The Low Anthem

The Low Anthem

The Low Anthem is a trio (now duo) from Providence, Rhode Island consisting of Ben Miller (vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, banjo, drum kit, pump organ, trumpet, E flat horn, and rack harp), Jeffrey Prystowsky (bass, drum kit, vocals, pump organ, and acoustic guitar) and Jocie Adams (clarinet, vocals, pump organ, drum kit, electric guitar, and bass.) Jocie Adams has since moved on to pursue a solo career, but the music I’m highlighting here features her.

The band shared on their site they are working on a new album, but I’m not sure of a release date.

The first I heard of The Low Anthem was their collaboration with The Chieftains latest album, Voice of Ages. I have been delving into their previous releases (latest was 2010) and I am beginning to see how they fit into my favorite type of music (Americana, Folk, etc.)

Sometimes their sound reminds me of early Bob Dylan on songs like Apothecary Love. Other times Ben Miller’s vocals remind me of Glen Hansard; like on School Days Are Over – their song with The Chieftains (below.) Enjoy!

Interview with Yellow Red Sparks

Yellow Red Sparks

After listening through the self-titled album from Yellow Red Sparks a few times, I’ve determined the biography on the band’s website describes them very well:

“The California based indie-folk trio possess a staggering ability to take seemingly normal circumstances, rewrite them with an uninhibited honesty and wistful beauty, and turn them into vivid scenes as told through their unique brand of cinematic folk.”

I had the tremendous privilege of interviewing Yellow Red Sparks in anticipation of their upcoming show here in Minneapolis on July 21st. Check out the interview below and come see them at 7th Street Entry next weekend!

How did you all meet?
Josh and Goldy shared mutual friends when Goldy first heard some of Josh’s songs that were circulating among friends. He instantly fell in love with the songs, tracked drums to them (which were just vocals and guitar), and then got Josh to listen after a show one night. Josh liked the addition, and Goldy has been playing drums with him since. Sara Lynn was a drum student of Goldy who he later learned also played double bass. The rest kind of just all fell together.

How did each of you get into music and when did you decide to make it your career?

Josh grew up in a musical family and played around with a couple of bands before collecting his own songs under the name Yellow Red Sparks. Goldy had wanted to learn drums as a child but didn’t start playing drums until his late teens. Sara Lynn also grew up in a family that fostered and loved music, and started learning classical piano at age six. I don’t think any of us really ever consciously decided that we wanted to have a career in music, but rather just knew that music was something we loved and needed to have in our life. We all feel extremely thankful to be touring across the country doing what we love and visiting all these cities we have never been to before, but at the same time,  we are bewildered and amazed at how it all came together.

Who are your influences? What have you been listening to lately?
We generally have a similar taste in music…lots of oldies like Ella Fitzgerald and the Everly Brothers and also newer ones like Elliott Smith, The National, Radiohead, Nirvana, etc. Josh grew up with The Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, stuff like that. We just all share a love for solid and heartfelt songwriting. We’ve been listening to the new National album a lot on this tour so far. The song “Pink Rabbits” is our favorite.

What does your songwriting process look like? How has it evolved since the days Joshua was a solo act?
Josh writes all of the songs (the melody and lyrics), and usually comes to us (Goldy and Sara Lynn) with a pretty much finished song. Our job is to add drums and bass or whatever other instrumentation we can to enhance the song. Sometimes Josh will come to us with some ideas he’s been messing around with, and then we’ll jam on them together and develop the song that way.

You said the songs on your self-titled release are each pieces of a larger picture. What would you say the theme of that picture is?
I would say it has a lot to do with overcoming and persevering through some heavy times. We all go through a lot of emotions, most of which are universal. The songs to me are very personal, but I think a lot of people can relate to them, because we have all felt overwhelmed by our circumstances at one time or another.

Describe your experience working with Grammy winners Ryan Hewitt and Brian Lucey.*
It was an honor and completely unexpected. We never would have thought that we would be able to include such respectable names on our first record. They are both geniuses in their own right and totally normal and down to earth at the same time.

