Acclaimed singer-songwriter Aimee Mann, named one of the top-10 living songwriters by NPR Music, headlines the American Roots Music Festival, now in its 8th year. Rising star multi-instrumentalist Valerie June brings her unique blend of Appalachian tradition, gospel, and blues. Many other artists round out this day-long celebration of folk, country, bluegrass, gospel, blues, Old Time, and intriguing folk fusion performances held throughout Caramoor’s lawns and gardens. Come for a day of discovery and good ole’ fashioned leisurely family-friendly listening.
Evening Performers 7:30pm
Daytime Performers beginning at noon
The Alexis P. Suter Band
Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons
More artists TBA
Aimee Mann’s Mental Illness, her first album in five years, will be released on March 31 via her own SuperEgo Records. The record follows 2012’s Charmer, which Rolling Stone proclaimed “shows off the more pop-oriented side to her usual acoustic tendencies.” With this follow-up, she returns to a more musically soft-spoken but still lyrically barbed approach, as heard in the album’s lead single, “Goose Snow Cone,” which debuts today.
Mental Illness shows off Mann’s rich, incisive and wry melancholia in an almost all-acoustic format, with a “finger-picky” style inspired by some of her favorite ‘60s and ‘70s folk-rock records, augmented by haunting strings arranged by her longtime producer, Paul Bryan. Additional players include: Jonathan Coulton on acoustic guitar and backing vocals, Jay Bellerose on drums, Jamie Edwards on piano, John Roderick as a co-writer and Ted Leo (who recently joined her in a joint side project, The Both) as a background singer.
On this eleven-track album, the Oscar-nominated, Grammy-winning singer remains a student of human behavior, drawing not just on her own experiences to form the characters in the songs but tales told by friends. “I assume the brief on me is that people think that I write these really depressing songs,” Mann says. “I don’t know—people may have a different viewpoint—but that’s my own interpretation of the cliché about me. So if they thought that my songs were very down-tempo, very depressing, very sad, and very acoustic, I thought I’d just give myself permission to write the saddest, slowest, most acoustic, if-they’re-all-waltzes-so-be-it record I could…I mean, calling it Mental Illness makes me laugh, because it is true, but it’s so blunt that it’s funny.”
In support of the release, Mann confirms a headlining North American tour this spring, with stops in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Philadelphia and more.
After several albums with Til Tuesday, Mann began her solo career in 1993 with the album Whatever and made a name for herself through her independent success and the founding of her record label, SuperEgo Records. In addition to her solo albums, she has appeared on many film soundtracks, most notably the song score for Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia, with “Save Me” landing her Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for Best Original Song.
In 2014, Mann joined up with Ted Leo for a more rock-oriented duo project, releasing a self-titled album under the name The Both. Other extracurricular activities since Charmer ranged from playing herself on the hit TV series Portlandia to performing for President Obama and the First Lady at the White House. Named one of The Huffington Post’s “13 Funny Musicians You Should Be Following On Twitter,” Mann has gained a diehard social media following for her quick wit and stinging observation.
“Understanding the order of time is important to anyone hoping to manifest a dream,” says Valerie June. “There is a time to push, and a time to gently tend the garden.”
Since the release of her 2013 breakout Pushin’ Against A Stone, June has been patiently at work in the garden of song, nurturing seedlings with love and care into the lush bloom that is her stunning new album, The Order Of Time. Some songs grew from seeds planted more than a decade ago, others blossomed overnight when she least expected them to, but every track bears the influence of time. See, time has been on June’s mind a lot lately. It’s the only constant in life, even though it’s constantly changing. It’s the healer of all wounds, the killer of all men. It’s at once infinite and finite, ever flowing with twists and turns and brutal, churning rapids that give way to serene stretches of placid tranquility. Fight against the current and it will knock you flat on your ass. Learn to read it, to speak its language, and it will carry you exactly where you’re meant to be.
“Time is the ruler of Earth’s rhythm,” June explains. “Our daily lives revolve around it. Our hearts beat along to its song. If we let it, it can be a powerful guide to turning our greatest hopes and dreams into realities.”
