Posted in On Air, Uncategorized

UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Gaby Moreno Delivers Hope in Surreal Times on Alegoría

Gaby Moreno sings only three and a half songs in English on her album Alegoría, but I’ve always concerned myself with quality over quantity. What I can understand is brilliant, with a songs capturing the bizarre daydream that the pandemic became, a yearning, apologetic love song, and an intelligent ode to conflict resolution.

Til Waking Light, the song performed half in both English and Spanish, discusses the importance of togetherness during times of uncertainty. As things get worse in the world outside, dreams and love serve as a beautiful place to hide. It’s a standout for its operatic intensity and the incredibly long note Moreno holds out at the end.

“I was trying to hold it as long as I could to get the message across,” Moreno said after I asked her if she knew how long she was able to sing on one breath. “It’s a note that I’m holding because I’m in pain, because I’m just devastated. I not thinking in terms of setting any records, it’s just what I felt in the moment”

On Lost On A Cloud, another track that draws hope out of a dark situation, Moreno directly addresses the pandemic. She employs Chris Thile for mandolin and harmony and uses high, dreamy sounds to capture the feeling of suddenly having nothing but free time. Instead of acknowledging the dread going on outside, Moreno urges her quarantine partner to recapture the freedom of youth and grants permission for them to enjoy themselves while they can’t go anywhere else.

“It’s definitely very surreal, especially when you know the whole world is at a standstill with you,” Moreno reminisced. “It was weird but I think it was also good for someone like me who had been in constant movement and always going on some tour. It felt nice to just be home and try out some new things that I hadn’t before. I think it kept me grounded and was some form of meditation to be in the kitchen cooking.”

Moreno found herself struggling to stay hopeful but found strength in trying to live one day at a time.

“If you tried thinking about the future, I think that made a lot of people insane,” she said. Moreno didn’t have much luck writing new songs, but she worked on producing and writing a score for a film. She also said her constant daydreaming was helpful.

The first track on the album, Nobody’s Wrong, is a plea for compromise and sanity when divisions arise, but Moreno says it strictly applies to some situations, mainly in personal relationships. The song, after all, stresses that ‘sometimes’ nobody’s wrong. 

“It’s not to say that nobody’s wrong always,” Moreno clarified. “There are certain circumstances where both points of view are valid and you need to let it go. I’m definitely not talking about politics. There is definitely a lot of wrong there. But for other things, life is too short for fussing and fighting.”

It’s a key distinction that elevates the song from a typical modern era effort to bridge intractable gaps about whose existence is valid into a measured salve for the little things that seem big. Moreno’s attitude can best be explained by her living in another period of instability in her home country.

“Growing up in a country like Guatemala where there’s so much conflict, politically speaking, it’s something you just have to learn to live with,” she explained. “I basically grew up not being able to go out into the streets or use public transportation. This is something that really affects me- affected me. When I got here to LA, whenever there’s conflict, I just go into my little cocoon.”

Moreno has turned her childhood in Guatemala into something incredibly positive. She became a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, literally the first for her country, in February 2020. She attended a ceremony there and visited some rural villages.

“I was really eager to do more things with them and get to work, and then lockdown happened,” Moreno said. But she still found an interesting way to help. “I recorded a song to talk about the importance of staying home and they distributed that video to really remote parts of Guatemala where they don’t even have internet.”

She also went on to record an education children’s album in Spanish to distribute to Guatemalans and to benefit their country. I’ve included a track that features Moreno’s niece on lead vocals in the video section below.

“Anything that I can do to give back to my country, I’m gonna go for it,” Moreno said. “I feel super honored that I was given this title of Goodwill Ambassador, but for me even more important is the actual work. Through me, through my platform, they can reach more people.”

It’s albums like this that make me wish I was better at learning languages. I’ve always been better at searching for the deeper meaning behind words in my native English than memorizing the literal meaning of words I can’t grasp the connotations of. Based on the English lyrics and Moreno’s translation of the end of Til Waking Light, it’s clear I’m missing out on a lot of that deep meaning I seek. Based on the melody and emotion behind the vocals, I’d have to recommend Soñar Otra Vez out of the songs in Spanish. I’m sure that since Moreno wrote it, there has to be something powerful there.