What are your hopes for the future of the band?
As of now, the plan is to just start touring more so we can reach as many people as we can and just get our music out there. We’re also hoping to start tracking some demos for the next record this winter.

Anything you’d like to say to your Minneapolis fans?

None of us has ever been to Minneapolis before, so we’re excited to come to your city and play for you! Also, tell your friends/brothers/sisters/grandparents to come to the show! And thank you!!!

Here’s the official video for the song  A Play To End All Plays. I hope to see you at the show on July 21st!

*The album was mixed by Grammy award winner, Ryan Hewitt (Avett Brothers, Red Hot Chili Peppers, We Are Scientists), and mastered by multi-Grammy award winner, Brian Lucey (The Shins, Sigur Rós, The Black Keys).

Laura Marling – Once I Was An Eagle

Laura Marling

Laura Marling is an English folk songwriter from Eversley, Hampshire. Her new album, Once I Was An Eagle, starts right in with a dynamic, captivating sound in the song, Take The Night Off.

The new album features sounds and styles that seem to traverse many genres and cultures. The use of what I believe to be a sitar, classical guitar patterns, hand drums and Marling’s purposeful dissonance in certain melodies give songs a Far East feel. Within the same song, Marling creates sounds that are reminiscent of country western, jazz or even 90’s rock.

Marling’s strong, sure voice and melancholy lyrics and melodies give the impression of a person well beyond her years. There are times when Marling’s voice reminds me of Patti Griffin or Brandi Carlile, but she definitely has her own, unique voice. A male counterpart in some aspects might be Jose Gonzalez, but I would consider Marling’s music more versatile.

I’ve highlighted the first track, Take The Night Off, below, but I recommend listening to the whole album.

The Last Bison at 7th St Entry (Opener: Marah in the Mainsail)

The Last Bison

I found out from my friend, Alec, that his band, Marah in the Mainsail, will be opening for The Last Bison at 7th St Entry (First Ave) tomorrow night (4/8/2013). I’ve seen Marah in the Mainsail live and I definitely recommend checking them out. After listening through The Last Bison’s debut album, Inheritance, a few times, I’m confident it will be an amazing show.

The Last Bison comes out of Chesapeake, Virginia. Not only this, but it would seem from their persona that they come out of 18th or 19th century Virginia. The band has been compared to Fleet Foxes, The Decemberists and Mumford & Sons – to name a few – but they’ve done a fantastic job of developing a sound that’s not only unique, but polished, complex and moving. With elements of folk, classical, and other genres, the band classifies themselves as “mountain-top chamber”. I would say their ability to blend rootsy Appalachian folk and orchestra music make this classification well-deserved. Another interesting fact is that front-man, Ben Hardesty, started the band with his father, sister and other friends from home; giving the band an organic sound and chemistry that comes through in their music.

I found an artist out of Austin, Texas a year or two ago on NoiseTrade named Austin Basham, and there are elements of his music that remind me of The Last Bison. I recommend checking him out as well.

This video gives a great bio about The Last Bison:

You can check out the info for the show at 7th St Entry and buy tickets here:

Check out the music video for the band’s song, Switzerland:


The Chieftains – Voice of Ages

The Chieftains

The Chieftains are probably the biggest name in traditional Irish music and have stayed true to this style for over 50 years.

The Chieftains’ new album, Voice of Ages, features some fantastic guest artists such as: Bon Iver, The Civil Wars, Lisa Hannigan, Punch Brothers, The Decemberists and more. These artists lend their sweet melodies and harmonies to The Chieftains traditional Irish folk style. My wife came home from work the other day while I was listening to the album and she said, “I feel like I just walked into an Irish festival or something.” That is a great way of describing a lot of The Chieftains music.

