Written by Eddie Ferranti
Apr 21, 2014 at 08:16 PM
A milestone arrived in my life recently when I turned 60 years young. To celebrate I did what I like best-go see live music! It started with The Hollisters, then Randy Weeks, followed by Mike Stinson and then the grand finale of 3 days in Kansas City for the 26th Annual Folk Alliance International. Rose and I attended the one in 2012 in Memphis and eagerly awaited this year’s blow out. It was certainly that and then some. If you’ve never been, it is a non-stop blur of music starting at 2pm in the afternoon and basically ending when you want it to end in the wee hours of the morning. Attending gigs in showcase format in the eleven rooms provided was a lot indeed, but follow that with in hotel room shows sitting on beds and the like is mind boggling. You HAVE to do a “scorecard” in advance to keep up with the format and get the best bang for your buck. That being said, it is impossible to talk about all we saw, but there was very little that we did not care for. HMR has decided to do a “Baker’s Dozen” of the acts that grabbed us the most over the conference. Here ya go!


ImageThis duo based in Nashville via New York City we’re a charming down to earth and fun team. HMR was welcomed with open open arms to there “residence” Room 750 since we did an advance review on their current CD “Riverman’s Daughter” http://www.houstonmusicreview.com/mambo/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2347&Itemid=3. In the said room they had a back drop of a boat house that they lived in Louisiana on to get their inspirations to do the album. Alyssa has a tough ass sassy brassy persona and it blends well with hubbie Doug Graham’s laid back delivery. Their hats were cool all weekend, too! They’ve known each other since age seven and the chemistry is sweet indeed. Their soulful bluegrass delivery mixed with Americana rock scores major on tunes like “Band In The River”, “I Miss Your Bones”, “Loved By A Good Man” and mellow smooth “Jericho”. Loved their ability to bring there tales of love, loss and yearning for more in a fast paced killer style. http://www.thegrahamsmusic.net/ is where to find this up and coming band that HMR will follow major.


We had seen this Nashville based band once in Conroe in 2013 at Dosey Doe Music Cafe and were very impressed. To say this outfit is a folk band is quite a stretch to me. Rock is more of a fit and they do it so effortlessly led by the multi-talented Tom Pryor on pedal steel and electric guitar. They have quickly risen to the forefront of the Americana scene for good reason. Killer highlights were Willie P. Bennett tune “Start of Day” and steamin’ “Smokestack Lady” that had people dancing in the ballroom! The frontman, Cruz Contreras, keeps the whole ball of lush harmonies and brazen badassness together with Trisha Gene Brady’s tender vocals, Robert Richards on bass and Bowman Townsend on drums rounding out this tight knit band. “Runaway Freeway Blues” is their latest album and this hard touring squad is going nowhere but up for damn sure. www.keithcase.com/theblacklillies.com


Talk about another band that is anything but folk and it is this sister trio out of Stockholm, Sweden. Greta, Stella and Sunniva Bondesson are now based in Nashville and should only enhance their popularity. HMR has been hitched to their wagon for 3 years now and they seem to be getting even better. Their wild banshee approach to a stage show is quite impressive and the packed ballroom even seemed a bit stunned at the energy these three lasses churned out. “Banjopunk” is one of many monikors they’ve been tagged with and their soaring harmonies rock ya back on your heels. “Little Wild Life” is their third album coming out very soon and I’m sure these attractive women are going to march all over the USA leaving rubble in their wake! http://www.baskery.com/


ImageThis band revolves around the husband and wife duo of J.T. Nero and Allison Russell. HMR had already been big fans of AR’s project of “Po’ Girl” and found her collaboration with Nero was very nice. It had an energetic familiar yet strange sound mixing guitars with her clarinet. His rough country soul with her silky smooth hopping tenderness is an awesome pairing. Strong vocals and upbeat licks were abundant on tunes “Prairie Lullaby”, “All the City Girls”, “Good Dream” and rambunctious “Trampoline” ! They had an infectious rapport with the audience and are a non-stop touring bunch even with a seven week new born in tow. Now that is dedication folks and HMR will “flock” to see these Birds again. http://www.birdsofchicago.com/