June knows a thing or two about turning hopes and dreams into realities. With Pushin’ Against A Stone, she went from self-releasing her music as Tennessee’s best-kept secret to being hailed by the New York Times as one of America’s “most intriguing, fully formed new talents.” The New Yorker was captivated by her “unique, stunning voice,” while Rolling Stone dubbed her “unstoppable,” and NPR called her “an elemental talent born with the ability to rearrange the clouds themselves.” She astonished TV audiences from coast-to-coast with spellbinding performances on The Tonight Show, The Late Show, Austin City Limits, Rachael Ray, and CBS Saturday Morning, and graced some of the world’s most prestigious stages, from Carnegie Hall to the Kennedy Center. First Lady Michelle Obama invited June to The White House, and she toured with artists like Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Sturgill Simpson, Norah Jones, and Jake Bugg in addition to flooring festival crowds at Bonnaroo, Outside Lands, Newport Folk, Hangout, ACL, Pickathon, Mountain Jam and more. In the UK, the reaction was similarly ecstatic. June performed on Later…with Jools Holland, joined a bill with the Rolling Stones in Hyde Park, and took the press by storm. Uncut praised her “remarkably careworn vocals,” MOJO swooned for her “glorious sound,” and The Independent‘s Andy Gill wrote, “June has the most strikingly individual delivery I’ve heard in ages.”
When it came time to record the follow-up, June felt liberated by the success, fearless and more confident than ever in trusting her instincts and following her muse. There was to be no rushing the music, no harvesting a song before it was ripe on the vine and ready to be plucked. When she sensed the time was right, she headed to rural Guilford, Vermont, with producer Matt Marinelli, spending long stretches through the fall and winter living and recording away from the hustle and bustle of her adopted home of Brooklyn.
“They made us feel so welcome in Vermont,” remembers June. “I was cooking amazing food and hanging out with the band all the time. There were long talks and long walks in the snow, and friends would come up for holidays. I felt like I put myself in a place where I could really soar. With the last album, I was absorbing and learning and developing so much in the studio, but this is me taking the things I learned and the things I felt in my heart and fighting for them.”
In her heart, June is a songwriter first and foremost, willing and able to blur the lines between genres and eras of sounds. The result is an eclectic blend of folk and soul and country and R&B and blues that is undoubtedly the finest work of her career. Opener “Long Lonely Road” settles in like languid southern heat, as June looks back to the sacrifices of her parents and grandparents, singing in a gentle near-whisper of the sometimes difficult, sometimes beautiful journey we all must undertake in search of brighter days. On the soulful “Love You Once Made,” her voice is backed by rich horns and vintage organ as she makes peace with the specter of loss and the ephemeral nature of our relationships, while the bluesy juke joint rocker “Shake Down” features backup vocals from her brothers, Jason and Patrick Hockett and father, Emerson Hockett recorded at home in Tennessee, and “Man Done Wrong” centers on a hypnotic banjo riff that’s more African than Appalachian.
“People shouldn’t necessarily think of bluegrass when they see the banjo,” explains June. “It was originally an African instrument, and people in America used to play all kinds of banjo: mandolin banjo, ukulele banjo, bass banjo, classical banjo, jazz banjo, there were even banjo orchestras. For some reason, people like to limit it and say it just has to be in folk and bluegrass, but to me it can be in anything, and I really wanted to set the banjo free on this record.”
The banjo turns up again later as the underpinning of the R&B rave-up “Got Soul,” which plays out like a mission statement for the entire album, as June offers to “sing a country tune” or “play the blues” but reveals that underneath it all is her sweet soul. Those genre terms might be simplistic ways to attempt to define her, empty signifiers creating distinctions between sounds where June sees none. “With You” channels the sprightly, ethereal beauty of Nico with fingerpicked electric guitar and cinematic strings, “Slip Slide On By” grooves with shades of Van Morrison, and “If And” slowly builds over meditative hum that hints at John Cale.
Despite the music’s varied nature, the songs all belong to a cohesive family, in part because they’re tied together by June’s one-of-a-kind voice, and because they’re all pieces of a larger rumination on the passage of time and how it affects us. The ultimate takeaway from tracks like “The Front Door” and “Just In Time” is that the present is all we have. Everything around us (our loved ones, our youth, our beauty) will someday fade and disappear, but that transience is what makes those things all the more magical. We’re given this brief moment to share our love and light with the world, and when, as June sings on the album, “Time’s hands turn and point straight towards you,” you’d better be ready.
Thankfully for us, June was ready when time told her to harvest these songs. In the garden, as in life, there is a time for everything and the moment has finally arrived to enjoy the fruits of all her labor. With The Order Of Time, Valerie June has prepared a bountiful feast, and there’s a seat at the table for everyone.
The Alexis P. Suter Band
Alexis P. Suter is the owner of that big, booming voice you can hear roaring out of Brooklyn into the heart of North America and beyond. Alexis P. and her band are on the rise as accolades pour in and they continue to captivate audiences from town to town.
Miss Suter and her powerful and unique ensemble artfully blend the lines between blues, soul, roots, and rock music. Alexis’ voice ranges from a pained passion to explosive and soul-bearing. When the great Bluesman B.B. King first heard Alexis sing, he was visibly impressed and said so after her opening set for him at BB Kings in NYC. Shaking his head in wonder in his characteristic way, he remarked, “It’s a rare thing to share the stage with great talent like that young lady.”
