Laurel Premo, “The Iron Trios”

Starting with “The Brushy Fork of John’s Creek,” a melancholy-yet-alluring milieu settles over this subtly breathtaking solo instrumental project. Best known as half of the award-winning indie-folk duo Red Tail Ring, Traverse City fiddler Laurel Premo delves into traditional and new fiddle music, revealing, as she puts it, “a bloom of underlying harmonic drones, minimalist repetition and rich polyrhythms.”

Collaborating with double-bassist Evan Premo, guitarists Owen Marshall and Josh Davis, and fiddler Aaron Jonah Lewis on the self-produced album, Premo has created something uniquely appealing — a powerful, old-timey sound with a mesmerizing, contemporary sheen, something demonstrated in fetching fashion on songs such as “Iron in the Northern Ground” and “Snow Blind.” Of course, those ear-pleasing, familiar, Red Tail Ring harmonies are missing from the equation, but as an instrumental affair, this is a superb and sublime collection of acoustic grace.

Upcoming Show: 7:30 p.m. Friday (Oct. 18) at Old Town Playhouse, 14 8th St., Traverse City, opening for Joshua Davis, tickets $30, available online at

May Erlewine, “Second Sight”

The delicate opening tracks to “Second Sight,” belie the power, passion and political fire that simmer throughout the latest collection from Michigan’s much-beloved songbird, who also describes herself as a “folk-singer activist” in promotional materials for her album tour. That’s not to say that Traverse City-area artist May Erlewine has ever shied away from social commentary before. It’s just that “Second Sight” is specifically designed to buoy those who’ve felt particularly distressed and disenfranchised by the Trump Administration and events that have divided the country in recent years.

And make no mistake: The poignant, pointed lyrics rank among the best and most heartfelt in Erlewine’s long and illustrious career, paired with artfully arranged, infectious, pop-tinged, piano-driven melodies – from what could be the most potent tune she’s ever penned, “That’s My Home,” to the new feminist anthem, “Whole Again,” to the uplifting, gospel-shaded “Afraid” that closes it all out.

Masterfully recorded by Tyler Duncan in Ann Arbor and self-produced by Erlewine, there’s no shortage of haunting tracks to get planted in the memory cells and leave fans humming and singing to themselves. At times, it seems the subject matter deserves a wall of rock’ n’ roll guitars and thundering drums to match the intensity of the lyrics. But the brilliance of Erlewine may be that she can make her point with a luminous voice and arresting lyrics without beating you over the head.


Upcoming Shows: After several Michigan shows in support of her new album, Erlewine is touring the country this fall, with one more Michigan concert on Nov. 27 at Salt of the Earth in Fennville

Email John Sinkevics at

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