Friday, September 30, 2011

For a Song: The Promised Land

Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer: The Promised Land


You might recognize the illustration I have chosen for this post. It’s the fool card from the Morgan-Greer tarot deck. The card represents a person who has set aside their old life, and set out to parts unknown in search of something new. The departure has no set destination, only the desire to go, and see what happens. Dave Carter’s song The Promised Land tells of a departure like this from a literal point of view, a physical departure. The card also has a spiritual element, the setting aside of ones comfort zone to seek new experiences and perspectives. Some of Carter’s other songs make this spiritual side more explicit, but I think it’s safe to say that it is an element here as well.

The Promised Land comes from Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer’s album Seven is the Number. This is a collection of songs Carter wrote, but it fell to Grammer to turn them into finished tracks and shepherd their release after Carter’s untimely death. This was the beginning for her of a spiritual journey that continues to this very day. Grammer’s journey has not been by choice however, so a different tarot card would suit her better.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Poetry Men

When I hear a song, and when I hear an artist for the first time, I usually hear the music before the words. I am drawn in by the melody, or maybe something in the arrangement, or the groove. Sometimes, I go years without knowing what a favorite song is about. But that doesn’t work, and isn’t fair to the artists, when I am covering someone here. So running this blog for the last three years has taught me to listen in a new way. There are times when the rewards are great. Some songs are beautiful as poems first, with a musical setting, in the best case, that perfectly compliments the words. Here then are five such songs. It may not be the case, but I imagine as I listen to them that the words were written first, and then the music was created afterwards to enhance the meaning. These songs not only made me appreciate the words, but also led me to consider what a poem is, and what it can do.

Grant Davidson: Up and Leaf


The image at the top of this post suggests a type of poem that celebrates nature in rhapsodic terms. Grant Davidson, in Up and Leaf, uses the image of a nesting bird as an extended metaphor. The narrator is a man who wants his relationship with a woman to go in a certain direction. But he is having trouble telling her directly, so he resorts to the metaphor. All at the same time, Davidson tells a story of a relationship, clearly explains his character’s state of mind, and renders his images beautifully. And this in the space of a few short lines. Up and Leaf is a marvel of concise writing, and just one of many examples on this album. The music on the album ranges from folk to country, all with a beautifully understated approach that focuses the listener on the words.

Joe Crookston: The Nazarene


Joe Crookston is a folk-based artist who creates musical settings with textural elements that take his listener out of their comfort zone. His words do the same thing, to powerful effect. The Nazarene is a fine example. This is the story of an almost-normal family. The song is narrated by the son. There is the father who coaches his Little League team. And there is the mother, who lives in a mental institution, and believes that she is Jesus. Crookston could tell this as a sort of horror story, but he does something far more remarkable. He tells of how father and son go to visit the mother, and how they participate in her delusions when they are with her. Crookston presents this as an act of love, and the love is what comes through to the listener. Other songs also dwell on the theme that our emotional reactions are not always what others might expect. A widower expresses sorrow at the loss of his wife, but he is also angry at her for leaving him alone. There is a folktale which I know as “That’s Good, That’s Bad”, and it makes perfect sense that Crookston has turned it into a song here. A farmer’s neighbors show up alternately to congratulate him on his good luck, or to commiserate when apparent misfortune strikes. But the farmer assures them in each case that things may not be as good or bad as they seem. Crookston knows that human emotions are complex, and he finds a way to convey this complexity brilliantly in the space of a short song.

Mark W Lennon: Home of the Wheel


I had to listen to Home of the Wheel, the song, more times than the other songs in this post. I needed to convince myself that Mark W Lennon could not have been present for the events described in the song. Yes, indeed, Lennon does tell us that this happened the day his father was born. Lennon is a very visual writer, and his songs have an immediacy that sounds like the songs are drawn from personal experience. Home of the Wheel tells of a hurricane that struck in 1938, and I can see the changing colors and textures of the sky as I listen. In other songs on the album, I can see the wrinkles on people’s faces as they talk. The music is on the border between folk and country, but there is a dark edge to some of the songs, as Lennon’s characters struggle to keep misfortune from their doors. As much as I enjoyed Lennon’s debut EP, Down the Mountain, Home of the Wheel, the album, is the work of an artist who has found his voice.

