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Newport Folk Festival Spotlight

Newport Folk Festival 2011: Decisions, Decisions

Posted on by Eric in Newport Folk Festival Spotlight | Leave a comment

With all of the amazing bands at this year’s Newport Folk Festival there were bound to be at least a few scheduling conflicts, so the question still lingers, who should you see?

Well over here at Maimed & Tamed we are ready to help you make those tough decisions. The three of us who will be attending the festival got together and ran through the lineup with the mission to choose one band and one band only in each time slot. It proved to be very difficult, but after much deliberation here are our suggestions for your schedule down at the Fort this weekend.


PS 22 Chorus- I mean come on, who can deny these cute little 5th graders and their genius music teacher Mr. B?

River City Extension- Probably one of the biggest conflicts here, RCE or Typhoon? The Felice Brothers are obviously in the conversation too, but since they are Newport vets we expect that most people have already caught one of their sets. Although we chose RCE don’t be surprised if you see us sprinting between sets.

Freelance Whales- Loved them at Bonnaroo and although Gogol Bordello is tempting here, we just can’t afford to miss the possible collaboration with PS 22.

Delta Spirit- One of the few no-brainers for us. We saw some Pokey last year and Earl would be a great choice too but we can’t get enough Matt Vasquez.

The Devil Makes Three- Another tough one here, but in the end we couldn’t see ourselves missing what promises to be one of the most energetic sets of the weekend.

Mavis Staples- We are going to cheat a little bit on this one, Mavis goes on a half-hour before the Decemberists so we will catch a little and then scoot on over to the Fort Stage for the main attraction.

Decemberists-Maybe another set like this?


Brown Bird- As you can tell from our interview, we love Brown Bird so we wouldn’t miss this set.

Carolina Chocolate Drops- Anyone who covers Blu Cantrell with a banjo and some beatboxing is fine by me.

Trampled By Turtles- Check out this video and you’ll understand this one.

Chris Thile & Michael Daves- Saw Chris Thile last year at the festival with the Punch Brothers and we can’t get enough.

Middle Brother- This is like watching the folk version of Captain Planet, with their powers combined how could you go wrong?

M. Ward- We’re cheating a little bit on this one too, but with the word on the street being that Dawes will be Mr. Ward’s backing band how can you stay away?

Emmylou Harris- Amazing way to end the festival.

Newport Folk Festival Spotlights

Posted on by Eric in Newport Folk Festival Spotlight | 1 Comment

The bands are set. The Fort is being prepped. All the tickets are sold out. Two days left. Time to do your homework.

Go over 12 different band reviews and an interview with producer Jay Sweet to make the most of your precious ticket!


Newport Folk Festival Spotlight: Mountain Man

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Three angelic voices emit from my speakers as I double click on Mountain Man’s song “Soft Skin”. Molly Sarle, Alexandra Sauser-Monning and Amelia Meath are the three musicians who make up this angelic choir. Relatively new to the general public, Mountain Man has a small following in both the blogosphere and at Bennington College where they all met and both Molly and Amelia still attend. This album almost seems to me to be the product of a generation who has tried to move away from the pop and dance of the nightclub and towards the tranquil and self-reflecting atmosphere found in nature. It makes sense that such an earthy sound should come from a group that attends a college that is surrounded by the Green Mountain National Forest.

Mountain Man has a lot of experience playing with established bands in the folk scene. Coming off a tour with The Decemberists, there might possibly be a little collaboration between the two. The Decemberists play the night before and I cannot imagine a better set of back up vocals on songs that require that extra pop. However, unless you’re really looking to be locked into floating harmonies for 50 minutes, Mountain Man might be a little too slow for you at such an eventful festival.

Newport Folk Festival Spotlight: Emmylou Harris

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With 26 studio albums, 3 live albums, 11 compilation albums, 3 video albums, 70 singles, 12 Grammy Awards, and 3 CMA Awards, I think it is safe to say Emmylou Harris is the most notable and accomplished artist at this year’s Newport Folk Festival (I see you, Elvis. Gotta give it up for Emmylou though.) Her successful career (understatement of the century) has spanned over 40 years, during which she has collaborated with such greats as Gram Parsons, Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton, Mark Knopfler, Guy Clark, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Rodney Crowell, and Neil Young.

Now I definitely do not pretend to be the biggest Emmylou Harris fan, but I of course am familiar with her legendary status (as my good friend Eric put it) and I did have the pleasure of seeing her live a couple times when she was opening for Dave & Friends (Dave Matthews solo project) circa 2003. At 56, I was amazed at how much energy she still radiated on stage and at the purity and power her vocals had retained after 33 years.

