Yeow! Last week’s mail revealed a nice big box from Australia filled to the brim with copies of my new collaboration with Tom Carter: From the Great American Songbook. The packaging is just fantastic. Here’s some stuff from the label’s website to whet your appetite for what it sounds like:
This second collaborative work from the pair is an expansive and ambitious recasting of American music now in the public domain. The influence of the songs collected here is long and widespread for their style and lyricism, forging a rich tradition and ever evolving history. With their interpretations, Carter and Kiefer have taken the songs that have seeped into their souls and extended upon them in such a way that brings something entirely new to their original ideas. It’s something that’s entirely theirs in spite of such source material, and with that, From The Great American Songbook brilliantly reveals a true hallmark of American music invention.
So, we have the infamous murder ballad Pretty Polly, the comic Camptown Races, the funeral Will The Circle Be Unbroken, the outlaw tale of Jesse James, the depression piece Hard Times Killin’ Floor Blues, the ragtime of The Entertainer and the doomed love trysts of Railroad Boy and The Coo Coo Bird. Carter and Kiefer have taken the spirit of these as a starting point for their spectral guitar improvisations, then fleshed them out with piano, percussion, bass and drums. In this thrillingly vast sonic terrain are moments of foreboding, tenderness, melancholy and gut-wrenching rawness.
Two of Kiefer’s longtime cohorts, Scott Leftridge and Chip Conrad played bass and drums respectively, while Califone’s Ben Massarella handled percussion.
Also contributing to From The Great American Songbook is a host of American musicians – including Tony Conrad, James Jackson Toth, Glenn Jones, and Sharron Krauss – with their reminiscences and insights into these songs with which they also found great personal resonance.
Christian Kiefer is a musician and songwriter with a varied and prolific history. His 2007 album Dogs & Donkeys featured the talents of Wilco’s Nils Cline, Low’s Alan and Mimi Sparhawk and The Band’s Garth Hudson. He is currently working on a project creating 43 songs for 43 American presidents and holds a PH.D in American Literature. Tom Carter is one half of Charalambides and similarly engages himself in many collaborations, including work with Thurston Moore, Bardo Pond and Robert Horton. From The Great American Songbook is his second release with Preservation, following on from 2007’s Monsters of Felt with Robert Horton.