Donal Hinely: Saint Pauline


Donal Hinely knows that a song does not always have to be a poem. He relies on the familiar tropes of country songs, twisting them just enough to make them his own. But Hinely can rise to the occasion when a riff gets up a head of steam. Saint Pauline is a song of gratitude to a loving wife who steered her man onto a better path than he had been on. But as the song develops, it becomes clear that the narrator’s devotion has become almost a religious worship. It sounds over the top as I describe it, but Hinely makes it believable and sincere. This is the kind of poetry that emerges on its own from everyday life, as when someone you might not expect says something amazingly beautiful. And then Hinely returns to his album, with a solid set of country based songs that know what they are, and are very good examples of their type. Within the country/ alt-country spectrum, Hinely demonstrates an impressive stylistic range, and he makes it all work beautifully.

Robert Earl Reed: Road to Hattiesburg


The other songs in this set each get at something real in the world, each in their own way. Robert Earl Reed creates a surreal alternate universe in his songs, and gets at something real by holding it up to this mirror. I would call his words Southern Gothic. His characters are haunted by the threat of Judgment Day, and oppressed by a corrupted humidity in the air. There is a rawness here, (and also some strong language), but it’s not all darkness. There are interludes where love rises from the ashes, or where a person can gain a personal victory, or at least a respite and a safe haven. Road to Hattiesburg introduces this journey, and it depicts a man on the run from memories and personal demons. The only thing he can get on the radio is a tent revival meeting. Where the other songs in this post may have been fine wine, this is strong whiskey that bites on the way down. The music sometimes has hard edges, with a banjo used especially well for this. This kind of thing would be easy too push too far, but Reed gets it exactly right.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Spottiswoode & His Enemies - Wild Goosechase Expedition


When I wrote about Spottiswoode in my post on Rosler‘s Recording Booth, I said I wanted to know more about his work. It’s great in this business when you get your wish, but it’s even better when your first impression is correct. Wild Goosechase Expedition is a generous helping of Spottiswoode & His Enemies, with seventeen songs and just over an hour of music. The rich musical imagination that was on display in his Rosler performance is here in abundance. This is also my first encounter with Spottiswoode as a writer. He serves up a wonderfully varied but highly coherent program of songs here. His band must be conversant in a variety of musical styles and moods, and they show themselves here to be very fine musicians. I particularly want to single out the work of drummer Konrad Meissner. Spottiswoode’s regular drummer Tim Vaill was not available for the recording sessions, so Meissner was called on to sub for him. Meissner had to be versatile, and pick up on the variety of moods that Spottiswoode wanted in these songs, and he did a great job. Vaill is now back with the band, but they would do well to stay in touch with Meissner in case they ever need him again.

The line-up of Spottiswoode & His Enemies starts off normally enough, with drums, bass, and Spottiswoode on guitar. Then things start to get interesting. A second guitarist also plays mandolin and glockenspiel. The keyboard player plays piano, organ, accordion, and maybe something else that I missed. And there are two horn players, who can contribute R&B riffs or Miles Davis-like harmonies on trumpet and sax. The horn players also contribute background vocals. The album opens with Beautiful Monday. This is a sunny pop-rock tune with a British invasion feel, and some horn work of the sort Burt Bacharach used to favor. This establishes a tone of comfort and normalcy that is soon to be disrupted. Purple River, Yellow Sun opens with chanted vocals over chiming piano notes, and the song has bursts of tumult, with anthemic rock vying for supremacy with the poppier sound of the opener. The sense of comfort fades, and the music becomes unsettled. Odd harmonies begin to move in. Just a Word I Use has verses with a French cabaret feel, and bursts of almost hard rock on the choruses. Elsewhere, there are Bo Diddley beats, chiming guitars, jazzy excursions, even some things that border on world music from an unknown tribe. Spottiswoode ties all of this together with his vocals. He sings in a slightly scratchy baritone, and he is one of the most passionate singers I know of. There are plenty of opportunities for him to cross a line, and make the songs bombastic, but that never happens. That said, this album overall has a theatrical quality, and it’s a show I would gladly see.

