Linda Fahey

After a few years spent regrouping from the trying experience of being dropped by their first record label, The Secret Sisters have returned with their third LP, You Don't Own Me Anymore, produced by Brandi Carlile. Folk Alley caught up with Laura and Lydia Rogers at this year's 30A Songwriters Festival in Florida for an exclusive session at our pop-up studio, not far from the beach.

She's a poet, a writer, an artist, an entrepreneur and someone who knows how to use her voice to encourage social change. Early in 2016, when Ani DiFranco's Paint Congress Blue Tour came through the 30A Songwriters Festival in Florida, she stopped by for a Folk Alley session. Here, she performs her poem "Binary," the title track from her forthcoming album (due in 2017), which she says addresses the overriding concept that "consciousness is binary."

Singer-songwriter Ana Egge is a collaborator at heart: She's worked with Ron Sexsmith, Steve Earle, The Stray Birds and many others throughout her rich career. Her latest partnership is with M.C.

The San Francisco duo of Maria Quiles and Rory Cloud got together in 2011 after meeting via the songwriting circuit in the area. They've been touring together ever since, crisscrossing the country in their Volkswagen Golf. In 2014, Quiles & Cloud won the Duo Contest at the Freshgrass Festival at MassMoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts — a prize that included working on a record with Allison Brown at Compass Records in Nashville.

For the last five years, since the release of his album KMAG YOYO, Hayes Carll has been on a mini-hiatus. During that period, he decided it was time for a change creatively and wrestled with how that change would look and sound. It was a time of personal transitions, including the end of Carll's marriage and his departure from his record label.

JT Nero and Allison Russell — now Birds of Chicago — had been friends and mutual admirers of each other's work for years before that friendship evolved into a musical and life partnership. They released their first studio album as a duo in 2012, and then followed up quickly with a live recording in 2013. Now, they've just put out their sophomore studio recording, Real Midnight, produced by Joe Henry.

Minneapolis brothers Jack Torrey and Page Burkum say they "wandered into the world of music on accident and on purpose at the same time." They got their start singing around campfires, and around friends who encouraged them to start playing out.

Singer-songwriter Kevin Gordon stopped by Folk Alley recently for a session taping at Beehive Productions. Joined by Steph Graham on bass, Gordon performed material from his latest album, Long Gone Time. About this song, "Following A Sign," he told us:

Vermont native Matt Lorenz is the man behind the one-man band known as The Suitcase Junket. It's a project that evolved from his other "roots-rock/junk-folk" band, the trio Rusty Belle, in which he played alongside his sister, Kate Lorenz, and Zak Trojano. With 1950s amps and a guitar he'd salvaged from a Dumpster — plus an old oversize suitcase he plays with his heel as a bass drum, a baby shoe (his baby shoe) hitting a gas can, a cooking pot, a circular saw blade and a box of bones and silverware for added percussion — Lorenz creates a sound like no other.

Charlie Parr, a self-taught roots musician, grew up in Austin, Minn. There, he became obsessed with Texas bluesmen Mance Lipscomb and Lightnin' Hopkins, whom he discovered in his dad's rich and eclectic record collection. From there, Parr made his way to the legendary West Bank of Minneapolis, where he spent his formative musical years before migrating north to his current home in Duluth.

Amy Helm, daughter of The Band's Levon Helm, grew up surrounded by music.

It's been quite a year for Vermont native Caitlin Canty. She released her breakout album Reckless Skyline in January, backed by an all-star "dream band" including Eric Heywood, Billy Conway and Jeffrey Foucault; made the big move from the Green Mountain State to Music City; and recently won the 2015 Telluride Troubadour Contest at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival.

Mandolin Orange's Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz are known for their beautifully crafted songs, as well as for their straightforward yet elegant performances. After releasing their 2013 album This Side Of Jordan, they spent the majority of their time on the road, an experience that heavily influenced the songs — most built around the theme of home — on their new follow-up, Such Jubilee.

Martin Sexton says that when he sat down to produce his latest album, Mixtape Of The Open Road, he'd originally set out to record around a theme, like a "Nashville, 1972 album or a bluegrass record or a Zeppelin-esque rockin' CD." But the songs that were coming out had a different plan — each had its own distinct feel. So, as Sexton says, he just "stepped on the gas and headed in that direction of making a mixtape ...

The songs on The Steel Wheels' latest album, Leave Some Things Behind, revolve around themes of leaving and going. As the band's Trent Wagler describes, "Sometimes it's going away from something you really want to leave behind, and other times it's going toward whatever that dream is that pulls you in a direction, but also acknowledging that that's not always easy — that you are inevitably leaving something behind in the process."

Lindsay Lou & The Flatbellys got their start in 2009 as a traditional bluegrass band in Lansing, Mich. Founding member Joshua Rilko describes the project as an "unofficial bluegrass thesis" to accompany his unofficial late-night studying of the genre.

These days, while still giving a nod to bluegrass and American traditional music, they boldly take their own songs in new directions. They recently stopped by Beehive Studios in Saranac Lake, N.Y., to record songs from their new album, Ionia — an album recorded live in four days in their dining room in Ionia, Mich.

On April 5, 2014, David Lamb, one half of the Providence, R.I., duo Brown Bird, lost his year-long battle with leukemia. After being diagnosed in the spring of 2013, Lamb underwent a bone-marrow transplant in the fall, and during the months of treatment and recovery he continued to make music with his life and musical partner, MorganEve Swain, in their home studio.

When David Lamb, half of the Rhode Island-based duo Brown Bird, succumbed to an aggressive relapse of leukemia in April 2014 after a year-long battle with the disease, the music world lost one of the most exciting, intriguing and original voices this reviewer had heard in years. Not only that, we lost a truly kind-hearted man who was deeply loved by friends, family and legions of fans who approach cult-like passion for Brown Bird's genre-defying music. Dave's passing was a surprise and a blow to all of us who followed his struggle with the disease online.

Anna Roberts-Gevalt and Elizabeth LaPrelle (a.k.a. Anna & Elizabeth) combine their love of storytelling, their beautiful voices and their interest in the visual arts to share Appalachian ballads and traditional music with a new generation of music lovers.

Caitlin Canty's Reckless Skyline — the second full-length album from the Vermont singer-songwriter, who's about to relocate to Nashville — was recorded live in four days in a western Massachusetts studio. With fellow songwriter Jeffrey Foucault at the helm as producer, Canty works with an all-star band that includes Billy Conway (Morphine) and Eric Heywood (Ray LaMontagne, The Pretenders).

Pieta Brown says she didn't find the guitar; the guitar found her. The daughter of singer-songwriter Greg Brown grew up surrounded by music and wrote her first song when she was only 3. By age 8, she was writing poetry and instrumental music on the piano, eventually picking up the guitar in her early 20s and merging the two into songs.