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The Week’s Best Free MP3s, incl. Ganou, Marisa Anderson, Power Animal

marisaFolkadelphia welcomed instrumental guitarist Marisa Anderson in to the studio for this week’s live session.  The Oregan based musician released two divergent records in 2013; get a sampling of her music with this session, available as a free download below.

Power Animal, a local project built around Keith Hampson, has returned with a new single called “Unkept.”  This new experimental / electronic material is focused on Hampson’s experience with mental illness, which he discussed in an accompanying essay for Impose Magazine.  Stream and download “Unkept” below

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Folkadelphia Session: Marisa Anderson

To the uninitiated, the ocean of instrumental guitar style players, whom often use and meld original compositions, melodies, and effects together with traditional blues fingering picking techniques, must seem particularly difficult to navigate. A lot of this music, both past and present, is lumped into a genre box called American Primitivism, termed by one of the giant looming figures in the fretted world, John Fahey, which tinges all of the be-lumped players with the “primitive” or untutored, uneducated stigma. Sure, some of these players are self-taught, but many have had formal training, and most have been at this thing for a long time. This style, while a niche in folk music (and some might say commercial appeal), has not only existed since around the late 1950s, but has continued to grow and thrive since then. Father figures like Fahey and the musicians on his Takoma Records, like the transcendental Robbie Basho, eclectic Leo Kottke, and Delta blues Bukka White, passed the torch to players like the technical, yet expressive Glenn Jones and the raucous ragtime and blues of Jack Rose. Of course, these are just a handful of people, a couple of veterans in the game. I think we live in a great time for this style; guitarists continue to take up the mantle, but in true modern fashion, they manipulate, experiment, incorporate, augment, exclude, and mess around with the original framework. My mind jumps to the Tompkins Square label that not only reissues lost gems from cult icons like Don Bikoff, Mark Fosson, and Harry Taussig, but are committed to releasing new forward-thinking releases from Daniel Bachman, James Blackshaw, Ryley Walker, and nearly countless others in their fret-heavy Imaginational Anthem compilations. Through Folkadelphia alone, we’ve recorded, presented, and championed players like Chris Forsyth, Matt Sowell, Ben Seretan, Jesse Sparhawk, and William Tyler. And, of course, this doesn’t even include musicians and bands that dabble in the genre, that pull from its now rich history – Kaki King, Ben Chasny, Jim O’Rourke – where and why should you draw a line? To the uninitiated, perhaps much of it sounds similar, but I urge you to keep listening with focused ears because once you start digging, a world of diversity, complexity, and limitless imagination and possibility will present itself to you.

One of my now favorite guitarists is the Portland, Oregon based Marisa Anderson. Perpetually on tour, her playing style has developed to be fleet-fingered and impossibly adaptable, nimbly pivoting from meditative improvisation to electric blues inflection to twangy country and cosmic beyondness. She’s also very prolific. In 2013 alone, she released two albums: Mercury, a collection of original compositions, and the appropriately named Traditional and Public Domain Songs. The two releases showcase very different elements; Mercury is like a primer on what is possible with six strings and ten fingers, a blistering 16 songs in less than 35 minutes, while Traditional and Public Domain Songs stretches familiar tunes like “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “Pretty Polly” into uncharted experimental territory – pretty out there stuff! Whatever she is working on, Marisa Anderson is a guitarist to keep your eye on because you never know what she’ll come up with next.

Two things are certain. We recorded Marisa Anderson on her last visit to Philadelphia on October 18th, 2013. She returns to play a Fire Museum presented show at the Random Tea Room with Matt Sowell next Friday, May 9th (info. here).

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The devil in the details of The Daemon Lover and The House Carpenter, along with a fleet-fingered session from Marisa Anderson, tonight on Folkadelphia Radio

Brought over by English, Scottish, Irish, German, and other European immigrants in the eighteenth century, imported ballads make up a huge portion of the American ballad repertory. As one would expect from the transatlantic game of telephone, these oral stories changed over the course of travel and becoming a part of a new social and geographic environment. Names and locations are altered to suit locality (“Lord Randall” becomes “Johnny Randolph”), overtly sexual and taboo topics are glazed over, and the supernatural is disregarded or justified. The latter is the case for “The Daemon Lover” (originally compiled in James Child’s collection as #243), also known as “James Harris,” or most frequently in America, “The House Carpenter.” This ballad has everything one could as for: a beautiful lady and her husband, a former lover returned, infidelity, heartbreak, ships and the sea, a startling twist, the devil/daemon, retribution, and, finally, death.

In “The Daemon Lover” version, a man returns to a former lover, now married with children, after a long period of absence. The man convinces her to leave her new life behind, luring her with a fleet of ships, treasure in abundance, and pleasures of every kind. She’s caught (wouldn’t you be?) But she soon realizes that things are not what they seem – where are the other sailors, why is the returned lover gloomy and dismal, and why, I ask you, are his feet cloven? She weeps at the discovery that her lover is the devil, but it is too late. He snaps the ship in two, drowning them down to hell below. Chilling narrative! In the much more popular American version, “The House Carpenter,” the narrative amplifies the point-making element, transforming the ballad into a warning piece against adulterous elopers. Here, the returned lover is not sinister or immortal, the wife leaves her house carpenter husband, and both eventually fall victim to a leaky ship in a bit of moralistic poetic justice. Nothing against lessons about adultery, but for my money, I prefer the supernatural. Makes it all the more frightening. We’ll hear a number of renditions on this week’s radio program.

Also during this episode of Folkadelphia Radio, we’ll hear from perpetually touring instrumental guitarist Marisa Anderson and her diverse stylistic choices. Continue reading →