This band is based out of Nashville and the duo of Doug and Telisha Williams hails from Virginia. Their set came aggressively right at you from the get go with Talisha’s stand up bass twirling and Doug’s guitar humming. Wild Ponies sound had a definite sexy rockin’ Patsy Cline feel to it and at the same time very cute countryness to it. “Trouble Looks Good On You” was smokin’ hot along with “Truth Is”. Their debut CD, “Things That Used To Shine” has a very live feel to it because it was done in 3 days without use of overdubs by producer Ray Kennedy who has been a Grammy winner for his past works. These heavy hitter roots rockers got our attention major and deserve yours, too folks. http://www.wildponies.net/


ImageThis Austin, Texas duo has been on HMR’s radar since their aggressive Americana sound tickled our fancy at the SWRFA in 2012. Stuart and Hillary Adamson can bring a tear to your eye with their sincere lyrics while rockin’ your butt right out of your seat! They have a nasty in a good way delivery that oozes with a sultry gumbo flavor. Hillary had a cool dress on with cherries on it and might as well been cherry bombs the way the action exploded off the stage. No better example is tune “2 Wrongs Make a Right” ! It is so refreshing to see a team that shares a true love for one another and wants you see their hearts beating while they wear them on their sleeves! A SUPER NO BRAINER TO GOBBLE YA UP SOME FLYIN’ A’S WHENEVER THEY ARE IN EARSHOT. http://www.flyinas.com/


BAJ has been a friend to HMR since we first caught him in Memphis at FAI 2012. He has a new album coming out this summer titled “Out of the City” and he was featuring it throughout the weekend. High Viscosity is the title of the 3-piece band he’s featuring and it has a lot of his self jamming major with an Allman Brothers feel to it. Killer cuts were “Meet Me in the River” with smoking electric riffs, Title cut which spoke of trying to find the country these days to see the stars, “Fetch A Pail” a song he co-wrote with Nashville’s Jonnell Mosser, “Carolina’s Dream” where BAJ absolutely killed it with an acoustic dreamy sound and the first cut off the new album “See You Wasting Time” where down south jammin’ took over. You can’t meet a more down-to-earth dude like Jones and here’s hoping his CD takes off and helps him get where he deserves to be. http://www.brianashleyjones.com/


This cat out of Okemah, Oklahoma is blazing a hot trail akin to other great songwriters from that state named Leon Russell and Jimmy Webb. His last album, “From The Ground Up”, got him a Grammy nomination in 2012 and was one of the most highly rated debuts of all time. He literally packed the big Century C room and had bad ass Mike Meadows on percussion with him. He has the ability to be spellbounding the way he churns his songs out in a screeching poignant manner that has to be seen to feel the passion. HMR has seen him a lot and we are excited that he has another album titled “Songs” coming out in May 2013. His star is burning bright and we wish this off-the-wall character all the best down the musical road of life. http://www.johnfullbrightmusic.com/


This trio out of Vancouver,BC Canada was yet another band that was anything but folk. Greasy lightning hot rock oozed from the stage as they blasted their way thru their set ! This act had the yougest crowd that we saw in attendance the whole weekend at FAI. Their second album, “LeBoeuf”, was released in April of 2013 and the band tour back and forth across Canada a bunch and rocked many summer festivals, too. “Classic Car” was a good example of the swagger and grit these guys bring to their songs and it is a small wonder why they’ve been linked to folks by the names of JJ Cale, Townes Van Zandt and Hank Williams to describe their bad to the bone sound. All I know is there is something in the water up there north of the border. Only shame is HMR doesn’t get up there often to catch awesome talents like these gents. Keep rockin’ and the rest will take care of itself. http://www.stevebrockley.com/


