lead to getting detailed, track-by-track feedback on her debut solo album, Outside Child. From there, it led to yet bigger things: a contract with the label Fantasy Records, which released the powerful record to “universal acclaim” (per Metacritic) last May. It has been nominated for Americana Album of the Year at this year’s Grammys, and the standout song “Nightflyer” has been nominated for Best American Roots Song and Performance.
“I have a great team behind me,” Russell told the audience at the sold-out Barns at Wolf Trap recently. “That’s why I’m ’emerging’ at 42,” she said, referring to her nomination for Emerging Artist of the Year at last year’s Americana Music Awards.
Justin Osborne leads Susto in a performance at The Hamilton Live on Feb. 26, 2022. (Photo by Casey Vock)
When a musician has lived through real heartache and reconciled their missteps, or at the very least tried, it gives their words a resolve and a credibility that can immediately resonate with listeners hunting songs of substance.
Justin Osborne, the lead songwriter and singer of the band Susto, owns a voice with an undeniable capacity that convinces the listener to truly hear what he’s saying and how he’s saying he, to let it absolutely gut them and leave them with an exhausted heart. Susto’s songs amount to raw and painfully honest descriptions of love and hardship and that perspective is no doubt driven by Osborne’s own eventful personal journey. Susto explored that journey in their recent appearance at The Hamilton Live in DC.
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.