Cornbread Cafe #12

We celebrate the first inaugural Arcadia Folk Festival with mighty tunes from Laura Berman, Faint Peter, Divining Rod, Birds of Chicago, Darlingside, Heather Maloney, The Nields, and Celine Schmink.

host, the mongrel
music editor, Serafina

Welcome! brothers and sisters to Episode #12—of the Cornbread Cafe, a fine place to get your fill of some of very best in American Roots music. Cazh and cozy, we’re located at the five-corners of Blues, Americana, Folk, Country, and Gospel. And sometimes you can catch an express to Rock ’n’ Roll at the bus stop across the way. *

I am the mongrel, and it does my heart good to see you back again so soon. And it looks like you brought some friends with you. Thanks for dropping in. Always room in the Cafe for folks with great taste in music.
We’re sliding back into our long format this episode to celebrate the inauguration of America’s newest American Roots fest, the Arcadia Folk Festival, taking place in Massachusetts’ Pioneer Valley September 30.

Not only do we have a block of great tunes from some of artists who’ll be performing there, but we speak both with Signature Sound’s Jim Olson, organizer of the event AND Jonah Keane, Sanctuary Director for Mass Audubon at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary. Both Jim and Jonah explain why this enchanting, verdant refuge makes for a setting that’s more than just a gorgeous backdrop.

Featured in this Episode
Laura Berman • “Come As You Are” • Home
Faint Peter • “Waiting” • Redoubt
Divining Rod • “Darling Down The Row” • single
Birds of Chicago • “Farewell Tenderhearts” • American Flowers
Darlingside • “Singularity” • Extralife
Heather Maloney • “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” • Just Enough Sun
The Nields • “Love Love Love” • XVII
Celine Schmink • “Solo Rider” • Faded Wanderings

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At the tail end of this episode, we’ll introduce a new, occasional feature of the show we’re calling “American-a Expat.”

Right now, though, let’s tuck in to this musical spread by spinning a tune that landed in my inbox just this week. You know I love sharing an early taste of albums before anyone else has heard them. This track will appear on Laura Berman’s January 2019 release, Home, and I think it’s a good indication you’re going to love the whole album when it drops. Here’s “Come as You Are,” on the Cornbread Cafe.

Laura Berman

Laura Berman; photo courtesy
Laura Berman; photo courtesy

“Singer and songwriter Laura Berman has reached acclaim for her soul-touching vocal and honest, lyrical poetry. She has performed alongside Rev. Michael Beckwith at the Agape International Spiritual Center, Authors Neale Donald Walsch and Marianne Williamson, and sang backup for Grammy Award Winner Enya on the David Letterman Show. Laura also is a session singer and has a featured song in the children’s film and accompanying soundtrack of “Clifford’s Really Big Movie.” She is currently recording her fifth studio album with producer and multi-instrumentalist Roman Morykit, one half of the musical duo, Gypsy Soul, with the album release set for January 2019.”

Divining Rod

That was “Darling Down the Row,” a new single from Divining Rod, the new project of former Rogers Sisters member, Miyuki Furtado. It’s a hypnotic song in its own right, but there’s a story attached, and I encourage you to follow the link in the show notes to Diving Rod’s website for an explanation in his own words.

“What do you do after your band has toured the world several times over? Break up and head back home.” That’s just what Hawaiian born, Brooklynite Miyuki Furtado did after a show in Oslo, Norway when he exited The Rogers Sisters (Too Pure/Beggars Group), the much touted NY trio in which he sang, played bass and wrote many of their winning songs. The band had weathered a grueling decade of recording and nearly non-stop touring around the globe. “We were completely exhausted. After our last show in Oslo, we went our separate ways.’

He returned home just in time for the birth of his daughter then promptly moved out of his beloved Brooklyn neighborhood with his family for greener (and less crowded) pastures. “My wife and I bought a small, beat up house north of the city and settled down.” Between repairing the house and raising his child he began work on his current project: the folk, country and soul tinged psych-rock band, Divining Rod.

Faint Peter

Joseph De Natale records and performs as Faint Peter; photo courtesy, image manipulation by Jason Velázquez,
Joseph De Natale records and performs as Faint Peter; photo courtesy, image manipulation by Jason Velázquez,

Before that, we heard another track, “Waiting,” from Faint Peter’s 2016 release Redoubt. The song conjures up some of the powerful singer-songwriter mojo that you usually associate with the likes of Paul Simon, Jackson Brown, or Van Morrison. It’s really all I can do to keep from inserting a Faint Peter tune in every episode. Give us another month—we’ll play another one. Or better yet, just go buy the release and support some of the best music crafted today. You know where to find the link.