You can listen to the entire album on The Chieftains website:

As much as I love everything from Bon Iver, The Civil Wars and Punch Brothers, my favorite guest artist on this album is Lisa Hannigan. She sings a beautifully sad Celtic song called My Lagan Love.

You may recognize Lisa Hannigan from her collaborations with Damien Rice (9 Crimes, The Blower’s Daughter, Cold Water.) She has an incredible, soft, yet strong and beautiful voice and it’s perfect for this type of music. I can imagine this song being played over a somber battle scene in slow motion; snow falling in the foreground, no sound but the music as we see warriors shout their battle cries.

Where Lagan stream sings lullaby
There blows a lily fair
The twilight gleam is in her eye
The night is on her hair
And like a love-sick lennan-shee
She has my heart in thrall
Nor life I owe nor liberty
For love is lord of all.

And often when the beetle’s horn
Hath lulled the eve to sleep
I steal unto her shieling lorn
And thru the dooring peep.
There on the cricket’s singing stone,
She spares the bogwood fire,
And hums in sad sweet undertone
The songs of heart’s desire

Where Lagan stream sings lullaby
There blows a lily fair
The twilight gleam is in her eye
The night is on her hair
And like a love-sick lennan-shee
She has my heart in thrall
Nor life I owe nor liberty
For love is lord of all.

Some of my other favorites from the album:

Web of Sunsets – Fool’s Melodies

This local band is considered psychedelic folk or acid country; which I wasn’t even aware existed until today. The genre completely clicks when you hear their debut single Fool’s Melodies.

The band is made up of Sara Bischoff, Chris Rose and Sarah Nienaber. I’m going to keep it short today and let the music do the talking. Enjoy!

Frankie Lee – Ophelia

Frankie Lee

Local Minneapolis artist, Frankie Lee, will be performing tonight at The Ice House if you’re looking for a good show!

I heard Lee’s song Country recently on The Current and his simple, Americana Folk style caught my attention immediately. His album Middle West came out today and I feel this quote from his site provides a window into the record:



There isn’t much information about Frankie that I could find, but hopefully we’ll be hearing more about him now that his album has been released. At times, he reminds me of Ryan Adams, sometimes My Morning Jacket/Jim James, and at other times Bob Dylan.

The song below was recorded with the Real-Phonic Band and portrays a little bit bluesier side of Lee’s music.

For a very traditional country sound, you can also check out another local band, The Cactus Blossoms, at this show. Their music is reminiscent of Hank Williams and other patriarchs of the country and honky tonk genres. Especially the brothers’ honeyed harmonies, the twangy lap steel, lively fiddle and two beat rhythm.

Henry Thomas – Fishin’ Blues

So neither of these men at actually Henry Thomas, but  they are blues musicians that played around the same time. I thought it would make a better cover photo than Thomas’s actual photo

Alright, so I know this isn’t Throwback Thursday (in fact it is supposed to be new music Monday), but in my defense, unless you are a true Blues aficionado, Henry Thomas will probably be new to you. More importantly, it gives me the opportunity to not only expose you all to some of the best music of the last hundred years, but also to give you a history lesson – something I’ll never pass up. So, Henry Thomas – for someone so influential to the evolution of Blues music, we know very little him. Born in Texas in 1874 to a family of ex-slaves, he hoboed around for a few years in his teens and twenties, recorded twenty-three songs between 1927 and 1929, then disappeared, probably dying around 1930. We don’t know where he recorded his music, where he died, or really anything about him. We don’t even know if the picture of him below is actually him (although we’re pretty sure). And yet he was one of the greatest early Blues musicians, originator of the Texas Blues style of guitar playing which he created by adapting banjo picking to the guitar, and his songs have been covered by Bob Dylan, Taj Mahal, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and the Grateful Dead among others.

Henry Thomas – This is the best and only photo known of him.

