|Black Prairie ♦ A Tear In The Eye Is A Wound In The Heart (2012)|
Black Prairie — A Tear In The Eye Is A Wound In The Heart
Location: Portland, Oregon
Album release: September 18, 2012
Record Label: Sugarhill
1. Ms. Sindell 0:25
2. Rock of Ages 4:05
3. For the Love of John Hartford 2:57
4. Nowhere, Massachusetts 3:08
5. More Jam for Ras 0:30
6. How Do You Ruin Me? 3:20
7. Dirty River Stomp 3:27
8. Evil Leaves 2:55
9. What You Gave 3:38
10. Jump Up Jon 1:26
11. Winter Wind 2:49
12. Little Song Bird 4:11
13. Taraf 4:53
14. Richard Manuel 3:50
15. 34 Wishes: The Legend Of 7:51
16. Lay Me Down in Tennessee (Hidden Track) 19:37
◊ Hanz Araki Whistle
◊ Paul Beck Cymbalom
◊ Black Prairie Composer, Primary Artist
◊ Jenny Conlee-Drizos Accordion, Clapping, Composer, Group Member, Piano, Pump Organ, Vocals (Background)
◊ Chris Funk Autoharp, Banjo, Clapping, Composer, Dobro, Group Member, Marxophone, Weissenborn
◊ Tucker Martine Engineer, Mixing, Producer
◊ John Moen Drums, Percussion, Vocals (Background)
◊ Jon Neufeld Autoharp, Clapping, Composer, Drums (Bass), Gong, Group Member, Guitar, Vocals (Background)
◊ Nate Query Bass, Cello, Clapping, Composer, Group Member
◊ Andy Schichter Assistant
◊ Roger Seibel Mastering
◊ Annalisa Tornfelt Clapping, Composer, Group Member, Nyckelharpa, Violin, Vocals, Vocals (Background) / Website: http://www.blackprairie.com
Review by Steve Leggett
◊ Yeah, Black Prairie were founded by three members of the Decemberists, Chris Funk, Nate Query, and Jenny Conlee, as a back-porch string band side project, but the Decemberists they aren't, and this fine second album shows the growth, poise, and vision of a completely separate band. A lot of this is due to the beautifully nuanced vocals of Annalisa Tornfelt, whose hushed, unhurried, and wonderfully balanced singing makes songs here like "Rock of Ages" and "Nowhere, Massachusetts" sound ageless, comforting, and wise. Most of the material on Black Prairie's impressive debut album, 2010's Feast of the Hunter's Moon, were instrumentals that featured the band's unique brand of maverick East European Gypsy Appalachia, but the addition of Tornfelt as a singer moves things into a new place, and it's a good place, and it's the sound of a band that is fully realizing its vision. Everything here is an original composition, with vocal pieces offset by odd and cinematic instrumental interludes that set and convey a tone and feel that meshes perfectly with the comfortable, deep warm quilt glow of the whole album. It's a reverent album, too, with song homages to John Hartford (the instrumental "For the Love of John Hartford," a clogger's delight) and the Band's Richard Manuel ("Richard Manuel"), and Elvis Presley is name-checked in the gorgeous "Lay Me Down in Tennessee." There isn't a note out of place anywhere, even though the band is adventurous and skews off in any direction imaginable within the arrangements of the songs. This is a wonderful album, full of great players playing like the best back-porch string ensemble one is likely to hear, and with Tornfelt's vocals giving things a consistent emotional integrity, it adds up to one of the best and most unique Americana albums of the year.
Biography by Steve Leggett
◊ Portland's Black Prairie began in 2007 when Decemberists guitarist Chris Funk, having discovered the joys of the Dobro guitar, and Decemberists bassist Nate Query decided to start a mostly instrumental and acoustic string band as a side project. They enlisted another Decemberists member, Jenny Conlee, on accordion, and added two other veteran Portland musicians from popular local bands, guitarist and songwriter Jon Neufield, who played in Dolorean and Jackstraw, and singer and violinist Annalisa Tornfelt, who played in the Woolwines and Bearfoot. The resulting band blended together an impressive array of styles and textures, from tilted bluegrass, klezmer, and runaway Gypsy music to folk, blues, and a bit of jazz, resulting in a unique and fresh take on a kind of free-spirited alternative Americana. Signing to Sugar Hill Records, the band released an impressive debut, Feast of the Hunters' Moon, in 2010, following it up with A Tear in the Eye Is a Wound in the Heart in 2012.
