On the Radar for February 26, 2016 is a small chunk of the major talent that walked the hallways of Folk Alliance International 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri last weekend (2-17 thru 2-21-16). Putting all of the artists that deserve to be On the Radar would leave no radar left to blip. A longer feature on the talent and value provided by the Folk Alliance folks is coming soon, and as a tease, we offer a few of the artists performing on stage, hotel rooms, and stairwells. Quiles and Cloud traveled from the San Francisco Bay area to Kansas City, joining fellow West Coast artists from the Central Valley (Alice Wallace), and Southern California (The Wild Reeds). The Dead South follow their own direction from Saskatchewan, Canada as Delaney Davidson headed north from New Zealand, and Parsonsfield came in from Northampton, Mass. Representing the major talent that constantly passed through the Oklahoma Room is Parker Sampson from Tulsa On The Radar for Friday, February 26, 2016.
Carter Sampson (from the album Wilder Side) - The words of Carter Sampson are sharp, scenes clear and characters that seem very familiar to those walking between the devils and angels hanging out on your own shoulders. She delivers her tales on the soft roll of Tulsa rhythms on her recent release, Wilder Side. Carter was backed in her Oklahoma Room performance by John Calvin Abbey, and on her album with an equally stellar cast of musicians from the Tulsa area including John Moreland on vocals, and Travis Linville engineering Wilder Side, picking on various strings including guitar, pedal steel, dobro, and bass, as well as handling drums and percussion. Carter Sampson asks for “Holy Mother” to keep an eye out as ‘me and the girls are going out on the town’, asking for help from above to make sure they do not ‘go home with a guitar man, or anyone else in the band’ while she sees a horizon of dreams under an open sky in “Everything You Need” and blurs present and past into the request “Take Me Home with You’.
Wilder Side shares admissions easily on the title track as it opens the album with Carter Sampson setting the standard by making her life of a traveling troubadour the norm as her lonesome heart sits in the passenger seat on late night drives as “Wild Bird” separates her from disasters at home. Carter Sampson has a knack for penning her words as mirrors, allowing the truths of her life as support within the lives of listeners, particularly those for whom the road is not an option but a default. The flap of buzzard wings are like the tire wheels slapping for a “Highway Rider” as “Run Away” finds a safe spot within a lack of funds and security and a performer gives up the stage to take a seat in the front row to watch someone else put on a show in “Devil on the Run”.
Quiles and Cloud (from the album Beyond the Rain) - There is quiet in the deep emotions bubbling in the songs of Quiles and Cloud. Hard times and hope face the characters equally in the trio’s stories though no fall will leave a lasting mark as the tales tumble over gently billowing soundscapes. On their most recent release, Beyond the Rain, the three-piece (Maria Quiles and Rory Cloud on vocals and guitar, Oscar Westesson on Upright Bass) frame the songs with light touches of instrumentation that comfort and cradle vocals that add to their individual natural power by blending the tones of two. Guitar notes spatter like big fat drops of water on “Black Sky Lightning” as Quiles and Cloud offer a welcoming audio entry into Beyond the Rain.
The delicacy and attention to each note that Quiles and Cloud bring to a live performance are captured on Beyond the Rain, the sounds landing with the clarity of their birth fully intact. The harmonies hint at danger as much as the edgy hush of notes that lead the way in to “Deep Ellum Blues” as Maria’s husky vocal envisions a soldiers prize, exchanging a brother’s blood for a “Hero’s Crown”. Quiles and Cloud count ‘all the money in the world’ as the toll for the funky chords of “Feelin’ Good” as Beyond the Rain makes plans and excuses for the trouble waiting down the “Mississippi River” in New Orleans and watches from the shore as love waits “By the Rio Grande”. Rory Cloud sweetly sings “You Ain't Goin' Nowhere”, giving the Bob Dylan written, Byrds covered tune a quiet power.
The Dead South (from the album Good Company) - There are many ways to describe the hybrids of musical styles as bands blend and bleed sounds. The Dead South are a four-piece that add touches of Folk, Bluegrass, Classical, and Rock, simplifying the style of their sound down into one visual phrase….bootstompin’ acoustic music. The Regina, Saskatchewan band are Good Company on their latest release, greeting guests in with Canadian sounds that range from the Plains to the Maritimes. The Dead South play a western Country from North America, their sound ragged, gritty, like The Pogues if the Irish band’s characters went from pubs to the saloons that dotted the American West.
The guitar strums of Nate Hilts slash at the air like his lead vocal, backed with harmony from mandolinist Scott Pringle. The Dead South ride on the rhythm of Colton Crawford on banjo and kick drum as Danny Kenyon plays his cello like a lead guitar. The album follows a pied piper whistling down a doomed path with a smile on his face singing “In Hell I'll Be in Good Company”. The band offers “The Dead South” as a calling card with the beat picking as wind fills its sails while Good Company keeps “Achilles” moving quickly on a fast-paced beat and “Long Gone” boards a runaway train rhythm. The Dead South scratch out a laundry list on a washboard rhythm to define the “Manly Way” as black coffee, liquor straight, and chewing tobacco.
