FANTASTIC Folk February – A 10-song digital music festival

Mike Stocksdale – “Wishes and Wants”
-If you are looking for solid fingerpicking and thoughtful lyricism, you’ll enjoy this track. Stocksdale has a grasp of the contemporary culture in a way that we want our troubadours to have. He’s got a sense of wisdom not only in the chorus, a repeated refrain about knowing the difference between wishes and wants, but also a self-reflective sentiment with a lot of meaning. “Sometimes the truth don’t sound so good.” Yep.

Chris Capaldi – “The Long Winter”
-This is probably officially Americana, but I’ll tell you what this is a song worth listening to no matter how you slice it. The Isbell-Shires sound when the harmonies enter the track make it worth a spin. The salt of the earth lyricism feels like what Americana should sound like. If you’re a fan of the Steve Earle arc in Americana music in the past few decades, you will enjoy Capaldi’s down to earth style.

Gus Miller – “Perfect Fool”
-If you miss the golden days of Willie Nelson, you should add Gus Miller to your rotation. His song has that honky tonk spirit with meaningful lyricism. Heck, even his unconventional vocal style is a bit like Willie’s own signature. The combination all comes together for something really fun and exciting. The vibe got my attention and the electric guitar kept me interested.

Avocet – “Sell me to the wind”
-I swear Avocet are not from this era. They have this uncanny 60s vibe that I can’t quite explain. In all seriousness, they remind me of the magic of the 60s folk movement. The production is a bit more sophisticated than the typical coffeehouse folk jam, but the poetic lyricism and delicate lead vocal certainly conjure that scene. I am so looking forward to hearing more from Avocet, who are perhaps my favorite new band find of 2020.

Van Darien – “American Steel”
-From the first time I listened to this track, I couldn’t help but make comparisons to David Ramirez. It’s a songwriting tradition that is thoroughly folk and expressive. The lyrics cut through dark chord choices for confessional, deeply personal lines. Being a child of American steel (growing up in Western PA), I find this track personally very moving. It’s a really powerful song with a lot of depth.

Mara Connor – “Wildfire”
-If someone played this Mara Connor track and didn’t let you watch the video, you’d swear it was released in about 1963. I can imagine this jam on a 45 record, being passed around by teenagers. It’s got a bit more biting seriousness than a typical teeny bopper anthem from that anthem, but I really appreciate that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It has a distinctive California pop rock energy to it that makes it perfect resonate perfectly. This is a really fun song that combines the feel good 60s with a Joni Mitchell lyrical seriousness. I can hardly believe what I’m hearing, but I dig it!

Nathan Evans Fox – “Old Flames”
-The first time I heard this track, I couldn’t believe that I didn’t know more about Fox. It’s easy to compare him to some of our favorites like David Ramirez or Noah Gundersen, but Fox stands on his own songwriting. The writing is solid. The thing is, the song isn’t one of those stomach-churning tunes about missing an old flame. In fact, it’s a lot more genuine and reflective than that. Don’t listen to this song unless you’re ready to feel something in your core. It’s folk rock song with a soul.

Oakley Crosswell – “Back in July”
-Oakley Crosswell has got to have one of the best folk singer names we’ve run across in the past few years. Aside from that, the guitar and vocal are both really good. There’s something about the mix that makes Crosswell’s lyrics really sink into the song. The track is, ostensibly, about a broken relationship. The tangible sense of disappointment connects with me quite poignantly. This song feels really good, even though it is fundamentally a blues tune. It’s musical grief and it feels right to hear it.

Edward Doyle – “The Pain”
-If I could clone myself, the other me would just write full length reviews about great new music. He would start with this song as a selection from one of the best albums of 2020 so far. Doyle sings with this sense of conviction that is what folk music is all about for me. “But I didn’t know the pain…” I love the crooning, “but Iiiiiiiii didn’t know the pain” on the chorus. It feels lonesome and sad, broken and loving. It’s a ball of emotion, just like a good song should. I’d love to get Doyle and Rusty Clanton in the same room. But I’m content to spin this tune in all its sincerity.

Ben Kunder – “Berlin”
-From the very first chord out of the electric guitar, I was hooked on this tune. I know that might sound like an overstatement, but the balance of the tone on the guitar was right there. Once the vocal entered, I knew I was a goner. Something about it reminds me of what I love about early Dawes combined with this Matthew Logan Vasquez style jam band ethos. Once the vocal harmonies move the track into a more melodic space, I can’t help but swoon even more. This is what discovering NEW music is all about. It makes your mind and heart go wild.

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