The title Wild Goosechase Expedition suggests aimlessness, but this album tells a story. I mentioned the sense of normalcy that opens the album. Beautiful Monday is a celebration of normalcy, with only the vaguest hint that this will soon be disrupted. It opens the first section of the album, entitled Setting Out. The setting out actually occurs in Purple River, Yellow Sun, and the previous normalcy becomes either an illusion or a fading memory. The next section is called The Kingdom of the Dead. Here, Spottiswoode’s narrators try with out success to hold on to memories of love. I’d Even Follow You to Philadelphia shows that Spottiswoode can tell his tale with droll humor. The longest section is titled Massacre in the Desert. Here, the narrators have reached the point of despair. Loved ones try to send lifelines, but their messages fall on deaf ears. The album’s title track comes in this section, and it uses black humor to express a sense that whatever motivated this journey was wasted. The final section, Starvation and Surrender, has the narrators returning home, but something has been irretrievably lost, at least as of the end of the album. You Won’t Forget Your Dream closes the album with the suggestion that recovery may be possible, but it can also suggest that the reason for the departure in the first place is regaining its strength as the narrator rests. So this may be a somewhat happy ending, or just the resumption of a cycle. There is ambiguity here, and that is intentional. Taken as a whole, the album may be about a breakup and reconciliation. Or it may be about a spiritual journey, in which a character learns that fulfillment lay in what he already had. Or, the album may be about a band going on and returning from a tour, an idea that is most clearly suggested by the song Wake Me Up When It’s Over. Personally, I think the album is about all of these, and probably a few other things I haven’t mentioned. These songs reach out to the listener, and invite us to imagine. It’s an invitation I was glad to accept.

Spottiswoode & His Enemies: Purple River, Yellow Sun

Spottiswoode & His Enemies: Wild Goosechase Expedition

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Spotlight Special: I Love You

I Love You: Carol Morgan Quartet

[CDs will be available for purchase soon here]

The new album review is taking longer than I expected. Partly, that is because the album I’m working on is a long one, with over an hour of music. But it is also an album that takes me out of my musical comfort zone. I hope to have the review up tomorrow, but you, my readers, have been more than patient, so I wanted to share something with you while you wait.

As it happens, this post also takes me out of my comfort zone, because I never write about instrumental jazz. That’s because I love it when it’s done well, but I am not sure I know how to say why. Let’s find out. The Carol Morgan Quartet has Morgan on trumpet, and there are a tenor saxophone, stand up bass, and drums. No piano. I Love You as an old Cole Porter standard. The risk in doing a song this familiar is that the listener may compare it to a favorite version by someone else. The way to overcome that is to add something original to the conversation. Carol Morgan and her group do so brilliantly. Morgan introduces the theme by herself; the trumpet comes in by itself, and states the theme in a lonely vacuum. When the saxophone enters, the bass plays a heartbeat accompaniment. There is something of a sense here of the trumpet and sax feeling each other out. The drums come in with a sudden jump of joy, and the bass pattern changes to accentuate this. But the sax soon drops out, with the trumpet trio moving things along for a bit. The trumpet drops out to make room for the sax solo, and the rhythm pattern changes again. Then it’s just drums and bass for a bit at one point; usually, that would mean a bass solo, but here it’s a drum solo supported by a bass pulse. Finally, everyone comes back in for a finale that features wonderfully intertwining sax and trumpet lines. So there are all of these shifts in mood, and even in the approach to making the music. In some modern jazz, the melody and the idea of the song fracture into shards, becoming abstract and unrecognizable. Not here. Morgan and her group put a standard through a remarkable number of changes, but they never lose track of the melody. The result takes the words “I Love You”, and makes an eloquent statement on how love changes and grows in the long course of a relationship. All of this happens without a single word being sung. There are times when no words are needed.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Group Dynamics

I haven’t talked much here about my own musical experience. I tried many instruments as a child, and mastered none. The first was cello for three years as a boy, and the other longest one was piano for about a year. In between, I tried flute, oboe, even clarinet for a few minutes. But I would say that the only thing that really took, and that really has a bearing on what you read here, was my discovery of choral singing in high school. Once I got to that point, I found a preference for smaller chamber choirs, and I stayed with that for a few years into adulthood, until the demands of parenthood got in the way. More relevant to this blog was my education as a listener. That began with a wonderful gift from my parents. They were both amateur classical musicians, my father on oboe and my mother on violin. They had friends who played piano and cello, and they would get together at our house every Saturday night when I was a child to play chamber music. There was also a flute player who couldn’t always make it. So chamber music works were my lullabies. From this, I gained a lifelong appreciation of the sound of musicians interacting in small groups. My examples in this post have nothing to do with classical music, but the interplay of these musicians is just as wonderful.

