Folk music is really important; it is the genre that tells our stories in song. Sometimes they are full of imagery and sometimes they are candid. But no matter how the folk song takes shape, at its heart there is an expression of deep humanity. These six talented artists have the ability to share human stories in this important way. Sit back, relax, resist the urge to do something else, and just listen to these incredible tracks.
Katie Ferrara – “In Your Arms”
-At first Katie Ferrara’s vocals feel a bit breathy and too light, but the more I listen to her the more I enjoy her for those exact reasons. She suggested a comparison with Norah Jones and although there are some other production elements here, I think the heart of the music is like Jones. Ferrara sometimes sounds mature, but there’s a kernel of softness and innocence in the track as well. “Eyes that see what they want to see…” From careful lyrics to an easy melody, this is a delightful folk song.
Thomas Hine – “Just Like Juan Ortiz”
-My note on Thomas Hine is a comparison with Water Liars. If you know me, that’s pretty high praise. I love the two part folk harmony on this track so much that it’s kind of embarrassing. It’s homely and endearing in the best way possible. From the rolling guitar part to the subtle chord change, the entire song is a joy to me. I could listen to this kind of music all freaking day. Actually, I kind of do.
Hazey Jane – “Force Feed”
-Contrary to popular belief, one can make folk music with an electric guitar (just ask Dylan). What matters is the story and Hazey Jane seems to be able to deliver that in spades. The song is about a person who doesn’t fit in. There are so many beautiful connections for it. The construction of the song is a bit of a chill rock song, but really what sells it are the moving and emotive lyrics.
Toledo – “Alstromeria”
-I have to admit I don’t really know what “Alstromeria” means, but this song is absolutely stunning. The acoustic guitar work and the layered sounds are so avant garde that they almost need a category all to their own. The sonic structure fits within folk music, but some of the shifting rhythms really defy categorization. The overall feel that the song conjures, due largely to the horns and the vocal balancing, is truly a new experience. I am so thankful for this track.
Swan Levitt – “Alive”
-Swan Levitt is a stunning singer songwriter. Taking a bit of what I love about Ben Abraham and blending in a dose of Marcus Mumford (maybe it’s just the accent) and you come away with a superbly talented songwriter. Levitt has the ability to layer seemingly simple sounds for an excellent folk song. The “where is your brother?” query strikes me as being metaphorical for more than just an actual brother. It’s a song that comforts but also discomfits; it’s a song that will lull you into movement, beautifully and convincingly.
Company Vacation – “Will I Go To Hell”
-Matt’s note on this one let me know that it sounds like Sufjan Stevens. I think that’s right on. There’s a soft, redemptive feeling to it. The vintage-sounding piano is a nice touch, too. The soft-entering horns are excellent for the overall feeling. It’s an artful kind of folk music more like something you’d hear from Ingrid Michaelson than some other well known folk artists. The central spiritual questions are also intriguing for listeners who want more than just another song about dating or drinking.