Alice Gerrard. Follow the Music.
2014. Tompkins Square.
The doyenne of the American old-time music scene, Alice Gerrard has had a huge effect on roots music today. From her pioneering work with Appalachian singer Hazel Dickens that paved the way for most women in bluegrass and country music (Emmylou Harris acknowledges this debt) to her work with Mike Seeger helping form old-time music into a real genre, to her founding of the Old-Time Herald magazine and her continued work inspiring multiple generations, you won’t be able to understand American roots music today if you don’t understand Alice Gerrard’s music. Recently she’s moved more towards songs she’s written herself, and no surprise she’s a powerhouse songwriter. We worked on her previous album, Bittersweet, and that was crammed full of memorable songs inspired by the great folk musicians she’s collaborated with along the way. I’d been hearing about this new album on Tompkins Square for a while and was really excited. It’s finally out and it’s a triumph. Alice collaborates with indie roots folks out of her home region of Durham and Raleigh, NC, including members of Megafaun (another Megafaun collaboration that blew me away this year was Sylvan Esso). The key to the album is her collaboration with M.C. Taylor, aka Hiss Golden Messenger, who produced it. Taylor is an amazing folk singer and he himself released one of the best indie roots albums this year with his solo album The Lateness of Dancers. Here as producer, he puts Alice’s voice and lyrics front and center, reveling in her aged vocals. And when she’s singing songs like “Follow the Music” or “Strange Land”, you’ll really get why this wouldn’t work with a younger singer. Alice has a ton left to say and the real folk music heads better sit up and take listen now.
By: Devon Leger