The Boxcar Lilies: Leaving You (Was Like Quitting My Day Job)


The Boxcar Lilies are the trio of Jenny Goodspeed, Katie Clarke, and Stephanie Marshall. Each plays an instrument, (isn’t Katie Clarke the perfect name for a banjo player?), and they take turns on lead vocals, with the other two providing great support singing backup. Heartwood is their debut album, and they were more than ready. The album is a marvel of consistency, a solid work of contemporary folk that allows each of their voices to be heard, but shows why they are together. Jenny Goodspeed takes the lead on her song Leaving You. The song is an acoustic country waltz, and it leads you to expect a heartbroken break up song. But then the chorus arrives, and the song turns into a marvelously over the top brush off song. The Boxcar Lilies can show their serious side too, but I love the playfulness and good humor of this one.

The Steel Wheels: Riverside


As players, The Steel Wheels are a high energy bluegrass band, but on top of that are rock vocals. This is especially true of lead singer Trent Wagler. Their harmony arrangements are also inspired by gospel music, and some of the playing also has a jazzy feel to it. Can they make all this work together? Listen to Riverside. The song is actually a blues, the fervor of the performance is gospel, but, whatever else it is, it’s one of the mightiest and most righteous performances I have heard this year. And the album offers up many more treats of this kind, as well as some great slow burners, and a couple of fiery instrumentals.

Blame Sally: Parajos Sin Alas


What do you think of Country and Spaghetti Western as a new musical genre? The music of Blame Sally is the sound of country flying through a lonely canyon on a dry wind. There is the suggestion of space in this music, and a haunted quality. Parajos Sin Alas is a fine example of this sound, one of many on this album. The song uses the combination of syncopation and repetition to create an insistent quality that works beautifully. I only wish I knew what the Spanish words meant.

The Reneaus: Room For Roses


The other groups in this post share the writing and lead vocal duties. But the Reneaus are Ashley Cooper Winn’s band; she takes all of the lead vocals, and all of the songs are hers, at least on this album. That’s a perfectly good model for a band, and it certainly works here. Winn sings in a plaintive soprano with a bit of breath. A lot of the time, the instrumentation is that of a rock band, except for the stand up bass. That makes a powerful difference here. In the title track of Room For Roses, the bass starts things off with a rumble of thunder. The percussionist is playing what I think is a snare, cymbals, wood blocks, and maybe something I missed. There is a rhythm guitar, and the lead guitar has an abrasive tone that slashes through the song. The gentleness of Winn’s voice makes an excellent foil to this. There is an organ part in the background that helps to blend all of this together. This music is no more unsettled than the emotions it presents. And the combined effect is powerful indeed. Elsewhere on the album, there is banjo and some pedal steel. In all cases, The Reneaus show a great talent for combining musical sounds that don’t normally mix, and making them work.

The Greencards: Mrs Madness


The instrumentation is bluegrass, the vocals by Carol Young and Kym Warner are understated, but clear and full of feeling, and the musical style is… unpredictable in the best way. Their website refers to their “multi-dimensional Americana vision”; it’s clunky, but accurate. So some songs here lean towards bluegrass, some towards folk, still others have a jazzy feel that puts me in mind of David Grisman. And then there’s Mrs Madness. This one could have gone in my Cabaret post back in July. It’s probably the last thing you would expect from a folk group, but The Greencards seem to specialize in the unexpected, and they make it all work beautifully.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ray Bonneville - Bad Man’s Blood


Listening to Bad Man’s Blood, I am reminded of the music of John Lee Hooker. Hooker would set up a groove with just a few notes, and he would stay on those notes for the entire song. The effect was haunting, like an incantation. It was a technique that only worked for Hooker, I thought, but its power was undeniable. Ray Bonneville has a somewhat richer musical vocabulary here, but he achieves some of the same kind of effect. Bonneville casts a spell, and he holds you for the length of the album.

The songs on Bad Man’s Blood are mid-tempo stomps, and stomps is an apt term. Bonneville plays either acoustic or electric guitar on every song, sometimes both. To this he adds what the liner notes call “foot percussion”; basically, this seems to mean that he stamps his foot in time to the music. Mike Meadows is the drummer on some tracks, but this is not drumming as you usually hear it. Meadows is playing a “Black Swan”, which is a tunable hand drum with changeable heads, so you can get a wide variety of sounds from it; here, Meadows is just playing a steady pulse, like a heartbeat. Gurf Morlix plays electric guitar, baritone guitar, bass, and banjo in various places. His role is to thicken the sound and add texture. Also adding to the texture on two songs is Dexter Payne on saxes. And here and there, Bonneville adds smudges of sound on harmonica. These smudges are sort of accidental chords, and their purpose is not melodic at all. They sound like something from another planet, but they make musical sense in context. In sum, the tempos don’t change much on this album, but Bonneville and his crew vary the textures enough to make this a fascinating listen. Bonneville sings in a weathered bluesy baritone. Bonneville knows his limits vocally, but he can imbue the title song with a sense of foreboding, while the affection in Blond of Mine, the sly humor of Funny ‘Bout Love, and the yearning in Darlin’ (Put You Suitcase Down) all come through loud and clear.

