discography (2019 - present)

House of Mercy

Joan Kelsey

DLR 011 - Cassette Tape

November 6, 2020

Joan Kelsey’s “House of Mercy“ is a dazzling display of compositional range from a defining voice of the New York Capital Region. Joan’s work as Joan Kelsey’s Silver Lining produced ensemble oriented chamber folk that balances measured intentionality and communal bursts of joy. While Joan’s latest operates on a more private scale on the surface, it retains their spirit of measured depth, soaring heights, and open collaboration. Rick Sparato (Florist, Onlyness), produced and contributed many signature performances throughout, and their chemistry demonstrates an inspired phase of a trusting musical relationship that pushes Joan’s dialed-in songwriting across all regions of the stratosphere.

photo by Joan Kelsey, design by Jon Samuels

Hand Like God

JR Samuels

DLR 010 - Cassette Tape

October 16, 2020

Another trip into the untrammeled creative mind of improvisor JR Samuels, who returns with a stunning sophomore release exploring identity in grief and loss. Over the 10 musings for guitar soli, recorded one afternoon in the enclosed porch of his West Philadelphia home, Samuels continues to sculpt his definitive voice, frenzied and constantly questioning. A JR Samuels piece always feels familiar, but still has you feeling blindly for the wall, praying to turn on a light.

art by Aaron Goldstein, design by Jon Samuels

photo by Lou Crisitello, design by Jon Samuels

Live From The Void

Karl Blau

DLR 009, PD 004 - Cassette Tape

September 25, 2020

Recorded in eastern Pennsylvania on a brisk fall day, Live From The Void is a transitional document for Karl Blau, who has released more than 23 records throughout his rich life in music. A staple of  the K Records community, and a vital member the indie folk renaissance in Anacortes, WA, Karl relocated to Germantown, Philadelphia with his family in the winter of 2019. This sparse collection of songs strips back the lush, eclectic production of his past work in favor of voice and acoustic guitar. This shedding of skin reflects an artist reclaiming his craft in its most primordial form. His voice weaves in and out of the sounds of wind and bird songs, his words picking up the pieces of a former home and reconstructing them anew. This special document  is magical not only in its ability to look longingly at the past or point optimistically towards the future, but to hover contentedly in suspended animation.

painting by Kath Bloom, design by Jon Samuels

Bye Bye These Are The Days

Kath Bloom

DLR 008 - Vinyl LP, CD

August 14, 2020

The latest record by legendary folk songwriter Kath Bloom features new compositions and full band reworkings of previously released material. Bloom, who is based in Litchfield, CT, is joined by New Haven's David Shapiro (who performs solo as Alexander, with releases on Garden Portal and C/Site, among others) and Flow Ness. The record is the first to highlight this iteration of the Kath Bloom Band that has been performing together since 2017, and their dynamism and fluidity are on full display. Kath's deft songwriting is as always front and center, balancing a sober acceptance of mortality with a profound sensitivity that can "snap your heart like a twig." But there is a palpable joy that abounds on Bye Bye These Are The Days that reflects the elation felt by its musicians creating and moving as one.

Azalea

Natalie Jane Hill

DLR 007 - Cassette, CD

May 15, 2020

Azalea, the debut record by Austin, TX-based folk singer/guitarist Natalie Jane Hill emerges like the first days of spring. With incomparable nobility and grace, this collection of songs pairs our struggle to feel meaningfully connected to one another with an intimate knowledge of the natural world and the wonder of its inherent solitude. Hill's guitar playing is prodigious, played in a style all her own, and her voice is both warm and cutting, inviting comparisons to Jean Ritchie and Tamara Lindeman (The Weather Station).  A remarkable introduction to an artist with a fully-realized and potent vision of her creative life.

photography (of Natalie) by Carlie Tise

photography (of forest) by Natalie Jane Hill

design by Jon Samuels

artwork and design by Ben Calhoun

Jedidiah

Jason Calhoun

DLR 006 - Cassette

February 14, 2020

Jason Calhoun (paper armies/naps) is a tireless creator, Jedidiah being his 19th record in 10 years (his 20th release would be DLR BTL 002, featuring two live improvised performances from a tour of the Midwest and South in February 2020). The record feels darker than a lot of his earlier releases using the naps monikor, with titles such as 'you die and that's it,' 'ego death,' and 'buried where you live' grappling with the inevitability of decay. He sets his study of degradation in the great outdoors, surrounded by expansive wilderness during a family trip to the Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park in Crescent City California. The inside of the J-card simply reads: "Thanks to Ben and Mom for a very special trip," and the music allows us to feel the sort of self-immolation only felt when faced with the enormity and transcendence of all of things.

