Category Archives: Folk

Psst…I’m Not Telling Everyone About “Bright Orange Air” by Inlets, But I Think You’re Cool Enough To Handle It (Note to Self: Why Am I Whispering?)

With my sleeping schedule all screwed up, I’m half watching the Olympics, half finishing up this song review that I started before my daughter was born in late January.  (Congrats to Ohno and Celski who earned silver and bronze, respectively, in short track skating.)

I wanted to come back to “Bright Orange Air” by Inlets because the song is so good.  To be released on the album, “Inter Arbiter,” on April 20 by Two Syllable Records, this track may end up being a well-kept lo-fi secret, but deserves a wider audience.

Here’s the video (released March 15, 2010 on Pitchfork).

Inlets' Sebastian Krueger

The Inlets music I have heard is so personal, it feels almost private…like the listener is poking in on an intimate concert for a few special friends.

Well, I’m here to tell you, go ahead and intrude, it’s worth it.

Why not give the song a listen, and we’ll talk about it afterword.

Listen to the song here

According to the Inlets press kit, “Bright Orange Air” is an ode to the psychotropic effects of municipal lighting. Here’s an excerpt of the lyrics.

Leading by a thumb
It’s still a branch of knots
That snagged into your hair
But you forgot where
Easy to get
Pressed into your photo books
It’s the way I’ll hold the face
Until the camera drops


“Bright Orange Air
It’s the people’s lines below
I can read at night
In the outdoor light
And I’m waving, oh”

Like I said, this music is pretty personal. The songwriter may be the only person who completely understands the lyrics…but so be it. Supported by beefy guitar picking, Inlets leader Sebastian Krueger’s distinct vocals expertly straddle inspiration and angst. Through lovingly placed harmonies and a nice Brazilian-sounding groove placed here and there, the track takes me to a different world and makes me feel lucky to be there.

For more details about the upcoming Inlets album, check out this article from Stereogum, where the song originally debuted.

As an added bonus, here’s an Inlets video of the song, “Roots on Sidewalks,” which will give you a great feel for the intimate nature of Inlets’ music.

Inlets’ web sites include the following:

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Have Writers Block? Hit Your Local Farmer’s Market – Laura Veirs Did & Reached a Creative Milestone with “July Flame”

For me, the joy of the creative process is up there with other key life events…say, feeling my wife’s prego belly as our baby does kung fu moves in utero.

That’s why I was tickled when I read a recent tweet from indie-rocker Laura Veirs. She said, “Somebody’s kicking me in the ribs! WTF?”

No, she didn’t get into a bar fight in England where she is currently on tour. She has an onboard band member (translation: she’s pregnant).

Indie Singer/Songwriter Laura Veirs

On the creative process, Veirs says in her online bio that writing “July Flame,” a song from her album by the same name (released Jan. 12, 2010, Raven Marching Band Records), helped her reach an important musical milestone.

July Flame (permission received for free download)

“I’d been in a songwriting slump at that time and writing that song pushed me over my plateau and into a new place where I was surprising myself again,” she says.

The track’s title was borrowed from a variety of peaches called July Flame, which Veirs purchased for canning during a July 2008 visit to a Portland, Oregon farmer’s market.

Starting with a lonely, grieving guitar, the song takes us on a journey through firework flames and unfulfilled desire. The track never brings us to the shores of resolution, but gives us hope on the journey – as testified by a choir bolstered with uplifting strings at the song’s climax.

Full Lyrics to July Flame

“July Flame
Fiery kite
Lead me through the night

“July Flame
Sweet summer peach
High up in the branch
Just out of my reach

“Can I call you mine?
Can I call you mine?

“July Flame
I’m seeing fireworks
They’re so beautiful
Tell me why it hurts

“July Flame
Ashes of a secret heart
Falling in my lemonade
Unslakeable thirsting in the back yard

“Can I call you mine?
Can I call you mine?”

For Veirs, the creative process didn’t stop with the song. Check out the beautiful “July Flame” video. (This may be the first time you’ve seen peach fireworks and wildlife roasting marshmallows!)

If you’re interested in learning more about the making of Veirs’ “July Flame” album, this video is for you.

The Hidden Meanings of Secret Heart

“July Flame” has several meanings in the song – a peach, will-o’-the- wisp and unrequited love (my guess). So, I have taken “secret heart” from the second verse and given it totally unintended new meanings.

