The 43 Best Songs of 2018


I’ll start by saying that as soon as I hit the almighty “publish” button on this thing I’m going to start twitching and a wall of angst will close in around me as I’ll suddenly remember all of the incredible songs I left off of this list.

As someone who wears a few hats as a music journalist, radio host and music blogger I am inundated with new music in a way that I can’t even begin to keep up with.  This causes me equal parts joy and stress. But here’s the good news: I’m not going to let that stop me from sharing this year’s crop of songs because this list comes from an honest place and one of sheer joy.

Some of these songs are from artists  I am a hardcore fan of, others are ones I’m just getting to know. But they’re all songs that I have mad love and respect for and ones that have moved me to tears, made me dance, raise my fist in the air and most of all, experience the range of emotions that can only be elicited from music.

I started working on this list in January and every time a strong struck me in just the right way, I added to it. A few came in just under the proverbial wire (I’m looking at you, SHEL and Dido) and in some cases, there are two songs from the same artist because I couldn’t help myself.

I’m now going to sit and write out this list and if I have something specific to say about a song on it, I’ll say it. In some cases I may share a photo and/or video. These songs are not are in any particular order. I love all of these songs for different reasons and with different parts of my heart, mind and soul.

So we’re good on the disclaimers front right?

OK then. With a mixture of nerves, excitement and above all love I offer up my list of the 43 best songs of 2018!

1. “Mr. Weinstein Will See You Now” by Amanda Palmer & Jasmine Power. I had a lot to say about this song and video. Amanda Palmer is many things to me including hero, spirit animal, source of huge inspiration, incredible songwriter and all around spectacular human. Take your time with this song and this video. (btw, video is NSFW).

2. “Heroin” by Lucy Wainwright Roche. Holy shit.I could easily put the entire “Little Beast” album on this list. Tremendous record. Do yourself a favor and check out”Little Beast” and LWR’s previous stuff too.

3. “Party of One” by Brandi Carlile. First off, I’m THRILLED beyond words that Carlile got SIX Grammy Nominations! “By The Way, I Forgive You” is among my absolute favorite records of the year. And yeah, ‘The Joke’ is epic. But it’s the song “Party of One”  that REALLY kills me on the album.  It straight up makes me cry. I saw Carlile many times in 2018 and the song brought me to tears in Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island and Colorado.  BTW, I interviewed Carlile a few months ago. Read it here. Also, I reviewed “By The Way, I Forgive You.” And while I’m at it, here’s my review of her show at Red Rocks in August. She’s also a huge part of my review of the 2018 Newport Folk Festival.  I guess you could say I’m a big fan. How big? This kid is going on the Girls Just Wanna Weekend Mexico trip in January. (and yep, I’ll be writing about it here).

Also, HOLY SHIT. A video for the song starring Elisabeth Moss was dropped on Dec. 11. I can’t even…

Brandi Carlile
Brandi Carlile at the Newport Folk Festival. 7.29.18. Photo by Aimsel Ponti

4. “Dreamers” by Judy Collins. I saw Collins sing this live in Portland (Maine) a few months back and I sat there in stunned silence, tears rolling down my face such is its impact. One of the most important songs of 2018 hands down. “Dreamers” is written from the perspective of an immigrant woman and it’s a poignant, emotional song of stark desperation with some “fuck you, Trump” in there as well (in not so many words).  It’s just the famous, timeless vocals of Collins, no instruments. Ready yourself and click here.

5. “Halls of Sarah” by Neko Case. Case’s “Hell-On” is another one on my very short list of favorite albums of 2018. This woman can do no wrong in my book. That voice! That songwriting! “Halls of Sarah” is a goddamn spectacular song off of a goddamn spectacular record. P.S. Follow Case on Twitter. She takes no shit and it’s glorious.

6. “Good As Gold” by Sarah Shook & the Disarmers. From the “Years” album. I’ve got a mad crush of Shook and am still in discovery mode with her whiskey drinkin’ outlaw country sound. I’m pissed I haven’t seen she and her band live yet but I have feeling that will change in 2019. So yeah, “Good As Gold.” Love at first listen. Catchy AF.

7. “Famous” by Serena Ryder (featuring Simon Ward of The Strumbellas). As far as singing along with a huge, gorgeous melody goes, it doesn’t get much better than this one. I’ve been addicted to this song since I first heard it months ago on WCLZ. “Famous” makes me happy.

