There’s been a lot of loose talk about walls lately, and without getting too particular, I know I speak on behalf of an overwhelming majority of roots musicians when I say that Americana doesn’t do walls. In fact one of the most vital and attractive reasons to respect roots music is that it enabled America’s greatest historic reconciliation. I don’t think it’s stressed enough in school frankly that the civil rights movement wouldn’t have happened remotely like it did without music to draw people together. Culture led the way and policy followed. I bring this up because this week’s Roots is particularly global and cross-cultural, with two artists from the UK and our world music absorbing, wall-busting friends HuDost acting as an intermediary of sorts.
HuDost is the married couple of Jamal Wade Hines and Moksha Sommer (who had a baby since last we saw them by the way), and they tap sounds from parts of the world that few other western folk artists do, including the Balkans, Turkey, North Africa and the Near East. Moksha plays a droning pump organ with warm reedy timbres that I just love. Jamal is usually focused on guitar, which he’s willing to process and manipulate in interesting ways. Catching up with HuDost by way of their website, we read that the group “has two new projects released in 2015 including a World Chant ‘Sufi Kirtan’ album as well as a collaborative record with Steve Kilbey of the Australian band The Church with special guest Jon Anderson of YES.” So that’s curious because this month, starting with MCR, HuDost is partnering for a tour with the other key songwriter and guitarist from the Church, Marty Willson-Piper. He will play a set himself on this eclectic night, I believe with HuDost’s help. The Church loomed large in my jangle-pop loving teens and twenties. While they were an Australia-based band, Willson-Piper is from the English midlands, and I’ve heard some of the ancient tones of British folk in his music. There’s not much out there on his current project called Acres of Space. But he’s a heavyweight record collector and music historian (check out his endlessly fascinating In Deep Music Archive for hours of fun) so I’m anticipating both the performance and conversation.
Also from England and also from the couples-making-music department comes Beat Root Revival, the duo of Ben Jones and Andrea Magee, an English man and an Irish woman who fused their sounds and came to America to find what they were looking for. They seem to have been heading in the right direction. A first and almost unplanned visit to SXSW led, amid all the chaos, to gigs with Dale Watson. Other steps included connections in Nashville that have allowed them to release music and tour. Their brand new project is, they say, the culmination of hard work in recent years really melding their visions and voices and developing a sound. It’s powered chiefly by Magee’s burnished voice and her percussion skills on the traditional and electrified Bodhran. So the music does have a beat and is rootsy. The Revival’s self titled project comes out May 13, so we’ll get to hear their CD release celebration even before their home base fans in Austin do.
Our show capper Gabe Dixon doesn’t have quite as exotic a tale of overseas origins but he sure does have a track record and a big fan base, thanks to more than a decade of smart piano pop and Southern rock. But he’s putting his hit making days with The Gabe Dixon Band into perspective. “Over the past few years, Gabe Dixon changed almost everything,” his web site reports. He’s gone totally indie and put a new focus on writing a lot of songs and recording in the old-school way. So his new project Turns To Gold features a live band going to analog tape in a Berry Hill recording studio. I’ve only just had time to skim it but Popmatters says this: “Dixon still employs the rock energy, but he’s very much become an Americana artist now and the genre suits him to a tee, allowing him to get more soulful with his vocals and explore new sounds, while focusing on creating fundamentally craftsman-like songs that tell stories of peoples’ lives.” Dixon can really write a melody and his musical sophistication conjures Bruce Hornsby in my ears.
This is a night when I expect everything to flow and bleed into a larger whole. No Walls.