Ernest Troost, Resurrection Blues. [Traveling Shoes Records]. A delightful journey down rivers of new blues & folk from this Kerrville New Folk Winner. New Folk is a funny idea, as Folk’s always been about not what’s new but what’s true, a truth often polished with time like sea-shells in the sand. And yet it’s a term that fits Troost’s happily heady merger of traditions; he writes songs that resonate with the pure authenticity of traditional blues and folk, like songs which have been around, maybe passed down between generations – they got that immaculate shine & polish on them - and yet with a great freshness and verve that only emerges when a songwriter connects with something new. Produced by Troost with Louise Hatem, it’s got an understated warmth throughout that wraps these songs just right: Troost is a multi-instrumentalist who cooks up nice tracks of guitars, mandolins, bass and percussion he plays himself. His work reflects Woody Guthrie’s axiom that any damn fool can be complicated, but it takes genius to attain simplicity. It also takes a certain measure of courage in the context of modern times. His lyrics blend wistful humor, gentle resignation and the kind of enduring folk wisdom which has made great songs great for ages. These songs aren’t confection; they’re not synthesized, looped, or digitally manipulated. This is about real music, things of substance, as he expresses ideally in “Real Music,”: “Real music got a mind of its own/Real music is blood and bone.” Indeed.
FOLKSCENE REVIEW OF RESURRECTION BLUES
ARTIST: ERNEST TROOST TITLE: RESURRECTION BLUES LABEL: TRAVELIN' SHOES RECORDS Release Date: October 2009
Kerrville New Folk Winner Ernest Troost's newest album, the aptly titled "Resurrection Blues" is a brilliant new piece of songwriting art. Its thirteen Piedmont-blues influenced songs tell stories of passion, lost love and regret-filled lives at a cross-roads, looking for a modern-day answer to "how did things ever get this far?" and "when did the darkness fall?" Ernest Troost’s existential questions run rampant in his first three songs; and then, the stories begin. For those of you who aren't familiar with his work, aside from the new Kerrville win, Ernest Troost is an Emmy-winning and multiply Emmy-nominated composer of more than one hundred scores for films and television. His first album of songs, “All the Boats Are Gonna Rise,” was a return to his musical roots, inspired by one of those "defining moments" where an event or series of events can turn you onto a new path you didn't see coming. He writes: "I bought a Blind Blake instructional video and learned a bunch of his songs, which led to my writing my own songs in the Piedmont style. I had studied jazz guitar and classical guitar for years, but had never played guitar in the open tuning that Blake used. The alternate tunings I learned were a revelation and I now use lots of different tunings in my songwriting." Add this to solid composing chops and you’ve got something brand new that sounds old and is just flat good. Some background: Piedmont blues is a true melting pot of sounds, developed along the East Coast and typically refers to a greater geographical area than the Piedmont plateau, from about Richmond, Virginia, to Atlanta, Georgia. Piedmont blues musicians come from this area, as well as Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and northern Florida, eastern Tennessee, Kentucky, and Alabama - later the Northeastern cities like Boston, Newark, NJ, or New York. It's noted for characteristics like alternating bass played with the thumb (some say it’s like playing piano on guitar) and, because the black community in the Piedmont region was more integrated into the white community than, say, the Delta region in Mississippi (producing Delta Blues with slides and simpler melodies), it was influenced by a variety of popular music of the day such as Ragtime, Tin-Pan Alley and other popular music forms in its harmony and rhythm. Ernest captures the feel of the Piedmont style engagingly and gently, with an honest poetry that is both accessible and profound. Ernest likes to call his new work "cinematic folk" (perfect for keeping with his film and TV work), and that's a great description, in that he writes such vivid character studies with fable-like, morality-tale qualities. Indeed, his songs are like entire films in miniature, like looking at a painting that tells a story in one image (or several) on one canvas. From Ernest again: "Stories are what fascinate me…I sometimes think of myself more as a filmmaker than a songwriter…I love to weave words and music together and create cinematic images in the mind of the listener." And images do fly: Just listen to the story of "Switchblade Heart," where Frankie, a killer who "kept his enemies close and his edges sharp" falls for "a girl from Tennessee." Then on one fateful night she jumps in front of Frankie as the boys come after him and there is "the cough of a pistol and her mournful cry." Or enjoy the whimsical "Big-time Blues" where criminals find their just deserts, or the tale of the man who couldn't get over a long-ago transgression in "Sad Dog Blues." Ernest