8. “Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You”  by Sheryl Crow (featuring Annie Clark). I mean it’s Sheryl Crow with St. Vincent for god’s sake.  I ain’t got nuthin’ else to say about this mighty fine song. Just listen.

9. “Such A Simple Thing” by Ray LaMontagne. Lest you think there wasn’t gonna be any fellas on this list. I know a beautiful song when I hear one. This song is a million percent lovely.

10. “I Can Change” by Lake Street Dive. My oh my what a song.  I adore this band. Had a chance to chat with singer Rachael Price last summer. Not only is the song a tender ballad that will hit you in the feels, the video is pretty special too.

11. “City Looks Pretty” by Courtney Barnett. From her scorching album “Tell Me How You Really Feel.” Interviewed Barnett this summer and saw her explosive yet all smiles set at Newport Folk Festival.  She’s the absolute bomb and “City Looks Pretty” is but one example.

Courtney Barnett
Courtney Barnett at the Newport Folk Festival. 7.28.18. Photo by Aimsel Ponti

12. “Diamonds” by JanaeSound. JanaeSound’s real name is Janay Woodruff and she lives right here in Maine. This is my favorite local song of the year and I’ve all but worn it out on my Music from 207 local radio show on WCLZ.  I also wrote about her. We’re lucky to have her in Maine. “Diamonds” is sacred to me and it’s got heart and inspiration to spare.

13. “Fruity” by Rubblebucket. I love this song because it’s fun, vibrant and full of surprises. Saw the band open for Lake Street Dive last summer and they were fabulous. Dig “Fruity!”

14. “Strangers” by Katie Herzig. The song is from the sensational album “Moment of Bliss” and Katie Herzig is a wildly talented and innovative artist. Here’s our chat from April and here’s “Strangers.”

15. “The Things We Do to Each Other” by Cowboy Junkies. Somehow I managed to forget how much I LOVE this band. But I fell back in love big-time upon hearing their “All That Reckoning” album and seeing them live at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, NH last summer.  Just so happens I recorded their jaw-dropping take on Bowie’s “Five Years”. I digress. Check out the entire “All That Reckoning” album when you can. In the meantime, here’s “The Things We Do To Each Other.”

16. “Parking Lot Pirouette” by Amanda Shires. Her exquisite album is called “To The Sunset.” Just listen to this moody tune. Jesus.

17. “Never Surrender” by Rose Cousins. You’re damn right I mean a cover of the 80s Corey Hart song. Rose Cousins has taken the already powerful song (there, I said it) and turned it into something truly remarkable. Among the best damn covers I’ve ever heard of any song.  So if you’re lost and on your own…listen to this!

18. “All This Time” by Katie Herzig. Yep, she made the list again. This is my favorite “Moment of Bliss” track. Why? Hear for yourself.

19. “Me & My Dog” by Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus as boygenuis. The three of them released an EP together under the name boygenius and it’s insanely good. They’re all SO GOOD on their own. Together it’s almost more than I can stand as evidenced by “Me & My Dog.”

20. “Broken Headlights” by Roscoe & Etta. Roscoe & Etta is the dynamic duo of singer-songwriters Maia Sharp and Anna Schulze. They made an album together and I love it start to finish. Saw them this summer in Portland, Maine and they were all that. “Broken Headlights” is the album’s first single.

roscoe and etta
Anna Schulze and Maia Sharp of Roscoe & Etta.
Photo by Patrik Giardino

21. “Fireworks” by First Aid Kit. From their “Ruins” album. In a word: SWOON! Also, here’s my interview with Klara Söderberg and my review of their February show in Boston. And most importantly, here’s the dreamy “Fireworks.”

22. “Spark, Set Fire” by The Western Den. They’re the Boston duo of Deni Hlavinka and Chris West and they’re  a very recent discovery for me. If “Spark, Set Fire” is any indication, I have a very good feeling we’re gonna get along just fine.

23. “Don’t Let Go” by Tiny Deaths. The album is called “Magic” and it most certainly is. I listened to it several times through during a road trip a few months ago and love it. Tiny Deaths is the dream-pop duo of vocalist Claire De Lune and producer Grant Cutler. Fun fact, the song “Oceans” was one of my favorite songs of 2016. I’m still obsessed with it.  But let’s focus on the “Magic” album and this effin’ great song “Don’t Let Go.”

24. “The River” by KT Tunstall. Scottish singer-songwriter K.T. Tunstall released her sixth studio album called “Wax” in October. I’m savoring each track, including “The River.”

