Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Spotlight: Lindi Ortega and Other Fierce Women of the Folk Music Industry

Lindi Ortega is a badass, bird loving, Toronto native. She signed with Last Gang Records in 2011 after spending nearly a decade as an independent artist. Ortega has since taken Nashville by storm; her latest record Tin Star broke the status quo. She puts a spin on old-fashioned heartbreak that listeners just can't find on the radio these days. Plus, Ortega recently organized a benefit concert for the World Parrot Refuge where she featured other artists local to Toronto. Pretty cool, right?

Alynda Lee Segarra of Hurray for the Riff Raff has become the voice of the millennial generation after hopping a freight train from her home in New York City to New Orleans at the age of 17. Segarra, now 28, formed HFTRR after picking up a banjo and honing her songwriting skills. The band released their first album on a major label, Small Town Heroes, last year. The album itself is a representation of the evolution of folk music. Tracks "Crash on the Highway" and "End of the Line" have familiar names though, and there's a reason for that. According to a 2014 interview Segarra had with NPR, "I try to go about being very obvious about my inspirations. It's kind of a brave move on our part to say, this is obviously taken from an older form of music." HFTRR's music is old school meets new school and sometimes wildly political. "The Body Electric" is perhaps the most in-your-face track on Small Town Heroes which tackles more than a century of murder ballads in folk music.

Emily Saliers and Amy Ray met in elementary school in a suburb of Atlanta and had formed a musical duo by high school. The differences in their songwriting and vocal ranges only serve to compliment one another; the duo is fantastic live. Better known as the Indigo Girls, Saliers and Ray caught music lovers' attention in 1989 with the release of their biggest hit to date "Closer to Fine". Since then, the girls have released 13 studio albums with another due out this June. Saliers and Ray are activists as well as musicians. They started an environmental justice organization together with Winona LaDuke called Honor the Earth, through which they've supported both environmental and social justice campaigns. Both Saliers and Ray identify as gay and their advocacy for the LGBT community is evident in many of their songs.  

Joy Williams began her career in the music industry as a solo artist with Reunion Records before joining the iconic Civil Wars in 2009. She released three contemporary Christian albums between 2001 and 2005, all of which earned her a great deal of success. She only met John Paul White at a songwriting camp in Nashville after deciding that her musical direction had changed since leaving Reunion. Together, Williams and White recorded two full-length, folk-heavy albums. Barton Hollow won two well-deserved Grammys and followup The Civil Wars was highly praised by critics and fans alike. The Civil Wars have since gone their separate ways, but Williams has resumed her career as a solo artist. Her album Venus is due out this summer. You can listen to the first single, “Woman (Oh Mama)” here. Side note: Joy Williams tweeted me one time. It was awesome.