captures the grand Tin-Pan Alley influence with a new classic "My Baby Loves Me" replete with clarinet and an infectious swing: I'm under her spell, but this ain't no voodoo My baby loves me like no other lover do! This is a broad and colorful canvas of Americana. But his theme I think here is in the title cut, "Resurrection Blues" where Ernest asks something we can all understand: what happened and how did I get here? Sittin' in the dark, watchin' for a sign My thoughts can hardly keep up with my restless mind I've seen my future and my world has come undone My gears are broken and my springs have sprung… I got criminal blood coursing through my veins I got addictive tendencies circlin’ my brain Waitin’ like a pack of wolves ‘til I let down my guard I’m doing my best, but I’m breathin’ hard… As a writer and artist, Ernest flatly acknowledges lost youth and asks where did it go? In "Hellbound": "If love once passed this way, all the trails are cold…All that's left is old pale traces of tears…". Or in "Dark Days": "There are pieces of me in here/There are bits I left back there/There's a home I cannot embrace/From beneath this shroud…." He embraces darkness and its reflection in his own soul and in the tragic tales of others' lives, at the same time he suspects there are answers around the next bend. You’ll find yourself chuckling at the rueful humor while you weep for the days gone by – the endless human condition. “It’s the dark characters that interest me,” he says about his songs. Indeed, Ernest himself is the first dark character on this album, followed by the man with the "black Armani jacket" or Frankie, or the boy who vows to leave his town through a treacherous black water "if it's the last thing I do." The album has a narrative arc that works as a story line to unite the whole album, like the journey that it is. Then, lo and behold, his questions yield a great answer, and with the answer comes flat out redemption! One last sad story, "It Don't Hurt," tells of a ruined childhood which he flees. He "met a girl in Richmond, so tender and true," but he tries to leave her as well. Then, she "unpacked my suitcase" and "said, after a while, it don't hurt." That's the savior story that turns everything around and you can just feel the sun coming up over the mountain. Love is fulfilled in "Doubtin' Blues" – hey: a blues song about being happy! When black's the only color I see/And my mind keeps playing tricks on me Darlin', all because of you/I can put aside these doubtin' blues. The final song caps the resurrection with appropriate spiritual praise, "The Lonesome Gospel Blues." He runs down to the river, through the valley and joins the choir: Sing out like a choir of angels We're gonna chase these blues away. Blues Revue Magazine wrote correctly that "Troost's style and subject matter recall Dylan, Dave Alvin, and (especially for his concentration on life's darker side) Richard Thompson--enviable company indeed. Such comparisons are not lightly made: Every song here is a keeper." I also thought of Richard Thompson as a comparison: dark stories with a beat. Ernest's melodies can be spooky and complex, but always beautiful and beautifully rendered here, many with great instrumental sections separating the main melody. Ernest's high and light voice can be tender, angry, sad, bewildered and joyful, all in keeping with the story he's telling. His fine guitar work can be moody and mysterious, then raucous and joyful. I read another neat description of Ernest’s writing: he's been described as what would happen if the Carter Family, Robbie Robertson, and Alfred Hitchcock wrote songs together. Sounds like something for everyone! For me, the melodies and harmonies linger in my head and the characters haunt my thoughts long after the songs are over. Ernest is very nicely accompanied by Nicole Gordon and Lisa O’Kane on harmony vocals, and joined by Richard Greene on fiddle, Rick Smith on harmonica, Ed Tree on resonator guitar, Scott Higgins on percussion, Don Markese on clarinet and Shaun Cromwell on banjo. The bulk of the playing is done by Ernest himself on lead guitar, bass, mandolin and some percussion. This album, along with his noted awards, should take Ernest far. He deserves it – this work is remarkable and important and you are sure to hear more of Ernest Troost down the line. www.ernesttroost.com
Award-winning recording artist and critically-acclaimed Bluegrass powerhouse vocalist, Susie Glaze has been called by BLUEGRASS UNLIMITED "an important voice on the California Bluegrass scene." Her album "Blue Eyed Darlin'" was the winner of the Just Plain Folks 2006 Music Award for Best Roots Album and Folkworks Magazine's Pick for Best Bluegrass Album of 2005. "One of the most beautiful voices in bluegrass and folk music today." (Roz Larman of FolkScene). Susie's new release "Green Kentucky Blues" and additional recordings can be found at www.susieglaze.com.
Horrifying images, like coughing pistols and kerosene soaked clothing,
create tactile pictures that pull the listener into the song. They are
images that stay with you long after the experience of the song, beautiful
Pat Baker, Tangled Roots, KCSN 88.5