25. “423” by Roscoe & Etta. I simply HAD to include another one from the Roscoe & Etta album. Love the imagery and Sharp and Schulze’s vocals together.  And the refrain is spectacular, but in your head say another word for spectacular because I use it too much. Behold: “423.”

26. “Venice Bitch” by Lana Del Rey. Truth be told, I only know a handful of Lana Del Rey songs and I love them all. As for this one, you GOTTA love the “fresh out of fucks forever” line.  Also, I LOVE that this song clocks in at just under ten minutes. Dig it.

27. “The Wanderer” by Emilie Mover. Mover, out of Toronto, is another artist on this list that I didn’t know about until about five minutes ago. But I do know that this single, a cover of the early 60’s Dion song “The Wanderer” is swoon-worthy.  I’m confident you’ll agree.

28. “Django” by Janelle Monáe featuring Zoe Kravitz. First of all, and you don’t need me to tell you this, the entire “Dirty Computer” album is an absolute banger. Second of all, the song  gives a shout out to Eve Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues.” So you’re damn right that “Django Jane” is on this list.

29. “Fine With the Dark” by Amy Ray. Ray’s latest solo album is called “Holler” and it’s extraordinary. Any number of songs could have made this list but at the moment I’m all about “Fine With the Dark.”

30. “Fugitive” by Indigo Girls. The song first appeared on their 1994 studio album “Swamp Ophelia” and is in my top five list of favorite songs by the duo of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers. So why is the song on this list? Because a double live album was released earlier this year of Indigo Girls live with The University of Colorado Symphony Orchestra. Here’s my review. Anyway…when I heard the symphony version of “Fugitive” I wept and cheered and pretty much lost my mind.  Just when I thought I couldn’t love a song anymore, Indigo Girls hit me (and the world) with THIS.

31. “Wild One” by I’m With Her. I’m With Her is the trio of Sarah Jarosz, Aoife O’Donovan and Sara Watkins. After a few songs here and there over the past couple of years the debut full-length album “See You Around” was released in February. I chose “Wild One” for this list because it makes me entirely sad and happy and their voices together destroy me.

32. “The Night That Bowie Died” by KT Tunstall. Another track from “Wax.”  I’m still not over losing Bowie and when I saw his name in this song title I steeled myself and put my headphones on. The reward was huge.

33. “Are We Good?” by Eleanor Friedberger. From her 2018 album “Rebound.” I can’t remember when I first heard this song as I scan the past 12 months but listening to it again as I write this I remember why I stuck it on this list. Maybe I got a press release about it? Delivery mechanism doesn’t matter, the song is excellent. Lend an ear.

34. “Neon Prayer Flags” by The Wind and The Wave. From their latest album “Human Beings Let You Down.” All I know is that I can’t get enough of Patty Lynn’s voice. She and musical partner Dwight Baker have a fantastic thing going with this band. Plus, the song talks about therapy so of course I love it.

35. “Some Kind of Window” by Rachael Yamagata. Rachael’s one of my favorite singers on the planet and she surprised us all with the release of a seemingly-out-of-nowhere EP called “Porch Songs” a couple of months ago. There are five songs on it and they all put me into emotional orbit. I chose “Some Kind of Window” because the lines “I don’t know where my will has gone, I never felt so shut down before” are effin’ fantastic and Yamagata sings them in a profound, soul-searing way. Just listen!

36. “Black Monday” by Neneh Cherry. I’ll be honest, I haven’t really kept up with Cherry’s career. I’m lame. Up until this point I pretty much only knew her now 30-year-old hit “Buffalo Stance.” But then one fine I got wind of her latest album “Broken Politics” and I guess I got wind at the exact moment that I actually had time to listen to it. Wow. It’s going to knock your socks entirely off. Her vocals are to die-for. I’m still getting to know the album but “Black Monday” sure as shit made my list.

37. “Follow Me Home” by SHEL. It was love at first listen with the four mesmerizing Holbrook sisters back in 2016. Since then I’ve seen them in a Tennessee cave, at a festival in North Carolina and a festival in Colorado. Their latest project is scoring the new Catherine Zeta-Jones Facebook Watch series “Queen America.” Out of that came the song “Follow Me Home,” released a little over a week ago. I have a heart attack every time a press release arrives with SHEL in the subject line and this was no exception. Listen to the song and fall under the SHEL spell.