Originally written for Folk Alley
◊ For all the buzz that’s been made about members of Black Prairie having performed for years as the Decemberists, one truth has stuck through their releases. This is a separate band built on a foundation of folk and bluegrass, and is by no means intended to be anything Decemberists-like. Sure, there’s bleed-over – these same instrumentalists with these same minds have contributed to Decemberists projects. But they’ve done so pulling on their long history and affection for traditional music.
◊ At the end of the day, these folks can pick a guitar and banjo and saw the hell out of a fiddle – nothing ironic about it. They proved it on their self-titled debut two years ago, and they’re solidifying it here on their new album A Tear in the Eye Is a Wound in the Heart (due Sept. 18 on Sugar Hill Records).
◊ Granted, they’re taking more liberty with the form this time around.
“Nowhere Massachusetts” has a little Jessica Lea Mayfield energy in it. You might hear a smattering of a PJ Harvey-meets-Sara-Watkins vibe here and there. Nonetheless, this is back porch music – from the twilight-and-fireflies of “Rock of Ages” to the fiddle-and-clog of “For the Love of John Hartford,” to the swig-and-swagger instrumentalism of “Evil Leaves” and “Taraf”.
◊ It’s an album which speaks for the ever-evolving face of the Portland, Oregon, music scene. In addition to the rawness of the bluegrass influence, the disc is heavy on piano, accordion, dobro, and percussion. There are Vaudeville moments and others which transport you straight to the heart of Appalachia.
◊ It’s also a long disc, capping out at sixteen tracks, but every single one is a keeper. Sure, hardcore bluegrass fans may be disappointed about the diversions toward something more imaginative and dreamy and outside tradition’s box, but these are clothes Black Prairie wears well. Try them on for yourself.
Origin: Valparaiso, Indiana
Genres: Folk, Folk rock, Country rock, indie rock
Occupations: Musician, songwriter, record producer
Instruments: Vocals, Guitar, pedal steel, piano, violin, dobro, hurdy gurdy, mandolin, saxophone, theremin, banjo
≡ Christopher Lyman Funk is a multi-instrumentalist and member of the Portland, Oregon, indie rock band The Decemberists. He is originally from Valparaiso, Indiana. He plays guitar, pedal steel, piano, violin, dobro, hurdy gurdy, mandolin, saxophone, the theremin and many other instruments. Funk joined the band after attendance at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. After the trailer with all their equipment and merchandise was stolen in 2005, Funk wrote "This Machine Kills Thieves" on his banjo, in reference to Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie.
≡ He is a member of Knock-knock with DJ Rev (from the hip-hop group Lifesavas on Quannum Projects). He is also a member of the string band Black Prairie who released their first album, Feast of the Hunter’s Moon, in 2010. He plays in the country rock group Blue Giant. He has produced records for The Builders and The Butchers, Langhorne Slim, and Red Fang.
≡ He curated the Portland edition of Burn to Shine DVD released in 2006.
≡ On December 20, 2006, Funk appeared on Comedy Central's The Colbert Report to end a longstanding mock feud with the show's host, Stephen Colbert. A contest ensued in which Funk and Colbert would each play a guitar solo while a panel of judges decided the winner. After Funk's solo, Colbert (who cannot play the guitar) feigned an injured hand, having Peter Frampton fill in for him instead. The contest ended with Colbert/Frampton being decided the winners by show guests Eliot Spitzer and Henry Kissinger, and Colbert was awarded The Crane Wife by The Decemberists as the grand prize. Funk then performed an "all-guitar jam" alongside Frampton, Robert Schneider (of The Apples in Stereo), and Rick Nielsen.
≡ Funk lives in the Mississippi area of Portland with his girlfriend Seann McKeel and daughter Scout Fahey Funk, who was named after the main character of the book To Kill A Mockingbird and guitarist John Fahey.
|Black Prairie ♦ A Tear In The Eye Is A Wound In The Heart (2012)|