In addition to an accomplished songwriter, Emmylou is also a master interpreter, often covering the great folk, country, and bluegrass songs of our time. The video below is my favorite illustration of Emmylou Harris the interpreter as she and Dave Matthews perform one of my favorite songs of all time, Nanci Griffith’s “Gulf Coast Highway”.

Newport Folk Festival Spotlight: An Interview with Brown Bird

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Last week we were lucky enough to chat with the lovely MorganEve of the Rhode Island based band Brown Bird. Of course Brown Bird will be playing at this year’s Newport Folk Festival (and for those of you in attendance at the lineup announcement party you will certainly share in our excitement for seeing these guys again this weekend) and we talked to MorganEve about the festival itself and Brown Bird’s latest EP The Sound of Ghosts. Check out what she had to say below:


Maimed & Tamed: Being a Rhode Island based band how important is it that the festival features bands from around the state such as Deer Tick and Low Anthem in years past?

MorganEve: I think it’s a great move for Newport to get local RI bands involved with the festival. I think it sets Newport apart from other festivals and creates a sort of pride for Rhode Island. I’ve heard a lot of people say they go to Newport specifically to hear new bands that they wouldn’t normally hear about, which is pretty cool. Newport’s reputation also gives these local bands a pretty great boost, which works in everyone’s favor- the bands gain notoriety, the festival has a hand in their success, Rhode Island gets a place on the music scene map, and festival-goers who see these bands before they (hopefully) get bigger get to say that they were there “when”.

M&T: You have played some shows with The Devil Makes Three in the past, any chance of collaboration at Newport this year?


ME: We did indeed tour with The Devil Makes Three earlier this year, and it was great fun! We’re looking forward to hanging out with them for the weekend, but I’m not sure there will be any sort of musical collaboration. We’ll see…


M&T: We have read critics who compared Brown Bird to bands like O’Death and your voice in particular to June Carter, and obviously artists want to create unique music that they can call their own, but what artist (maybe someone you have been influenced by) wouldn’t you mind being compared to and why?


ME: Well, I certainly don’t mind being compared to June Carter! Being compared to other artists is tough though, even when it’s a flattering comparison. It seems like a lot of critics (and listeners) need to compare bands to something they already know to make sense of it. For example, we’re often compared to Iron and Wine and Bon Iver, and we’re certain it has more to do with Dave’s beard than our music. Likewise, I often get a Gillian Welch comparison, and while I’m flattered by it, I think it has more to do with us both being “folk” and having slightly deeper voices, than what our voices actually sound like. I realize I’m going on a bit of a rant here, but I wouldn’t mind comparisons to get a little more creative. I have no idea who I wouldn’t mind being compared to, other than the two I’ve already mentioned. We’ll have to wait until someone comes up with a good one!


M&T: We noticed you recorded The Sound of Ghosts at Machines with Magnets, could you describe the creative process that went into making this EP and the importance of recording close to home?

ME: We wrote all the songs on The Sound of Ghosts over the winter. Dave was working at a shipyard installing electrical systems in large aluminum boats, and was often working outside in the cold. You can hear the influence of that sort of atmosphere  in several of the songs. It was kind of a rough winter, dealing with the insane amount of snow and the duration of the colder months, but was sort of the perfect atmosphere for writing, too. When we went into the studio it was Spring, and we were excited to be getting all these songs onto tape. We were at first just going to release the full-length album, but decided to rush-release an EP because we were invited to play in Brazil in April (at their festival Virada Cultural)  and wanted to have something that represented how we sound now. We also ended up joining The Devil Makes Three directly after Brazil for nine dates on the West Coast, and so it worked out perfectly to have a new release to bring with us.

Anyway, we loved recording at Machines With Magnets. Seth and Keith are exactly the types of people you want to be in a studio with: laid back, professional, comfortable, and completely willing to make us do a take over and over and over again. Being close to home was a huge benefit, too, as it took away the stress of traveling and lugging our gear around.


M&T: When we interviewed Newport Producer Jay Sweet earlier this year he talked about the importance of booking artists who make timeless music, in that their music is both lyrically and sonically transcendent of place and time, do you feel like The Sound of Ghosts fits into this category?


ME: I hope so! That’d be a pretty great compliment. I don’t think we had that goal in mind when we were writing it, but we’ll definitely accept that assessment if it’s given to us.


M&T: What does playing at the Newport Folk Festival mean to you given the artists who have played and the performances that have taken place there in the last 50 plus years?


