Album Reviews

  • Album Review: Anna Tivel, 'The Question'

    • April 05, 2019
    • Kelly McCartney

    Songwriters do something really special: They take details of the world around and within us, and express them in words and music in order to connect us not only to them and their work, but to each other, if not ourselves, as well. It's an infinitely generous gift they have. And the ones who can turn plain spoken language into breath-taking poetry are the rarest of the breed. Anna Tivel has that talent. On her new album, The Question, she wanders through various lives and stories, noticing and recounting the tiniest of moments that carry the heaviest of weights.

  • Album Review: Caleb Elliott, 'Forever to Fade'

    • April 05, 2019
    • Kelly McCartney

    Transitioning from one way of life to another doesn't always go well. Whether that's shifting from religious cult to popular culture, side player to center stage, or classical musician to secular songwriter, not everyone can handle their world being turned on its ear. Caleb Elliott is not everyone. And, based on his debut solo album, Forever to Fade, he's taking all the changes in stride... and an easy, solid stride, at that.

  • Album Review: Luther Dickinson & Sisters of the Strawberry Moon, 'Solstice'

    • March 26, 2019
    • Kelly McCartney

    When Luther Dickinson rounded up Amy Helm, Allison Russell (Birds of Chicago), Shardé Thomas, Amy LaVere, and the Como Mamas to be his Sisters of the Strawberry Moon and make a record together, you can imagine that it was bound to be a wonderful and wonder-filled affair. With Solstice, the reality tops even the imagining of what such a collaboration might yield. Indeed, each of the band members brings so much soulfulness to the project that it could've rightfully been titled SOULstice.

  • Album Review: Hayes Carll, 'What It Is'

    • March 15, 2019
    • Kelly McCartney

    With What It Is, Hayes Carll continues to prove that he's one of the most gifted wordsmiths in the game. Read Kelly McCartney's review.

  • Album Review: Various, 'The Social Power of Music'

    • February 27, 2019
    • Henry Carrigan

    Since 1948, Folkways has been collecting, preserving, and disseminating the songs that illustrate the social power of music. In this this new 4-CD set, The Social Power of Music, accompanied by a lavishly illustrated 124-page book, Smithsonian senior archivist Jeff Place, director and curator of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings Huib Schippers, and program manager at Smithsonian Folkways Recordings Meredith Holmgren draw from the over 60,000 tracks in the label’s archives to produce a stunning and moving anthology that illustrates the transformative power of music across cultures and across social and cultural issues.

  • Album Review: Yola, 'Walk Through Fire'

    • February 22, 2019
    • Kelly McCartney

    Walk Through Fire feels like an artistic butterfly flitting about, completely unaware that it's supposed to stick to one style. Rather, it far prefers to cross-pollinate its listeners with bits of country, soul, pop, gospel, and more. It's an album that harkens back to the golden years of FM radio — the 1970s — when the Fifth Dimension, Dolly Parton, and Dusty Springfield all played side-by-side, and it does so with just the right amount of pomp for its particular circumstances.

  • Album Review: Nell & Jim Band, 'Steel'

    • February 21, 2019
    • Henry Carrigan

    Nell & Jim Band’s Steel delivers sparkling harmonies, clever songwriting, rapturous and rollicking instrumentals, carrying us through the ambiguities and promises of life, love, and hope. Read Henry Carrigan's full review.

  • Album Review: Brìghde Chaimbeul, 'The Reeling'

    • February 21, 2019
    • Devon Léger

    "The melodies are shaped slowly and carefully, each drawing out the richest timbre from her instrument, the drones rolling over and around the music like peat-blackened water running through a bog. It’s a deeply evocative album, it transports you. It’s beautiful music." Read Devon Léger full review of The Reeling, the new album by the young Scottish piper, Brìghde Chaimbeul.