Sunday Music Interlude — Adia Victoria, SHEL, and onDeadWaves

I haven’t written about music in a while, so it’s time to catch up on some of the more interesting new acts and new projects that I’ve come across.

Originally out of South Carolina, Adia Victoria now calls Nashville home.  Her interesting bio can be found at here.  Her original music is a combination of country and electric blues, punk, garage rock, and a modern type of dark Americana roots music borne of the narrative tradition and neo-folk.  Her voice consists of a girlish rasp wrapped in an alto silkiness.  You can learn more about her at her website at

She was named WXPN’s Artist to Watch for July 2016, and just performed on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert.  The performance from this last appears below.


SHEL is a group of four sisters out of Fort Collins, Colorado.  I wrote about them back in September 2014 as they were just out of the egg, featuring their neo-folk music after an EP and first album.  They have since matured and have come out with a critically hailed album entitled Just Crazy Enough.  They just played live on with John Diliberto.   Here they are performing a couple of selections that reveal both their developing maturity and natural talent informed by that maturity.  The first is “Let Me Do.”  The song begins as a deceptively simplistic song that then changes both tempo and melody, carried by the ethereal combined voice of their harmony vocals in the call and response from narrative to chorus.

Speaking of ethereal, here is SHEL performing “I’m Just a Shadow.”  This is first class neo-noir folk and roots music.  The following Lyric Video highlights the emotional power of the lyrics.

It is probably time for a shout-out to John Diliberto at  I actually came across John’s taste in music through the program Star’s End, which is still on-going.  There I was introduced to ambient and space music in the 1970s when I split time between visits to my home state of New Jersey and during trips from my job in Washington, D.C.  FM radio waves being as they were, especially in the early morning over weekends, I would occasionally be able to tune into the program, which memory serves was out of Philly, while driving down some deserted highway with the star-streaked night sky above, and wish that the feeling of my movement through time and space, the fresh air from the open windows, the firmament of the night sky, and the music–which seemed to transport me to some other dimension–would never end.  Then, after years traveling and at sea, I was reintroduced to John as music critic through his contributions to the long-missed CD Review magazine.  His thoughtful, eloquent, and informative reviews opened my world to new music and new musical genre’s that I would probably not otherwise have explored.  There are a few critics that fall into this category which, for me, includes Ralph Gleason, Leonard Feather, Ira Gitler, John McDonough, Robert Christgau, Gary Giddins, Orrin Keepnews, Greil Marcus, Dave Marsh, Michael Cuscuna, and David Dye, among a few–all good company.

This serves as introduction to another project to which I was introduced through and Mr. Diliberto.  It is the group onDeadWaves.  The group consists of British singers Polly Scattergood and James Chapman.  Their maiden album is this month’s Echoes CD of the Month.  According to the review by John Diliberto, onDeadWaves’s sound is like “a meeting of Lanterna, driving across the desert in a 57 ‘Chevy, with Leonard Cohen and Lucinda Williams in the backseat.”  Their music, also called “shoegaze west”, seems more varied, especially when confronted by the 60’s Byrd’s-like guitar and unrestrained punk of the song “California.”  Overall, though, I can hear the influence of the moodier neo-noir song-styling of Lana Del Rey through most of the songs.  Perhaps Ms. Del Rey was onto something after all.

Here they are the song “Blue Inside”.  Other videos are also available at the Echoes site linked above.


Saturday Music Interlude — Orenda Fink

Orenda Fink began her musical career at the Alabama Music of Fine Arts back in the late 1990s.  According to her biography at she was part of the band Little Red Rocket, which disbanded after two promising but largely derivative albums.  She then moved with her collaborator, Maria Taylor, to the town of Athens, Georgia and began working starting up the group Azure Ray where they found their sound in dream pop and folk over six critically well received albums.  When the indie label Saddle Creek records picked up the group she moved again, this time to Omaha, Nebraska.

Both Taylor and Fink also explore their own themes on solo projects.  Fink’s first album Invisible Ones explored Haitian ritual and mysticism.  Her second album, Ask the Night, is filled with gorgeous songs exploring Southern Gothic themes reminiscent of Ozark ballads and blues.  In August 2014 she released her latest album, Blue Dream.  This time her explorations involve spiritual mystery and the timelessness of love.  In the words of her reviewer at NPR’s First Listen: “More than half the songs on Blue Dream feature the word “love” somewhere, and every moment of Fink’s performance sounds as if it’s being sung into someone’s ear, not a microphone.”

The following videos are two of the most haunting songs on the album.  The first is “Ace of Cups” and the second is “This Is a Part of Something Greater.”  I’m not a big fan of either video–the first somewhat derivative, and the second an ironic, stylish and visually engaging homage to horror that seems to be a forced fit driven by the director’s ego, which is completely off track from the song’s themes–clashing with them and then overpowering them: an artistic misstep and an all too common occurrence in music videos.  Unfortunately there are no “unplugged” examples of these songs on-line, hopefully something Saddle Creek will address.  This last week I came across an interesting on-line interview and performance at  The full on-line Wednesday, January 14th program can be found at Echoes Online. (paywall)

Note:  The original version of this post has been modified to provide the link to Orinda Fink’s podcast interview at  I have also provided the link for the full Echoes on-line programming.  Many thanks to