With music that No Depression calls “strikingly beautiful, distinctive and exhilarating, with expressive vocals that will find a way into hearts and minds,” Ari & Mia reference the styles of Southern and Northeastern fiddle music and the early American songbook to create a realm where their own compositions cross paths with older traditions. Their stylish and sophisticated music honors the sounds of Appalachian cottages, rural dance floors, and urban concert halls. Combine this with their innovative approach to songwriting and the result is a captivating sound, compellingly evident in their new album, Sew The City, due out March 1, 2019. The duo is composed of sisters, Ariel and Mia Friedman.
“We recorded Sew The City in the gorgeous and isolated Great North Sound Society in Parsonsfield, ME,” says Ariel. “An old farmhouse was the perfect place to access quiet and creativity.”
The sisters produced the album themselves, and it was engineered by Ariel Bernstein, with help from GNSS intern Abigale Sullivan. Bernstein also provided insightful input on the production side. “We recorded all of the takes live together in one room, other than a few third harmony parts that we overdubbed and Ariel Bernstein’s added percussion on two tracks,” says Mia. “This resulted in an album that sounds exactly like what our audience would hear at a live show. The sound is organic and full, and it features intricately designed parts for all four of our voices—two vocals and two instruments.”
Recording Sew The City felt freeing and exhilarating for the pair, “most likely due to being isolated in a gorgeous place where our only goal was birthing this album,” says Ariel. “We allowed ourselves to be influenced by the place itself, like when we recorded ‘Unquiet Grave’ directly after we had visited the extremely old and definitely haunted basement. It was late in the evening and raining buckets outside.”
The album has a subtle theme of paying homage to fierce female ancestors. “Til I Die” and “Sew The City” both tell the stories of their maternal and paternal grandmothers respectively. On the more ridiculous side, “Roll Away” tells the story of the once-carpeted kitchen in Mia’s home, proudly built by her husband’s grandparents in the 1940s. They also cover a song by their all-time favorite (s)hero Joni Mitchell, whose song, “The Fiddle and the Drum,” is a letter to North America. Written in 1969 as an anti-war song, it wonders why this country has “traded the fiddle for the drum” while still remembering “all the good things you are.” “We found this to be a fitting song to resurrect and rearrange at this particular moment in our country’s political climate,” Mia says. “It’s a poignant and thought-provoking song with which to end the album.”
With a sound that SingOut! Magazine praised as “a traditional rootsy grounding with a clear background of classical training” as well as “soothing and fresh, tasteful and accomplished,” the sisters have toured across the United States and Australia since 2008, and both are both graduates of New England Conservatory’s cutting-edge Contemporary Improvisation department. They’ve performed alongside Sarah Jarosz, have opened for the likes of Cheryl Wheeler and Catie Curtis, and have played at venues such as Shalin Liu Performing Arts Center, Falcon Ridge Folk Festival’s Mainstage Emerging Artist Showcase, Club Passim, the Parlor Room, New Bedford Folk Festival, and Jordan Hall. Both are award-winning songwriters: Mia’s song “Across the Water” won the 2010 John Lennon Songwriting Contest in the folk category, and Ari’s song “Old Man” was a semi-finalist for the 2016 International Songwriting Competition.
“Ari & Mia are not creating a new music; they are taking it to another level and exploring areas that have not been attempted in decades,” No Depression opined about their most recent album, Out of Stone. “Their all-acoustic, pure and honest approach has significance. Treading the edges of traditional folk in a more faithful manner, they share the lyrical wizardry of 70’s bands Steeleye Span, Tir-Na-Nog, and the Incredible String Band, with searing harmony as good as The Beach Boys. The sisters sing in unison like two violins.” Their two previous albums, Land on Shore and Unruly Heart, ranked high on the national folk radio charts.
“We feel wildly grateful to have such a unique sisterly partnership,” Ariel says of their familial bond and performing alliance. “Our collaboration involves each of us writing song skeletons separately and then bringing the partially formed song to our duo where together we shape it into its final form. Performing and touring together is one of our favorite ways to spend time—we’re well aware of how lucky we are to be able to spend days and weeks with only each other and not go insane.”
Meet Ari & Mia:
Ariel Friedman is a multi-genre cellist, composer, and educator. A winner of ASTA’s Alternative Styles Award, she is steeped both in the music of American roots traditions and a broad range of classical repertoire. She has performed and toured with many folk-based groups including Scottish National Fiddle champion Hanneke Cassel, the Sail Away Ladies, and Childsplay. An advocate of new music and a composer herself, she is the founding cellist of Cardamom Quartet, performs with Boston Modern Orchestra Project, and has written music for and collaborated with many ensembles including Palaver Strings, Box Not Found, DC-based pianist and composer Sam Post, and the young artists of the Boston University Tanglewood Institute. In demand as an educator, Ariel teaches at Brookline Music School, has her own private studio and has taught at music camps and workshops from New England to New Zealand. Ariel graduated from Northwestern University in 2008 and received a Masters of Music from New England Conservatory in 2011. She is one of two 2018 recipients of New England Conservatory’s Alumni Award. Visit www.
Mia Friedman is a virtuosic fiddler and singer as well as a composer and educator. Her song “Across the Water” won the 2010 John Lennon Songwriting Contest in the folk category, and she was the 2006 New Hampshire Highland Games Scottish Fiddle Champion. She is largely influenced by American roots music and old-time Appalachian traditions and blends this with contemporary music in her compositions. Mia plays with Hollow Deck—a duo of tape collage, vocals, and woodwinds—and avant-garde rock band, Creative Healing. She teaches at the Community Music School of Springfield, MA and leads elementary and high school string programs in five public schools in Springfield. She is the orchestra teacher at The Hartsbrook Waldorf School, has a private studio of fiddle students, leads adult music classes, and teaches at many traditional fiddle music camps during the summer. Mia graduated from New England Conservatory in 2012 where she studied with Anthony Coleman, Carla Kihlstedt, and Hankus Netsky.
Ari & Mia
Sew The City
1. Come On Home
- Sweet Morning
- Roll Away
- Unquiet Grave
- Little Bit Like Me
- Til I Die
- Sew the City
- The Fiddle and the Drum