ImageYet another killer Canadian outfit whom we had the pleasure of seeing at FAI 2012. Down to earth bloakes who have a “Werewolf” growlin’ type sound that is infectious and their jams out of nowhere are common place. They can do ballads and then self described stomping scrap yard funk all in one ball of wax. a rare combination of rawness linked with experienced talent that grabs on to you and won’t let go. Excuse me titles are off, but cool cuts were “There Ain’t No One”, “Pretty Mona”, “Once I Was a Rich Man” and thumpin’ bad ass “Cold in Kentucky” ! Seeing this band live is beyond a passionate display and again I wished they’d stray south a bit more which they said they were going to try and do. Keep your fingers croosed and go catch ’em. http://www.crookedbrothers.com/


This sweetie based out of Austin, Texas is yet another HMR keeper that we saw first at Almost Austin House Concerts and then in Memphis at FAI 2012. Her soulful definitive strong voice has a captivating nature to it and she was found playing all over the place with many different artists including Sam Baker, Jimmy Lafave and her hubbie Danny Schmidt. Her showcase was with three other ladies called the “Greats” and it was. Her debut release on Red House Records, “Call It My Garden”, vaulted her to critical acclaim such as Texas Music Magazine’s Artist of the year . The compassionate sound that is Carrie Elkin is a heart warming experience indeed. She draws comparisons to Patti Griffin and her one song almost brought my Rose to tears in a showcase bedroom gig. Hoping to run her down way more often that we have for sure. http://www.carrieelkin.com/


ImageThis four sister act out of Fort Collins, Colorado was thee find of FAI for HMR. Whether on stage in packed Century C room or sitting on a bed soaking them in the experience was hypnotic and wonderful. They derive their name from the first letter of each sister and each plays with unbridaled passion. Soaring footloose and fluffy harmonies and face-off jams with mandolin and fiddle rocked. They made my draw drop open when they laid out Led Zepplin’s “The Battle of Evermore” and nailed it major. Other monster tunes were “Rooftop” complete with Liza doing a rap and killer lyrics like “Call me crazy or call my bluff….givin’ it cuz I can’t give up!” Unpredictable and stunning were other adjectives that came to mind and HMR all over these young up and coming lasses. http://www.shelmusic.com/


Melbourne,NSW Australia made the Baker’s Dozen in the form of Jordie Lane. He had a deep sounding smokey blues voice which resonated quite nicely. He showed to be a truly diverse individual with an attractive lady friend (never caught her name) in a big white furry hat who played “everything” including her necklace and a guitar case! They harmonized wonderfully and both had an incredible sense of humor that created belly laughs. “Blood Thinner” is latest release and tunes “Feet Fall” and “I Could Die Looking At You” were winners like this dude is. He’s accomplished a lot for somebody in their 20’s and is based in LA these days so exposure should not be a problem going forward. http://www.jordielane.com/


Here’s a list of groups and people who touched us in a warm way and just didn’t have enough time to cover all of them, but love them none the less!

David Olney , Sergio Webb, Mary Sack, Will Sexton, Bill Kirchen, Matt Harlan, Mike Meadows, Irene Kelley, The Roys, Anne McCue, F5Four, Belle Plaine, Ellis, Moors and McCumber, Sweet Low Down, Suzie Vinnick, Evie Laden, Reed Turner, Dalis Allen, Brian & Pam Kalinec, Rouse House Concerts, Libby Koch, Barnes House Concerts, Midnight Roses, Jenni Findlay, Ordinary Elephant and Whiskey Shivers!

In closing, it is amazing what a wonderful event all the Folk Alliances are. Seminars, Exhibit Halls, Silent Auctions and even Yoga & Tai Chi are offered throughout the Conference! Hugging and smiling NEVER gets old with all the caring people that are associated with the event. The Westin Hotel were very fine hosts and their staff deserves a big hugaroo, too. Plus all the volunteers who work behind the scenes stuffing tote bags and giving directions to all the showcases and such.

Louis Jay Meyers, Executive Director of FAI, probably sums it up best with: “The goal of FAI is to grow and strengthen the Folk and Traditional music community by making sure there are more and more people playing and sharing music. The future looks bright.” Hell I need my sunglasses on right now bro! God Bless and HMR hopes we’ve shed a bit of light to the experience that is Folk Alliance International. Go see for yourself and do not forget the Regional Folk Alliances held in between. HMR all over SWRFA in Austin in September!