Just ahead of the shopping holidays, Red House Records and Pieta Brown have announced a 180g vinyl version of her latest album One and All which was released on April 6th this year on CD. As I’ve pointed out earlier, this album and the previous EP Shimmer marks a sort of coming home for Pieta as Red House was the original label started with Greg Brown, and is also where The Pines have been for the last two albums.
Based on the conversation I had with the gentleman taking phone orders at Red House, this marks the first vinyl put out by Red House since the early 90’s to the best of his recollection. He said that Red House had licensed a recording for vinyl recently, but this is the first that Red House has done under its imprint.
For this foray back into vinyl, I think Red House is getting the release right– pick a relatively high-profile artist like Pieta Brown, issue it on audiophile-appeasing 180g vinyl, and they are offering new packaging for the release. This cover seems to be based on the poster I got with the CD release back in April which I think is pretty striking. I think the label is testing the vinyl waters a bit, the gentleman I talked to on the phone hinted at a Pines release possibility as well!
One and All 180g vinyl is available for pre-order right now through Red House for $23 (plus shipping).
“I always wished I could paint, but I really can’t. My sisters Constie and Zoe got that gene. So, I made a painting here– of one kind.” — Pieta before a live performance of “Over You”
I’m awoken by the flash and rumbles of the first spring storm. 5:55 AM floods into my retinas rinsing recent dreams into faint images. In my head there’s music– like every morning– a score played over the final scenes of my sleeping film I’ll soon forget.
I roll on to my back and look at the runny light reflected on the ceiling and listen to the music in my head– it’s “El Guero” from One and All.
Shady grove & tattoo sleeves
Pink birds in a pile of leaves
All night long
Honeysuckle along the street
They say you never missed a beat
Records piled against the wall
Old bass & a wrecking ball
In conjunction with the Mission Creek Iowa City music festival that happened last week where she performed, Pieta Brown put her new CD One and All (Red House Records) in a couple stores to sell a week before the release date of 4/6. Over lunch last week I ran down to Iowa City to RSVP to pick up a copy. The week I’ve had with it has apparently contributed to the music that plays in my head.
One and All is the first full album and the second release (the first being the EP Shimmer, produced by Don Was) by Pieta Brown on her new label home Red House Records. Red House has become kind of a center of the Eastern Iowa Blues and Folk scene. Starting with Pieta’s father Greg Brown they also have Greg’s long-time friend Dave Moore as well as The Pines which has Bo Ramsey’s son Benson in it. I’ve mentioned here before that I think the partnership of Pieta and Red House is one that ultimately should help foster her career.
After years following Bo Ramsey’s career, I find myself gravitating to albums that he produced or played on and One and All has that pull for me as well. As with the previous six releases dating back to her self-titled 2002 release on the now-defunct Trailer Records, her constant collaborator Bo Ramsey takes a key role in the sound of the album providing his vocal harmonies and trademark clean country blues guitar riffing. Joining Bo and Pieta is their regular bass player Jon Penner and drummer Steve Hayes. JT Bates who played drums on The Pines newest album also played on One and All— apparently together with Hayes on some songs according to an entry on Bates’s blog. Brian Wilkie from Chicago Bluegrass band Majors Junction provides some tasty pedal steel. Pieta’s sister Constie contributes harmonies and Bo’s son Alex Ramsey provides keyboards on “Faller.” Additionally, Joey Burns from Calexico returns the favor of Pieta and Bo contributing vocals and guitar to “Slowness” on their 2008 album Carried to Dust by contributing cello and accordion.
Pieta delivers a gentle– almost dreamy vocal over the balanced and paced instrumentals. This is music with a sense of place more than an urge of destination. We could go somewhere but let’s sit on the porch enjoying the breeze blowing through the screen door.
“Making a record always reminds me of taking photographs because it is just one moment in time, or just one version of the way that song is– kind of like a photograph.” — Pieta in her “Making of One and All Documentary“
This quote as well as the one at the beginning of this review helps frame– if you will– the lyrics to Pieta’s songs for me. The lyrics on One and All are made up of images– the “shady grove and tattoo sleeves”, the “Pink birds in a pile of leaves” of “El Guero.” The passage of “You got your fine shirt/I got a cheap cigar/You’re in the sunshine/I’m in a dirty bar/Back by the jukebox/I’m lost in the sound” sets up two people in different places in their lives and in their surroundings.
These are the parts of her “painting– of one kind.”
We’re never told who these portraits are of– or even the full story. These paintings are not studies in the hard oil of realism, but more the impressionistic water color. The fading dream recounted to another. The details leave, but it is the feelings that hold.