  1. The Secret Heart (1946 film) – The New York Times describes “The Secret Heart” as “a psychological drama starring June Allyson as a disturbed teenager obsessed with the memory of her dead father and unable to embrace her stepmother.” Here’s the trailer.
  2. Paul McCartney’s Secret Heart Operation – In the fall of 2007, Paul McCartney secretively had a coronary angioplasty. Apparently it did the trick. He’s alive and kicking and recently wrote the song, “(I Want To) Come Home,” for the new Robert De Niro film, “Everybody’s Fine.”

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Bees in Music – Sex, Violence and Social Reform: A Review of the Song, “Honeybees Falling,” by Alt-Folk’s Sean Hayes

From the Wu-Tang Killa Bees to indie-pop’s The Bird and the Bee, musicians are irresistibly drawn to bee references.  And why not? The bee’s stinger is ideal for violent or naughty metaphors, and romantic songs come to life with a little pollination/honey-making innuendo.

Here are a couple snippets from the Diana Ross and The Supremes song, “Honey Bee (Keep on Stinging Me)”: “You started a fever burnin’ deep inside of me, since you stung me with your sweet love… This taste of honey you’re givin’ me has sweetened all my bitterness.”

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”false” link=”term=diana+ross+and+the+supremes&iid=4401624″ src=”a/a/a/1/The_Supremes_bdec.jpg?adImageId=8287268&imageId=4401624″ width=”380″ height=”291″ /] (Diana Ross and The Supremes know a thing or two about bee metaphors.)

Sean Hayes (the alt-folk singer/songwriter, not the actor from Will & Grace) takes musical bee references in a socially conscious direction with his single, “Honeybees Falling,” released on Dec. 8 from Sean Hayes Music.

Hear the song, which is a folky fusion of rock and reggae:

Here’s an excerpt of the lyrics:

“Who’s out chasin’ after money? Little mouse in a maze
Clouds above the buildings, pockets full of rain
Mystery surrounds us, mystery all around us….

“Go ask the birds, the birds, the birds
Listen to the wind, the wind, the wind
Go ask the honeybees falling
Listen to the breathing in…”

In a recent e-mail interview with Eleven’s Song Reviews, Hayes explained his reference to falling bees.

“Honeybee populations are dying… It has been happening for years and it’s getting worse. It is a very scary thing with huge consequences… Go ask the honeybees!” he said.

To Hayes’ point, in an August 2009 Time magazine article, “New Clues in the Mass Death of Bees,” author Bryan Walsh reports on colony collapse disorder (CCD), a phenomenon that has resulted in the reduction of nearly one-third of all American honeybees in recent years.

Read more:,8599,1918282,00.html#ixzz0ZRpeTznE

On a higher level, “Honeybees Falling” urges us to rethink our disconnection from nature and the sometimes harmful decisions we make as a result.

“Asking questions like scientists or mystics. Knowing we do not know. The grind, grind, grind, easy-to-forget money is a made-up magic, but honeybees are real,” says Hayes.

“Honeybees Falling” isn’t Hayes’ first venture into the world of bee imagery.

In the song, “All for Love,” from the album, “Flowering Spade,” Hayes sings, “I’ll gather your honey. I’ll plant your seed. I’ll be your harvest, leave you my sting.”

Listen to All for Love Here

He also released the song “Pollinating Toes,” on the album, “Big Black Hole and The Little Baby Star.”

Listen to Pollinating Toes Here

If you are interested in hearing more from Hayes, he is releasing a new album on March 2, 2010, called “Run Wolves Run.” Here’s a pre-released video from one of the tracks, “Garden.”

Additional Sources: and

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Getting to Know the Music of Dave Davison, A ‘Bass Ackwards’ Guide – Starting with the Song, “Letters,” from Cast Spells

Cast Spells announced on March 26, 2010, that the group recorded a Daytrotter session.

My first exposure to singer/songwriter/guitarist Dave Davison was this Tuesday, when label Sargent House released a split EP with two songs from Cast Spells (a Davison side project) and Good Old War.

Listening to the moving, sentimental song, “Letters,” I assumed Davison was a folk singer. Check out this link to the EP:

Then, I searched Cast Spells on YouTube and watched the video, “A Badge, Glass Room Sessions.” Seeing Davison with his bushy hair and bare feet, playing his acoustic guitar, and I “knew” he was a folk singer.

Turns out I was only 31 percent right (approximately!) about Davison’s folk leanings.

