The season of haints and all saints is upon us, and while I haven’t been much interested in costuming up for Halloween in decades, I do enjoy the people watching and the trickle down effect of having a daughter who doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth. I’ll join you in getting ready for the holiday at our October 28 show because whether by design or accident, there will be ghosts. Cool ghosts. Musical ghosts. Southern ghosts.
One of our acts is explicitly inspired by the supernatural. A group of leading Nashville musicians, including Neilson Hubbard, Ben Glover and Farewell Drifter Joshua Britt, camped out at and sought the historic soul of The Octagon Hall, a famous and famously haunted antebellum mansion in Franklin, KY. Under the banner The Orphan Brigade, they made both an album and a film with the help of luminaries like Kim Richey, Gretchen Peters, Kris and Heather Donegan and Eamon McLoughlin. I’ve not heard the whole thing but the inklings are as spectral as you’d expect yet also (at least in the case of “Trouble My Heart (Oh Harriet)”) bristling with existential passion. The documentary did well at the Nashville Film Festival and several others. The spirit of the project is perhaps best summed up by the enthusiastic liner notes of Marshall Chapman:
“The tragedy surrounding this place is palpable in each song. I Google “Octagon Hall.” Several sites proclaim it “one of the most terrifying places in America.” So who would go to such a place? Let alone, to write and record an album? Surely they must be mad!”
Mad? Haunted? Sounds perfect for this time of year.
The blues is roots music’s never ending séance, and the Delta sound that informs and inspires Ted Drozdowski and his power trio Scissormen teems with ghosts and souls in limbo. Ted’s a friend to all of us in the music scene as an award-winning journalist (and frequent patron of our show, thanks so much). But since the 80s he’s advanced his own sound making agenda. It’s taken many forms and colors, but in this decade-old group he’s built on a foundation of Junior Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside with Jackson Pollack splashes and tie-die patterns. The new album Love & Life has been his best-reviewed project to date, evoking praise for its psychedelics and pyrotechnics. I’m looking forward to drawing out Ted on some of the views about the blues in modern life that he shared in a new profile/interview in Guitar Player magazine:
“I would like to see the blues become the inventive, growing, all-encompassing medium I think it is. Most people playing the blues today do not see it as this timeless, evolutionary foundation. They see it as a museum piece. I am actually offended by that.”
Don’t hold back your feelings Ted. You’ll have every chance to say it with your slide guitar on Wednesday.
MCR alumnus Amy Black grew up around Southern spirits as a child of Muscle Shoals. It wasn’t always her home per se, but it was her family turf and a regular place of rest and rambling. Once she became an accomplished songwriter and singer, she got truly in touch with the legacy of the place working on a 2013 EP recorded in the music hotbed with area icons like keyboardist Spooner Oldham. Amy’s new FAME Sessions album takes its name from Rick Hall’s world-famous studio where so much legendary American soul and rock and roll was birthed. A mix of originals and craftily chosen cover songs, the project sets Amy’s ginormous, glowing voice against clean, hand-crafted instrumentation, artfully mixed by Nashville’s Lex Price. Amy’s bringing horns and an expert rhythm section to this week’s Roots, for what will surely be her most ambitious set of the many she’s done for us. It’s exciting to have her return with such inspirational winds at her back.
One of these things is not like the others this week, and that’s the sunny, inspirational artistry of LynnMarie Rink. I remember her popping up on my radar when I was at the newspaper in the early 2000s, because it was hard not to notice a local female accordionist who made crossover polka and who’d earned a Grammy nomination for one of her albums. The genre came from her family history and her twists and turns on it came from being a wide-open curious and empathic person. She took her squeezebox all over the world and played the Tonight Show. Then I didn’t see anything about her for a while. When she turned up again more recently it was as author of a forthcoming memoir and writer of a one-woman show that shares her transformational story of parenting a son with Down’s Syndrome and autism. She’s had wild ups and downs but has emerged with wise resilience. I have no idea what her live show is going to sound like, but I know from knowing her it will be joyful and likely have that kicky bounce of the infectious polka groove.
Or if she wants to play mournful songs of death on the accordion, that’ll fit right in too.