38.”Extralife” by Darlingside. Pleased as punch to report that I FINALLY saw them live a week ago and they were dreamy and I was transfixed. I’ve adored Darlingside for a couple of years and the adoration grew all the more with the release of their album “Extralife.” The title track made my list because when I listen to it I leave my body and float up to 60s folk heaven. Here it is.

39.”Hurricanes” by Dido. Cause …want to thank her… for releasing her first album since 2013. Well technically it’s not out quite yet. “Still on My Mind” is set for a March 2019 release BUT the first single “Hurricanes” was shared with the world on the 12th of November and it’s lovely and lush and well heck, just listen.

40. “Right Down the Line” by Lucius. Yes indeed I mean a cover of the 1978 Gerry Rafferty hit. It’s one of ten tracks on the “Nudes” album, released in March. The indie-pop quartet of singers Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, guitarist Casey Foubert and drummer John Dion can do no wrong in my book. I got hip to them in 2013 and everything they’ve done since then has been fantastic. I was lucky enough to see them last year with Roger Waters. Holy shit. Anyway, “Nudes” is an acoustic album of new stuff, old stuff and some covers including their marvelous take on “Right Down the Line.”

lucius with lukas
Holly and Jess from Lucius on stage with Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real at the Newport Folk Festival. 7.28.18. Photo by Aimsel Ponti

41. “Blue Again” by Weakened Friends. I do sometimes like to rock out. Weakened Friends is the Portland, Maine trio of singer-guitarist Sonia Sturino, bass player Annie Hoffman and drummer Cam Jones.  They just won a Boston Music Award for Alt/Indie artist of the year. YEAH! “Blue Again” is from their tremendous debut full-length album “Common Blah.”

42. “Social Life” by Armies. Because it’s commentary on social media is blistering and spot-on. Also, I’m all about the vocals of Dave Gutter and Anna Lombard. “Social Life” is from the band’s second album “Armies II.” They’re a Maine act but do all sorts of cool stuff all over the place. There’s a video coming at some point for the song that was filmed at the album release show a few months ago (I was there). For now, take a listen to “Social Life.”

43. “Only Lonely” by The Ballroom Thieves. The Ballroom Thieves is the trio of Martin Earley, Devin Mauch and Calin Peters.  OMG I love this band. I even bought a necklace Martin made at a show a couple of years ago. I also love the fact that they now call Maine home. “Only Lonely” will have you at the first chill howl. It’s from their “Paper Crown” EP. Enjoy.

And there you have it.

Ponti out

p.s. Because I love you here’s a Spotify Playlist of all the songs!

Aimsel on the Record is sponsored in part by LB Kitchen in Portland, Maine.


Please contact me if you’re interested in sponsorship opportunities.

Review: 2017 Rocky Mountain Folks Festival

The 2017 Rocky Mountain Folks Festival ended a week ago and part of my head, heart and soul are still at the glorious Planet Bluegrass site along  the St. Vrain River. My toes are still feeling the water of this river run over them, my ears are still hearing the sounds of Elephant Revival, SHEL, Lake Street Dive, Dave Rawlings Machine and so many other incredible acts and my heart is still skipping beats when I think about how breathtaking my first trip to Colorado was and how just about every moment of the 2017 Rocky Mountain Folks Festival was damn near perfect.

festival crowd collage
Various shots of the Planet Bluegrass grounds at the 2017 Rocky Mountain Folks Festival.
Photos by Aimsel Ponti

This is a festival that cares about the environment (incredible recycling efforts) cares about people’s bellies (incredible food vendors…omg the dumplings!) and cares SO MUCH about an incredible line up.

Here’s that beautiful river that festival folks were hanging out in all weekend long.

River good
The lovely, mellow, chilly and absolutely perfect St. Vrain River.
Photo by Aimsel Ponti

This is what me and about 5,000 other music lovers  took in over the course of three magical days:

The pocket schedule perked on the knees of yours truly in my happy spot.

For the first few hours on Friday I flitted about checking out everything, stood in the river a few times and paid a visit to the General Store (merch tent) where I promptly bought an official festival t-shirt and a super cool Rhiannon Giddens one.

The first order of business for me started Friday afternoon with Mary Gauthier in the Wildwood Pavilion. It’s a barn-like structure on the festival grounds that was a beehive of music all weekend long. I’ve seen Gauthier a few times through the years and she’s one heck of a compelling songwriter, to say the very least. She played the tender, hopeful, compassionate and frankly important song “Mercy Now” and led us in a sing-along of a freshly-written satirical take on “Na Na Na Na Na…Hey Hey Goodbye,” during which she name-dropped the likes of Steve Bannon, Sean Spicer and several other former yahoos of the Trump administration. It was awesome.

