What's up with folk and country

Husband-and-wife duo the Happy Hours (pictured)have stepped into the studio with Alan Munshower on drums and Patrick McAvinue on fiddle to record their first album. They'll be playing at the Strong Records showcase at the Crown Aug. 29 (see story on this page).

The next night Scapescape kicks off in Station North and includes a performance by last year's "Best Folk" band, Bobby E. Lee and the Sympathizers, who play the North Avenue Lot at 9:15 p.m. But even though this is a country and folk column, the great thing about Scapescape is the stunning diversity of music. Last year we went from J. Roddy Walston and the Business to the Get 'Em Mamis. (And speaking of J. Roddy's Southern rock, Essential Tremors, their new album, is coming out Sept. 10, and they'll be playing Rams Head Live on Sept. 20.

Willie Nelson, the patron saint of S&T, will be playing Pier Six Pavilion on Sept. 22. And Del McCoury, another one of our heroes, is naming his new record Streets of Baltimore, after the Harlan Howard/ Tompall Glaser classic. (Though Harlan and Tompall didn't know the architecture of the city too well when the song's hero moved into a "cottage in a neighborhood serene"-might we suggest this edit for local covers: "bought a little rowhouse with a cottage on the screen.")

?We loved Letitia Van Sant's 2012 debut, Breakfast Truce, and she released the first track, "Rising Tide," from her forthcoming Parts and Labor, which will feature songs about the economy, with new band the Bonafides. It is great and you can hear it on Side 4 of our Big Baltimore Playlist (

2011's "Best Folk" Her Fantastic Cats also just put out a spectacular EP, called Florida. HFC used to be the solo effort of avant-garde old-time banjo picker and foot stomper Jason Reed (who is a collaborator of S&T), but the sound has evolved immensely with the formidable spirit and chops of Paul Anderson adding vocals, bass, and guitar. Their harmonies match the lyrical and instrumental complexity, and it's a real joy.

Finally, save the date for the Baltimore Folk Fest on Oct. 12. The lineup is looking pretty hot, including Sweet Saro, the Manly Deeds, the Dead Whale Ramblers, Tigerland, and many more. For more information, visit