As today's Auto-Tuned youth pop grows slicker and more cyborg-sounding with every synth fill and bpm, there still can be found those who reject such soulless robotics and the whole consumer mindset that goes along with them. There's a scrappy, scruffy crop of young musicians who get their kicks digging in the dirt. These dumpster-diving, DIY think-for-yourselfers have discovered the timeless truths of authentic folk music and are out there living the dream, in all its freight-hopping, Woody Guthrie-esque glory. Canadian duo Mama's Broke—Lisa Maria, vocals, mandolin, fiddle, and guitar; Amy Lou, vocals, banjo, guitar, and mandolin—stands out among these itinerant songsters, and on July 8 they'll once again return to the Rosendale Cafe.
Maybe Mama's Broke love the road because Mama's Broke was literally born on the road. "I was hitchhiking from Montreal to Halifax in 2014 and Amy, who was driving along on the way to Halifax herself, in this beat-up old Mercedes, stopped to give me a lift," recalls Maria. "We both loved the traveling lifestyle and music, and we became really great friends right away. So just we stayed together and kept on traveling and playing music. Just a little after we first met, we went to Ireland and Europe and toured over there."
Both musicians are 26 and have folk music in their blood, thanks in large part to their fathers. "I grew up as a step dancer," Maria says. "My dad would always take me to folk festivals and I heard a lot of fiddle music at those. Amy's dad is a big music fan in general but he really likes folk, so that's where she first heard a lot of folk music."
Which is not to say that the acoustic twosome is puritanical when it comes to their chosen idiom. In addition to the traditional old-time, blues, Americana, and Quebecois, Celtic, and Balkan styles that weave their way through their songs, Mama's Broke, who self-released an eponymous EP in 2014 and this year's album Count the Wicked, also cite doom metal and punk as being influential on their sound. "We've both played in electric bands as well, so I think we have the attitude from that kind of playing in what we do—those kinds of [rock] chord changes and melodies," muses Maria. "But there's also a connection with punk and doom metal because they're also very passionate types of music. Also there's a rawness there, like there is in folk music." Along with, one might add, a deep sense of darkness that dovetails well with that of the bleak ballads so common to Anglo-derived folksong.
And, of course, the road itself continues to shape the perambulatory pair's music as well. "To us, traveling around and finding out about the music in the different places we visit is true to the folk tradition," says Maria via cell phone, her breathing brisk as she walks along a highway outside Stratford, Ontario. Despite their urge for going, however, she and Lou are aiming to slow down a bit for the occasion of their Hudson Valley return. "We're very excited to be coming back to the Rosendale Cafe," she says. "It's a great venue and we're lucky enough to have some friends who live locally, so we're staying with them. We purposely planned to have a couple of days off there, to do some hiking and exploring." And, as both locals and fellow visitors will agree, who can blame them?
Mama's Broke will perform at the Rosendale Cafe in Rosendale on July 8 at 8pm. Admission is $10. (845) 658-9048; Rosendalecafe.com.