Saturday, March 11, 2017

Imaginary Appalachia - a road trip through Americana.

These posts are the hardest kind to write but, perhaps because of that, also some of the most interesting and rewarding to attempt.  I was never one for writing fiction when at school and I doubt that I could do it convincingly now.

We start this trip, the title of which is inspired by the title of his 2015 EP, with Colter Wall, a native of Saskatchewan, Canada. His first LP 'Colter Wall' is coming soon.
Colter Wall - Colter Wall (Young Mary's Records/Thirty Tigers, 12 May 2017).

This is a live version of 'Kate McCannon' from that LP, recorded in 2015. He supports Margo Price on her US  spring tour.

This next artist isn't from Appalachia either and is not so well known in her own right as perhaps the songs and certainly the artists for whom she has written or co-written. This collection is about the place, quintessential rural America, which she remembers as the home of her grandfather in Puxico, Missouri. It is all her own but the supporting musicians and the production (by her husband Mike Wrucke) are absolutely top class.

Natalie Hemby - Puxico (GetWrucke Productions, 13 January 2017).

In this next record we are finally approaching Appalachian territory; Rayna Gellert, a co-founder of Uncle Earl, is a traditional fiddle player with roots deep in mountain and string band territory.

Rayna Gellert - Workin's Too Hard (SoundStory Records, 20 January 2017).

She is also a fine songwriter and this, following 'Old Light: Songs From My Childhood and Other Gone Worlds' (2013), is the second release in her pursuit of that space. Her desire in this is that innovation need not be, and indeed should not be, stifled by the desire to preserve tradition. Both outcomes can co-exist to the benefit of all.
Of the seven tracks here five are written or co-written by Rayna Gellert. The other two are interpretations of the traditional songs 'Oh Lovin' Babe' and 'I'm Bound For The Promised Land'.

This next record is a paean to the value of the journey itself rather than the knowledge of its ultimate destination.

Julie Byrne - Not Even Happiness (Grapefruit Record Club, 13 January 2017).

If you like finger-picked acoustic guitar and contemplative lyrics, as I do, this might be right up your street. Originally from Buffalo NY she has travelled and lived across much of the continental USA in places as far removed from each other as New Orleans and Seattle. Sometimes she briefly heads to Europe too. If all goes as planned then our paths will cross in August as Julie Byrne plays Green Man Festival 2017.

The journey's end is this album, likely  the best known artist/album of the five as a result of her work with Carolina Chocolate Drops and then her 2015 LP 'Tomorrow Is My Turn', which was all covers and now this that is not.  Whilst the record was quite certainly planned, conceived and recorded before the denouement was known, the title and subject matter could hardly have been more prescient.

Rhiannon Giddens - Freedom Highway (Nonesuch Records, 24 February 2017).

Rhiannon Giddens playing fretless banjo, Stage 1, Cambridge Folk Festival  -  1 August 2015.

Well that's it for this post. Five albums, one soon to be released and four already released in 2017 and we're only just approaching the Ides of March!
There is certainly no shortage or variety of new music that a little exploring can't uncover. The only problem with trips like this is that as soon as one is over the bug bites again. It is time to start planning the next.
The question is should it be Antipodean or Scandinavian?

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