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.
We’ve been hard at work in the editing room since returning home in January from our California road trip. And though we sit in the same room every day as we sort the hours of footage we’ve shot so far for The 78 Project movie, there’s no possibility of sameness or fatigue. Each day we are transported to another room, any of the many different and beautiful rooms all around the country we’ve been invited into to film and make 78s.
This week as scenes from our Southern journey emerged on our editing monitors, the drudgery of winter had disappeared and suddenly summer was bearing down with the last of its might. We were transported to a sunny high-ceilinged room in Nashville mesmerized by a sultry and spectacular sound: the voice of Dylan LeBlanc.
We wanted to show it to you the moment we saw it. Haunting and reverent and filled with purity and magic, it called to us like the endless roads of our journey, reminded us of the warmth of your support, made us want to say thank you right now and always.
There are things that the Presto seems to know inherently, surprising and wonderful things that pop out of our recordings when we play them back. The tapping of a foot on a floorboard, the chirping of a bird filtered through glass, the high praise-pitch of a fife brightly bouncing down a dark alley.
The Wandering assembled late one May night on the concrete behind Joe’s Pub in New York to play the classic gospel “Glory, Glory,” the five members of the Memphis group carefully shuffling themselves around to mix the sounds. Luther Dickinson, Valerie June, Shannon McNally and Amy LaVere each found their place, and the voices and instruments mixed beautifully as it all came together. Everywhere Shardé Thomas stood, however, the Presto seemed to hear her fife particularly. It’s the fife that her grandfather, the great Othar Turner, made with his own hands. And it was almost as if the Presto knew that sound, like the voice of an old friend carrying across a room.
It reminded us that the fife and the Presto both had lives before we were born, have a history we can only imagine, might have known each other in another life as contemporaries.
Buy the music on iTunes.
This weekend marked The 78 Project’s one year anniversary. Labor Day weekend of 2011 we had a marathon first three shoots, Dawn Landes in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, The Reverend John DeLore and Kara Suzanne at the High Horse Saloon, and The Mynabirds in our backyard in Williamsburg (the episodes from those shoots are reposted below!) We knew then that something special was happening.
We talked many times this year about a time when we’d be on the road, traveling to record. Now that we are, it’s every bit as challenging and spectacular as we dreamed it could be. We’re so thankful for the wonderful generosity of the musicians, friends and enthusiasts who have helped us to take The 78 Project this far. This first year’s work is dedicated to you all.
The first three Full-length Episodes of The 78 Project, shot August 31 – September 1, 2011 in New York:
Where ya headed? We meet like fellow passengers at the end of a nearly abandoned train car in Brooklyn. But the train doesn’t budge, because we’re not there to travel, not really. It’s dark inside, and we light candles, it’s chilly outside so we bundle up. It’s silent at first, without the chugging of the engine and the tripping of the steel wheels over hundreds of miles of track, so we fill the space with music.
She’s a New Yorker now, but Valerie June brought her Memphis along in her reedy, bouyant voice. And as she sings the sweet longing for a long-distance love in “Happy or Lonesome,” we almost expect her hometown to answer. But it’s the Presto that does, in the end, with a satisfying click.
This train’s not leaving the station, but it doesn’t need to. So what if we’re rooted in place, we’ll still get carried away.
Thank you so, so much to Pete’s Candy Store for giving us such a warm Brooklyn welcome, and for mixing our 78 Sours so strong!
Two doors on an unassuming block in Harlem open to reveal a splendid church turned into a home. All instruments are laid down to reveal the human voice in all of its vulnerability and glory. Some beautiful things, usually hidden, are revealed all at once.
Adam Arcuragi has a churchgoer’s understanding of how to sing praise, how to surrender fear and fill up the immense space with feeling, to lift the spirit closer to its devotion. He has nearness in mind when he plunges into “How Can I Keep from Singing?” unaccompanied except for the natural reverb in the vaulted room.
We felt so close to Adam’s bare voice that we became aware of the nearness of the ceiling to our heads, and when we took the finished acetate outside to the garden to listen, we felt the sky close to our faces and the nearness of a time long gone.
Buy the music on iTunes.
Dearest thanks to Michel for his generosity and hospitality.
There was a playful confidence in his motions as he got out his guitar and told stories of hats and ukuleles and cowboys and family. Industrial street noises and a lively chill air seeped in through the walls of the secret Brooklyn fishing club as we set up to record. “Old Paint” is a distinct and fundamental piece of Loudon’s personal musical history, and he put all of his years of performance into those three minutes of acetate. The song is so much a part of him that he played it with a concentration nearing transcendent, his voice so familiar to us that it filled the space and we could no longer hear the trucks passing. The click of the switch announced the end and the Presto’s turntable slowed. The things best known to us are sometimes most able to surprise.
Buy the music on iTunes.
Special thanks again to the Brooklyn Rod & Gun for making us honorary members for the afternoon. We love your peanuts.
The elation at the end of a long day of recording mixed with the sweet burn of a 78 Sour as the bar moved into happy hour and we moved into the bar.
Some of the gathered crowd knew what would happen, some wondered what we were doing. They lingered nearby, craning their necks to get a better look at the mesmerizing Valerie and the strange old machine on the table in front of her.
Valerie was a pro by this time. “Wildwood Flower” was the fourth side she’d sung in one day, the fourth time she’d watched our needle drop, the fourth wild mass of chip she’d displaced with her wild voice. And she kicked off of that momentum, straight into a final song so spirited that it hushed and entranced an entire Brooklyn bar.
Buy it on iTunes.
Thanks again to Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn, NY, for letting us in, and inventing our new signature drink.