As promised, you get to eavesdrop on some conversations I had this week about the upcoming Arcadia Folk Festival with two really brilliant, interesting guys. I’d originally intended to splice the two interviews together as kind of back and forth public radio-esque thing, but there just wasn’t anything I wanted to cut out, and I hate out-of-context soundbytes as much as you do, so I said the hell with it. Let’s just go long-form on this episode. How long? As long as it takes.

But let’s start with my chat with Jim Olsen, President and a founder of Signature Sounds, to find out how he found himself preparing for a brand new festival before the dust had even settled from the Green River festival

Well, I guess right now would be the right time to kick off a long block of Arcadia Folk Festival artists, so why not let’s bring back Birds of Chicago with another track of 2018’s American Flowers, “Farewell Tenderhearts.”

Birds of Chicago

Be sure to go back and listen to our interview with JT Nero of Birds of Chicago in INDIEcent Exposure #29.

Allison Russell and JT Nero (Birds of Chicago) will be on hand at the first ever Arcadia Folk Festival on September 30, 2018; photo courtesy
Allison Russell and JT Nero (Birds of Chicago) will be on hand at the first ever Arcadia Folk Festival on September 30, 2018; photo courtesy

Known for their “near perfect Americana” (No Depression), JT Nero and Allison Russell had recently finished recording their sprawling rock and roll circus of an album, Love in Wartime, co-produced by Luther Dickinson ( North Mississippi All Stars), to be released next April on Signature Sounds. Nero had a suite of six songs that didn’t feel quite at home on Love in Wartime. Having recently relocated to Nashville, they decided to throw themselves their own welcome to town party by recording an acoustic E.P. at Steve Dawson’s Henhouse Studio. New friends like Kenneth Pattengale of The Milk Carton Kids, and Maya de Vitry of The Stray Birds got in on the fun, and the Birds emerged after a couple days with the raw, spontaneous, and warm American Flowers. The E.P. is Love in Wartime’s cousin from the country, and it rounds out Birds of Chicago’s offering of healing, communion and celebration of life in a dark and troubled time.


Darlingside will be on hand at the first ever Arcadia Folk Festival on September 30, 2018; photo courtesy
Darlingside will be on hand at the first ever Arcadia Folk Festival on September 30, 2018; photo courtesy

And that, of course, was Darlingside, with Singularity, off their brand new release, Extralife. While their latest effort isn’t a concept album, there’s a really incredible flow from one song to the next that reminds us all why we still LOVE LPs. It’s obvious that a LOT of thought went into the presentation of these 12 groundbreaking pieces. To hear what I mean, pick up a copy of Extralife, do whatever you do to get yourself in the mood for some awesome psychedelic folk, drop the needle, and just kick back.

You actually CAN drop the needle, too, both on standard vinyl AND on special silver vinyl that comes swaddled in a mirror-board jacket, about which the band says, “If you were a unicorn, this is the version you’d want.”

I bet we’ve got a unicorn or two in the audience. Link in the shownotes.

“It’s over now / The flag is sunk / The world has flattened out,” are the first words of Extralife, the new album by Boston-based quartet Darlingside. While the band’s critically acclaimed 2015 release Birds Say was steeped in nostalgia and the conviction of youth, Extralife grapples with dystopian realities and uncertain futures. Whether ambling down a sidewalk during the apocalypse or getting stuck in a video game for eternity, the band asks, sometimes cynically, sometimes playfully: what comes next? Their erstwhile innocence is now bloodshot for the better.

Of course headlining the whole Arcadia Music Festival is Mother Nature herself, in the form of the eponymous wildlife preserve. This green event is happening because the rare parcel of land, teeming with flying, swimming and crawling critters holds a special place in the hearts of a lot of people connected with the music scene, including Jim Owens. When he got together with Jonah Keane of Mass Audubon, they hatched an idea for a celebration that has the potential for perennial sustainability.

Continuing our block of artists who’ll be performing at the Arcadia Folk Festival September 30, I have the pleasure of doing something I rarely do. Play a cover. I don’t avoid them because I don’t like covers—on the contrary, I think some songs cry out to reinterpreted at least once a decade. But I just try to spend as much of my bandwidth as possible showcasing the impressive original work of artists I think deserve a prominent spot in your music library.

