Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Sitting in the Hotel Congress "Cup Café" in Tucson, having breakfast and chatting with the waiter - a tattooed alt-folk rocker. We're discussing "new folk" sounds. I've been checking out the new music of writers like Bon Iver, The Felice Brothers, Will Oldham, Fleet Foxes, Iron and Wine…and on. The exploration began when hearing the sounds and production on the Dylan biopic film soundtrack: "I'm Not Here." My ear caught Jim James of "My Morning Jacket," singing Bob Dylan's "Going to Acapulco" accompanied by Calexico. Mariachi horns, powerful singing…it was novel and great. My perception was and IS…. there's something happening with these folks. At least musically and production-wise. Hell, I can’t spend my life listening to Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited" everyday. (But I might try.) The internet opened up world music to younger artists, and they draw from all influences: Haitian, West African, Mariachi, Flamenco, Ska, folk, blues…etc. They concoct their own hybrid sound. It's fresh. But where were the songs? Where is the core of it all? I spoke out loud. The tattooed waiter passed by with a plate of pork cutlet and scrambled eggs - and pointed a fork. "There aren't any songs." I heard footsteps above me and a howling noise. Upstairs at the Historic Congress Hotel the ghost of John Dillenger walked the halls. He'd been caught here in the 1930's and broke out of jail with a gun carved out of soap. Maybe a lot of the new music culture is a gun carved out of soap. Core-less. Bullet-less. I'll keep digging, though. I arrived in Tucson with the hope that 12 crafted songs and a hipper sound might come close, feel-wise, to that version of "Goin' to Acapulco," and I was right. I've learned a lot and haven't resorted to rounding up the usual suspects. These desert musicians could play anything; referencing Nigerian High Life and Andalusian Flamenco, and sub-pop backwards guitar runs. And along came Barry Walsh, and his "Erik Satie meets Eno" classicism - and you've got a mix. I'm enjoying the journey. It's akin to recording with the Blue Men of Morocco. Meanwhile one of our last true writers, Leonard Cohen, is touring the world performing three hour concerts with his timeless songs, which he refers to as "muffled prayers." And so…we are in need of "new folk" and sub pop explorations which deliver the cross-pollinations of sonic world variety. But there remains our cultural and personal need…our desperate yen… for the passion and poetic truth of "muffled prayers." Deliverance to the core.