Mariee Sioux steps out of the barren southern Californian desert dreamscapes that defined Faces in the Rocks for this lusher, more electric record. The aural spaciousness and delicate fingerpicking of those first songs is still the grounding force here, but layers of washed-out organ, reverb-heavy guitar lines and slide licks are added to the mix for a sound that’s decidedly more urban, but still recalls the timeless nature of Faces. Mariee’s Native American roots were deeply invested in her first record, and still give her songwriting an earthy sensibility. (I hate that word but it really does apply I think.) Despite the denser arrangements of this record, there honestly isn’t much creative progression to these songs’ structures; Mariee’s songwriting formula seems to be pretty much the same. Which isn’t a bad thing at all, but it’s noticeable. However, her latest recordings with Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy (as Bonnie and Mariee) are examples to the contrary. Either way, Mariee’s voice is incredibly fucking beautiful, completely otherworldly in its careful and purposeful fracturing of notes and its ability to glide harmonies through the songs with the humble grace of an Owl, or with the intensity of a fired Desert Eagle.
Recorded in New York and San Fran but transmitted from on high. My over-educated mind associates the early universe with the unfathomable; the 1 Big 1 of our birth that scattered out for thousands, millions of miles in less than a second, less than that even, incomprehensible clouds of gas that cooled into rock and then hellishly collided at speeds that would’ve disintegrated human eyes had we tried to watch it happen. Some way down the line came the big fireball, Old Hannah was born and burned herself into being the baddest motherfucker in the solar system. I think this record imagines seeing that process from afar, watching it from some extraterrestrial terrain where alien folkies and dropouts gather for warm potlucks in the dead of winter, strum little alien songs and drink hot psychedelic alien teas. Jesse Peterson and Carlos Niño’s songs aren’t really about any of that, but the steady, pulsing and swelling sound of the nylon strings and various electronics/tape loops/organs that complement their stoned-humming voices would be an excellent soundtrack for watching fire meld into fire. “Let me set on fire, I love you” says one lyric; so maybe. As with most astronomical events, this record’s best enjoyed in its entirety, but all the songs are great and appropriate for anytime your mind is feeling focused.
“Beautifully festooned cathedrals of sound.” – Strange Attractors
I’ll admit it, the growing number of artists proclaiming or being proclaimed to embody some post-Takoma embrace of American Primitive meets punk meets drone meets everything gets overwhelming. So do the Glenn Jones namedrops on every review/mention of every instrumental acoustic guitar player. But musicians like Israeli guitarist/composer aren’t readily respected like they should be, so a bit of hype is just a means to an end. And the end in this case is an enjoyable thing; a focused, highly virtuosic record of guitar compositions all at once energetic and atmospheric. And of course, Yona can shred, and doesn't hide it. See “Kottke and the Orchards” for some exhilarating Blackshaw/Kottke-esque fingerpicking speed. “Mad About You” begins as standard Takoma fair, but quickly evolves into a dense, almost operatic musical narrative. Hints of Mingus somewhere in there. “Miss Fortune” is a mostly-minimalistic, better version of what you’d hear on 3am classical guitar radio. “Poetry In Vallhalla” is my favorite; strange dissonant/Spanish/uplifting/Renaissance mixture that sounds like something that flows through Joanna Newsom’s blood. If you’re feeling really quiet and studious, try “Bella”. As with most records of this sort, it’s a moment-specific thing; don’t play it before a party or anything.
This collection of songs was recorded straight to tape at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine during the height of Seeger's blacklisted status and protests against his alleged Commubnist sympathies. The concert was organized by fraternities of an all-male campus, recorded by the school's student-run radio station WBOR, and was by all accounts suprisingly free of controversy or protest. These recordings capture a unique moment in time: a small group of middle-to-upper class students, frat boys, radio geeks and families gathering to sing along to African-American spirituals, Slovak steel worker ballads, sea shanties, Appalachian medleys and blues. This was Seeger's power: bringing the music, the lifeblood, of a then-unspoken for population of diverse Americans and their experiences into mainstream consciousness. This is a live show, so there's a lot of Pete's chatter about the history of teh songs, back-and-forth between the audience, etc. If you don't like folk music in its "purest" form (or whatever), don't bother with this record. But for those even remotely interested in these songs and their origins, and in Pete's invaluable contribution to the population of traditional music, there's a wide variety of tunes and styles to be enjoyed. Fun fact: the theater this concert was recorded in had cables running through underground tunnels back to the WBOR station, used for live broadcasts (although this was cut to a portable tape machine.) Also, of all the live Seeger recordings in the Folkways library, the Smithsonian staff felt these student-engineered recordings were the best. Viva college radio, and Pete Seeger.