There is also a nice variety of themes in the lyrics. Of course, there are love songs. Darlin’ (Put Your Suitcase Down) is what it sounds like, a song about a break up. But Bonneville leaves open the possibility that the Darlin’ in the song might finally decide to stay. Funny ‘Bout Love is about the feelings of a man and a woman who meet years after they stopped being a couple. And Sugar and Riley relates the tale of a lovers quarrel overheard through a wall; Bonneville hastens to assure us in the first chorus that everything was ok again by morning. Other songs are more mysterious. River John sounds like a fond remembrance of a friend who has passed on. Night Walker is a speculation about a stranger who is observed walking around outside night after night; Bonneville’s narrator regards him with intense curiosity, but does not see him at all as a threat. In all of these songs, there is a sense of hope, and abundant sympathy. Bonneville sees the world as full of good people who sometimes get in bad situations.

So, where John Lee Hooker portrayed men in hopeless positions, overcome by their fate, Bonneville uses the same kind of insistent music not to despair but to urge perseverance. Bad Man’s Blood casts a spell, but the darkness never takes over. This album is insistent, but hopeful in hard times. Bonneville’s voice has a smile in it, especially later in the album. I’m sharing that smile right now.

Ray Bonneville: Sugar and Riley

Ray Bonneville: Night Walker

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Bluegrass and Beyond

Newgrass is a term that is used to describe some of the music that is coming out these days. It is mostly acoustic music, and it uses instruments that are often found in bluegrass: acoustic guitar of course, but also banjo, fiddle, stand up bass, dobro, mandolin, and so on. That all sounds specific and vague at the same time. You can use some of these instruments and not others, and still be newgrass. You can incorporate a variety of musical influences. So I thought it might be helpful to listen to some of the different traditional musics that newgrass grew out of. Even if you, the reader, end up as confused as before about what newgrass is, I promise you some great music along the way.

Ivan Rosenberg & The Foggy Hogtown Boys: Low and Lonesome Sea


I am talking about musical traditions that have their origins in the American South. So it makes sense to begin our journey in Toronto, Canada. Actually, that only makes sense in the company of Ivan Rosenberg and the Foggy Hogtown Boys. Rosenberg and the Boys have set out to make an album of bluegrass as played in the 1970s, before many of the musical innovations that so muddy the waters today. But this album is no museum piece. The music sounds lively and fresh, because the musicians clearly love what they are doing, and they have the talent to back it up. The Hogtown Sessions is a mix of originals and covers. The new songs sound right at home with songs by the Osborne Brothers and Ralph Stanley. There are also old country songs here, quite successfully reimagined as bluegrass. Low and Lonesome Sea is a reminder that this music evolved from the traditional ballads that were brought to Appalachia by the areas original European settlers. The song is an old English ballad that I first heard as The Golden Vanity.

Thomm Jutz (with Caroline and Hannah Melby of Nash Street): The South‘s on Fire


The 1861 Project is a wonderful album that can function as a survey of Southern music. There is an Irish ballad here, and also two songs that represent the acoustic side of modern country, with lead singers John Anderson and Marty Stuart. In between are various strands of Southern folk, including The South’s on Fire. The song is close to bluegrass, but it has some jazz flavorings that make it newgrass. The vocals are by sisters Caroline and Hannah Melby. They have their own band, Nash Street, and I checked them out in preparing for this post. I can report that Nash Street is quite good in their own right, and I hope to have more to say about them in the future.

Meanwhile, it is true that The 1861 Project could be a horrible mishmash. That it is not is a testament to the talent of Thomm Jutz. This album is his baby. All of the songs were written or cowritten by Jutz, and he performs on all of them, even taking the lead vocals on a few. The 1861 project is a collection of songs about how ordinary people got through the American Civil War, although we do meet the occasional general along the way. Jutz puts his musical mark on everything here, but his lyrics are just as important. Jutz takes people who lived 150 years ago and brings them to life in the here and now. This album has “Volume 1” in its full title. I look forward to volume 2 as well.

