With the Newport Folk Festival quickly approaching this weekend, NPR published an article yesterday about the “5 New Faces of Folk“, a primer on the up-and-coming folk bands that you need to check out before you go see them at the festival. Some of the bands listed I already know about and adore (Shovels and Rope, Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls). A couple though were new (all of which were very good). One band though immediately caught my attention upon first listen. That band was Hurray For The Riff Raff.
Hurray For The Riff Raff is a trio from New Orleans led by Alynda Lee Segarra. Though they are a trio, you can easily tell that Segarra is the driving force behind the band. It is Segarra who founded the band and it is she who writes all their songs. Prior to forming the band, Segarra actually was a runaway teen hobo who lived all across the United States, jumping from freight trains to freight trains, and joining up with various bands across her journey (she was one of those featured in a Time photo article, The Ballad of the Hobo). This nomadic lifestyle helped shaped Segarra’s world views and it is through this experience that Segarra pulls from when she writes songs for Hurray For Riff Raff.
What is most distinctive about the band though is not their lyrics or musical style (a mix of traditional country folk and old-time blues). No, what you will notice immediately is the beauty of Segarra’s voice. There is a clearness and timeless quality to it that makes the song she sings so pure and emotion-filled. It is that vocal purity that immediately perked my attention when I listened to their songs. Take a listen to their live version of Look Out Mama, the title track of their debut record released last year and see if you agree. They are definitely one band to keep an eye on.