New England-based multi-instrumentalist Mark Erelli wears many hats--singer, songwriter, sideman, producer--but approaches each of these varied roles with a belief in the transformative power of paying attention. Bearing witness to small details and fleeting moments is what dignifies our everyday stories, rendering the mundane profound. This principle governs Erelli’s approach to his craft, and is uniquely evident on his latest release, Mixtape, which features revelatory reinterpretations of songs by the Grateful Dead, Neko Case, Roy Orbison and others.
Erelli’s two decade career highlights include 11 solo albums, stints accompanying Josh Ritter, Paula Cole and Anais Mitchell, and a pair of records he produced for GRAMMY-winning songwriter Lori McKenna. Ever since Billboard magazine heralded the “simple, atmospheric grace” of his Signature Sounds debut, Erelli’s belief in the sacredness of an examined life has driven him between the ostensible extremes of lullabies and murder ballads, western swing and protest anthems. It has propelled him from the hallowed stages of the Newport Folk Festival, Grand Ole Opry and Royal Albert Hall, and beckoned him back home, to better nurture his 16-year marriage and be a father to his two young boys.
Whether he’s holding a pen or a Telecaster, Erelli’s music welcomes even the casual listener, but those who choose to dig more deeply are richly rewarded. Perhaps that is what Folk Alley hears in Erelli’s songs, when it encourages people to “listen close; there's sure to be something in there to break your heart a split second before it leads you straight to grace.”
Also appearing is Rachel Sumner of Twisted Pine.
Rachel Sumner may be best known as the former guitarist and one of two primary songwriters and singers in the band Twisted Pine, but her musical interests and curiosity extend beyond even the most progressive approach to traditional string-band instrumentation. Her debut solo EP, Anything Worth Doing, will better acquaint listeners with the breadth of her songwriting and production capabilities. With co-producer Daniel Radin, Rachel’s textural experimentation led her to sounds both familiar and new: drawing on her classical training as a woodwind player, arranging and performing parts for flute and clarinet; calling on former Twisted Pine bandmate Kathleen Parks for lush string arrangements; utilizing instruments typically associated with country music, such as pedal steel, harmonica, and electric guitar, without leaning on genre cliches; and accentuating the shifting tempos and time signatures of her songs with the inclusion of drums, played by Honeysuckle’s Benjamin Burns. In addition to Radin (Future Teens, The Novel Ideas), Parks, and Burns, the album’s credits boast a veritable who’s-who of the Boston folk scene, with contributions from longtime musical partners Sam Moss and Michael Siegel (Sumner & Moss); Deni Hlavinka (The Western Den); Danny Hoshino (The Novel Ideas); Icelandic harmonica wiz Thorleif Davidsson (Kaleo); and the distinguished folk singer-songwriter Ian Fitzgerald. At the center of all of these moving parts, pulling them together into a cohesive and beautiful work, is Rachel’s voice: both in her performance as a musician and in her songwriting, which is stronger than ever. updated: 7 months ago