Mama’s Broke’s ‘dark, fiery folk-without-borders sound’ absorbs traditions from their maritime home in Eastern Canada all the way to Ireland and Indonesia.

Photo:  Canadian folk duo Mama’s Broke (Amy Lou and Lisa Marie)  live at Sidmouth Folk Festival 2019

16 May 2022 | James Porteous | Clipper Media News

We find ourselves at a place in time when there is too much and not enough of everything.

This is especially true in the world of music, I think. I spend a somewhat awkward amount of time ‘panning’ for new music. There is so much new material floating about that it might be understandable if I were to simply ‘click’ on names I know.

But that defeats the whole purpose. I already know what I know.

So lots of clicks and not too much that sticks but, when it does, it does.

Hence Mama’s Broke. I clicked on ‘Narrow Line’ and as usual, I did not take my finger off the button, half-expecting I would be moving on, as had happened the last 20 times.

But within seconds I removed my finger. And I turned up the volume and hit the search button as I tried and figure out what the heck I had stumbled upon.

There is no point in trying to put the sound into words, to be honest.

The only things that came close during the first listen were the names Hazel Dickens and Jean Ritchie. Not because they sound like either of those remarkable women, per se, but more because they have brought their music, tone, and sensibility into the present day without losing the essence that made their work so endearing and lasting.

So enjoy. And as Larry Sanders said, ‘no clicking.’

James Porteous | Clipper Media News

From their press release:

‘Mama’s Broke have spent the past eight years in a near-constant state of transience, pounding the transatlantic tour trail.

They’ve brought their dark, fiery folk-without-borders sound to major festivals and DIY punk houses alike, absorbing traditions from their maritime home in Eastern Canada all the way to Ireland and Indonesia.

Album Cover: Narrow Line by Mama's Broke

‘Nowhere is the duo’s art-in-motion approach more apparent than on their long-awaited sophomore record Narrow Line (released May 13, 2022 on Free Dirt Records); it’s the sound of nowhere in particular, yet woven with a rich synthesis of influences that knows no borders.

‘The eleven songs on Narrow Line burrow deeply, with close harmony duets, commanding vocals, and poignant contemplations on cycles of life, including birth and death.

‘Tinges of Americana stand side-by-side with the ghosts of Eastern European fiddle tunes and ancient a cappella ballad singing, melding into an unusually accessible dark-folk sound.

‘A careful listen of Narrow Line invokes an ephemeral sense of place—whether real or imagined—inviting us to take comfort in the infinite possibilities of life, whether or not we ever choose to settle down. 

‘For a group defined by constant touring, it’s not surprising that the two artists that make up Mama’s Broke, Lisa Maria and Amy Lou Keeler, met on the road.

‘As Lisa remembers it, “Amy was driving her old Mercedes from Montreal to Nova Scotia and I was looking for a ride. We spent the 17 hours in the car talking almost exclusively about music.

‘By the time we reached Halifax we started playing together, and within a week or two became a band.”

Photo by Blanca Esther Chavez

‘Both coming out of travelling communities that are focused on music and protest, the two owe the way in which they move through the world to the integrated and self-sustaining nature of DIY culture and activism.

‘It was a busy life that took them on a roundabout annual touring schedule running between Canada, the United States, Ireland, the UK, and Europe.

‘In each country, they built grassroots DIY communities to support their music or moved along the pathways of communal organizing that sustained other touring artists. 

‘The driving force behind this band is – and has always been – the commitment to challenge borders between people, places, and traditions; while encouraging freedom of expression and community through music.’

Watch: Mama’s Broke – What Can May Come (Sidmouth Folk Festival Session (2019)

20 August, 2019 | Folk Radio UK

Making their festival debut, Canadian duo Mama’s Broke played us a song from their album Count The Wicked in one of Sidmouth’s iconic seafront shelters. The fiddlesticks were obtained from the Thai food stall across the street.

You may well have already been lucky enough to catch the Canadian folk duo Mama’s Broke (Amy Lou and Lisa Marie) at a gig or festival this month as they have just finished touring here in the UK. Their final performance was at Purbeck Valley Folk Festival where I managed to catch them on Sunday. Prior to that, I was also lucky to see them at Sidmouth Folk Festival, where they proved they’re equally adept at performing in the intimate setting of the Cellar Bar as well as the grand stage of The Ham.

In his review of their debut album Count The Wicked, Danny Neill felt the album was so strong that he was straight to the point in his conclusion: “Debut albums as strong as this should not be ignored.” Luckily, looking at their substantial UK tour and the audience numbers, they most certainly were not ignored.

What’s abundantly clear is that they have pure folk DNA pumping through their veins. The music has its roots laid bare, there are no concessions here to 21st-century recording techniques, it’s an old-fashioned record that captures unadorned acoustics and natural performance. The harmonies feel like the purest, clean spring water and the playing has an ebb and flow, blowing hard and gentle like changes in the breeze. Danny Neill, Folk Radio UK

When I spoke to them at Sidmouth they admitted to being surprised by the UK tour attendance considering their album was self-funded via Kickstarter.  They just didn’t expect to have that sort of turnout outside of Canada…but they did, some even attended gigs wearing ‘Mama’s Broke t-shirts’! It’s stories like this we need to hear more of.

While at Sidmouth Folk Festival, they were led to “one of Sidmouth’s iconic seafront shelters. The fiddlesticks were obtained from the Thai food stall across the street…”

Buy Narrow Line at BANDCAMP or Freedirt


released May 13, 2022

Produced by Bill Garrett and Mama’s Broke

Recorded and mixed by Rob Heaney at the Treatment Room, Montreal
Additional recording and mixing by Gilles Castilloux and Montana Martin Iles

Mastered by Harris Newman at Grey Market Mastering

Photos by Blanca Esther Chavez
Design by Dan MacDonald Studios

Musician Credits:
Amy Lou Keeler – Vocals, guitar, banjo, fiddlesticks on “Pick the Raisins from the Paska”
Lisa Maria – Vocals, fiddle, mandolin, banjo on “Narrow Line”, guitar on “God’s Little Boy”, cello on “The Wreckage Done”

Guest Musicians:
Andrew Horton – Upright bass on “How it Ends” and “Just Pick One”
Joe Grass – Dobro on “Just Pick One”
Pierre Alexandre-Maranda – Upright bass on “Narrow Line”

Thank yous:

For Rosie

Thank you to all of our beloved friends and family
A special thanks to Amy “the Velvet Hammer” Goldberg

Dedicated to the memory of Rob Heaney