The Thread blog, run by Duke Performances, is my new favorite thing right about now.
From an article by Bryan Reed about Durham folksters Alexi Murdoch and Mount Moriah:
In some ways, Alexi Murdoch and Mount Moriah—coming to Reynolds Theater on October 22—have much in common. Both are pop-folk acts who thrive on sharp songwriting and DIY spirit, having earned their reputations without the benefit of an outside record label. Both have ties to Durham, and both make music that is heavily shaped by personal geography. The latter point is where they interestingly diverge: Murdoch’s wanderlust and Heather McEntire of Mount Moriah’s strong local roots produce two very different perspectives on self and place.
Born in London; raised in Scotland, Greece, and France; and—after a stop in Durham to study with Reynolds Price at Duke—moving on to Los Angeles and Berlin, Murdoch is internally directed rather than geographically defined. “I’m a definite believer that solitude is a very integral and important part of the human experience,” he told Spinner.com in March. In his music, you feel the lonesomeness of travel more than its colorful variety; a diffusion of identity rather than an accumulation
Murdoch’s music makes you understand how being from a lot of places can make your comfort zone almost entirely within yourself. The opposite is true of the undeniably North Carolinian MountMoriah.
While “place” is evanescent in Murdoch’s music, it presses down heavily in McEntire’s, with its payload of gender norms, economic perils, and religious pressures to surmount. McEntire has no choice but to confront the South’s complicated social climate, finding both comfort and conflict in its traditions.
Where Murdoch’s music emphasizes the gentleness of folk, Mount Moriah brings out the sharp edges, subverting the forms of traditional country music simply by being honest about their personal experience, which doesn’t align with traditional rural values. McEntire’s plaintive but steely vocals range from P.J. Harvey-rawness to a Dolly Parton-like coo, wrapped around with Miller’s lyrically spare guitar lines. With Murdoch as the headliner and Mount Moriah as the opener, this will be a sharply contrasting bill at Reynolds, but if you listen closely, you’ll hear the same thing from different angles: a musical search for the nature of home, which is a moving target for wanderers and nesters alike.
And from Brian Howe about [our beloved] Dark Dark Dark, A Hawk and a Hacksaw, and Pillars & Tongues as “The New Authenticity”:
Dark Dark Dark hails from Minneapolis,A Hawk & A Hacksaw from Albuquerque, and Pillars & Tongues from Chicago. Nice to know, but in our post-geographical dispensation, it tells you little of substance
Together at thePinhook on Wednesday, October 5, these three acts represent a vanguard of younger musicians who are finding myriad ways to put their obsessive personal stamps on an Internet-borne stew of global traditions. Dark Dark Dark’s stark, stately chamber-pop (hear some below) spreads its roots from New Orleans to Eastern Europe, which might sound like pastiche on paper. But pastiche exploits perceived difference, whereas Dark Dark Dark’s music is all about inherent commonality. Instead of hopscotching from genre to genre, they plant their feet at a shadowy, sultry nexus between them and stay right there.
[A Hawk and a Hacksaw] finds inspiration Turkey and the Balkans, but they come up with a completely different sound. Where Dark Dark Dark extracts everything that is dramatic and somber from Eastern European folk, Trost and Barnes extract everything antic and frothy, pumping away at their accordion and violin to create a purer distillation of their influences than does their famous pal, Beirut. Still, a dusty golden tinge of the Southwestern U.S. reminds us that this is homegrown…Meanwhile, Pillars & Tongues serves as the bill’s wild card, exploring a raw-boned vision of pan-Americana—gospel, shape note singing, blues—with the improvisatory spirit of avant-garde jazz. In all, you might regard this triple-bill as a captivating essay on the new authenticity, which is not about embracing where you’re from, but rather knitting together an eclectic variety of fixations that say something true about who you are.
Thematic nerdgasm, hardcore. Brought to you by the modern day mobile office game, in which an unanticipated stop in Durham has us crouched over MacBook Pros in a strip mall Apple Store trying to get in touch with the good folks from Mount Mariah and Trekky Records last minute because a jaunt in the mountains left us without reception (or warmth! or coffee!) for a couple of days. Here’s to the hustle.