The Haden Triplets – The Haden Triplets

Third Man, 2014

The daughters of jazz bassist legend Charlie Haden harmonize in unison while paying tribute to legends like Bill Monroe, The Louvin Brothers, Nick Lowe and others. Extremely graceful, mandolins and fiddles keep the sounds rooted in a country/folk/gospel hybrid, as the sisters retain a traditional feel on these simple yet effective renditions. Beautiful, peaceful and sophisticated, it’s a big leap from their former bands (That Dog, The Decemberists) but no less interesting.

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Jean Rohe – Jean Rohe And The End Of The World Show

Laundry Line, 2013

The vivid storytelling and highly literate wordplay here shows much imagination for this Brooklyn songstress, and her revolving door of sounds ably punctuate that creativity. Darker imagery, world music ideas, breezy island-sounding fun and danceable rhythms give each song an entirely different feel, and some are even sung in Portuguese. A very spiritual listen, Rohe’s vision of folk music is arresting and just so different from her peers, and she plays on her strengths well across this enlightening album.

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Shelley Segal – An Atheist Album

True, 2013

If you were casually listening to this you might mistake Segal’s melodic, light, breezy folk/pop songs as the next indie-songstress to break through into the mainstream. However, as the title suggests, this is a no-punches-pulled godless album that is well thought out and very direct. Though it’s far from radio friendly subject matter, the music is infectiously upbeat with an effortless blend of blues, rock, pop, and even reggae. The irony here is this is more beautiful than most religious music, and Segal’s voice is nothing short of heavenly.

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Erin McKeown – Manifestra

TVP, 2013

A very political album from a woman mostly known as a folk singer, Manifestra doesn’t hold itself to any one sound. Loud guitars, detailed percussion and horns start out the album, but give way to sweet melodies, jazzy-pop and blues ideas, all of which are fleshed out intelligently and with much sophistication. The bonus disc here contains all these songs stripped down, ideal for those who prefer McKeown’s folkier days.

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Ani DiFranco – ¿Which Side Are You On?

anidifranco-whichsideareyouonRighteous Babe, 2012

Perhaps the most fiercely independent female voice ever, DiFranco’s 17th studio album continues on with her robust guitar playing, charming melodies and insightful wordplay that alternates between playful and political. With an all star cast of contributors, including Pete Seeger who lends a hand on the title track that he popularized 5 decades ago, DiFranco meshes equal parts folk, rock and funk elements in an elegant, mature and beautifully textured manner. Even though this is a very gentle, soothing listen, there exists a lot of subtle power in DiFranco’s songcraft.