Edges Run (CD)

The North Carolinian quartet Mipso plays around with the outer limits of Americana. They don't go the nostalgic route with straight-to-tape guitars and fiddles; instead Mipso integrates a bit of indie rock and modern folk. The tracks have an old timey air with their simplicity and harmonies rooted in American folk music, but the modern production, electric instrumentation, and rock influence prevents them from being a novelty. This is due, in part, to the band recording the album in rainy Eugene, Oregon, instead of in the comfort of their home in North Carolina. The Oregon weather is felt all over this album as it's a contemplative, quiet record whose rich harmonies recall the sensation of breezy winters. The opening ballad, "Take Your Records Home," converts the joy of record collecting into a somber experience. There's something profoundly sad about a relationship symbolically ending by splitting up the record collection you've shared with people you love. The title track "Edges Run" displays their bluegrass roots right from the start with the beautifully high-pitched notes of a violin sliding around alongside the careful plucks of a mandolin. The organic, raw instrumentation gives this songs such heart, especially with the quiet tinkering of a piano and the howling of a steel guitar. "Pay In Full" really captures the sadness they explore on the album, moving along with a military drum rhythm and quiet imagery of abandoned rooms and broken hearts. Constructing the song as two separate parts helps bring up the mood after the tragic first half of the track. If you haven't been initiated into roots-influenced music, this might be a good place to start. The melodies and songs don't flaunt the antique sound of the genre, but subvert it enough to create perfect folk tracks. It's just the type of album to block out the madness of 2018.

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Whistle Down The Wind (CD)

Joan Baez's quietly revolutionary folk music has made her a legend for a reason. Her latest, Whistle Down the Wind, continues that tradition and proves to be quite timely in its call to work toward a brighter future, even in moments of despair. Baez's talent is matched by that of her skilled collaborators; Mary Chapin Carpenter; Tom Waits, Josh Ritter, Kathleen Brennan, Eliza Gilkyson, Anohni, Joe Henry, and Zoe Mulford all pen tunes or provide inspiration for truly moving cover songs. "The President Sang Amazing Grace" (Mulford) is particularly stirring while Baez's cover of Wait's "Last Leaf" delivers a message of endurance and hope -- but really each song here is a work of art in its own right.

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