Pause in Life’s Pleasures: Watch and hear Jubal’s Kin’s “Hard Times” – Recorded Live for One Million Square Feet of Culture in Miami

It was exciting to find Miami pulsing with one big musical heartbeat. It was rapid and strong and kept you moving through the long, warm days and nights of Art Week.The world was in town for Art Basel, and we were invited by IFP to cut a record as part of One Million Square Feet of Culture.

Having driven down from the snowy December of New York, we had a slower, more wintery feeling still pulling at us. And Jubal’s Kin, though they came from only as far north as Orlando, seemed to be feeling that pull, too. Three siblings, singing together, brought the tempo of the air outside down to a gentle, breathless thrum.

We left the Presto on to capture the audience’s applause at the end, the first sound they had dared to make in almost four minutes. They weren’t the only ones, all of Wynwood seemed enraptured for that moment. The planes that had been flying overhead constantly, the car horns that had blared all day, the hard drive of the dozen nearby DJ’s, were quiet for a spell.


Thank you to the tireless, amazing folks at IFP for curating such a beautiful event.

Episode #14: International Blues Express “Hanna” (Part 1)

The Creole musicians speak to their Malian bandmates in French. Most everyone in the room, Americans and Africans both, speaks French to one another, explaining what is being explained as the house is set up for the recording.  The four members of International Blues Express – Sidi Toure and Abdoulaye Kone dit Kandjafa from Mali, Cedric Watson and Desiree Champagne from Louisiana – are bonded by the common language, bonded to us by it, too. Heritage, experience and instinct all combine so that musicians, filmmakers, recordists, from different continents and different corners of them, are all communicating.

The Creole and Malian musical styles and songs melt together perfectly. The bright plucking sounds of the ngoni and guitar dance lightly on the steady rhythm of the washboard and the fiddle’s dulcet drone.  Celebration is something that we all experience, and we instinctively know the sound of a joyous occasion when we hear it. “Hanna” means a joyous all-night gathering, and is a song for celebrating the first child born into a family. It can take on a form that is endless, so that the dancing can continue until dawn.  It is a song of thanks-giving. We are thankful for this day, thankful for the chance to see the world light up with this connection, the makings of a new musical genre emerge, the possibilities that collaboration and exploration can offer.

At the end of the day, the house is filled with the smells of the meal that everyone shares.  The fundamental pieces of life are the same everywhere.

The 78 we made with International Blues Express has two Side As. In the next installment, our Creole friends take the lead, and lead us from birth to the unknown beyond it.

Fairer Than Day: Hear The Secret Sisters’ 78s “In the Sweet By and By” and “Little Again”

The Lindsley Avenue Church of Christ on a warm August day was ethereal, filled with morning light and the excitement of a new record about to be made. The Secret Sisters had a glowing loveliness brighter even than the stained glass as they warmed up to make their 78. While we set up, the girls took out the hymnal and sang their way through it.  They knew every song, and their voices from so many years of praise and practice, were like perfectly tuned church bells ringing from their happiness.

Lydia and Laura were raised in the church at home in Alabama.  So singing a hymn brought back memories of their childhood. But their flipside, “Little Again” is an even more personal tune, sung by the two little girls who grew up together, running in rivers, scraping their knees, and building a sweet sisterly closeness into a lifelong musical bond.

Thank you to the Lindsley Avenue Church of Christ in Nashville for generously letting us in and lending us their beautiful space.

Mary Chapin Carpenter’s 78, A Happy Anniversary, and our Road Trip’s Sweet Nashville Ending

This week is the anniversary of our first road trip to make The 78 Project Movie. Thinking about the year as a whole, there has been such a wonderful symmetry to our experiences. The first and last trips both finished in Tennessee, and each trip has been filled with bright, unexpected moments. It felt this week as if we had truly come full circle, and we wanted to celebrate the first recording from our very first road trip made with the perfect person to set the tone for what would come during the year that followed.

Mary Chapin Carpenter was a headliner at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, and she offered to spend the afternoon before her set making a record with us in her tour bus.  The most gracious host that she is, she not only invited us with all of our gear aboard her home away from home, she also let us turn off her air conditioning so that it wouldn’t interfere with the recording and serenely braved the August heat. Mary Chapin’s nature is graceful, and her performance was powerful, a combination that mesmerized and awed us.  She sang “The Water is Wide” with the sure, patient voice and agile finger-picking of a person who has always known a song.

For our last two days recording this week in Nashville, we were thinking so much about how far we’ve traveled and of all the wonderful people we’ve gotten to know.  In part because our last two musicians were so kind and generous, and in part because they all have been.