He is best known for his work with Maps & Atlases, a Chicago-based math-rock, prog-rock, nerd-rock, post-rock, alt-punk group (pick your genre description). While the members of Maps & Atlases acknowledge a folk influence (in an MTV2 “On the Rise” segment), the group is pure technical chops and fireworks.

Listen to the song here (Every Place Is a Home by Maps & Atlases)

Davison is also involved in a project called HEY!TONAL, which is even more experimental:

For those who are new to Dave Davison, I’m admittedly taking you on an ass backwards journey through his music. Don’t worry. “Letters” is a great place to start.

The honesty of Davison’s voice combined with his sweet but urgent guitar lines are powerful. Call it quiet confidence. His frenetic energy demonstrated with his other groups is subtler here.

Here’s an excerpt from the lyrics (couldn’t make out some of these):

“Dragonflies and gnats and their incisions in the water
And I remember when you laughed, the rise and fall of your stomach
And the dirt and bark all over your skin
In lakes and spitting watermelon seeds
We planted a garden beneath our kicking feet
These are letters to you
These are letters to you”

If you are interested in getting to know Davison’s work better, check out the new split EP and his many other recordings. Also, he is currently on the road in select cities with Cast Spells, accompanied by Good Old War and Hezekiah Jones. According to Sargent House’s Twitter profile (@sargenthouse), audiences are loving it. Davison will perform with Cast Spells and HEY!TONAL in Europe starting in late February 2010.

Web sites of groups of which Dave Davison is a member include the following:


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A Review of the Song, “The Diplomat,” Performed by Maria Muldaur: Dancing Like a Diplomat

(If you listen to this song, let me know in the comments if you like it or not.)

Here’s a test. Try not to dance around the room waving your hands in the air when you listen to the song, “The Diplomat,“ sung by Maria Muldaur. It’s impossible.

Listen to the song here

[picapp src=”9/0/1/c/16.JPG?adImageId=6110565&imageId=3341326″ width=”234″ height=”422″ /] (Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton – dancing like diplomats.)

How does Muldaur push your dance buttons? She has three things going for her.

1.  Jug Music – This song, from Muldaur’s new album “Garden of Joy,” is played in the style of jug music, a fun, old-timey style that became popular in the 1920s and re-emerged in the 1960s. Jug band musicians use instruments such as jugs, washboards, guitars, banjos, etc., to create a sound with a nice bluesy bounce.

2. Personality – On “The Diplomat,” Muldaur walks us through the average person’s bad day. She sounds world-weary like the rest of us, but with a mischievous sense of humor – kind of like crying with a wink. Muldaur’s vocal approach is the blues, and during the really good parts she gets all raspy.

Muldaur has some great lyrics to work with, compliments of singer/songwriter Dan Hicks. Here’s a sample:

“An acorn fell from a tree and tried to bop me in the head
I say to the acorn, is it something that I said
I’m just practicing my diplomacy
Everything is everything and it’s alright with me”

“…Won’t somebody just throw me a bone
So I can chew the thing alone
Won’t somebody allow me to roam
So I can get on safely home”

3. Roots Music Know-How – Muldaur has some serious roots music credentials. Born in Greenwich Village in New York, she was part of the ‘60s folk revival that included Bob Dylan.

Over the years, she has hung out, sang or played with a who’s who of roots music legends, including Doc Watson, Bukka White, Mississippi John Hurt, Reverend Gary Davis, Son House, Jim Kweskin, John Sebastian, David Grisman, Geoff Muldaur (her ex-husband), Jerry Garcia, Joan Baez, Allen Toussaint and Bonnie Raitt.

Muldaur has recorded over 35 albums since her first solo album in 1973 that included her biggest hit, “Midnight at the Oasis.”

So if you’re ready to take “The Diplomat” dance test. Check the song out on the album, “Garden of Joy” by Maria Muldaur, released Oct. 6, 2009, Stony Plain Recording Co. Her Web sites include and She has a fan page on Facebook.

Also, if you’d like to hear another version of the song, Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks perform the tune on the album, “Tangled Tales,” released March 24, 2009, Surfdog, Inc.

Sources: (bio page), (“Meet her at the Oasis: Maria Muldaur, Matriarch of Rock and Roll,” Al Carlos Hernandez, Oct. 4, 2009) and (Music Review: “Maria Muldaur – Maria Muldaur & Her Garden Of Joy,” David Bowling, Oct. 5, 2009)

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