I picked the song Fishin’ Blues (1928) to introduce you to Henry Thomas for several reasons. One reason is that it is his most well known song having been featured on Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music (which I’m obviously going to assume you are all intimately familiar with). More importantly however, it is an excellent example of his use of the quills, a traditional African-American pan flute. Finally, I picked this song because it is one of the most clear recordings he has. However, it is not close to the crisp music we are used to hearing today, so remember that this song was recorded who knows where under less than favorable conditions over 85 years ago and forgive the sound quality.



Mount Moriah – Miracle Temple

Mount Moriah

We’ve highlighted North Carloina based band, Mount Moriah, before on The Passerby and I’d like to share their new album, Miracle Temple, with you.

You can stream the whole album for a limited time here.

I would categorize the album as Americana, Alt-Country, or Country Rock. At times the album is more upbeat and feels like 50’s rock and at other times the drum beat is slow and steady and the guitar and pedal steel give it that twang, which I love.

I think I Built A Town is my favorite track so far. This song has a Patti Griffin or Lucinda Williams feel to it – The kind of song you might expect to hear when you’re sitting down for a late night coffee and a slice of pie at a diner in the middle of nowhere USA. Listen to a couple songs, or the whole album (it’s worth it!) and post your comments below.

It doesn’t appear they’ll be coming to Minnesota anytime soon – but if you want to skip work Monday you could head down to Chicago and catch their show at Schuba’s!

The Pines – Be There In Bells

I don’t know what it is about March that attracts me to the kind of music I’ve been sharing lately. I think it is the grayness. Everything in March is gray – the white snow has turned to a gray slush, the sky is constantly cloudy, the trees haven’t budded yet and they are just plain weary of winter, even my chickens’ eggs have been grayer than usual. It’s just plain dreary out and dreary weather apparently makes me want to listen to grainy, subdued local indie folk. (Of course, it could also just be that I like this kind of music, but I’ll continue to blame it on the weather.) However, while dreary weather might be conducive to listening to Minneapolis based band The Pines, it in no way describes their music. With course, echoey, sometimes Dylan-esque, vocals reminiscent of a creaking forests, regional lyrics like “All the sorrow and the cold north wind”, and a panoply of muted instrumentals that accompany the singers like a slow drizzle, one could only describe The Pines’ music as … ah, dreary. But I mean that in the best possible way. After all, who doesn’t love a Minnesota March? (Or is that only me?)

Originally I was going to post The Pines’ song All The While because it seems to be more well known, but then I thought, “That is no reason to play a song” so I decided to pick out my favorite – Be There In Bells. It is fairly representative of the other music I’ve explored from this band and should remind you of Wake Owl and Great Lake Swimmers. However, it is by no means a mirror of those bands and is further proof that Minnesota puts out great music.

If you want to see them live, they will be at the Hopkins Center for the Arts on March 26th, First Ave. on April 18th with Trampled by Turtles (ought to be a great show), and at the Mid West Music Festival in Winona April 19th – so plenty of chances to check them out.

Be There In Bells

Late at night, watching the satellites
North Carolina and the rolling hills

Orion, draws back the arrow
Aiming at the heart of a scarecrow

Cloud to cloud, hour to hour
Dust to dust, flower to flower
I close my eyes, so I might dream
Won’t you meet me,
When the Sun stands still?
And I will, be there in bells

I thought I was in love once, I don’t know
I was over dressed and scared to be alone

The pain is there, for to protect
If it didn’t hurt then we’d all bleed to death

Black to black, reel to reel,
Heart to heart, shield to shield
I close my eyes, so I might dream
Won’t you meet me,
When the Sun stands still?
And I will, be there in bells

The Great Spirit rose over ol’ St. Paul
You are forever forgiven and all

I fell asleep and woke up in the sky
There was a light so bright, I could see through my skin
All the sorrow and the cold north wind
I had to go through
I had to find you

Dollar to dollar, broke to broke,
Ash to ash, smoke to smoke
I close my eyes, so I might dream
Won’t you meet me,
When the Sun stands still?
And I will, be there in bells
I will be there in bells