Above is the full episode as aired on WUSB’s Country Pocket, including both my interview with Moreno and the songs we discussed, starting with Lost On A Cloud, which really does sound like I’d imagine a cloud should. You can hear the show live every Monday at 11am on WUSB 90.1 FM or check the blog to watch it as a YouTube playlist. Visit and for more.

Posted in On Air

Cosmic Country Rocker Garrett T. Capps Believes that People Are Beautiful

Garrett T Capps, honky tonk owner and cosmic country rocker, believes things are getting better. It’s not because of the things he sees on the news or social media, where he sees fear, division, and lies running rampant. Instead, he turns inward and, much as he suggests on his first track, uses hope as a religion.

“I don’t subscribe to organized religion, so hope seems like a good one,” Capps explained.

People Are Beautiful is an album of peaceful, soaring rock and deep gratitude. It’s a look inside the mind of a man who considers it normal to see the faces of dead people from his childhood and believes that even feeling pain is something worth being thankful for.

“Being thankful for being alive is something I try to practice all the time,” said Capps

A big part of that life worth savoring is great music. As the owner of The Lonesome Rose, Capps is constantly booking great acts, including a few I’ve been lucky enough to have on my radio show.

“I’ve always been pretty passionate about booking bands, going to concerts, and knowing about the history of the live music world,” Capps said. 

He was able to find partners who wanted to open a honky tonk and became the creative force behind the operation. 

“We have a little tiny disco ball that’s always on no matter what,” Capps said of the vibe. “It’s somewhere between a total dive, a rock bar, and a classic Texas honky tonk.” 

The Lonesome Rose just celebrated its fourth year of operation with a show including artists like Dale Watson.

Capps’ lyrics are occasionally profound and unique, such as on the standout Happen Anytime where he’s hit with waves of truth and guilt. Other times, they’re more repetitive. But even on Time Will Tell, a song with exactly those three lyrics, there’s a statement being made. The cosmic country soundscape is gorgeous and there’s time to breathe and contemplate the statement. Capps is smart to have moments of relative quiet on the album. His guitar solos are rarely intense but instead contemplative and push the album forward gently, perfect for an album so focused on positivity, patience, and spirituality. A Better Place and People Are Beautiful do let him rock out a little more though.

Capps is at his most impressive on tracks People Are Beautiful because instead of providing examples of altruism and love, he’s showcasing pain and shitty behavior. His optimism and love for humanity are hard won and believable precisely because he acknowledges just how hard things can be sometimes. Instead of turning a blind eye to the pain, Capps is just grateful for it. When I asked him if all people are beautiful, he answered yes.

“It is beautiful to be a human being,” Capps said. “I think it’s the high road to take to realize that we are human beings trying to do our thing. Some people have a better moral compass than others, and some people are in better places than others, but personally I think everyone is beautiful, even the ugliest person in the world.”

Capps may be completely wrong to trust the species he considers beautiful. I’m more deeply suspicious of them as a whole, though there have certainly been moments where most of them have come together to do the right thing. There are still Ukrainian flags flying in my local shopping district. When those went up I was certainly feeling warm and fuzzy about my conservative neighbors for a while. I hope Capps is more right than my anxiety tells me to be. Time will tell.

Above is the full episode as aired on WUSB’s Country Pocket, including both my interview with Garrett and the songs we discussed, starting with Gettin’ Better, which begins the album. You can hear the show live every Monday at 11am on WUSB 90.1 FM or check the blog to watch it as a YouTube playlist. Visit and for more. I’d especially advise you to click on Garrett’s website. It’s done up like it’s still the 1990s and displays his profoundly weird sensibilities.

Posted in Uncategorized

Violet Bell Deconstructs Myth and Autonomy for the Modern Listener

The Scottish myth of the selkie tells of a people of the sea who dress in seal skins. In one version of that story, a selkie woman is bound by magical forces to go home with a lonely fisherman when he steals her skin, trapping her in human form. On the album Shapeshifter, folk duo Violet Bell decided to examine the myth from a modern perspective. Their endeavor was well timed.

