Texas desert setting for hundred-year-old church recording venue creates an intimate set of original songs with old-time and Appalachian influences.
There are many famous recording studios associated with Americana artists–think RCA Studio B in Nashville, or Sun Studio in Memphis–but less illustrious locations have yielded some very fine recordings, musicians often creating music of great longevity in unusual and atmospheric settings. The Cowboy Junkies famously recorded the Trinity Session in Toronto’s Church of the Holy Trinity in 1987, most of the album recorded in a single day, the band and collaborators grouped around a single microphone. Bard Edrington V’s second solo album was recorded in similar fashion, with a mobile studio set up in the one hundred year old Santa Inez Church in Terlingua, Texas, close to the Rio Grande and the border with Mexico.
As the album’s title suggests, recording the 12 tracks took place over two days, each song was recorded with only three takes, with no overdubs, and in the sequence in which they appear on the album. The resulting collection has a pleasing ‘recorded live ‘ feel, without sound quality suffering in the process, and an intimacy that allows the listener to imagine sitting in with the band sessions, in a house concert. The featured songs on this, the second solo album from Edrington, well known for his work with the Hoth Brothers, have its roots in old-time and Appalachian music, and country blues. Born in Alabama and raised in Tennessee, Edrington and his family currently live in Santa Fe, NM where he performs with his band, solo or with Boris McCutcheon and the Hoth Brothers.
Opening track ‘Rambling Kind‘ summons up the atmosphere of the desert setting of the recordings, with pedal steel intro, and a traditional theme in the titular character, who “was the ramblin’ kind, with a heavy heart and a simple mind/he found love out on the run, on a fast horse and a smoking gun”, with a repeating acoustic guitar motif, and prominent fiddle, which features throughout the album. Ten of the twelve tracks are original Edrington compositions, with co-writing credits to Zoe Wilcox on ‘Ma Cherie’, and ‘Athena’s Gaze’, the former a joyous up tempo cajun style number, with a driving beat and the repeated refrain “Oh ma Cherie/ thoughts of her they won’t let me be/ with the skin so fair thinking about doing things that I don’t dare/ oh ma Cherie”, and solo duties shared between fiddle and electric guitar.
The other two tracks feature poems by Bard’s great grandmother Mable Edrington, her posthumous poem, Dog Tags 1942 written in the 1940’s still pertinent today, Edrington singing ” “Mother come see my dog tags here” he called from another room /what do you mean dog tag son/ though my heart is filled with gloom/ this war we mothers is trying very hard, our souls are bleeding white/ we didn’t trust and train our boys for a world wide human fight“. With banjo at the fore, the song based on her poem takes us to the deep rural south and the powerless of the young men whose lives are lost so easily in wars not of their making.
‘Black Coal Lung‘ is a lament for the lot of the miner, with echoes of the aforementioned Trinity Session track ‘Mining for Gold‘, with the melancholy refrain “I know the end is near and my conscience is clear/ Well I’ve been down seen the devil and he freed me from my fears/ We’re dying down here from the black coal lung /there’s room down in the bottom for you and your fortunate son“, and features the sound of the church bells, as if to play out the dying miner.
Credited with Edrington are Bill Palmer on bass, Jim Palmer on drums, Karina Wilson on fiddle, Alex McMahon on lead guitar and pedal steel, and Zoe Wilcox on vocals.
A fine collection of original songs, with well-crafted lyrics on traditional themes from Edrington and featuring his great-grandmother’s poems, with excellent musicianship and lent extra atmosphere by the church setting.