by Frank Goodman
I got an email one day that said something about a new release. More often than not they go by uninvestigated, there are just too many of them and too little time to get the work done. But the name was so quirky that I laughed out loud and clicked the link.
The picture on the first page and the stirring quote from Sufi master Hazrat Inayat Khan piqued my interest, and the next click opened up onto a CD called Of My Native Land. The cover was a totem in the woods of an apparently ancient figure, and the CD title seemed to be taken from words carved on or near it. I knew I'd stumbled onto something cool. But I wasn't prepared for how cool it really was.
The cover art turned out to be the timeless and time ravaged work of outsider E.T. Wickham, built on land not too far from Nashville where I live. The songs inside were very provocative and interesting renditions of traditional music, combined with beats, loops, samples, and god knows what, things I didn't understand at all, but I loved the way it sounded. And there were three or four amazing vocalists on it. Close to three months later, I'm still floored by the record.
Of My Native Land was brought about essentially by partners Conrad Praetzel and Robert Powell of Northern CA. I've spoken several times and at length with Conrad, and the more I know, the more wondrous the work becomes. We also discussed his previous record, Receive, likewise luminous and vibrant, what he rightly calls "an East/West Blend of Spirit and Groove." On that record, the inspired vocals of Sukhawat Ali Khan pull the listener into another dimension entirely.
Although Praetzel's previous albums have met with praise from unlikely and demanding quarters (including Harry Pearson of The Absolute Sound, a highbrow audiophile authority, and Pulse! Senior Editor Peter Melton, who chose Receive as one of the Tower Pulse! Indie 100 faves for 1999), Clothesline Revival has already begun to generate much greater enthusiasm from a wider audience. After all, American traditional music has a wider appeal than East/West efforts, regardless of their musicianship. What's curious and encouraging is that the sometimes purist folk community seems to be embracing the efforts of Praetzel and Powell and the other Revivalists.
Besides interviewing Conrad Praetzel and Robert Powell, we decided to speak to a number of the vocalists as well. Tom Armstrong is an absolutely knockout old school country singer, we're gonna have to spread his name all around Nashville. Wendy Allen has a very pure and eerie quality to her vocal sound, very moving. (Check out the "Gypsy Laddie" clip on the Listen page, where the notorious Sukhawat Ali Khan also makes a cameo appearance.) We will be reviewing the other work of these unusual and gifted vocalists in the next issues, as well as an earlier solo disc by Robert Powell.
All that said, we'll let the artists and the music itself do the rest of the talking. We certainly consider Of My Native Land by Clothesline Revival to be one of the most exciting releases of the year, and we hope you find it as satisfying as we have. continue to interviews
The interviews follow each other, but if you'd like to jump directly to any one of them, click below.