The gypsy queen said it was the oldest song in the world. Even before he told us so, we felt that long history of “The Coo Coo Bird” in the sure motions of Richard’s fingers on the guitar strings and the dark depth of his voice. In a borrowed room, we borrowed what might be the oldest song in the world, and cut it deep into acetate.
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“The Wayfaring Stranger” felt truly right when Rosanne Cash sang it. With her husband, John Leventhal, playing guitar accompaniment and surrounded by the cozy familiarity of their kitchen, the quiet rumble of the Presto’s spinning platter seemed comforting and familiar to everyone gathered. The song is about the hope for comfort that carries you through a long journey, the promise of finding those you love again. This simple, graceful message of faith has carried “The Wayfaring Stranger” on a 200-year journey through history, and Rosanne’s belief in it brought it to rest on an acetate in her home.
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For her Flipside song, Rosanne chose a new original. “Etta’s Song” is about coming home as well, but to the city where she was born, Memphis, Tennessee, and is a tribute to a dear family friend.
Yesterday afternoon, The 78 Project was invited to record a 78 live on
WNYC Soundcheck. Justin Townes Earle was kind enough to sing his new
song “Memphis in the Rain” when our needle went down. And host John
Schaefer gamely put his voice on acetate as well! WNYC captured the
whole experience, and it’s streaming from their site for you to hear.
LISTEN: The 78 Project and Justin Townes Earle on WNYC Soundcheck
Our cameras were rolling, and we caught the moment of Justin Townes Earle making his 78 below.
It was sunny on Wednesday. But on Thursday, when we arrived on Rosanne Cash’s doorstep, the rain and cold were looming over our plans to record in her beautiful garden. So we set up in Rosanne’s kitchen while she made tea. John picked on his guitar, the morning rested on the hands of the clock and the black tuxedo cat investigated our Presto on the counter. A sense of comfort and family reverberated through the room. “The Wayfaring Stranger” is a spiritual made most beautiful by it’s simple narrative: after the toil of life’s journey, we will find home.
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He traversed Manhattan, journeying to the edge of Brooklyn to sing for us. His words tell of a love of the lonesome West, and his voice is rich with understanding that in the solitude of a traveler’s nights, a song can become your companion. Loudon Wainwright tells us he doesn’t know much about ranching, but just after striking the last chord, he shares one piece of wisdom that a man who rides an old paint horse would know: the proper way to take off his hat.
Special thanks again to the Brooklyn Rod & Gun for making us honorary members for the afternoon. We love your peanuts.
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.
Richard Thompson (Official Teaser)
The man travels with just one guitar. We have heard it said that you can only truly know One of your chosen instrument, which seems to have some fervent truth to it. One microphone stands between us and silence, one acetate holds all of our hopes. And, on a recent February afternoon, one New York hotel room was our whole world as Richard Thompson’s voice, sure and broad, poured forth “The Coo Coo Bird.”
After the excitement of being discovered in his home of rural West Virginia in the 1920s by representatives from a recording company, Dock Boggs saw his music career dissolve quickly. Miraculously, the folk revival of the 1960s resurrected Boggs and his singular mountain-style banjo (thanks in no small part to Alan Lomax,) but in between his two big breaks, the musician spent thirty years at the bottom of a dark, dusty coal mine. It is understandable why a man who knew the struggles and triumphs of life so intimately, would want to celebrate the human spirit now rather than waiting for the afterlife. Leave it to a union man to make love into a call to action.
“Roses While I’m Living” puts a positive spin on the field recording tradition of expressing the hardships of life through song. And The Mynabirds’ Laura Burhenn is always one for a positive spin.