Robin & Linda Williams: Somebody‘s Someone


Robin and Linda Williams made their recording debut on a small Minnesota label in 1975. They made their early reputation on A Prairie Home Companion, the radio show also out of Minnesota. But they originally hail from Virginia, and their music is Southern folk, but not exclusively bluegrass by any means. Stonewall Country is another Civil War album of original songs. This one is set of music written for a stage show that tells the story of the life of Stonewall Jackson. Each song represents a different character or mood, and the music shifts accordingly. So there is a bluegrass number, a blues, and any number of songs that resist genre labeling beyond folk. Robin and Linda Williams handle all of the lead vocals, and portray all of the different characters and moods, proving themselves to be wonderfully flexible singers. My point in including this album in this post is that what is called newgrass actually includes music that is only tangentially related to bluegrass in the first place. Somebody’s Someone is a beautiful love ballad, inspired by actual letters that Stonewall Jackson exchanged with his second wife during the war. Musically, it has more in common with country than bluegrass. Either way, it is one of the most moving songs on an album that is full of them.

Nell Robinson: Wahatchee


Nell Robinson can play and sing bluegrass as well as anyone, and she proves it here. But Robinson is not bound by it. On the Brooklyn Road is a set of songs inspired by Robinson’s family history and lore, and the music moves back and forth in time with the stories. There are also pieces of oral history, spoken by Robinson’s family, between some songs. The songs that tell of the earliest times are closest musically to bluegrass. Wahatchie is one of the oldest, but here something interesting happens. The song seems to be pure bluegrass, until you reach the first instrumental break. That’s when you realize that you have been hearing modalities from Celtic music all along. There are touches of Southern gospel, folk, and even blues in other songs. Robinson takes all of these influences and makes at clear that they are all part of her. It’s a wonderful performance.

Cheryl J Watson: I‘ll Learn to Live With the Blues


Take Cheryl J Watson’s album Watertown as a whole, and there can be no doubt that she is a newgrass artist. There are country and bluegrass and folk tunes here in abundance. But there are also a couple of moments that show just how far the label is being asked to stretch. One is an instrumental called Beaumont Rag, which proves to be a remarkable hybrid of bluegrass and ragtime. I’ll Learn to Live With the Blues is the other. This song would be right at home in one of my posts of jazz singers. In fact, if Watson ever does a whole album like this, I would have to consider it. The thing is, as Watson presents all of these different styles, she more than does all of them justice. She shows great versatility on guitar and mandolin. In fact, she switches out her accompanists to accommodate the varying musical styles on the album, but she plays on everything. And then there is Watson’s voice. She has a clear and clean tone, and she can handle the stylistic shifts with ease. Through it all, she never loses track of the emotion of each song. In short, Watson’s voice is the glue that hold this wonderfully diverse album together. I have a feeling that we will be hearing a lot more from her in the future.

Call for help:

Dudley Saunders: The Rain on Eight Avenue

[purchase The Emergency Lane here]

[listen to Monster and make your donation here]

Dudley Saunders is conducting an unusual fund drive to finish his next album Novelsongs. He is offering his new song Monster as a name-your-price download. Novelsongs is a good term for what he does. In a novel, as opposed to a short story, there is time to evoke a mood and establish a character. Saunders does this beautifully in his lyrics, and he creates musical settings that compliment this beautifully. Of course, I can not offer Monster as an example, but you can stream it before you give by following the link above. The Rain on Eighth Avenue is from Saunders’ previous album, The Emergency Lane, and it is a fine example of what I mean. Please help if you can. Thank you.

Friday, September 2, 2011

For a Song: Indigo Rose

Salamander Crossing: Indigo Rose


This blog is my space to play some music that I love for whoever cares to listen. And Indigo Rose is a choice I can certainly live with. The song comes from what would be Salamander Crossing’s last album, Bottleneck Dreams, and it is a beautiful bittersweet contemplation of lost love. The extended metaphor of the deep blue flower is perfectly rendered, and lead singer Rani Arbo gives the song all the emotion it needs in an understated performance that is stronger for it.

But Oliver di Place is also my space to get things about music off my chest. Salamander Crossing were hailed as a bluegrass band while they were together. I don’t hear it at all. Nowadays, this music would be called Newgrass, and that is one of my least favorite genre labels. Basically, you can make any music at all using bluegrass instrumentation, and it’s newgrass. So, the label is almost meaningless. In my next post, I have in mind to take a look at some of the variety of music that fits this very loose description. Stay tuned.