ME: When I was growing up, I was always looking at the scene that was created by people like Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Joni Mitchell, The Band, Bob Dylan and The Grateful Dead, and I always loved how intertwined everyone was. It seemed like all these great musicians were all just good friends with one another, and this phenomena of a music scene just happened to build off of them. The original Newport Folk scene was a huge part of that, and the amount of history that happened at the festival is really something else. When I first started playing in touring bands, I thought there’d never be a musical community the way I imagine it was like in the 60s and 70s, but now here we are sharing a festival stage with not only well-known acts who we look up to, but with good friends and peers who are in our circuit, and who we’ll hopefully continue to play with in other venues. I guess you could say that Newport is continuing the trend of “making history”, and we’re thrilled to be part of it.
M&T: In a hypothetical world, you get to do a sold out world tour with two other artists/bands, who would they be?

ME: Oh man. The Black Keys and Secret Chiefs 3. That’d be a pretty funny bill but SO friggin awesome. (In case you aren’t familiar with Secret Chiefs 3, they are a band made up mostly of the members of Mr. Bungle, sans Mike Patton. Although if he were to choose to hop on this hypothetical tour, we certainly wouldn’t argue.)


Newport Folk Festival Spotlight: Tegan and Sara

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Looking to get a little double vision at this year’s Newport Folk Festival? No, unfortunately Foreigner won’t be playing any acoustic sets (something we’ll have to talk to Jay Sweet about for next year’s festival) but the twin sister duo of Tegan and Sara will be able to fill that need. The two sisters have risen to fame with a number of catchy songs and nonstop touring after joining Neil Young’s record label in 2000. Collaborating with everyone from the Pretenders to Against Me!, this sister pair has made a name for themselves as a great live act with a noticeable stage presence that utilizes both banter with the crowd and stunning musical prowess. Touring off their 2009 album Sainthood has led them to The Fort this upcoming Saturday.

Now here come the ever so bold predictions I have come to love making. T&S have toured with Gogol Bordello in the past, and as I am wanting ever so badly to see as many collaborations as possible I will keep my fingers crossed for a little cross pollination between the two acts. Whether or not this happens, it is great to see another successful act from the western Canadian city of Calgary which has almost become a musical crossroads between Vancouver and various Eastern Canadian cities.

I’m sorry but I’m not sorry for what I’m about to do to you. Good luck getting this one out of your head.

Newport Spotlight: The PS22 Chorus

Posted on by Caroline in Music News, Newport Folk Festival Spotlight | Leave a comment

A motley crew of inner-city 5th graders, performing nationwide at venues like The Academy Awards and The White House, all while being conducted by an ex-clown with cornrows.  Shockingly enough, this is not the premise for a feel-good children’s movie with a half-baked script (ahem, August Rush).  This is the PS22 Chorus.  If you’re thinking it sounds too Disney Channel Original Movie to be true (or at the least, legitimately good music), think twice, because these kids know how to put on a show, and they’ll be doing it at this year’s Newport Folk Festival.

Now there’s a chance you may not have heard the whirlwind success story of this traveling band of neophytes, perhaps if you are an ascetic monk, or if you never replaced your desktop computer that crashed in 1999 after too many games of Snood.  The PS22 Chorus is, you guessed it, a public school chorus of fifth-graders out of Staten Island, and they have completely blown up in the media over the past few years.  The Chorus is directed by Gregg Breinberg, their thirty-something teacher who is much more often described as energetic and handsome than as “an ex-clown with cornrows.”  Breinberg, known to his students as Mr. B., began video-blogging about his chorus in 2006, and they have steadily become an internet phenomenon since that point.  Their in-class performances have acquired a staggering 35 million hits on Youtube, where they cover songs ranging from the classic (Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide”), to the indie (“Round and Round” by Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti).

There’s no question that this chorus is one-of-a-kind.  But why?  Each academic year, the chorus changes over, and a new group of rising fifth graders auditions.  That means that each year it’s up to Mr. B. to pull amazing musicality and energy out of his new chorus.  The fact that every year he not only matches but exceeds the innovation and popularity of the Chorus might cause one to wonder what’s in that Staten Island water.  Are these kids sprinkling magical protein powder in their Hi-C and Capri Sun or something?  Nope.  Mr. B. has just masterfully fostered an environment of creativity and self-expression in his chorus.  The kids are encouraged to move and dance when performing, and they are also welcomed to contribute to the song choice process.  Mr. B. has flipped the idea of a school chorus on its head, making it an open and fun place for children to learn music (Dept. of Education, take note!).