“It just happened to align with a lot of things that are going on in the world,” lead singer Lizzy Ross said. “The day we released (lead single) Fisherman’s Daughter was the day Roe vs. Wade was called back. This whole story is about bodily autonomy and it’s about getting to feel like you can be who you are in your body. It’s the idea of being empowered and having personal agency. And right now, those things are literally about to be on the ballot.”

The selkie and her unfamiliarity with the ways of controlling men make her an excellent stand in for young women in a modern context. Her path to escape or recourse is just as complicated and laden with danger as a human woman’s might be if she were involved with an abusive man. The drastic consequences for her moment of naked carelessness are just as painful and arbitrary as the consequences the Supreme Court majority would have a human woman face for doing the same, regardless of the circumstances. The fisherman, too, is a great representation of the type of man who sees his loneliness as a valid reason to take control of a woman or the type of voter who takes their fear and transforms it into an assault on the rights of those seeking to live by a different set of values. 

“I think this story has been medicine for people who have felt captured in one way or another by a cultural construct,” Ross said.

When the two central characters argue on “I Am A Wolf,” the selkie’s fierce desire for freedom and a return home are on full display. The fisherman comes across as a monster in the song as the selkie sings about the way his gaze affects her and how the kidnapping has made her want to resort to violence.

That’s part of why I found myself struck by how much Ross and Ruiz-Lopez extend their sympathy to the fisherman. His loneliness also merits their concern, even after he’s gone and committed a kidnapping. 

“He’s not just a villain,” Ross said. “To me he’s an expression of this force of fear that makes people feel like they have to steal in order to get what they need. That they have to be in control to be safe. That they could be unlovable. You realize that he’s coming from a place of an impoverished and fear-based existence.”

Personally, I can’t get past his actions. There’s a proper way to go about dealing with loneliness, and then there’s kidnapping. “Mortal Like Me” shows that he’s haunted by his actions, but it seems insufficient. She’s still a captive, her skin is still tied to a rock at the bottom of the sea, and now there’s a daughter involved. That certainly implies sexual assault. 

In a similar way, I struggle to get past the actions of the forces the fisherman stands in for. I could feel for their fear if they were not using it as a weapon against more vulnerable populations. Omar Ruiz-Lopez, the other half of Violet Bell, gave a historical example that was quite relevant to his experience.

“I think of my indigenous ancestors in Latin America who had voices, had a language, and now Spanish is the predominant language, the language of the oppressor,” he said. “What stories have we lost? What knowledge have we lost through control of the other? I think we’re not getting the whole story of humanity and it’s painful to feel and witness”

“We don’t even know what we’ve lost,” Ross added. “The consequences are often quiet. The culture at large may not acknowledge those harms, but we do experience the deeper consequence of that loss.”

“It perpetuates fear and trauma,” Ruiz-Lopez said. “It’s hard to heal when you’re divided.”

Ultimately, the selkie offers to take the fisherman back to the sea with her. While I interpreted it as revenge or drowning, Ross said that mixed in with that threat is a genuine invitation to her world.

“The selkie is saying ‘let me invite you out of this paradigm that is so terrible for you.” Ross explained. ‘Let me invite you into this much richer and deeper world where you may not have as much control  and you may not have the safety and clarity of your containers and categories, but you’re going to be so enriched and fed.”

There may be able to be a happy ending for the selkie and fisherman, at least insofar as the fisherman represents a fearful part of the self and not an actual kidnapper.

“What would it look like if the fisherman was able to find that love inside himself instead of capturing a selkie?” Ross wondered.

Above is the full episode as aired on WUSB’s Country Pocket, including both my interview with Lizzy and Omar and the songs we discussed, starting with Fish to Catch, which introduces the fisherman character. It’s also worth noting that their music is absolutely gorgeous. You can hear the show live every Monday at 11am on WUSB 90.1 FM or check the blog to watch it as a YouTube playlist. Visit and for more.