Mary Gauthier
Mary Gauthier in the Wildwood Pavilion during the 2017 Rocky Mountain Folks Festival.
Photo by Aimsel Ponti

Gauthier also brought sixteen-year old Bella Betts from the songwriting school (this happens in the week before festival kick-off) on stage along with several other students and teachers to sing the song Betts wrote called “We Are All The Same.” Gauthier urged people to record it and thankfully several did because this song blew us all away. For real. Tears streamed down my face.

Watch this:

After wiping away of tears and joy from Mary Gauthier  & company, I made my way to a grassy spot I had staked out earlier and settled in for The Weepies. They’re  the duo of married couple Deb Talan and Steve Tannen and they’re a pair of indie-folk firecrackers. And even though I’m still schooling myself on their tunes, their set was tremendous and it included “Not Your Year,” so near and dear to my heart.

Thirty minutes after The Weepies ended, Rhiannon Giddens and her band were on stage. I was bummed to have missed her show in Maine a few weeks before the festival but was SO HAPPY to finally be seeing her.  Her band Caroline Chocolate Drops is excellent and so is her solo work, especially the new album “Freedom Highway.”

Rhiannon ONE
Rhiannon Giddens at the 2017 Rocky Mountain Folks Festival.
Photo by Aimsel Ponti

The song “At the Purchaser’s Option” was inspired by a print advertisement in the 1800s for a 22 year old slave woman that Giddens saw in a book. The woman also had with her a nine-month-old baby who was “at the purchaser’s option.”

Rhiannon TWO
Rhiannon Giddens at the 2017 Rocky Mountain Folks Festival.
Photo by Aimsel Ponti

Giddens channeled her sadness in thinking about what that woman’s life must have been like into a powerful, searing song. Her voice is a mountain of glory.  Giddens plays banjo and violin (and I suspect a number of other instruments) and her set was jaw-dropping at the festival. “You take my body, you can take my bones, you can take my blood but not my soul.”  I won’t be missing her next time she comes to Maine.

Closing out the first night was a guy that I’ve been a from-a-distance fan of for a few years but am WAY INTO; Gregory Alan Isakov.

Gregory Alan Isakov
Gregory Alan Isakov at the 2017 Rocky Mountain Folks Festival.
Photo by Aimsel Ponti

I mean honestly, what’s better than his song “Liars?” In fact, that entire live album he recorded with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra is excruciatingly magnificent.  Isakov and his band ended the first day of the festival in brilliant fashion.  After his set,  I made my way back home to my temporary home, climbed the ladder up to my sleeping loft and fell into a deep slumber, in a state of disbelief that there were still two more days ahead.

Saturday morning kicked off with a set by someone new to me: Korby Lenker. He’s a singer-songwriter out of Nashville and he charmed the pants off of me with his tune “My Little Life.” Lenker was the winner of the Rocky Mountain Folks Fest Songwriters Showcase 2016, earning him a spot on the main stage at this year’s festival. Hey Korby, come to Maine. Let’s hang.

The happy voyage of new music discovery continued with the very next act; Australia’s The Mae Trio. They’re sisters Maggie Rigby, Elsie Rigby along with  Anita Hillman and they’ve been out on the road in support of their latest release, “Take Care Take Cover.” Facebook tells me that  “They perform an insightful collection of original songs arranged for ukulele, banjo, guitar, fiddle, cello, bass and superb three part vocal harmony. ” I can tell you all that’s true! Check them out when you get a minute.

I had to retreat to my  loft for a brief recharge but heard great things about Ben Sollee & Kentucky Native and  Mandolin Orange. But I made it back in time for a fun set from the legendary Loudon Wainwright III. He’s got a hilarious song about prescription medications and really got the crowd going.

The second to last band to play on Saturday was one that completely dazzled me and I became a HUGE and INSTANT fan of. Elephant Revival!!! They’re based in Nederland, CO and are a six piece “experimental/folk/Americana” act. All I know is that I could listen to Bonnie Paine sing tax returns and it would be awesome. She also plays washboard, djembe, musical-saw and the stomp-box. Holy bananas. The other singer is Daniel Rodriguez who also plays guitar, banjo and bass. Where has this band been all my life?