At the end of the day, The PS22 Chorus is one of the very few musical acts out there that do it solely for the music.  It is not their “career,” there is no monetary compensation for chorus members, and their fame as individuals is somewhat transitory, since the chorus members are replaced each school year.  They perform out of love of the music, and it shows.  So, if you’re still not sure about these crazy kids, watch the two videos below.  The first is a really beautiful reworking of Phoenix’s “Lisztomania.” Lots of fun, spirited performances from the kids in this one.  The next is the Chorus doing an endearing, layered performance of “Generator: First Floor” with Freelance Whales.  These two groups will be an almost-definite on-stage collabo at the Fort.  The PS22 Chorus will be performing at 11:30 AM on Saturday July 30th at the Newport Folk Festival, Harbor Stage. I’ll be the one front-row holding an economy-sized box of tissues.

Newport Folk Festival Spotlight: Amos Lee

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With a plethora of options being listed for Sunday, I imagine all you Folks will just be buzzing around from stage to stage like a bunch of busy bees. However, I think you’ll have to rest your little legs for a bit starting at 3:25 on Sunday at the Fort Stage. Why? Well Amos Lee is playing of course! Amos Lee has earned his spot at Newport and it cannot be denied that he has one of the most soulful voices provided by the male talent at this year’s festival. Lee will most likely be focusing on performing material from his most recent album Mission Bell which was released at the beginning of this year to critical acclaim and national popularity.

What excites us most here at Maimed & Tamed is the positioning of Amos Lee’s scheduled spot on Sunday. Performing on the same stage, directly before Elvis Costello, is very reminiscent of Amos Lee’s 2007 tour in which he opened and played with both Costello and Bob Dylan. While we shouldn’t get our hopes up for a Bob Dylan appearance (Dylan is locked into Tennessee on his current tour during the Newport weekend); I wouldn’t put it past ol’ Jay Sweet to maybe nudge Costello and Lee on stage together for a song or two. Collaboration or not, get a nice patch of lawn and rest your legs because you won’t need them for Amos Lee to move your soul.

Newport Folk Festival Spotlight: The Civil Wars

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The Civil Wars is a dynamic duo composed of Joy Williams and John Paul White. The two combine their powerful voices to create an emotional dialogue between both the listener and themselves. As a pair, their harmonies reach depths in which the listener can find powerful bass with White and soft whispers with Williams. When striking out and singing alone, their voices again take on a new energy. Williams’ voice becomes strong and at times sorrowful, as if her spoken words of affection have fallen on deaf ears more than once. White’s voice takes on grave overtones which helps bring a sense of gentle masculinity to the songs which at times can sound as if they were made for the Garden State soundtrack (as evidenced by their track “Poison & Wine” appearing in the overly melancholy medical drama Grey’s Anatomy). This balance between Williams and White is undeniably found though in their 2011 album Barton Hollow.


So what does this mean for you Folkies out there? I imagine their set on Sunday will provide for a relaxing and romantic atmosphere. If they perform in one of the smaller tents (still tba) a dramatic intimacy will surely form between artist and crowd. Their lyrics of past heart break and the passions of love will suck those listening into their songs as if they were allowed intimate access to a stranger’s personal life. Such a show might provide a necessary escape for the couples at Newport Folk Festival who just wish to wrap their arms around their loved one and sway to the serene music.

Newport Folk Festival Spotlight: Jake Hill

Posted on by Eric in Newport Folk Festival Spotlight | 1 Comment

Plymouth, MA native Jake Hill isn’t playing at Newport this year…but he should be. His musical style fits perfectly with the rest of the acts at Newport and his love and appreciation for the festival runs deep. A proud festival goer himself, Hill’s music combines simple yet thoughtful arrangements with honest, yet sometimes playful, songwriting that seems to be made for the Newport stage. He draws inspiration from the likes of Tom Waits and festival vet A.A. Bondy, which certainly comes through in some of his music. Hill’s most recent release, Motel By the Side of the Road, features his unmistakable gravelly vocals matched with his uncanny ability to piece together an elegant folk song with just a guitar and the occasional harmonica. Even with its minimalist production approach, Motel finds a way to accomplish a sound that is full and lush by incorporating beautiful vocal harmonies on the choruses and strategically adding subtle percussion and melodic accompaniment throughout.

Hill’s versatility as a musician and songwriter shines bright on his work with producer Charley Hustle on their New Men Old Boys EP, a favorite of Maimed & Tamed. With this versatility comes a style and swagger that separates Hill from most other folk acts and that is exactly the kind of artist that Newport seeks to share with the world, one who has the confidence to make music that is built to last. Check out some standout tracks from Motel By the Side of the Road below: