We first heard Minnesota troubadour Larry Long‘s song “Living in a Rich Man’s World” years ago, when we found a copy of the 1979 album of the same name in the local section of the old Hymie’s, back when Jim was still behind the counter.
Since then, of course, a lot of things have changed, but not so much the opportunities afforded working people around the world and here in our home state. We moved the record shop years ago, and once in a while Larry stops by to talk about what he’s up to these days. Several months ago he sent us a link to hear a few songs he was recorded with his cousin, Melvin James, and we were blown away by this new version of that favorite old song.
He’s releasing a new album, Walking Like Rain, later this year, and Bob Trench of Fahrenheit Films produced this video of “Living in a Rich Man’s World” to get the word out.
Tonight, Piñata Records presents the vinyl reissue of Dealer by Red Daughters, a band whose first album received a review which used the words “ballsy” and “countrified” not only in the same sentence but in succesion (that’s some ballsy writing!), and also a band commonly called “down home” and compared to The Band. (You can find details about the show at the Uptown VFW below or here on Facebook)
With empathy to a writer’s impulse to offer a more or less universal touchpoint, we don’t think being a little seventies steeped really defines the Daughters, even though we’d love to hear their take on a chestnut like “When You Awake.” There’s a level on which its easy to understand how something undeniably very contemporary could be so quickly described as derived from a group whose debut is now almost exactly forty-two years old, but on a second level its frustrating because, again, forty-two years old. We’ll venture not a member of the Red Daughters was even a twinkle in an eye when Music From Big Pink became a sleeper success in 1968, and that all five of them have listened to something else since the fall of ’98, which was the last time the Band released a new album.
Like any band in the Piñata Records catalog, there’s retro in Red Daughters, but also an original approach to the sound of an era. Here, Southside Desire’s “littered alleyways of south Minneapolis” are replaced by the ramblers and water towers of Coon Rapids, and we think the gaze backwards is a good deal less distant. Dealer is the 90s alt-country album you’ve been looking for. The lyrics are better than the best Old 97s songs, the arrangements are miles more inventive than anything the Bottle Rockets recorded, and unlike every Wilco album there’s not a moment that’s so wrenchingly awful you have to move the needle.
The sound of that era’s indie country is ripe for reinvention. It, too, has roots in the early 70s but also the reverberating post-punk explorations of the Mekons, the Meat Puppets, American Music Club, or a dozen other bands. Few of those bands held fast to the 70s emphasis on vocal harmony (sang Ryan Adams on some Whiskeytown record, “So I started this country band, because punk rock was too hard to sing”) and here’s where Red Daughters offer something entirely new. Where Brewer & Shipley or Bad Company harmonized like hell, arrangements so rich were left at a rest stop somewhere along country-rock’s journey to be discovered by the Daugthers. We can’t think of another recent record along these lines which uses ensemble vocal for such stunning pop hooks (“Big Love”) or dramatic effect (“Protest” or “War Nam Nikhada”).
And the keys which cause those comparisons to the Band (in our estimation) are so tactfully employed. There’s no “Chest Fever” moment on Dealer, though no doubt Hix is up to the task. The same for the guitarists, Charles Murlowski and Ryan Zickermann. Red Daughters’ jam band sound doesn’t translate to extended introspection. Instead there’s some Old 97s-ish riffs, like the opening of “In Love Without You” and some inventive lead/rhythm counterpoints throughout. The brilliant solo on “Black Ice” is a bright spot, re-appropriating the sound Nils Cline brought to Wilco. “Protest,” meanwhile, recalls the epic rural gloom of Slim Cessna’s Auto Club without extending to ceremonial drama. Remarkably, while nearly all eleven tunes sound like they could be extended to “Dark Star” territory, they are strikingly concise, adding to the album’s captivating appeal. There’s no doubt this distillation of the Daughters’ distinct sound is in part owed to the unique approach of producer and engineer Jacques Wait, who reliably gets the best out of bands which need that sort of focus.
You can, incidentally, hear the entire album and order copies if you’re out of town, on Red Daughters’ Bandcamp page here.
We’ve always written that it doesn’t matter the format music is released, but rather what is heard after you drop the needle, press play or command the palace minstrels to perform (this last is less common than the others). Still, there is something very special about the long-playing record. We’ve held the word “album” over from the time 78s were collected in bound albums the same way we once kept our photographs, and the good ones still tell a story or paint a picture. Dealer is one damn great album, due a release on vinyl and overdue praise. This is why people collect records.
Red Daughters have a show tonight to celebrate the re-release of their album Dealer on vinyl tonight at the James Ballentine “Uptown” VFW tonight. Opening is Black Market Brass, who are themselves one of the most must-see bands in the Twin Cities. Details for the show can be found on Facebook here.
Corpse Reviver’s second album is out tonight with a big show at the Cedar Cultural Center. The band is named for a popular drink purported to be a hangover cure. Interestingly, Henry Craddock’s Savoy Cocktail Manual of 1930 includes two recipes.
The second of these, commonly Corpse Reviver #2, calls for equal parts gin, lemon juice, curacao liqueur, lillet wine and a little dash of absinthe. It’s super gross.
Some things from the 1930s have aged a little better, like the songs on Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music. The three original volumes contain songs recorded between 1927 and 1932 which are still often performed and recorded today.
Many of those songs are much older, and certainly some are older than recorded music. Bascom Lunsford, whose recording of “I Wish I Were a Mole in the Ground” was included on the Anthology, was reported by Smith to have learned the song from a neighbor in 1901.
The recipe for Corpse Reviver on this new record is three extraordinary musicians, and we are honored to be participating in the release. We sheepishly admit we really aren’t fanatic “must have it on vinyl” collectors, but in this case we felt passionate about it. We also believe some future anthology should have a song performed by these three friends.
We can only guess where each of them learned “I Wish I Were a Mole in the Ground,” and its our fault for never having asked. I’m sure they’d all be happy to tell us all about it.
Corpse Reviver will be performing at the Cedar Cultural Center tonight to celebrate the release of their new album, Volume II: Dry Bones. Minnesota legend Spider John Koerner will perform as well.
We’re pretty excited to be releasing the second album by Corpse Reviver next week. The folk trio has long been one of our favorites in town — we love them so much we hired them to play our 10th anniversary party a couple years ago, and promised them we’d release their second album on vinyl.
If you have never heard them before, you may still be familiar with some of their songs. That’s because Corpse Reviver’s repertoire is drawn from the Anthology of American Folk Music, the enormously influential compilation first released in 1952 by Folkways Records. Harry Smith collected traditional music on 78s and with the six-album series revived music which was largely being swept into the dustbin.
Adam modeling the new Lp
When Corpse Reviver released the first volume of their interpretation of the anthology (titled I’ll be Rested When the Roll is Called), we posted the original songs (here). On that disc, and on their new Lp, they’ve chosen songs which have been widely performed over the years, but its especially interesting to go back and hear those original 78 transfers from Harry Smith’s collection. Some are songs which had a long life before they were recorded in the late 20s or early 30s, and others have taken on new significance as songs associated with the mid-century folk boom or the more recent alt-country revival.
The new album opens with Adam Kiesling’s familiar fretless banjo and a confident take on “I Wish I Were a Mole in the Ground,” a song first recorded in 1928 by Bascom Lunsford. The song has been widely recorded by folk musicians, notably here in Minnesota by Charlie Parr about ten years ago, but Corpse Reviver turn the song’s perceived resignation on its ear. The same is true for “The Butcher’s Boy,” the second Buell Kazee ballad they have recorded with Jillian Rae singing. Mikkel Beckmen adds a funeral march rhythm to her reading of with his djembe, making this suicide ballad dark and dramatic.
In all, we count at least a half dozen deaths in the songs on Dry Bones. Corpse Reviver’s compartmentalization of the Anthology songs is as idiosyncratic as were the choices made by Harry Smith himself, but its clear they’ve chosen this second volume to collect some of the darker sides of the so-called “old weird America.” The result is an album much weightier than the first volume, but also a great collection of stories.
The original twelve songs, all found on Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music, are collected below. Corpse Reviver will be performing these and other favorites at the album release show next week. It’s possible opening performer Spider John Koerner will bring out one of them old numbers as well.
Corpse Reviver will be releasing their second album, Dry Bones, next Wednesday night at the Cedar Cultural Center (details here). Minnesota folk legend Spider John Koerner will perform an opening set, and local choir Mpls imPulse will perform with the trio during their set.
We had a great time visiting Orchestra Hall last week, and it was an honor for us to be on that stage! Hymies will be providing an interactive installation in the lobby during their Sommerfest this coming July — their program for the month is incredible, and we’re ecstatic to have the opportunity to contribute. We’ll post more about our plans and about the Orchestra’s Sommerfest schedule as it comes closer.
We teamed up with Sioux Falls’ Different Folk Records to co-release Jack Klatt’s new album, Shadows in the Sunset. It’s in stores today, but Jack’s release show for the album will be May 7th at the Icehouse (details here).
Shadows in the Sunset was recorded live to 2” tape in just three days at a beautiful reclaimed church in Viroqua, WI, that dates to the early 1900s. Produced and engineered by Tom Herbers (who also recorded Ben Weaver’s I Would Rather Be A Buffalo for our label) Klatt says the album “holds in its grooves ten thousand miles of asphalt, about eight pairs of good shoes, and the generosity of a thousand strangers. It’s a collection of stories about the beauty of blazing sunsets, the art of saying goodbye, and letting endings turn into new beginnings.”