A New Writing, Um… Adventure

'Deep Roots Magazine' logo (2017)The old-time followers of RAMH probably know about this already, via other means. But I thought casual visitors here might be interested in a new outlet for my writing about music: as of this week, I’ve been brought into the fold at Deep Roots Magazine.

As you might guess from the name of both the magazine’s current incarnation and its original one — The Bluegrass Special — the site focuses on music, particularly music with roots in American history: folk, country, bluegrass, blues, and all the many spin-off genres and sub-genres (folk rock, singer-songwriter, soul, and so on). But as you can see from even a cursory poking-about there, the Deep Roots mission is quite broad. Heck, you don’t even have to poke about; just read the sub-title/tagline: Roots Music & Meaningful Matters. If you’re really an old-timer, you may have noticed RAMH‘s own original tagline, back in 2008:

Original (2008) RAMH tagline, courtesy of the Internet Wayback Machine

That feels like a bit of happy serendipity to me now.

Yes, Deep Roots still covers roots music (etc.). However, it also regularly features classical music; jazz; gospel; children’s literature (reprinting content from old RAMH favorite Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast); and, well, evidently pretty much anything else that its editors might consider culturally meaningful. (Among its wide-ranging departments: the “Charlie Chaplin Moment” series; “Away Out There,” posts about astronomy; and “Talking Animals,” regular material offered by the host of the NPR show of the same name, about pets and other animals… You can see why the site appeals to me even without my actual participation in it.)

My own brief, at the moment anyhow, is to cover… well, to cover… um… well, I guess you could say to do pretty much a deeper, broader, meatier version of what I’ve been doing with music here. Yes, I’ll be continuing to pursue my primary genre of choice in recent years — roots, a/k/a (not entirely accurately) “Americana.” My first Deep Roots feature is a full-blown review of Sarah Beatty’s Bandit Queen album, released in February. (My RAMH post about the title song’s acoustic version appeared here, shortly before its official release date.)

  • My inaugural Deep Roots Magazine feature: “Songs From the Heart and the Headlines” (Sarah Beatty and Bandit Queen)
  • For even more details about Sarah Beatty and her music, also see the annotated version of my full email interview with Sarah Beatty, here at RAMH

And for the record, no: I do not intend to stop my coverage here of musical topics, especially in the Music Break and What’s In a Song categories (and their offshoots). And probably needless to add, I’ll also continue my weekly Friday series of posts “about” nothing at all specific (or at least nothing at all obvious), and continue to wander around and yes, poke about into other topics that catch my interest from time to time.

Thanks as always for visiting, reading, and listening with me. (And very special thanks to the Deep Roots team, especially editor David McGee and Julie (Jules) Danielson, who made the introductions!)

Send to Kindle
Share

Midweek Music Break: Lynn Tomlinson, “The Ballad of Holland Island House”

[Lyrics copyright © Lynn Tomlinson]

Says artist (and lyricist) Lynn Tomlinson at her site:

I came across the haunting image of a house standing alone in the water in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay. Reading more about this house, I was struck by its story, and its relevance today, when so many communities are facing challenges from sea-level rise. The images I chose and the visual style reflects the artwork of Winslow Homer, Van Gogh, and Kathe Kolwitz, artists working in the late 1800s, the time period when the house on Holland Island was abandoned.

This video’s construction involved much more than that brief paragraph suggests: each frame was hand-painted in clay — not oil, watercolor, gouache, or other traditional medium — on glass. I’ll give you a moment to think about that — especially about the relationship between art and artifice, between real and ideal, between temporary and permanent, natural and man-made, and then and now

On this page at a site called Sometimes Interesting, you can read many details about the island and its last house, with many photos (including what appear to be the last known photos before the house’s collapse beneath the waves). Wikipedia, of course, offers its own useful summary.

My favorite “fact”: Holland Island is not an island of rocky protrusions; it’s an island of clay and silt. Although Tomlinson does not (to my knowledge) say so explicitly, it’s hard not to draw a dotted line between that geology and the physical media at the heart of the visual one.

(Tomlinson’s film won 1st place in the Greenpeace USA “Postcards from Climate Change” Student Film Contest. And as you can see from the still frame of the Vimeo video about, it’s picked up a good number of other awards as well.)

Aside from the work of the animation itself, Lynn Tomlinson wrote the ballad’s lyrics. The music and the performance, though, are courtesy of a roots-music/Americana duo going by the name Anna & Elizabeth (surnames Roberts-Gevalt and LaPrelle, respectively). Their joint mission, says their Web site:

WE HOPE THAT OUR WORK

  • BRINGS LIGHT to old ballads, tunes, hymns, and the stories of everyday people.
  • HONORS the lives & creativity of those who have gone before us — ancestors, pioneers, friends, and dear teachers
  • PASSES THE TRADITION to a younger generation & encourages friendships across generations
  • INSPIRES people to make art in their own homes.
  • JOINS conversations with other artists & community makers — in learning how to create art that feeds, that brings people together to sing, dance, and ask the difficult questions.

Which, you might say, is a mighty big chunk of ambition to bite off. Nonetheless, they’re making a pretty sizable dent in it. A couple weeks ago, they released their second album of reimagined “old-timey” music. They are touring over the next several months, performing at venues up and down the east coast of the US, the Midwest, the Northwest; in the UK; in Canada.

Finally, both relevant and not to be sneered at: Anna & Elizabeth are aficionados of an old, old art form called “crankies.” Picture a story or ballad — a story song — told visually, by way of a series of consecutive panels… which are joined together in a looooong roll and hand-cranked through a frame to illustrate or comment on the passing scene and moments.

Not only their sweet-harmony performances and musical tastes, but also this affinity for frame-at-a-time storytelling, make them the perfect accompanists for Lynn Tomlinson’s video.

Send to Kindle
Share