Alexis has earned similar honors from other well-known musicians and performers including Dan Aykroyd and Levon Helm of The Band. Suter and her band have been blazing trails and taking their music to festivals and venues both nationally and internationally. Suter is currently touring in support of 2 releases, All For Loving You (American Showplace Music) and AMOS Live at Briggs Farm (Briggs Farm Records). Both recordings take modern blues and roots music in new directions, pushing the form just a bit beyond its normal boundaries with Suter’s powerful, deep, soulful voice charging forward.
Alexis burst on to the music scene as a regular performer at Levon Helm’s legendary Midnight Rambles held in Woodstock, NY. Levon was captured by what he called Alexis’ wonderful spirit and had her and the band open for him nearly 100 times: “She is one of those wonderful spirits, she’s got her arms around you; you can feel that.” As special guest openers for The Levon Helm Band, they played to sold-out audiences at the Beacon Theater, Bethel Woods Center For The Arts, The Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park, NJ, and Central Park’s Summerstage.
Since then, Alexis continues to be in high demand at North American Roots and Blues festivals, venues and events. She was privileged enough to open for BB King several times at his club in New York as well as Etta James. In addition to being a featured artist in over 50 Blues and Roots festivals nationwide, Alexis and her band have been the opening act for the following artists: Bo Diddley, Trombone Shorty, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Dickey Betts, Coco Montoya, Buddy Guy, Allen Touissaint, Emmylou Harris, Johnny Winter, Elvis Costello, and for the 20 year reunion of the Muddy Waters Band.
At the highly prestigious Blues Music Awards, Alexis was nominated for Best Contemporary Female Artist in 2017, The Koko Taylor Vocalist in 2015 and for Best Soul/Blues Female Vocalist in 2013. Presented by The Blues Foundation in Memphis TN. Television appearances include Legends, IMUS in the Morning and The Artie Lange Show. Her song “Ride, Ride” was featured in the national commercial for howstuffworks.com. Suter has been featured on countless on- air LIVE radio performances and interviews across the USA. “All Over Again” from their release, Two Sides was named NPR’s “Song Of The Day.” Her song “In The City” was included on the Second Volume of the Songs After Sandy compilation series (songsaftersandy.com) along with Sir Paul McCartney and Dave Stewart (Eurythmics).
Alexis has 8 full-length releases to date; Live at Briggs Farm 2017 ( Briggs Farm Records), All For Loving You 2017 (American Showplace Music), Love The Way You Roll 2015 (American Showplace Music), Two Sides 2011 (Hipbone Records), Live at the Turning Point 2010 (Festivalink), Just Another Fool 2009 (Hipbone Records), Live at the Midnight Ramble 2008 (Levon Helm Studios) and Shuga Fix 2005 (Hipbone Records). Their recordings have received much praise from radio and publications alike including Blues Music Magazine, Blues Revue, Living Blues, Downbeat, Elmore, Blues Blast, Blues Matters, Blues 411, and Big City Rhythm and Blues.
Recently Alexis has formed “Alexis’ Ministers of Sound,” AMOS, an ensemble which includes Vicki Bell, Ray Grappone, Dave Keyes, Chris Bergson, and various special guest musicians. They have just released their first album, AMOS, Live From Briggs Farm. The powerful debut is a collection of original and classic songs interpreted in roots, gospel, and soulful styles.
What is Roots Pop music? Out of the San Francisco Bay Area, one band is trying to explore that query. Front Country plays acoustic string instruments but with a sensibility that is far from the back country. During their musical journey, they have merged their acoustic sound with a pop aesthetic, writing and arranging songs that are simultaneously intricate and infectious.
Other Love Songs is Front Country’s Roots Pop opus and promises to be the band’s most intensely creative and original effort yet. The songs are emotional in nature, if not always in subject, and sometimes with a twist, hence the title. This is also the first record relying on lead singer Melody Walker’s songwriting, with 8 of the 12 tracks penned by the lead singer. Two contributions are sophisticated instrumentals composed by mandolinist Adam Roszkiewicz. Round out the creative band arrangement style of guitarist Jacob Groopman, bassist Jeremy Darrow, and five-string violinist Leif Karlstrom, and the synergy is electric. The two cover songs on the album are the poignant “Millionaire” by David Olney, and a swampy blues-rock reimagining of the Carter Family’s “Storms Are On The Ocean.”
The collection of original Other Love Songs on the album are “If Something Breaks,” “I Don’t Wanna Die Angry,” “Good Side,” “Undone,” “O Heartbreaker” and “Keep Travelin’.”