Their set was effing awesome, their originals are to die for and then they put me into absolute orbit with a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Have a Cigar.” Holy smokes. There’s even a clip of it someone shot at the festival. 

Elephant Revival
The Elephant Revival at the 2017 Rocky Mountain Folks Festival. Photo by Aimsel Ponti

The Revivalists out of New Orleans closed out the festival on Saturday night and they were yet another band I didn’t know anything about who were absolutely fantastic.  I did however find myself singing along to the last song, “Wish I Knew You” which I realized I had heard a bunch on the radio. Great song. Great band.  Singer David Shaw is the perfect frontman. I’m gonna HAVE TO see this band again.

I awoke on Sunday morning both ecstatic and kind of sad because on the one hand, the lineup was for the day was almost too good to be true, but on the other hand, it was the last day.

I got there at by ten, grabbed a tasty breakfast burrito from the food area and enjoyed sets by Egyptian singer-songwriter (and superhero, look this guy up) Ramy Essam and then Mollie O’Brien & Rich Moore.

Then at 1:30 the primary reason I came to Colorado took the stage. I’ve been ALL ABOUT SHEL for a little over a year ever since they came to Portland (ME) in July of 2016. When I came up with a list of my favorite songs of 2016, one of their songs was at the top. The last time I saw them was in a Tennessee cave. This festival was the sixth time I’ve seen them play live and each time I am pretty much at a loss for words because they’re THAT GOOD. SHEL is an acronym for the four sisters in the band; Sarah (violin, guitar), Hannah (keys, piano, accordion, vocals), Eva (vocals, mandolin, guitar) and Liza (drums, beatbox, percussion, vocals). Click on the cave link above for a ton more background on the band. The only thing that frustrates me about SHEL is that they make me feel like a lousy writer because I always struggle to find just the right string of words to express how over-the-moon talented they are. They’ve been at it since they were kids and make it look easy. They’re the kind of band that belong on a stage. At present they have two full-length albums, a holiday EP and a few other odds and ends out there. Expect a covers EP soonish. In the meantime, feed your ears with what’s out there because SHEL is a really special band.  And follow them on Facebook, etc. And join their mailing list at because you don’t want to miss them if they come anywhere near you. Dig?

Upper left= Eva, upper right = Liza, lower middle = Sarah, lower right = Hannah
SHEL photos by Aimsel Ponti

Listening to them – especially live – is an experience that is many things at once; uplifting, riveting, emotional, immensely satisfying and most certainly one that sends shafts of light zooming through every corner of my heart. Their performance at the 2017 Rocky Mountain Folks Festival was all this and more. With songs like “When the Dragon Came Down,” “Stained” and “Is the Doctor in Today,” not to mention their homage to Led Zeppelin with “The Battle of Evermore” they nailed it and as I looked around I could see the crowd was very much into it. I’ve noticed this every time I’ve seen them.  Judging by the length of the line of fans in the merch area afterwards, it’s safe to say they made a lasting impression. In fact, after their set it I realized I didn’t have a proper photo and so I properly fangirled and a helpful stranger was kind enough to snap a few pics, including this one: (yeah, I look nerdy as hell {per usual}but the band all look fab and smiley).


And the festival could have ended right then and there and I would have walked away feeling tremendous gratitude.

But it wasn’t over. Not by a long shot. In fact, the very next act was The Wailin’ Jennys.

The Wailin' Jennys
Heather Masse, Nicky Mehta and Ruth Moody. AKA The Wailin’ Jennys
Photo by Aimsel Ponti

To know the Jennys is to love the Jennys. Close harmonies for days. P.S. Heather Masse is FROM MAINE. If you aren’t hip to the Jennys, get hip. Trust me! A fellow festival goer shot this clip of them playing Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers” and it’s brutally great.

Again, the festival could have ended and I would been entirely fulfilled. But nope, it wasn’t over yet. Not only was it not over, the next act was one of my favorites of the past couple of years. Three words: LAKE STREET DIVE!!!!!

Lake Street Dive
Lake Street Dive photos by Aimsel Ponti

I think this was my third time seeing them and I’ll keep coming back because Mike Calabrese, Rachael Price, Bridget Kearney and Mike “McDuck” Olson are absolutely electrifying. They’ve cornered the market on a throwback sound that’s also, somehow, 100% modern. “Side Pony” is their latest record. Jump into Lake Street Dive pronto! One last thing, Dear Lake Street Dive, please record that “Jameson” song. I love it so much. Thanks. Love, Aim.