If art is in the eye of the beholder, it is because we can become part of a piece by completing it with our particular experience. With One and All we are left to interpret this picture with our own details– the jukebox at our local bar, our own records against the wall, the pile of leaves at our feet. Pieta has created in One and All an album that draws the listener in– a welcomed– if gently engaging soundtrack.
Note: In concert, Pieta does offer a clue about one song on One and All. In “Faller,” Pieta describes seeing Tom Petty backstage at a show she and Bo played at McCabe’s Guitar Shop opening for JJ Cale in March of 2009. The story goes that JJ ran into Tom Petty and Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers at a bar across the street and invited them to come sit in on his set. As a result, Bo and Pieta met Tom. Pieta sings “I see you leaning/against the wall/looking like/You might fall.” I picture a tall, lanky Petty precariously leaning on a wall. “It’s a long hallway/for a small place/A crowd of people/In your face.”
If you follow my blog with any regularity, you know that I follow the Eastern Iowa music scene fairly closely– especially its rich folk and blues tradition. One of the guys who has been around Iowa City for a while and has established a kind of legendary career is Dave Moore.
Moore’s music career starts in the early 80’s in Iowa City hooking up with Greg Brown– supporting him on tour, recording and his frequent visits to Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion radio show. In 1984 he won a blues and folk festival contest which provided him the studio time to record his first record Jukejoints and Cantinas which began his relationship with Red House Records. In 1990 he released his follow-up Over My Shoulder. In 1994 he started work on his third release which was interrupted due to losing a daughter in infancy. He took a break from the record and playing for a while, choosing to stick close to home and family.
In 1998 he picked up work on the album again, this time pulling in area musicians to help bring vision to the recording sessions. Bo Ramsey stepped in at the producer’s helm on the sessions which included Rick Cicalo on bass, Steve Hayes on drums, and David Zollo on piano. “Nothing against non-Iowans,” Moore said in a 2000 interview with Maureen Brennan. “I just think it really felt right. These are all the people I’ve been playing with. They all have families, most of them have kids; even the person who did the photographs (Sandy Dyas) is local. It kind of solidified in that direction when Bo Ramsey and I began to work together.”
The resulting record– Breaking Down to 3— which was released by Red House in 1999 is a strong work which benefits from the “Iowa Sound” that Bo and the guys brought and is a record that I consider to be essential to any collection of this regional scene.
Dave Moore will be playing two early sets at The Red Avocado restaurant in Iowa City on Saturday 3/20/10. The party starts at 11AM with two sets of tunes from Moore– one at 11:30AM and one at 1:30PM. At 3PM there is a reception for area photographer Sandy Dyas and her work on exhibit at the Red Avocado that goes until 5PM.
Click Here for the Red Avocado Page on the Spring Party.
Click Here for the Facebook Event for Dave Moore & Sandy Dyas at The Red Avocado.
This week we have been treated to some news about Pieta Brown’s follow up to her Shimmer EP from the folks at Red House Records. Pieta’s new album and first full-length for her new label home, titled One & All will be released on April 6th!
Co-produced by Pieta and Bo Ramsey the record is a culmination of material she’s been performing live since the release of her last full-length Remember The Sun which came out in 2007. She started performing “Calling All Angels” during that solo tour, and I first heard it when she played it on Nic Harcourt’s Morning Becomes Eclectic on KCRW.
In November, Pieta did a three-night artist-in-residence at The Mill Restaurant called “This Land is Your Music”, which she used as a way to try out different band configurations– solo, duo and full band. She also took the opportunity to perform some of the songs which would become part of One & All, including “Other Way Around,” “Prayer Of Roses,” “Calling All Angels,” “Faller,” and “It Wasn’t That.”
Right now on Pieta’s MySpace page she has “Out of the Blue,” “El Guero” and “Faller” in her music player. Additionally, Red House is making “Faller” available for download. At the first This Land is Your Music show Pieta said that “Faller” is based on meeting Tom Petty when she opened for JJ Cale at McCabe’s Guitar Center. Apparently JJ Cale ran into Petty and Mike Campbell at a bar across the street from McCabe’s and invited them to join him on stage. So, Pieta and Bo met Petty and Campbell. Here is a picture of Bo talking to Petty.
Pieta is going on a 28-date tour with Mark Knopfler who is out supporting his new album Get Lucky, which should gain her some new fans. Bo will be on tour with her and I think that Knopfler and Bo have complimentary music styles so it would be interesting if they’d perform together!
Red House Records will start taking pre-orders for One & All on March 30th and pre-orders will be autographed! Also, you can preorder One & All from Amazon.