Posted in Uncategorized

Flamy Grant Struts the Line Between Christianity and Drag on Brilliant Americana Album

It’s hard to explain just how spectacular and original the album Bible Belt Baby is, or just how well Flamy Grant rose to the occasion of releasing the first Christian album by a drag queen. Perhaps the song “Esther, Ruth, and Rahab,” with its use of the words cock, snatch, and fuck to convey admiration for the women of the Bible, stands out as the quickest way to get a sense the genuine and unexpected emotions this album has to offer. It’s perhaps more affirming than a traditional worship album, even while working to replace some of the exclusionary and patriarchal messages that can make religion feel like a less than welcoming place for so many in the LGBTQ+ community. Oh, and “Good Day” is a hymn – both queer and Christian – for the ages.

Flamy Grant, or at least the person who would grow up to embody Flamy Grant, did not need to be indoctrinated in any way. They were in their mother’s closet using skirts as dresses and poorly applying makeup as a toddler. Instead, they had to be talked into a life without drag.

“I think by about the time I started school is when I got the message from my folks that this is not okay actually,” Flamy said in an interview, dressed in full drag. As the title of the album would suggest, Flamy grew up in a conservative community. They described the ‘triad’ of church, Christian school, and a religious household that dominated their childhood and discouraged dressing as a woman.  

“For years, probably a good 30 years, I ignored and avoided any of those impulses,” Grant said. “It was really the pandemic and the lockdown that gave me all this extra time to dive into it. It was such a liberating, freeing experience for me.” 

They described a feeling of having conversation with their childhood self.

“This stuff you wanted to do? It’s okay. And actually there’s a market for it. You’re going to be alright, little one.” 

After working for a megachurch and being part of a team that started a new church in San Diego, Grant currently leads music for a different church in San Diego, though naturally a more progressive one this time.

“While serving in the church and doing these things I was also fully deconstructing my faith and trying to figure out what I believe,” they said. “I still struggle with the word Christian. It’s actually a piece that I’ve been able to offload onto Flamy. Flamy is the Christian artist. She can handle that. For me personally, Christian is a very difficult term because of what we have happening in our country with the religious right.”

They said that their goal in the church is to create space for queer folk to exist and be themselves. That’s where a song like “Good Day” comes in. It’s a worship song that Grant often performs in church and one that embraces both who they are and the ability to ‘come back home’ and be that person and be surrounded by love and support. It may be aspirational for many, but it really does exist in Grant’s church and it’s a beautiful thing to bask in.

“What we’re doing is not entirely for us,” Grant said of existing as a queer role model in a religious space. “We want it to be a good day now and forever.”

Unfortunately, Bible Belt Baby will not chart with other Christian albums. The category rejects albums with explicit language, and Grant couldn’t quite help themself.

“Look, I am a drag queen at the end of the day,” Grant explained. “I might put out a Christian record, but when I have a point to get across, sometimes colorful language is helpful to that end. It’s silly. It’s just a word and I’m not particularly concerned about words. I’m concerned about actions.”

Another standout song is the falsetto duet “Scratches” that describes people who have been through trauma trying to forge a life and connections. “Takes a Little Time” encourages patience and persistence in self growth. And “I Am Not Ashamed” delivers rap and melodramatic rock as a way of standing up to negative messaging. “Good Day” is certainly the best song on the album, but the preceding nine tracks build tension that the song so beautifully releases.

Above is the full episode as aired on WUSB’s Country Pocket, including both my interview with Flamy and the songs we discussed, starting with What Did You Drag Me Into?, which has a killer music video. The second part of the interview features some Bible lessons, aimed both at those unfamiliar with the Bible and evangelicals who only act unfamiliar with certain portions of the Bible. Lastly, there’s a video of Flamy Grant lip syncing to Amy Grant at a drag conference. You can hear the show live every Monday at 11am on WUSB 90.1 FM or check the blog to watch it as a YouTube playlist. Visit and for more.

Posted in On Air

Paisley Fields Tells a Midwestern Coming Out Story on Limp Wrist

There’s a certain sort of mood one might expect out of an album called Limp Wrist that features a ripped chest decorated with a small amount of leather. Paisley Fields proves that you really can’t judge a book by its cover.

The title track is good for a satisfying smirk. It teases the hypocritical hyper-masculine guys who would tease Fields for being gay. They might be against sex with men, just so long as that definition doesn’t include their own hands. But it’s “Iowa” that holds the emotional focus of the album. For all the discrimination Fields faces, religious or otherwise, nothing is quite as serious as his recognition that what happened to Matthew Shepard in nearby Wyoming could easily happen to him.

