Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Current Obsessions: Leyla McCalla

I don't know if I can truly call Leyla McCalla a current obsession. I first discovered her playing the FreshGrass Festival in 2012. She was still with the Carolina Chocolate Drops then and played her own set earlier in the day. I think it's pretty safe to say no one had ever heard of her before that day, but everyone who was there for her set shares my obsession. She even had a true encore, which is incredibly rare for a slot early in the day at a festival.

As soon as I saw her, I wanted to own everything she had out, which, unfortunately, was nothing. Her debut album, Vari-Colored Songs, A Tribute to Langston Hughes, comes out February 4. It's by far my most anticipated release of 2014. How does a debut album from a little known artist best known for being a short time member of Carolina Chocolate Drops become my most anticipated release in a year that promises albums from Drive-By Truckers, Beck, and Wu-Tang Clan? By being one of the most original voices folk has seen in years.

As much as I love the current folk revival, a lot of it is rehashed. For someone to be truly original, all they have to do is put on a flowery shirt and be "freaky." Leyla McCalla plays traditional folk in a style and voice that I've never heard before. Most of that sound comes from her strumming her cello, but she also combines creole and traditional Haitian music. What comes out is haunting yet eerily accessible. 

To learn more about Leyla McCalla, check out her website. She has some upcoming tour dates to support Vari-Colored Songs, A Tribute to Langston Hughes. You can also watch a video for "Heart of Gold" below.

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