In Nashville, as in Memphis, we felt cozy and at home.  Infinitely welcoming person that he is, Jim Lauderdale made us feel even more so.  He gave us the run of a beautiful house from the 1890s, and a heartbreakingly gorgeous a capella performance of “Before This Time Another Year”.  It’s no wonder that Jim is a constant collaborator. His musicality is superb, and he himself is the kindest of souls.

We always say that our last day of each trip always brings a wonderful surprise, and it remains true. Each trip as we’ve spent our last afternoon making a record, something magical has occurred, and this last day in Nashville was no different.  The Secret Sisters had arranged for us to meet in the Lindsley Street Church of Christ, and everything about the moment was beautiful. Lovely, real life sisters Laura and Lydia, their fluttery, haunting voices in tight sibling harmony, the light through the stained glass, the sounds dispersing through the air all the way up to the ceiling.  When they sang “In the Sweet By and By” and an original called “Little Again,” they invoked the timeless closeness of family.  And during the giddy playback, they overflowed with the fresh energy of new experiences.

We drove out of Nashville as happy as we could ever be. The end of our last road trip is the beginning of everything that comes next for The 78 Project.  We will edit our movie, continue making our web series, and feel fortunate every day that our work helps to bring many, many more singular one-take recordings to life.

 

There’s Water Now: Watch and hear Victoria Williams’ “Bath Song”

Just on the other side of the steepest mountain in Echo Park, and many miles west of the desert cafe where we first met her, Victoria Williams invited us over for an evening of songs and record-making. The L.A. night was cold, but the house was warm and alive with some friends – including her dog Beau – and home-cooked food.

Victoria wanted what would be to be; she had happily followed Beau’s lead to the restaurant in Joshua Tree where we had also stopped on a whim, and as we set up that night, she was excited to find out what surprises “Bath Song” would bring at 78rpm. It seemed like a moment that had become inevitable since we left New York, wondering who we would meet, somehow thinking it might be her. The Presto clicked off, closing the circle, and our California road trip felt complete.


Our thanks to Gabe Noel for his beautiful musical contributions to this recording and to Robert for his kind and generous hospitality.

Leave You Not Alone: Watch and hear Jackson Lynch’s “Roving Cowboy” recording from the Brooklyn Folk Festival

There was a mood of fellowship in the Bell House the April morning we arrived with our Presto, a feeling in the air that anything could happen, and that anyone at any time might break out into beautiful song. So many people milling around at the Brooklyn Folk Fest that afternoon were great musicians, and every soul in the room an appreciator.

The spontaneity of the day led us to recording a side with Jackson Lynch, and as we always are when struck by good fortune, we were grateful to opportunity and appreciative of the musical talent that continues to grace us. Jackson performed the 19th Century Western Ballad “Roving Cowboy” with his fiddle bow gliding in a long journey across the strings. Like the cowboy of the song, never to settle, headed to who knows where.


 

Also, hear and see John Cohen’s recording “Danville Girl” from the other side of our Brooklyn Folk Festival acetate.

Thanks again to Eli Smith, the Bell House, John Cohen, Jackson Lynch and all the musicians, organizers and folks who came out to the Brooklyn Folk Festival.

May Adventures Past and Present: Cannes and daring recordings in an alley, on air, and onstage

May has turned out to be a momentous month for The 78 Project, each year it brings opportunities and joys we can hardly imagine.  This year May finds us in France!  Thanks to our fiscal sponsors and wonderful supporters at IFP we are participating in the first year of the Cannes Cross Media Corner, taking place during this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Thinking back to last May, we realized we were on a similarly adventurous bent, as in just one week we had the chance to record with The Wandering in a New York City alleyway at night, to appear live on WNYC Soundcheck recording with Justin Townes Earle, and to share an incredible evening of music at City Winery with our friends and supporters, culminating in a live onstage recording with Marshall Crenshaw.

In anticipation of the exciting week to come, a look back at this exciting week from one year ago:


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Look Up, Look Down: Watch and hear John Cohen’s “Danville Girl” recording from the Brooklyn Folk Fest

Our afternoon workshop at the 5th annual Brooklyn Folk Fest felt momentous. It was finally Spring! It was Record Store Day! It was the midpoint in a weekend of exceptional folk music, a gathering of some of the finest musicians and most enthusiastic appreciators around. And we were honored to be scheduled just before Anna Lomax presented her father’s film “Ballads, Blues and Bluegrass.” We were among friends and fellows, with legendary banjo player and historian John Cohen in front of our mic.

Thanks again to Eli Smith, the Bell House, John Cohen, Jackson Lynch and all the musicians, organizers and folks who came out to the Brooklyn Folk Festival.

 

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