“I want to say I was maybe 13 or 14,” Fields said. “I remember it pretty clearly. I remember people debating if he deserved it because he was allegedly hitting on the two guys who ended up murdering him. That was a real moment where I realized it was not safe for me to come out.”

Fields felt forced to leave Iowa as a result of it all. For the most part, the album explores aspects of coming out and a confused identity that was part religious redneck and part music-loving gay man. “Black Hawk County Line” begins the album with Fields’ story of how a ‘friend’ outed him. “Giddy up Saturday Night” serves as a reminder that Fields will always be a native Iowan, one who could hunt and throw down with the rest of the boys if not for their bigotry. 

“Plastic Rosary” is where those two identities clash most directly. He talks about his experience as a child praying for forgiveness and how he’s learned to accept every part of himself, though he still carries a bit of pain from these adults telling him that “heaven is a place [he’ll] never see.” Religion was an integral part of young Fields’s life

“My first job was playing piano in the church and I felt a lot of conflict,” Fields said. “I was playing music and I was supported by this little country church that I was a part of, but I was also getting messages that just my very existence was wrong. It was pretty difficult to wrestle with that.” 

Luckily, Fields was able to overcome the “deep rejection” he’d receive from his and other churches in the area, even if it came at the cost of losing his personal relationship with religion.

“At the time I tried to shut part of myself off and for a while I tried to fit in,” Fields said. “Then I fully rejected it without ever dealing with it at all. But now I’ve gotten to the point where I understand that I know who I am and I’m not going to hide that for some religion.”

“Dial up Lover” is another standout track, in part for its incredible specificity. It’s a song that recalls that phase many a queer person went through in the aughts finding the connection they couldn’t find in school through Internet chat rooms. Trust me. It was a thing.

“That was the only way to meet other people in my hometown,” Fields explained. “I would log onto those AOL chatrooms to see who was in there and try to find somebody to talk to anonymously and to also discover who I was and who other people like me were and if they were out there somewhere.”

It’s worth noting that Fields felt it necessary and appropriate to end the album on a note of hope. “Tomorrow Finds a Way” is a reminder that things may be scary right now, but progress has been made. For someone like Fields, that can come in the form of personal growth and musical expression.

Above is the full episode as aired on WUSB’s Country Pocket, including both my interview with Paisley Fields and the songs we discussed, starting with Iowa, which really sets the stakes for the album. We also play a couple of Lavender Country songs as Fields has been playing keyboard for that pioneering band. You can hear the show live every Monday at 11am on WUSB 90.1 FM or check the blog to watch it as a YouTube playlist. Visit and for more.

Posted in On Air

John McCutcheon Finds Poignancy and Humor in Stories of the Dead

The pandemic affected us all in funny ways. Folk music mainstay John McCutcheon found himself with more time to read the newspaper, including some sections he used to overlook.

“I don’t know if it’s only the pandemic or if it’s also due to my age, but I’m not skipping over the obituaries like I used to,” McCutcheon said.

Naturally, one of those obituaries inspired a song. It was that of Esther Cohen, a Greek Holocaust survivor who educated future generations on her ordeals.

“I thought of the people of that era, and not only Holocaust survivors, but World War II veterans, people who worked in the civil rights movement, people who endured amazing things and in some cases accomplished amazing things,” said McCutcheon. “Everything is going to be second hand as they pass on. Esther’s story really struck me. I figured she deserved at least one song.”

Memories of the dead have colored several of McCutcheon’s songs over the years, including two other standouts on Leap! “Song When You Are Dead” is a rare spinoff song. It stems from his 2020 track “The Night That John Prine Died” in that it led to another of McCutcheon’s other friends to ask him for their very own song of remembrance. Instead, the song becomes an absurd comedy that rhymes composing and decomposing. It’s corny at times, but charming.

Also funny, but much more profound, is “The Third Way,” the true story of his Cuban father in law’s experiences in a Georgia steel mill during the 1960s.

