Posts Tagged ‘Traditional’

Black Twig Pickers – “Roan Mountain Sally Ann”

Really great to see this one coming through today. It’s been since 2015 that we’ve had a release from the great Black Twig Pickers and the band have let loose the news that a new LP is on the way from VHF. In the interim, the profiles of the players have risen, at least in the folk circles that seem the most potent. With Sally Anne Morgan just off an excellent debut LP last year, Bowles constantly surpassing any expectation with his recent releases and Gangloff building out the Spiral Joy Band. With the assembled players back in place they resume their exploration of traditional songs, finding a weather-beaten beauty in the old-time temperament that never seems to truly leave the American consciousness. The impression of these songs is made more apparent with the air of isolation hanging overhead. Made for community and built upon the joy in gathered celebration, the songs here are imbued with a raw emotive quality that’s as hard to pin down and document, but the band lifts these songs up out of the town squares and open-air markets and threads them into tape, making us all a part of the gathered mass.

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Jake Xerxes Fussell

In some circles there are cover artists creating cheap imitations of originals, plastic pieces of history shellacked with camp, cliche, and winking charms that fade soon after the last note disputes on the air. Then, there are the artists who ingest songs and transmute them from barbed metal into spun gold. Jake Xerxes Fussell is one such artist. Long a purveyor of traditional folk songs, he’s picked from sources that run far and wide, but largely root deep in history, away from the moors of modern mentalities. What makes Fussell such a magician is how he shapes folk songs that hang heavy with factory foremen, deckhands, fieldhands, murderers, and spiritual seekers into the song you need to get through the end of the night. He’s found the through line from history and used it to string his guitar, playing a honeyed harmony for those whose wounds run too deep for these times.

For some a Lomax archive is balm for the soul, but others can’t get past the scratched exterior and rusted ruts time’s left cursed on the spools. Fussell bridges the parched fields and cracked eaves of the church meeting room with a sense of modern woe, fleshing out his versions full of lush guitars, pert keys, weeping fiddle, and tamble of drums. He finds the DNA of traditional songs and brings them springing to life in the modern world, making ramble down blues turn to verdant country saunters and plaintive folk meditations. The material he combs is, more often than not, full of misfortune, depression, hardship, and pain but he makes each song feel like the break of a storm. The bad times are behind and the earthen smell of fresh growth is on the breeze. Even without words, he’s massaging the heart to break easy, like fellow alchemist William Tyler.

There were a few singles floated before this release hit the shelves, but I couldn’t bring myself to parcel praise. Its a songbook, like all of Jake’s albums. Somehow Fussell’s bound the songs on Out of Sight together for all time as a collection of small tragedies and bittersweet sighs, rubbed with the sent of rusted soil, factory grease, wildflowers, and reclaimed wood. The songs are as at home cascading over a small mountain town porch as they are whispering out of headphones on a morning commute. Fussell gives us all some strength to face the day, knowing that our sadness is universal and that with time all wounds will heal. Its hard not to fall under Fussell’s charms, I say why fight it.



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