Thursday, May 21, 2015

Local Folk Spotlight: Northampton

This Saturday on Local Folk we take a deeper look at the tight knit and vibrant music scene of Northampton, MA. Despite a population of less than 30,000, the city consistently punches above its cultural weight. In addition to venues like the Iron Horse, Calvin Theater, and Parlor Room which attract top local and national talent, Northampton-based record label Signature Sounds has helped to shine spotlight onto a bevy of local artists like Lake Street Dive, Crooked Still, and Eilen Jewell.

One such artist is Heather Maloney, whose album Making Me Break was released in April by the label. After studying everything from classical Indian music to opera, Maloney spent years living and working in a silent retreat center in Central MA. She eventually channeled these experiences into a haunting debut solo release, followed by a self-titled album in 2013. Her latest record was produced by Bill Reynolds (Avett Brothers, Band of Horses) and builds on this foundation with an edgier and more textural sound.

The Sun Parade specializes in lush red-eyed pop tinged with the psychedelic American roots of artists like The Band and The Flying Burrito Brothers. The group’s latest release, a 2014 EP entitled Heart’s Out, has paved the way to a larger following and more touring opportunities, including with Lake Street Dive and fellow Northampton band And The Kids.

Like tour mates The Sun Parade, And The Kids share a love of jangly ear-catching arrangements. Led by the huge vocals of guitarist Hannah Mohan, the group takes simple ingredients and makes them transcendent by using insistently repeated vocal and melodic lines to create mesmerizing soundscapes that continually build and recede.

Despite a recent move to Nashville, Jamie Kent remains inextricably linked to the Northampton music scene. In addition to constant touring, Kent helped to found and book the Northampton Summer Music Series and other events that have helped build foundations for many of the acts that have followed in his wake. His most recent EP Embers & Ashes was described by Rolling Stone as “country soul channeling Townes Van Zandt”.

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