“Carlos was my father in law. He was born on a farm in Cuba and my wife was born in Havana,” McCutcheon explained. “Like most Cubans at the time, they supported the revolution until they couldn’t. They arrived here in 1964 and he took this job at a local steel mill. He certainly had never lived in a system that segregated basic services into white and colored.”

When Darnell, a black man assigned to train Carlos showed him to the bathroom, Carlos had an interesting reaction.

“There was an amusing moment of tension there when he realized he couldn’t use either bathroom. So as a matter of his own private protest, he just went out and pissed in the woods.”

It was an amazing act of protest that resonated across languages and cultures. It’s inspiring. In an age when ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ and pink knit caps qualifiy as clever political protest, it’s a reminder that certain bold acts can still make an impact.

“We are talking about a lot of non-binary things these days, but we often don’t talk about non-binary thinking,” added McCutcheon.

Speaking of our political situation, McCutcheon saw parallels between modern America and “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland after participating in a songwriting workshop in the region.

“I came home thinking that we have these things we digest from afar, where you have two groups who are essentially neighbors and these people are killing each other,” McCutcheon said. “The whole point of this song is to say it’s not just over there, it’s not just them. We have our own version of it right here.”

Elsewhere on the album, “The Ride” manages to be uplifting while sounding absolutely fantastic. On “Fuller Brush,” McCutcheon provides a vivid picture of a confident but drained door-to-door salesman and uses it to lament that entire institutions have come and gone over the course of his lifetime.

McCutcheon knows his way around a folk song. He literally owns the domain name for Leap! is a solid collection of 18 songs, most of which come along with a well-measured message of some sort. They were mostly written over the pandemic but rarely directly address it. The style is timeless and as pure folk as McCutcheon’s website would suggest, but the messages are almost all timely.

Above is the full episode as aired on WUSB’s Country Pocket, including both my interview with John McCutcheon and the songs we discussed, starting with Second Hand, which the song about Esther Cohen. You can hear the show live every Monday at 11am on WUSB 90.1 FM or check the blog to watch it as a YouTube playlist. Visit and for more.

Posted in On Air

Laura Benitez Talks Politics, Denial, and Breakups via California Centuries

Politics and denial can both be helpful for mankind if used correctly. People can vote for representatives who promise competent and efficient government. Even denial has its purposes. Laura Benitez, who performs with a backing band called the Heartache and who penned their album California Centuries, explained that we make good use of denial every day. 

“It’s best that you don’t think of your chances of dying in a car accident as you’re driving down the road,” said Benitez. “It’s fine to know those things, but it’s not helpful.”

Unfortunately, politics and denial are not so helpful when they mix. In the incisive “Bad Things,” Benitez channels her pre-pandemic angst into a warning that those of us lucky enough to live in America still need to vigilant. The last verse describes a crisis in which doctors and lawyers flee an increasingly terrifying strongman.

“A lot of people have talked about it as me talking about a refugee crisis,” Benitez explained. “I’m not not talking about that, but what I meant to say is that the refugees are us. In this country, we have this idea that we’re wealthy and first world and we can rest assured that truly terrible things don’t happen here. But I don’t think we can, and the past few years have truly taught that to me in stark terms”

The thought isn’t comfortable for many of us. The other kind of denial that shows up on California Centuries is all about that notion of discomfort. Conversations about topics like race, guns, and police brutality are difficult for people invested in a right-wing world view and downright terrifying for those trying to maintain an unjust status quo for their own ends. So the conversations are deemed inappropriate. Pundits say it’s too soon after a mass shooting to talk about guns; governors say that children are too impressionable to read about the experiences of minority groups. “Gaslight (We Shouldn’t Talk About It)” takes on that attitude by pointing out the reason for interrupting those conversations is to prevent any empathizing from taking place.

“They know when the conversations happen, we come together and we find solutions for the most part,” Benitez said. “If we have the conversation, we’re going to realize that this isn’t the problem. The problem is the people in power. I think we forget how much power we have in organizing, in getting together. That is our superpower.”

There are some non-political standouts as well. In “Plaid Shirt,” Benitez uses a left-behind article of clothing as a profound and amusing way to example a breakup. It’s one thing to be left for another person, Benitez explained. 

