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Nathan Salsburg & Joan Shelley Concert
July 13, 2014 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm$10
Dinner will be available before the show (menu tbd). Bring Your own Libation!
More on Joan:
Ginko is Joan Shelley’s much anticipated 2nd album, and her Ol Kentuck debut. The stellar performances delivered by Joan and her backing band (featuring Ben Sollee, Cheyenne Marie Mize, Daniel Joseph Dorff and several other amazing musicians) mark an artistic turning point and are further testament to the great music coming out of Louisville, Kentucky. (Read Archivist Nathan Salsburg‘s take on the project right here.)
The album ranges from gentle moments of quiet beauty (Into the Sea), to crushing drums (Ginko) and swirling strings (Siren). And at the center of it all is Joan’s singular voice and brilliant songwriting. These works move agilely between darkness & light, hovering just long enough to draw us in and keep us rapt and curious to hear what will come next. There are worlds in each of the 11 songs presented here, and we’re able to look more & more deeply into them with each listen.
Captured for recording by Kevin Ratterman at The Funeral Home, Ginko sounds amazing. It manages to shimmer and feel well-worn all at once.
More on Nathan:
I suppose it’s not terribly difficult to play a guitar – to hold the thing in your arms, to move your hands across its body in all the prescribed and proven ways, to coax a little melody into being.
But what Nathan Salsburg – an acoustic guitarist and the curator of the Alan Lomax archive, a Pennsylvania-born Kentuckian who has logged good time in coastal Maine – does with his instrument is singular, nearly mystic: his are agile, engaging compositions, songs that feel desirous and questioning and vital, as if they weren’t just channeled into being, but demanded revelation.
Nathan’s 2011 solo debut, Affirmed, directly addressed a trio of thoroughbreds – Affirmed, Eight Belles, and Bold Ruler – which also made it at least in part about Salsburg’s Kentucky: the land that sustained and nurtured those horses, the ancient traditions that anointed and sometimes undid them. Its follow-up, Hard For To Win and Can’t Be Won, is also a record about place, although its landscapes are less specific. Some of them are memories, even: spaces that were real once, but have to be conjured now, willed to or from mind. Most of the album’s songs are instrumental, save two re-workings of older material: “Coll Mackenzie,” written and first performed by Archie Fisher, and “To Welcome the Travelers Home,” a composite of two traditional nineteenth-century pieces; one sacred, one less so. Both songs concern homecomings, what it feels like to be enveloped by a place that you know will sustain you, will nurture what needs nurturing.
Musically, Nathan has emerged from a venerable tradition that includes Lena Hughes and Frank Hutchison, John Fahey and Ry Cooder. I’m reluctant to make too much of his virtuosity – and he is virtuosic, a staggering craftsman – because he is also in the unique position of having that be the least interesting thing about his playing. There are moments in Nathan’s pieces – these nimble rhythmic shifts, steps from one place to another – that make my knees quiver. Listening to him play, it’s hard not to feel subsumed by gratitude.
I’m just as hesitant to frame his work as subversive, and yet – he is such a remarkably courageous writer and musician, and Hard For To Win and Can’t Be Won is so matchless a document, so inimitable in its moves. This is the sort of record that could change the course of your year. It certainly changed mine.