Today’s Top 5: Maggie Pope

(Screenshot from Under the Oak’s “Take in the Spring” music video.)

Early Saturday, I woke in the pre-dawn. Much weighed on my mind, most of which matters not for the purposes of this particular post, but there was also: How could I rave about Wilder Maker’s new album without trading in (too much) hyperbole? And, too, why had I not heard Maggie Pope’s crystalline vocals until this past week? I discovered the Philly folk performer just a few days ago thanks to a tweet from WXPN’s Mike Vasilikos promoting her latest single, “Radio Song,” but she should have been on my radar before we made the move south in late 2018. 

According to her website, hers has not been the typical trek to a music career. In college, she pursued a degree in biology while achieving All-American honors as a dual-sport Division I athlete, and even played for the U.S. Women’s National Water Polo team for a spell. Turned out, in addition to bunny shots, corner throws and greenies, she actually knew about biology and science books, too. She first pursued a career as a marine biologist and then became an environmental educator.

Then came motherhood and, coupled with that, what her website calls “a profound and significant loss” to her extended family. Prior to those events, her love of music—which dates back to childhood—took a backseat to everything else. After, she found peace and a release in playing her guitar and singing, even if she had to do so while her children slept. An open-mic night introduced her to one-time Keebler Elf Adam Monaco and, in time, they formed a folk group called Under the Oak.

Here is Under the Oak performing “Big Sky” in 2017…

… and here they are at one of our old haunts, the Sellersville Theater, performing “Take in the Spring” in January 2020. (If I didn’t know better, I’d swear it was a track from one of the many Fast Folk Musical Magazine LPs I used to play on the radio in the mid-1980s.) Her songwriting reminds me to an extent of Suzanne Vega’s, as she has a poet’s knack for weaving specifics into scenes, while her vocals conjure Shawn Colvin’s.  

Here she is, solo, performing a Blaze Foley song, “Clay Pigeons.”

And here’s a sweet track from her 2019 solo debut, the five-song June Tapes EP. (From what I’ve read, she recorded it in a closet while her kids were asleep.)

Here’s another track from the June Tapes, “The Pilgrim.” It stirs the soul.

Finally, here’s a single she released in late 2021, “The Bird Painter.” The video almost makes me miss snow. (Note the word “almost.”)

Granted, her catalog isn’t overflowing – a sole album with Under the Oak, plus the June Tapes EP and a handful of singles. Let’s hope “Radio Song” is a harbinger of a longer work, more press and, especially, radio play and TV appearances. (For those interested in such things, she does have a Patreon site.)

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