Heather Maloney

Heather Maloney will be on hand at the first ever Arcadia Folk Festival on September 30, 2018; photo courtesy Signature Sounds.
Heather Maloney will be on hand at the first ever Arcadia Folk Festival on September 30, 2018; photo courtesy Signature Sounds.

I believe, though, Heather Maloney had her own powerful reasons behind her decision to include Bob Dylan’s “Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” on this year’s release, Just Enough Sun. By the time I got done listening to her rendition, I’d just about forgotten that she hadn’t written it herself, so powerful was the conviction I heard in her voice.

“Going in, we said ‘lets make a bad ass indie rock record with a sound as big and dynamic as we can, without compromising one single heartfelt lyric.”

Singer-songwriter Heather Maloney did just that on her newest LP, Making Me Break. Working with Grammy- nominated producer Bill Reynolds (Band of Horses, Avett Brothers), the two crafted and delivered on an artistic vision to merge Maloney’s folk roots with indie rock.

The Nields

The Nields will be on hand at the first ever Arcadia Folk Festival on September 30, 2018; photo courtesy
The Nields will be on hand at the first ever Arcadia Folk Festival on September 30, 2018; photo courtesy

We’re going to pair that anthem with another that carries an equally compelling message, carried on the instantly recognizable, soaring voices of Katryna and Nerissa Nields. Respected, admired, and just personally liked throughout the Folk universe, the sisters have managed to build an audience ranging from toddlers all the way up to well-seasoned Folkies who grew up to the sounds of Woody, Pete, and Joan on the phonograph.

From the Nields’ 2015 release “XVII,” we’ll hear Love, Love, Love right after Heather Maloney, right now on the Cornbread Cafe.

Something about the Nields that just restores the spirit. Maybe it’s the vein of hope that runs through so much of their music. Either way, they’re a natural pick for the first-ever Arcadia Folk Festival coming to life September 30 right on the border of Northampton and Easthampton, Mass. You should try to make if you’re going to be anywhere in the area.

And if you’re going to be taking little ones to the show, consider picking up the Nields’ 2007 family favorite at my house, “All Together, Singing in the Kitchen.” It’s a great all-ages introduction to the genre with 17 songs of memorable, meaningful, and playful lyrics that will next level your next car trip or family sing-a-long.

Americana Expat

Celine Schmink — Paris, France

Well, finally, I think I’m ready to unveil our newest, occasional segment here on the Cornbread Cafe—Americana Expat. In the 50’s and 60’s American Rock ’n’ Roll changed the music the kids were dancing to the world over. As this menace to morality spread, musicians on all continents injected the flavors, instruments, and attitudes into Rock, creating cross-cultural chords that continue to sound and reverberate to this day.

Interestingly, the rise of the American Roots scene at home has stirred up a similar appetite for musical appropriation and innovation today. I have received submissions from musicians in Australia, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Great Britain, and Norway, and just this week, France. Given that this show a household name on a planetary scale just yet, I think it’s safe to say that this collection of artists represents a tiny fraction of the great American Roots music born and raised in far-flung climes. It’s almost like the spirit of Americana is living the footloose expat life in some unexpected places.

And so I present to you, Americana Expat, an occasional feature of the show through which I introduce you to the results of a distinctively American sound when it goes abroad and takes on a life of its own.

Celine Schmink inaugurates our new, occasional segment, "Americana Expat," here exclusively at the Cornbread Cafe.
Celine Schmink inaugurates our new, occasional segment, “Americana Expat,” here exclusively at the Cornbread Cafe.

And for our first installment, let’s hear from Celine Schmink of Paris, France, who released the album, “Faded Wanderings” to critical and popular acclaim in 2017. This is “Solo Rider,” our first Americana Expat profile.

Crunchy guitars. Slidy guitars. A murmur that hints of a Hammond. A tambourine teasing us into the chorus. And sitting on top of it all, Celine Schmink with that irresistible French accent. She e-mailed me this morning to ask me if I wouldn’t like her to send an LP my way, Par Avion. Would I? I’ll post a picture on the socials when it gets here! I’m hoping you enjoyed this first installment of Americana Expat. Next episode, we’ll be hearing an as-yet-unreleased track from Italian born, German-based Violetta Zironi.

That’s it for this show. This episode’s music editor was Serafina. I’ve been your host, the mongrel, and I’m looking forward to sharing some more of Earth’s best American Roots music next time. So long.

* Note: Artist links provide access directly to artists’ websites or social media homepages. All album links provide access to song or album purchase options, often through our affiliate programs with Apple Music or, which help make this show possible.

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