Welcome to the front door of Roots Music and Random Thoughts where each week (or whenever I feel like it) I’ll curate, aggregate and update news, events, images, ideas, sounds, odds and ends. I consider my effort simply a speck of dust on the highway; just a nice spot to pause for a few moments to take a break from the surf.
New Music Rising: Ana Egge & The Sentimentals Collaborate-A-Go-Go
Last year when I wrote a story about Ana Egge, I pulled this quote from Steve Earle, who had produced her Bad Blood album several years earlier: ‘Ana Egge’s songs are low and lonesome, big square-state noir ballads which she plays on a guitar she built with her own two hands and sings like she’s telling us her deepest, darkest secrets’. I also called my friend Mark Miller, frontman of New York roots music band Spuyten Duyvil and a concert promoter, who offered this thought: ‘An artist’s ability to connect with an audience is frequently and disingenuously misrepresented in their marketing copy. Ana is a rare exception. She captivates a room and draws all eyes and ears with a combination of thoughtful and heartfelt lyrics, a heartbroken voice, and serious instrumental chops.”
While her last album Bright Shadow was a sweet collaboration with The Stray Birds…one of the finest string bands on the road today…on June 10th she’ll be releasing her ninth album Say That Now, which finds her playing with The Sentimentals, a Danish band who rock a little harder.
The Sentimentals are MC Hansen (vocals, harmonica,guitars), Nikolaj Wolf (bass), and Jacob Chano (drums), and they’re old friends of Ana. In addition to previously going out on the road together, the band has also played behind other touring musicians from the US such as Gurf Morlix, Jonathan Byrd, and Sam Baker. This album was recorded over two days in Denmark, and I reached out to Ana to share about the experience.
It is a different road from my last record Bright Shadow, for sure.. In a strange way though, I was drawn to working with The Sentimentals on Say That Now for the same reasons that I was drawn to working with The Stray Birds on ‘Bright Shadow’. Because each band had developed a psychic groove together as a group from playing so much together. The remarkable thing about both bands is that they’re all fantastic players and all amazing harmony singers. That’s the magic dust.
I realized the depth of feel that The Sentimentals had to offer by touring with them in Europe as my back up band over the years. They can be so supportive and quiet on some songs and then they can totally rock. Which gives me, as a vocalist, more ways to push my voice. It was so fun to work with them in the studio in Copenhagen and do so much focused, down to the wire co-writing as well. That’s what makes this album unique to the rest of my catalogue. We wrote most of the songs together and all of them were written in Denmark.
Go over to Ana’s website to check out her entire catalog and get this summer’s dates with the Sentimentals. They’ll be touring Denmark from June 23 through July 2, and then heading to the USA for at least another month. Ana lives in Brooklyn, so I’m particularly looking forward to the homecoming on July 19th at the Rockwood Music Hall.
I’d like to leave you with a little encouragement to take a listen to the video I’m posting below, which was put up on You Tube back in May 2015, just in time for Mother’s Day. The song takes my breath away, and inspired me to title my previous column Why I Cry at 2:35, which you can and should read here. Ana wrote this with Gary Nicholson and it features the Stray Birds. While it’s not very often that a song will come along that can repeatedly turn me into an emotional bowl of jelly at every listen, this is the one. 2:35.
Every Picture Tells A Story.
The image at the top of this page was shot by my long-time-we’ve-only-met-online friend Sandy Dyas, who is a visual artist based in Iowa City that I’ve written about often. You can visit her website here and check out her work, books (buy them…really) and blog. And more of her images can be found on this site….like this one.
On Smithsonian Folkways and Arhoolie Records…The Grand Acquisition.
Those of us who’ve been pleased with the great job that the Smithsonian Folkways people have done with the preservation of Moe Asch’s record label, are over the top with news that they’ve now acquired Arhoolie Records as well. I’ve posted one of my Broadside columns about the news over at No Depression…and click here to read it. Back in April 2015 I profiled Chris Strachwitz and the great Arhoolie label he built, and you can read that here on this site.
