LiveStream Boulder, CO
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Players: Rebecca Folsom, vocals, guitar; Mark Oblinger, vocals, acoustic guitar; Weissenborn lap steel guitar, Oud viol de gamba; Robert Johnson, vocals; Eric Moon, piano, Wurlitzer b3, accordion; Sandra Wong, fiddle, Nyckelharpa; Eric Thorin, electric and upright bass; Christian Teele, drums, percussion. Nick Forster, Steve Szymanski, Carli Zug, Mireille Bakhos, Raqaya Alfaris, guest artists
Material: Debuting her latest release, Sanctuary, Rebecca Folsom shared a collection of songs penned with fellow activists and advocates for social change. The songs speak to those on the fringes who are dealing with mental health issues, racial and gender discrimination, gun violence and incarceration, to name a few.
Musically, Folsom straddles between folk and gospel and gets her inspiration from actual interviews and conversations with those who have experienced these issues, as well as from her own life experience. Together, they form the songs’ narratives.
“Sanctuary,” the title cut, with its inviting piano intro, thematically evens out the human playing field: One world we are brothers and sisters/one world it’s really rather small/one world ours to care for/one world together/a sanctuary for all. “Rise Up,” a gospel-inspired song, is a call-to-action to our collective humanity: Rise up in my power of glory/rise even higher/gonna fly so high/ gonna shine my light/gonna rise.
Musicianship: Folsom’s voice is the musical equivalent of water cascading through a mountain. While her warm, rich alto sound is the meaty part of her voice, her upper range is equally powerful. She has assembled a group of musicians who complement her while bringing in sounds from instruments not often heard in our current pop music culture.
Performance: Seemingly comfortable in her own skin, Folsom conveys her commitment to the issues with sincerity and authenticity. She more than adequately gives the backstory for each song, which in the case of these selections, is instrumental in their creation. When performing “Rise Up,” Folsom invites the heads of various non-profits to take the stage and join in song, a very meaningful moment in the set. Though her work more than addresses the challenges central to their stories, it would have been intriguing to hear her vesion of a timeless classic in the genre.
Summary: When a singer’s unique sound and heart come together, that’s the moment they hit the sweet spot. Rebecca Folsom achieves that with her song content and powers of expression. Adding to this weighty collection, hearing her spin on one of the classic socially conscious gems would have been a welcome addition.
– Ellen Woloshin