Maiden Radio is an Appalachian folk/old-timey trio from Louisville. Although they all three play a lot of instruments and wear a lot of hats, the frequent setup is: Joan Shelley (vocals/banjo), Cheyenne Mize (vocals/fiddle), and Julia Purcell (vocals/acoustic guitar). That’s the setup on this song, anyway.
Since 2010, the trio has released three albums of glorious old-timey music. Most of their songs are traditional Appalachian folk songs, and more specifically traditional Kentucky folk songs. Their newest album Wolvering has three original songs, but everything else is “traditional”.
With most traditional Appalachian folk songs, there have been numerous interpretations over the years, and numerous different versions with sometimes wildly different lyrics. This song is no different. It’s my understanding that “Charlie’s Neat” is a traditional song based on another traditional song called “Over the River Charlie”. I think it’s usually done by a solo artist with nothing but a banjo and vocals. And it’s usually played a bit faster than this. What these gals do, though, with their three-part harmony, is magical. They remind me a lot of Mountain Man. Except that Mountain Man was doing their three-part harmonies a capella. Remember before Amelia Meath became half of the ûber-sexy duo Sylvan Esso? She was one-third of the Vermont-based Appalachian folk trio Mountain Man. Their only record to date — 2010’s Made The Harbor— knocked my socks off. Also in that band was Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, who blew me away at Hopscotch 2014. Enough about Mountain Man, though…
The aforementioned three-part harmonies in the chorus are fantastic, and Joan Shelley does the lead vocals in the verses.
The story goes that Maiden Radio recorded their third album Wolvering in the dead of winter 2015 in a cabin in the woods in a really remote part of northern Michigan. Apparently, they were sort of stranded there and were low on supplies, including heating oil. According to legend, the roads were flooded and frozen solid. Once the heater ran out of fuel, their only source of heat was the fireplace in the cabin. They say you can hear the crackling of the fire on the master tapes. I can’t hear it on this song, but that’s how the story goes.
This is that song:
“Charlie’s Neat”, as done by Maiden Radio
Also, check out this video of the girls playing “Charlie’s Neat”. It’s worth pointing out that the length of each girl’s pants is inversely proportional to the height of her footwear (or lack of same). Cheyenne: short pants/cowboy boots. Joan: high-water pants/flat shoes. Julia:full length pants/no shoes.
A reminder about Hopscotch. It starts two weeks from tonight. Maiden Radio and Joan Shelley are playing on Saturday night at Fletcher Theater after the Sylvan Esso set on the main stage at City Plaza. Maiden Radio plays at 9:30 and Joan Shelley at 10:30. I plan to be there for both sets. Even if I have to leave Sylvan Esso early for the short walk over to Fletcher.
It’s not too late to get your Hopscotch tickets. You can buy passes here.