“I think we all understand wanting to be with someone else,” Benitez said. “If you’re in a long term relationship, it’s not like you don’t have attractions to other people. We’re all human. That’s all normal. But if they are just a different person, it’s way weirder for sure.” 

But for someone to change, for that person to no longer exist, that’s not as easy to grasp. For this man to have failed to take this plaid shirt when he moved out meant that maybe his tastes had changed, or he was only putting on a sort of costume for his ex. Or maybe, it’s just that his new woman prefers to dress him another way. 

“It’s also just a little bit of country pettiness to be like ‘Oh you’re going to dress all differently now,’” Benitez said. “You gotta have that.”

To close the interview, I asked Benitez to name her favorite California country song. The Bakersfield sound seemed almost certain to make an appearance, but Benitez quite literally had the city show up in the title of the song. As someone who lives in an area with congested roads, I’m partial to CALICO the Band’s “The 405,” which uses the infamous traffic of Los Angeles as a metaphor for that one giant problem standing between a couple and their happiness. It seems like they live a few miles apart, but the distance between proves to be a lot more impressive when all those brake lights come into view.

Above is the full episode as aired on WUSB’s Country Pocket, including both my interview with Laura Benitez and the songs we discussed, starting with Bad Things, which also kicked off California Centuries. Our California country songs conclude the playlist. You can hear the show live every Monday at 11am on WUSB 90.1 FM or check the blog to watch it as a YouTube playlist. Visit and for more. Photo by Emily Sevin

Posted in On Air

Lindsay Lou’s you thought you knew: A Busy Mind Contemplates Existence and Change

“Everything changes when it needs to.” Those words are oft repeated on “Ancient Oceans,” an unusual but clever song that documents geological transformations as a way of easing the listener into the comparatively small changes going on in their life. Lou has undergone quite a few changes of her own over the years, including moving through two backing bands and from a raw acoustic grassy sound to something more mainstream Americana.

Lou and I had an in depth conversation about change and human nature. Everyone has to change to survive, she explained, but everyone has an immutable part of themselves, their essence, that will remain consistent. On standout track “Still Water,” she essentially says that there are people whose minds will always be still water and others who will experience the rush of a river. We both identify as rushing river types, although Lou has made attempts to quiet her mind through meditation, a practice she explains as focusing on the breath.

The conversation on change and consistency is especially relevant given Lou’s transformation in sound toward something more polished and with percussion. “If you love an artist, even if something about what they’re doing changes, you will see and you will feel, and you will be able to connect with something in there that is still them,” Lou said. “But maybe you’ve changed. The beautiful thing about music is sometimes you’ll go back to it years later and realize that the essential thing in me that connected to the essential thing in that that was an extension of the essential thing in the person who made it is still there. I just needed to go through something.”

I’m all there for Lou’s change in sound. While this EP was more grassy than some of her recent efforts, her more Americana sound remains enjoyable. Her voice is strong as always, both literally and metaphorically, and some of the songwriting is top-notch. Her 2018 rendition of her and her friend Maya De Vitry’s co-write “Shining in the Distance” stands out as an example of how rich her new sound can be. Still, you though you knew is a welcome return to some of her original vibes.

“Freedom,” a co-write and duet with Billy Strings, is, to use a word that was tossed around often in the interview, essential listening. The lyrics are somewhat modern but the sound is a call and response take on a traditional bluegrass hymn. When I tried talking about genre with Lou, she defined the word as non-existent or fluid. But she did acknowledge that learning the bluegrass repertoire gave her a tool with which to express herself and that it takes many tools and some original thoughts to make a song. If that’s the case, Lou and Strings are excellent handymen.

Above is the full episode as aired on WUSB’s Country Pocket, including both my interview with Lindsay Lou and the songs we discussed, starting with Still Water. We also discuss a concert she is performing with Sierra Hull that takes place in New York on September 22, 2022. If you’re reading after the tour and didn’t get a chance to attend one of the shows like I did, I’m sorry you weren’t able to make it. You can hear the show live every Monday at 11am on WUSB 90.1 FM or check the blog to watch it as a YouTube playlist. Visit and for more.