Delaney Davidson (from the album Lucky Guy) - The sound, and performance, of Delaney Davdison is equal parts organic and mechanical. He collects sound snippets during his live set, looping the pieces back to harmonize or crash against the sides of one another as they back tales of darkness, dipping and diving to find out just how low they can sink. He uses the Blues of his music as a challenge, tough love tones and textures surrounding skin and bombarding ears and minds. The guitar strums of “Gimme Your Hands” tickle against a scratchy throat as “Black Bo” pounds a rhythm into place as gnats of distortion circle and loop while Lucky Guy lays down “Five Bucks” on a drunken beat.
Delaney Davidson calls New Zealand his base, though his ten year trek to turn homelessness into a profession has taken him worldwide. He travels with a suitcase of tools to back his damaged Blues and deranged tales. A lack of options for a career was a glass half full for Delaney Davidson, and he saw it as ‘necessity is the mother of invention, and a low budget will lead to all sorts of beautiful stand-in potential. Whistling instead of violins. I love to see things take a step, and I think people like to see the triumph of a good idea over a slick production, I think it gives them hope and inspiration. Ultimately the result of hi gloss is alienation and a removed and depressed let down feeling of not being good enough. I say let it all go!’. The directions turn slowly like the rhythms of “Eastbound” as a broken jukebox spits out a slow dance on “You Don't Want Me Around” while Delany Davidson steps lightly on bubbles of notes and beats as he asks to “Show Me How” and mutters ghost harmonies to urge the journey forward on the thumping rhythms of a “Broken Wheel”.
The Wild Reeds (from the album Blind and Brave) - There are rhythms in the songs of The Wild Reeds. The drum and bass give the tracks of Blind and Brave foundation, a path to follow for the pawnshop full of instruments that are sprinkled throughout the album. The musical backing is ever-present, though what lights up Blind and Brave is the voices. Three distinct vocals harmonize to front for the stories of The Wild Reeds. Kinsey Lee, Mackenzie Howe, and Sharon Silva give the songs life, staging the lyrics with emotions that rise and dip within their delivery. The tracks follow dreams, like the humans that walk through tales of resolve (“Lock and Key”), first heartbeats (“Love Letter”), wearing new skin (“Recognize”), requests (“When I Go”), and exile (“Judgement”).
The Wild Reeds are an LA-based band, recording Blind and Brave at Red Rocket Glare Studios with Raymond Richards (Local Natives, HoneyHoney, Dustbowl Revival) producing. Diverse roots fly from the album in arcs that glide over rumbling percussion for “Foreigner”, roll and tumble with Indie Folk on title track as rock’n’roll guitars tease the California Country twang of “Where I’m Going”.
Alice Wallace (from the album Memories, Music and Pride) - Alice Wallace has power in her voice. She filled a hotel room with her vocal delivery without needed to turn up the voltage. Alice organically lets her voice drift and rise, reaching the rafters discretely mirroring the siren crooners of 1960’s Country, artists like Patsy Cline and Eddy Arnold. Memories, Music and Pride is the third release from Alice Wallace, the first on California Country Records. The album is a product of Southern California following the Roots of Alice Wallace, as well as producers Kirsten Proffit (Calico the band) and Steve Berns. The sadness of “Leave” plays on a mournful cantina wind as “Grateful” falls as softly as a Sierra snow.
Alice Wallace namechecks another desert icon when “Poor Cleopatra” burns from the sulfur left in former cooper mining hub Jerome, Arizona, “Luck, Texas” is a souvenir from a road trip for Alice and her band, and “A Traveling Song” balances the lives of touring musicians against the inspiration found in those making a difference in the world by their own hands. Memories, Music and Pride showcases the voice of Alice Wallace as a force, rolling in as slowly and seeming peaceful as storm clouds, letting go yet holding strong as the musical elements swirl around her. The album scratches out a beat with album opener “I Just Don’t Care Anymore” while Alice Wallace re-visits Patsy Montana’s1935 hit “I Want to be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart”.
Parsonsfield (from the E.P. Afterparty) - On stage for an official showcase, in the corner of a hotel room, or in a stairwell for acoustics, Parsonsfield put the same energy into their set. The band trade rhythms and riffs as a rapid as shuffling a deck of cards.
For Parsonsfield debut E.P., Afterparty, the band re-do five versions as covers with their one original tune using harmony and happy chord strums to bring the boys into a tight circle underneath an absent lady love’s window to sing out “Anita, Your Lovin’”. Mississippi John Hurt’s “Let the Mermaids Flirt with Me” is a rollicking sea journey that crests on bubbles of accordion notes. Parsonsfield fast track a stomping beat for the traditional “Hang Me” (made famous by Dave Van Ronk and the Grateful Dead), funk the strings up for Bert Jansch’s “Strollin’ Down the Highway” and gather on the street corner for doo-wop vocals to gently drape easy grace over the Huey Lewis and the News hit “The Power of Love”.