Ben Sisario of the New York Times wrote a detailed story of how this deal came down, and I’m going to cut and paste the first paragraphs, but encourage you to follow the link to read the whole enchilada.
For more than 50 years, Chris Strachwitz has been one of the music world’s great pack rats and champions of American folk styles, as a record collector and the founder of Arhoolie Records. Since 1960, Arhoolie has released hundreds of albums of blues, gospel, Cajun and Mexican folk music that have caught the ear of musicians like Bob Dylan and Ry Cooder.
Now 84, Mr. Strachwitz has found a new home for the label: Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, which has acquired the Arhoolie catalog and will be adding more than 350 Arhoolie albums to its collection, the labels announced on Tuesday. In keeping with the longstanding policy at Smithsonian Folkways, the nonprofit label associated with the Smithsonian Institution, the catalog is to be kept accessible in a variety of formats. Click here to continue.
Damn The Hype, Praise The Boxer.
Another Broadside column I published on the No Depression site recently, and it began like this:
If I was a baseball player you might say I’m in a slump. I feel as though, when I’m up to bat, I swing at air. If a ball speeds toward me, I reach up to catch but it just sails through my glove. I could grow a beard, shave it off, lower my right shoulder, raise my left, shuffle my feet, or tug at my ears. No change. And that’s probably the best analogy I can come up with, as to my current relationship with new music.
This affliction is hardly new, and I’ve been struck by it several times in the past few years. One cure that seems to work has been for me to take a break from the new stuff and get back to the tried and true — simply immerse myself in old favorites. I might spend a month listening to only the Carter Family Border Radio set, or something completely off the wall. Last year, it was 60 days of the complete Elvis Costello discography. To continue, click here.
Father John Misty Mocks Corporate Americana.
I picked this story up over at the NME site:
Josh Tillman – aka the indomitable Father John Misty – has just sneaked out a typically dry lampooning of new folk commercialism via his SoundCloud. Happy Wednesday. The just-over-two-minutes-long track brims with the heavy weight of capitalist ennui before you’ve ever heard it. The title, ‘Prius Commercial Demo 1’, gives you a pretty solid measure of the thing – this is FJM’s take on the shameless corporatisation of a seemingly salt of the earth sound, and effortlessly manages to make a mockery of the earnest linen-clad likes of the Lumineers and their big bucks pastiches of the work of Bruce Springsteen and The Band.
With it’s talk of riding traincars where the mountains reach the sky, drinking whiskey, never learning how to say goodbye and growing soya beans on a tinning farm, Father John Misty mercilessly lampoons the current vogue for Americana by numbers – even throwing in a meaningless “hey! ho!” over jaunty, jangly acoustic guitar. Give it a spin below, brothers.
Without Jazz and Blues, There’s No Americana.
And coming right behind Misty’s parody, is an interesting article published by The Atlantic by David A. Graham. A story about a new album titled Americana by sax player J.D. Allen ‘makes the case that any genre that pretends to represent the full scope of U.S. culture can’t ignore black music’.
Back in 2013 Giovanni Russonello wrote another Atlantic essay tracing the roots of the Americana genre and the ‘weather-beaten, rural-sounding music that bands like Whiskeytown and Uncle Tupelo were making. It was warm, twangy stuff, full of finger-plucked guitars and gnarled voices like tires on a dirt road.’ Graham writes:
Russonello pointed out that the artists grouped under the banner tended to be overwhelmingly white, male, and older—or at least obsessed with music from the 1950s to 1970. “Can a genre that offers itself up as a kind of fantasy soundtrack for this country afford to be so homogeneous and so staunchly archaic?” he asked.
The blame for this impoverished definition of Americana falls on the tastemakers of the genre. Since the Grammys established an Americana award in 2009, only three black artists have been nominated (one of them, Mavis Staples, twice). But musicians working in jazz and blues don’t necessarily see themselves as part of Americana, either, as Allen’s own story demonstrates.
Most of this article focuses on Allen and the new album, and it’s a great read that seemed to really piss off the ‘twang nation’ Americana-ists when I posted it on my Twitter feed. Read it here.
Videos You Wouldn’t Know Existed, Unless You Found Them By Mistake.