All good things must come to an end, even the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival. But boy did it end on an indelible note. I had seen Gillian Welch several years ago so already knew how great she was, but this was the first time seeing Dave Rawlings Machine. The lineup, and I *think* I’ve got this right, is Rawlings, Gillian Welch, Willie Watson, Paul Kowert and Brittany Haas.

Rawlings Machine group
Dave Rawlings Machine
Photo by Aimsel Ponti

I almost lost it several times during their set. I didn’t really recognize the songs but it didn’t matter AT ALL. Take this one for example. I sat there dying inside.


It was just after ten when Dave Rawlings Machine closed out the 2017 Rocky Mountain Folks Festival on the best note possible: Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.”

Final thoughts:

Thank you to Brian Eyster from Planet Bluegrass to responding when this writer gal from Maine reached out with an “So I’m thinkin’ ’bout comin’ to Colorado” email.

Thank you to my friend Lal for welcoming me with chilled Prosecco and a place to lay my head at night.  Up for a guest in 2018?

Thank you to all of the festival staff and volunteers who worked tirelessly.

And perhaps most of all,  THANK YOU to all of the musicians who poured your hearts and souls into your performances. I’ll never forget it.

To my fellow music fans, if you’ve never been to the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival,  let it be known that the 2018 dates are August 19 – 19. Keep your eye HERE for details.  Oh and if you’re a camper, that’s a HUGE dealio at this festival.

I left a little bit of my heart in that river, on that grass and on the side of the stage in Lyons, Colorado. That’s the highest praise I know how to give this festival. Thinking about it now,  my heart swells, my eyes get misty and I know I’ll often think back to those three days.

I’ll leave you with this very special montage. Thanks, Shamus Alley, for having the mad video editing skills that maybe someday I’ll learn.

Ponti out.

2017 Rocky Mountain Folks Festival PREVIEW


On August 17 I’ll be taking the 3:15 a.m. bus to Boston’s Logan Airport where I’ll be getting on a plane (United…gasp!) that will fly just under 2000 miles before touching down in Denver, Colorado. At which point, I’ll be getting off that plane and hopping on a shuttle bus to Lyons. I’ll spend four nights there staying with my friend Lal and we’ll be attending the annual Rocky Mountain Folks Festival.


Here’s the thing; I’ve NEVER been to Colorado. As in for real never. Colorado has always felt more like a dream than an actual place. It’s always seemed so far away almost as if it’s in another solar system. For all I know it could be.

I’m not a downhill skier so I haven’t had those kinds of Colorado visions. My entire life, Colorado has always made me think of two specific things: THIS  SONG and THIS TV SHOW. 

But with the recent launch of this blog and my insatiable thirst for live music and adventure, I decided – after seeing the lineup of the RMFF- that it was FINALLY time to make my way to the Centennial state.

Earlier this year I went to Tennessee for the first time in my life and you  read about that very special trip HERE and HERE.

So why am I excited about the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival? There are many reasons and it all starts with SHEL.

Left to right: Liza, Hannah, Eva and Sara Holbrook of SHELPhoto by Joe Dudeck
Left to right: Liza, Hannah, Eva and Sarah Holbrook of SHEL Photo by Joe Dudeck

In fact, it was one year ago yesterday that I first saw SHEL live after writing about them for the Portland Press Herald/ They were so great I went and saw them again at the Ossipee Valley Music Festival in Hiram, Maine the very next day. Check out this insanely amazing cover of the Led Zeppelin song “The Battle of Evermore” which SHEL recorded on their 2012 debut album. Fun fact: They’ll be performing at the RMFF on Sunday, Aug. 20 which also happens to be Robert Plant’s birthday.

SHEL is from Fort Collins, Colorado and are based there as well as Nashville, TN.

They’re one of those bands that are tricky to categorize but I’ll take a stab at it.

SHEL are purveyors of indie-folk-pop-rock magic and their songs will make you smile, weep, float up into the clouds and down into the depths of the ocean. The band is Sarah, Hannah, Eva and Liza (hence SHEL) and they’ve all been playing music since they were kids. They’re so good at what they do that seeing them live is a stunning, electrifying, uplifting and I dare say transformational experience. Trust me!

Also, check out this live clip of one of my favorite SHEL songs.