Tracklisting for One & All
Wishes Falling Through The Rain
Other Way Around
Out Of The Blue
Prayer Of Roses
Calling All Angels
Flowers In The Kingdom
Grass Upon The Hills
Never Did Belong
It Wasn’t That
Pieta Brown on Tour With Mark Knopfler (from The Rosebud Agency)
4/8/2010 Seattle WA Moore Theatre
4/9/2010 Vancouver BC CANADA Queen Elizabeth Theatre
4/10/2010 Portland OR Keller Auditorium
4/11/2010 Eugene OR Hult Center for the Performing Arts
4/13/2010 Oakland CA Paramount Theatre of the Arts
4/14/2010 Santa Rosa CA Wells Fargo Center For The Arts
4/15/2010 Temecula CA Pechanga Resort & Casino
4/16/2010 Los Angeles CA Pantages Theatre
4/17/2010 Los Angeles CA Pantages Theatre
4/18/2010 Phoenix AZ Dodge Theatre
4/20/2010 Denver CO Temple Hoyne Buell Theatre
4/21/2010 Kansas City MO Midland Theatre
4/22/2010 Saint Louis MO Fox Theatre
4/23/2010 Chicago IL Chicago Theatre
4/24/2010 Milwaukee WI Riverside Theater
4/25/2010 Minneapolis MN State Theater
4/27/2010 Ann Arbor MI Michigan Theater
4/28/2010 Buffalo NY University of Buffalo – Center For The Arts
4/29/2010 Toronto ON CANADA Massey Hall
4/30/2010 Montréal PQ CANADA Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, Place Des Arts
5/1/2010 Mashantucket CT MGM Grand at Foxwoods
5/2/2010 Washington DC Warner Theater
5/4/2010 Boston MA Orpheum Theatre
5/5/2010 Red Bank NJ Count Basie Theatre
5/6/2010 New York NY United Palace
5/7/2010 Upper Darby PA Tower Theater
5/8/2010 Atlantic City NJ Caesars Circus Maximus
5/9/2010 Albany NY Palace Theatre
Benson Ramsey and David Huckfelt are collectively known as the roots-folk group The Pines. Based in the Twin Cities and on the Twin Cities label Red House Records, Benson and David are part of the newest generation of the Eastern Iowa sound started by Greg Brown and Bo Ramsey (who is Benson’s dad) among others. In September The Pines released their third album Tremolo— which is their second album on Red House.
I picked up Tremolo when it came out and have been listening to it pretty regularly. I feel that as much of a progression that Sparrows in the Bell was from their self-titled release on the now-defunct Iowa City label Trailer Records, Tremolo is a further refining of their sound.
The Pines will be at The Mill Restaurant in Iowa City on Friday, November 20th. The show starts at 9PM and tickets are $8.
When I saw Bo Ramsey and the Mystery Lights at the Mill back in May, Pieta was kind of hanging back in the shadows of the dark bar and helping her sister sell some Bo Ramsey merchandise. After the show was over I took the opportunity to ask her about her record label situation. After being signed to One Little Indian for her last album, the brilliant Remember the Sun from 2007 the follow-up Flight TimeEP was released on T-Records, which incidentally is the label she used to release her 2003 EP I Never Told.
(BTW: This EP was impossibly out-of-print and apparently Pieta found another box of these recently and you can buy them on CDBaby— get one while you can!)
Her simple answer was that she was “in limbo.” It certainly occurred to me that aside from the extensive touring and appearances she was making over the last couple of years, that she still wasn’t getting the exposure she deserved for that album.
It was announced today via her MySpace page that she has now signed to Twin Cities folk label Red House Records— which is also the label home for Greg Brown and The Pines. So, it is kind of a family reunion of sorts! All they’d need to do is sign Bo Ramsey and it would be complete!
Also as part of this announcement, we find out that she has a new 7-track EP titled Shimmer coming out on November 10th on Red House and is produced by uber-producer Don Was, who has produced acclaimed albums from Bob Dylan (Under the Red Sky), Bonnie Raitt (Her Grammy-winningest run– 1989’s Nick of Time (3 Grammies), 1991’s Luck of the Draw (3 Grammies), 1994’s Longing In Their Hearts (2 Grammies)) and The Rolling Stones (their last notable output in my opinion– 1994’s Voodoo Lounge, 1995’s Stripped, and 1997’s Bridges to Babylon).
All of this seems to me to be a formula for success, frankly. Switching to a label that is more geared to handle her music, and hiring on a big-gun producer who has worked with artists like her. I hope that Bo Ramsey will still be a big part of this recording even if he isn’t at the helm for this one. He certainly knows his way around a Grammy-winner in the studio, too– just look at his work with Lucinda Williams!