When country violinist Amanda Shires goes on tour, she meets a lot of interesting people. Once after a show in Tampa, Florida, a fellow calling himself Tiger Bill handed her a mysterious bag — whose contents, he said, would make her "bulletproof."
"And I opened it and looked inside of it," Shires recalls. "And it was whiskers and claws and teeth and fur."
Scottish singer-songwriter KT Tunstall made her latest album in Arizona, of all places. Working with musician and producer Howe Gelb, she recorded the first six songs in the spring of 2012, and the last six in November. But a lot changed for Tunstall in the months between.
To be a folk musician these days, there's no requirement that you be some sort of rambling wanderer. But it can't hurt, right?
Gregory Alan Isakov was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. He didn't stay there long: He moved to Philadelphia, then around the East Coast, switching schools every couple years. As an adult, he's found a more stable home: a remote part of Colorado. And in his music, he writes from the perspective quite happy to be away from any big cities.
The Thai Elephant Orchestra is, remarkably, just what it sounds like. At a conservation center in Thailand, made for former work animals with nowhere to go, a group of elephants has been assembled and trained to play enormous percussion instruments, holding mallets in their trunks and sometimes trumpeting along.
The Lumineers may have on the pop scene out of nowhere — scoring a worldwide hit with the band's self-titled 2012 debut album and its multimillion-selling single "Ho Hey" — but the Denver group had tooled around in obscurity for quite a few years before its breakthrough. These days, though, it's one of the biggest folk-rock outfits in the business, joining a suspenders-clad Mount Rushmore with the likes of Mumford & Sons.