“These songs follow the lessons that everyone learns in their own personal evolution toward emotional maturity and vulnerability,” says Melody Walker, “in which all of us learn to break down toxic romantic fairy tales and write our own Other Love Songs that work for real people in the real world.”
It’s no surprise that Front Country’s musical path has taken the form of Other Love Songs all along, finding their own harmony that plays to the strengths of each member, and not worrying about fitting into a mold.
Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons
Seattle songsters Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons give life to voices that have long been silenced in American culture. Their award-winning performances are highlighted by story-telling that, rather than bringing the past to life, vividly shows how the past still lives in the present.
Through their songs, audiences witness current issues crop up again and again in folk songs, dance tunes, acoustic blues, and prison ballads. Ben & Joe bounce from fiddle & banjo breakdowns to a cappella field hollers, early jazz to gospel songs featuring Piedmont guitar style and rattlin’ bones.
With the same versatility that won them the International Blues Challenge in 2016, and allowed them to record with National Heritage Fellow Phil Wiggins, the duo celebrates the ways Americans have triumphed over oppression through the vitality of their art. Audiences walk away from Ben & Joe’s concerts and workshops inspired to learn more of their own history, and engage more deeply with their communities.
“Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons aren’t so much a throw-back to the music of the pre-war era songster tradition as they are alchemist-shamans, seemingly sent from those times to the 21st century to wake us up to the music that is embedded deep within us. It is our national heritage. They have been the same wide-eyed children caught by the magic of the songs they learned from their elders. They have grown to be today’s songsters.” — Terry Roland, No Depression
“These are musicians who would rather you clap your hands, or see you dance, than play in such a way that holds up the invisible wall between performer and audience. Hunter and Seamons have cast a huge net around traditional songs from a variety of genres . . . What I thought would be a folk album sounds more like a blues album played with folk instruments.” — American Standard Time
“One of the most exciting roots-based music groups to emerge from the New England Conservatory in many years. Their individual chops and adventurous approach make Night Tree a band to watch for.” — Brian O’Donovan, Senior DJ at Boston’s WGBH
In September of 2016, six diverse musicians came together unexpectedly within the walls of Boston’s New England Conservatory to form New Acoustic band, Night Tree. The sextet of conservatory-trained musicians attracts dramatic attention not only for its abnormal instrumentation of two fiddles, cello, accordion, saxophone, percussion, voice, and the occasional viola and mandolin, but for their collective representation and incorporation of traditions from Irish, Classical, Swedish, Jazz, Klezmer, and Afro-Cuban music.
Within their arrangements, each artist’s personality is given a spot to emerge with fiery improvisation, individual compositions, and a pristine ear. The band thrives on playing in complete darkness as to allow themselves the opportunity to solely listen with the absence of any possible visual distractions. They react to each other at any given moment, in a matter of seconds. They have learned to get inside each other’s musical minds, creating one explosive and unpredictable wave of sound that is Night Tree.
The group, all students at NEC, were named the Conservatory’s Wildcard Honors Ensemble for 2016-2017. Awards for this title included a sponsorship from NEC, a headlining performance at the historic Jordan Hall, and a year of working with Winifred Horan, fiddler and co-founder of Irish super-band, SOLAS. Night Tree will be releasing their debut album on September 1st of this year, produced by Séamus Egan, another founding member of SOLAS. The band began touring in Vermont at the beginning of 2017, followed by a spring tour to Washington, D.C. Night Tree recently concluded a summer tour where they performed New York City, New York State, Philadelphia, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Maine.
Night Tree will be releasing their debut album on September 1st, followed by a release tour that goes from Vermont down to Asheville, concluding at the Burren Backroom Series in Boston for their official release show on October 11. Their 10-track debut album features original compositions ranging from somber and plaintive melodies to raucous and energized tumult.
Sunniva Brynnel, composer as well as singer and accordionist in Night Tree, brings her pastoral melodies to her instrumental and vocal pieces. In her song “Thanksgiving,” Sunniva openly expresses her constant longing for travel to satisfy her hunger for a place that feels like home. Saxophonist Zach Mayer has composed pieces with the vision of Night Tree as a single voice. This can be heard in his songs “A Wish on the Wind” and “Wheel in the Forest.” “FoWrist,” written by fiddler Lily Honigberg in collaboration with percussionist Julian Loida, unites Ireland’s traditional style of playing with the syncopated rhythms of Cuba. Each track on the album has a different flavor, very much a representation of the six members of the band and their differences. Night Tree blossoms with a bang as they re-imagine tunes using imagery such as shipwrecks. They interject fiery solos and breakdowns that give traditional music a wildly new meaning.