Posted in Uncategorized

Andrew Duhon’s Words of Wisdom on Emerald Blue

Andrew Duhon has traveled the world as a folk singer and he’s learned a lot in doing so. He’s learned to trust less in money, that he’s more of a human being/citizen of the world than a person tied to a particular country, and the importance of learning to slow down and enjoy the moment. These aren’t things he’s been taught per se, just some things he’s picked up from experience. Drawing wisdom from experience has always been who Andrew is.

As a child in Catholic school, Duhon learned about the beauty and validity of religious plurality by coloring in a picture of Jesus. No, really. Each child created an image of Christ with different colors and patterns. They all went up on the wall and they were all considered valid. “None of them would be right or wrong, we would just learn from what we interpreted,” Duhon said. “Perhaps that is the most important lesson Catholic school ever taught me. Unintended, likely. Certainly unintended.”

He has since rejected the dogma of religion and decided to focus on what makes people similar. Our differences are important, sure, but it’s more important to focus on unity, Duhon argues. Stories like this give me tremendous hope for the future. No matter what nationalism and intolerance is hurled at children, some of them are going to notice a small detail and learn the right thing anyway. It’s especially beautiful if they’re unlocking truths most adults can’t grasp just by looking at the pages of a coloring book.

Andrew Duhon’s album is called Emerald Blue. The rest of the album features standouts like “Slow Down,” which Duhon quite literally slows down for the final chorus. In taking his own advice, he creates a memorable track and a minute’s worth of a sweet slow jam. “Emerald Blue” and “Down From the Mountain” follow in the great tradition of American roots music in that they use the beauty of the natural world to portray an emotion.

“Down From the Mountain” especially works as reentry to the world following the pandemic lockdown. Duhon, a resident of New Orleans, told me he’s looking to get a cabin in the mountains of the Northeast or Pacific Northwest to escape to during the summer and just sit back and fish. It seems that even for a musician who travels the world, there’s a desire to climb back up the mountain from time to time and ‘slow down.’

Above is the full episode as aired on WUSB’s Country Pocket, including both my interview with Andrew Duhon and the songs we discussed, starting with the first half of our interview. You can hear the show live every Monday at 11am on WUSB 90.1 FM or check the blog to watch it as a YouTube playlist. Visit and for more.

Posted in On Air

Haroula Rose’s Catch The Light: A Filmmaker Sings Folk

I must admit that I don’t understand a whole lot about directing, at least when compared to the folk music Haroula and I discussed. But I think her cover of Chris Stapleton’s “You Should Probably Leave” shows that she’s superior at directing a song. Rose takes Stapleton’s lyrics and adds sadness, resignation, and a one voice/one piano soundscape. After hearing this song about being used and abandoned sung from such a solitary place, Stapleton’s version with a band and harmony vocals just doesn’t sound the way the video of that song should look. I should see someone lying in bed without anyone to comfort them. I should see one singer on stage hunched over a piano. The song should be “naked,” as Haroula puts it. Perhaps that’s the advantage of producing music after having directed a few films.

The rest of the album works just as fantastically with imagery and small details. “Happenstance” captures a moment at a funeral when all the people gossiping about the subject’s drug habit sit in stunned silence. “Summer Storm” uses a combination of low bass and sparse high notes on a piano to create a wide open and foreboding soundscape that matches the feeling of standing in the titular storm.

There’s a sharp tension between “The Nature of Things” and “Time’s Fool.” “The Nature of Things” is hopeful and mature, realizing that life moves in cycles and that this might be a low point. “Come close then pull away/Maybe we’ll come back around some day,” Rose sings. “Time’s Fool” is not ready to accept that reality. It’s a vulnerable gut punch that may be aware that nothing is permanent but isn’t willing to concede such a hard-won relationship to a silly little thing like the passage of time. I subscribe to the world that the former presents, but I’m drawn both to the fantasy and the songwriting of the latter.

Above is the full episode as aired on WUSB’s Country Pocket including both my interview with Haroula and the songs we discuss, starting with the track Happenstance. You’ll also get to see a music video Haroula directed. It features swimming in the nude, which is something Haroula believes is something deeply embedded in the human experience. I guess I do enjoy baths. You can hear the show live every Monday at 11am on WUSB 90.1 FM or check the blog to watch it as a YouTube playlist. Visit and for more.