Folkadelphia Session: Jessica Pratt

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Nearly every review, interview, article, or write-up of San Francisco singer-songwriter Jessica Pratt attempts to shed light on her music by using various comparisions to other scenes or musicians. There is the camp that places her in the style of the 1960’s California folk scene, another says she draws from the “freak-folk” characteristics that were prevalent in the early and mid aughts. Pratt is mentioned in the same breath as Tim Buckley, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, as well as cult songwriting icons, past and present, like Vashti Bunyan, Sibylle Baier, Linda Perhacs, and even Phil Elverum or other musicians from the K or Drag City record labels. This is due to the fact that Pratt’s full lengthed eponymous debut arrived suddenly in late 2012 and caused some serious waves for people that keeps tabs on this kind of stuff.

When the album debuted, and even in advance of the album with the premiere of stand-out track “Night Faces,” we (the lovers of great songwriters and/or denizens of music blogs) knew we were listening to music of a special quality – simple, introspective, unadorned, but wholly affecting and hypnotic. We thought that we were listening to a newly discovered gem from a bygone decade, like we did when we heard Bunyan’s Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind, but when it was revealed that this was a new recording (well, the songs were tracked in 2007, but were just released last year by Birth Records – the LP version is now out of print, it appears), we searched for information on Pratt. It was this mysterious quality, the lack of history, and Pratt’s cropped face in black & white, edged in darkness, staring blankly at us from her album jacket, that led us to try and fill in the blanks, and explain why (and, I suppose, how) this is an important release.

Now a year later, Pratt still feels shrouded in obscurity and monochromatic color. Sure, we’ve continued to read about her, especially as she toured with Julia Holter this past summer, but in an era of real-time life updates and social media whateverness, Pratt appears removed and distant. I can only assume and hope that Pratt will resurface with another collection of moving songs and, again, I hope this will not happen seven years after the recording session has been wrapped.

On our Folkadelphia Session, as with on her Soundcloud page, you can listen to songs not featured on her debut album. Our songs were recorded on July 13th, 2013 in advance of her concert with Julia Holter at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia.

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