Holding down the No. 1 position at WNMC is the Kalamazoo-based Red Tail Ring. Comprised of a degree-holding ethnomusicologist and student of traditional Finnish music, the folk duo’s sound is loving tip of the hat to the folk revivalist movement. Playing both traditional murder ballads (a favorite of the Scots-Irish Appalachian tradition) and tunes with more modern sentiments, Michael Beauchamp and Laurel Premo highlight guitar, banjo, dobro, fiddle and mandolin alongside folksy harmonies. Their new material fits in seamlessly with the old traditions in a perfect marriage of bluegrass and modernity.
A more modern folksy sound takes the 19th position at WRUW in Cleveland, Ohio. Boxcar Lilies’ album Sugar Shack isn’t the Norman Petty pop of Jimmy Gilmer And The Fireballs, but does retain some of the classic blend of electric and acoustic instrumentation against pretty tunes about love and life. The women of Boxcar Lilies bring a broad musical background to their Americana sound. Before forming the Americana trio, Jenny Goodspeed was writing in the style of ’70s singer songwriters, Stephanie Marshall’s sound was contemporary Nashville and rock and Katie Clarke played traditional country and bluegrass. Together, they highlight a mutual love of three-part harmonies backed by warm guitar, that fabulous rhythmic clawhammer banjo, electric bass, drums and even the occasional washboard. Rooted in folk tradition, their sound is completely contemporary in the vein of Gillian Welch or Neil Young.