artwork and design by Jon Samuels

Way Haul Away

Shane Parish

DLR 005 - Cassette

January 10, 2020

During the summer of 2019, Shane Parish began recording a collection freewheeling improvisations interpreting songs in the Fireside Book of Folk Songs, which his wife found at a Goodwill and gifted him that previous winter. This project quickly snowballed and, wrapping up in December of that year, had grown to 147 distinct recordings of every song featured in the book. Some of these recordings have only the slightest resemblance to their original source material. As a guitarist and improvisor, Parish resembles a martial artist (which in fact he also is), methodically honing his craft through disciplined studies that allow for an unencumbered flow of spontaneous ideas and energy. Way Haul Away highlights 12 of these recordings, loosely connected by origin (many of the featured songs were originally work songs), and is an illuminating glimpse into the work of a fearless artist who never stops reexamining his approach to his instrument.

artwork and design by Erik Savage

Late Homework, The Songs of David Berman

Various Artists

DLR 004 - Digital Only

October 18, 2019

27 songs compiled by Francie Medosch (Florry), Aaron Powell (Foglake), and Filip Zemčík (Z Tapes) to honor the life and music of David Berman (Silver Jews). Featuring Greta Kline, Karl Blau, Emperor X, Hello Shark, Rachel Brown and a wide range of mainstays within the global DIY scene, Late Homework captures Berman's despair and hilarity, eschewing aesthetic continuity to give space for the power of his lyricism. There are post-rock odysseys alongside dance-pop interpretations of songs both obscure and quintessential. All money raised from sales of this compilation are donated to Shatterproof, a non-profit organization that strives to release the vice grip that the disease of addiction has on all who are affected. To date, over $600 has been donated.

artwork and design by Jon Samuels

In Brend

JR Samuels

DLR 003 - Cassette

August 16, 2019

rounded walls lit by candle, so the echos are exactly what were intended.

a melody that meant nothing to you until you heard it again

tape wrapped so tight around the fingers

the fur bursts out the top in tufts

find it at the bottom of a vase you've held up to your eye like a telescope

or on the jersey turnpike just as the cars begin to speed

JR Samuels' debut solo outing features eight improvisations for solo classical guitar informed by Henry Flynt's essay Art or Brend?  Both the essay and the record emphasize process, doing for the sake of doing, and the fallibility of art as product. Samuels subverts many of the tropes of guitar soli records, and stylistically resembles restless polymaths such as Daniel Bachman and Jack Rose more than stalwart traditionalists who dedicate themselves to preserving form.

artwork and design by Matt Van Asselt

M-F

Michael Cormier

DLR 002 - Digital Only

June 7, 2019

Written within a two week period and recorded over three days, M-F is an experiment in the immediate expression of perception. Described as "ten love songs set within the forty hour work week," Cormier paints the minutiae of daily life shared with his partner as teeming with transcendence, a life where the slight squeeze of a hand can become an earth-shattering expression of the divine. Sonic limitations were placed on the production of the record, centering Cormier's voice and guitar to replicate the intimacy of a shared space with one other person. Released in conjunction with Days Like Pearls, the record is a snapshot of a moment that was in that moment still happening.

artwork and design by Meg McCauley

Days Like Pearls

Michael Cormier

DLR 001 - Cassette, CD

June 7, 2019

The first Dear Life release, and Michael Cormier's (Friendship, Hour) debut as a singer/songwriter. Playing nearly every instrument on the record, the album highlights both his abilities as a composer/arranger alongside his unique approach to songcraft. These songs are a collection of childhood memories from his growing up in Fairhaven, a small town in the shadow of New Bedford on the southeastern coast of Massachusetts. The songs capture these memories as they were  visible within that moment along with his anxieties of how they are only getting more inaccessible. The images and sensations contained within are growing fuzzier and farther out of reach. They are fleeting snapshots, both flimsy and colorful.

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©2019 by Dear Life Records