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.
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Dearest thanks to Michel for his generosity and hospitality.
It was a mild day for December in New York, but it was winter nonetheless. And there was a quickness in our steps as we walked with Amy through the windy Harlem streets, to get the blood moving, to stay warm. Murder ballads are in Amy’s blood, she was raised on country songs filled with agony and ardor, and she poured that lifetime of woeful narratives into the deep blackness of the acetate.
“The Railroad Boy” is often sung as “The Butcher Boy”, and while the story is always chilling – a scorned young girl meets a sorrowful death – it can be for different reasons. “The Butcher Boy” sometimes lives up to the imagery its title evokes, ending with the boy murdering his lover, a variation Amy speculates may have spawned from a misinterpretation of the line “He took his knife and he cut her down.” In Amy’s version of “The Railroad Boy,” as in most of the song’s incarnations, the line refers to her father releasing her from the rope she has used to take her own life.
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It’s no surprise when Amy reveals that her favorite song ever is “Thin Line Between Love and Hate,” a crooned warning that your lover could kill you if you wrong them. Her flipside, “Red Banks,” like many of the songs she records and performs, depicts acts of passion that more often lead to the grave than to the altar.
Amy LaVere (Official Teaser)
Amy LaVere is no stranger to chilling tales told through song. We have seen her sing both classic and original murder ballads with a masterfully woeful cadence. So, when she passed through Harlem on a bright and cold December weekend, it was a perfect opportunity to capture an acetate.
Amy granted our wish, laying down a chilling portrait of “The Railroad Boy” and the unlucky girl he scorned. The teaser tells a tiny piece of the tale of a life ruined by a callous lover, the consequences are to come…