I reached out to keys and accordion player Hannah Holbrook to get the latest on the band and to measure their excitement level on playing Rocky Mountain Folks Festival.

“This summer, we’re extremely excited to be touring in our home state, Colorado! We’ve been spending every spare moment in Nashville, TN recording for film and TV projects and working on our next album. New music and videos coming soon,” said Hannah. And this is all of course SPECTACULAR news to this fan. As for the festival, indeed it is something very special for SHEL to be part of. “We’re really looking forward to playing in Lyons. We’ve been hearing about the legendary Rocky Mountain Folks Festival our whole lives but this is the first year we’re actually in town for it and we’re honored to be a part of it.”

As for the rest of the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival; some of the acts I know and love and some I’ve haven’t had a chance to get to know yet but that will be part of the weekend’s magic; the discovery process.

To see the entire lineup CLICK HERE

Here are a few of the other acts that I’m SUPER excited to see in a few weeks.

Gregory Alan Isakov<em>Photo by Rebecca Cardiad</em>
Gregory Alan Isakov Photo by Rebecca Cardiad

Gregory Alan Isakov

I’m still getting to know this singer-songwriter and to know him at all is to love him a ton. I’m working my way through his catalog and with each new song I hear my jaw drops a little more and I become more and more smitten with his songwriting. I saw GAI at the 2014 Boston Calling Festival and can’t wait to see him again because man alive, the live album he released last year, “Gregory Alan Isakov with the Colorado Symphony” is divine.

I mean seriously, listen to this.


Rhiannon Giddens

I’ve been a casual fan of her old-time string band Carolina Chocolate Drops since they released their 2010 debut record “Genuine Negro Jig” and am annoyed with myself because I have yet to see them live.

Giddens released her first solo album, “Tomorrow is My Turn” in 2015 and she followed it up with “Freedom Highway” this past February and this is the album that I’ve been ALL ABOUT for the past month or so. It’s not that I don’t like the other one, I just haven’t listened to it yet because I’m lame. But I will. “Freedom Highway” is mostly original songs with the title track being a protest song that dates back to 1965 and was penned by Roebuck “Pops” Staples of the legendary Staple Singers.

Giddens’ take on it is sensational. Take a listen to the song and Giddens’ gorgeous, glorious voice:


“Freedom Highway” is an album that’s joyous, mournful, rootsy, hopeful, historical and about 376 other things and I can’t wait to hear Giddens and her band play some its songs live.

Lake Street DivePhoto courtesy of the artist
Lake Street Dive Photo by Danny Clinch

Lake Street Dive

Dear Mike, Rachael, Bridget and the other Mike,

I think you’re all REALLY swell.



Seriously though, if you’ve never seen Lake Street Dive live, stop what you’re doing right now and go buy tickets to the festival because my oh my, they’re one of the most spectacular ( I use this word too much but it’s always true) live bands out there.

The last time I saw them was in February and the show was dynamite.

If you’ve never heard of Lake Street Dive, take a listen to this:

The Wailin’ Jennys

The Wailin' Jennys
Nicky Mehta, Ruth Moody and Heather Masse of The Wailin’ Jennys Photo courtesy of the artist

They’re the folk trio of Nicky Mehta, Ruth Moody and Heather Masse.

Harmonies for days…

The Wailin’ Jennys are certifiably FANTASTIC live.  Just listen to this:

The Weepies

The Weepies
Steve Tannen and Deb Talan of The Weepies Photo courtesy of the artist

The Weepies is the married duo of Steve Tannen and Deb Talan. They’ve released five albums since 2003 and they both have solo work out as well. I have barely scratched the surface with The Weepies but I’ll say this much, this song KILLS ME. (Aimsel code for I love it!!)

This video clip is audio only which is just as well because I suggest you close your eyes and just let this play.


And so there you have it, these are some of the acts I’m excited to see and to be super deluxe clear, this is only about 1/3 of the acts who will be performing on August 18 to 20 in Lyons.

To quote Mr. Denver “All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go…” OK so they’re not QUITE packed but I did buy my airport bus ticket today when I was at the station dropping my sister off. I’ll be bringing my camera and some notebooks to document this thing as best I can so look for that post soon after I get back.

As of today (7/30) there are still tickets left for the 2017 Rocky Mountain Folks Festival and you can get them here.

If you come to the festival, drop me a line and let me know so we can say hi. I’ll be the gal from Maine with the 1,000 watt smile.

Ponti out.