New Album Announcement: Gilead

Gilead Cover

I am currently in the process of recording three new musical projects, and I’ve decided to release “Gilead,” an acoustic album in memory of my father who passed away in 2015, first. The title is taken from the novel “Gilead” by Marilyn Robinson. We read the book, which is written as a letter from an aging father to his son, as part of my seminary studies. Since this album is basically my own final farewell and tribute to my own dad, it seemed fitting. The tile also evokes a bit of a nostalgic longing for a place that I’m not sure exists.

In addition to that book, I was also inspired by Bob Dylan’s early acoustic albums, Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska, Sun Kil Moon’s Benji, and Leonard Cohen’s early work.

After messing around with a lot of electronic experimentation for my last two releases, this one is going to depart from that and be very, very bare bones. Acoustic guitar, harmonica, and my own naked voice. It’s shaping up to be very rough around the edges so far but that also seems fitting. It’s the first time I’ve done a collection of songs using just acoustic guitar and harmonica since 2007 and back then it was just because I didn’t have anything else to work with, honestly.

I have three songs out of a possible ten or eleven completed so far and it’s coming along quickly. The cover image is of my dad, just after he came home from the Army in the early 80’s, though it looks a lot older than that.

I will be donating any proceeds from Bandcamp downloads (and possible CD sales) to Saint Jude’s Hospital.

To view my past releases, you can visit rancegarrison.bandcamp.com or search for me on Spotify, Amazon, iTunes, and other digital music retailers.

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I was approached by Roxy Todd of West Virginia Public Radio about writing a personal essay for Valentine’s Day that focused on my love, complicated though it may be, for Appalachia.  Of course, I can’t separate my love for a place from my love for my wife and large extended family, which is what really makes southwest Virginia home.

The audio essay was included as a part of West Virginia Public Radio’s Inside Appalachia programming.  You can hear my essay, along with the rest of these beautiful love songs to Appalachia, by using the Soundcloud player embedded in this post.  The transcript of my essay follows.

Home.

For better or for worse, through sickness and in health, for richer or poorer. Committing to a place and a community is a lot like committing to a marriage. It takes work. It takes willpower. It takes dedication. But above all, it takes love. As a relatively newly-and-happily married man , I can tell you first hand that love is the not-so-secret ingredient in any relationship. The struggles of day-to-day life, the bouts with sickness, the financial stress that most newlyweds face, it can all be conquered by love and love is ultimately what has kept my wife and I going strong for six years now as a couple and for eight months as a married couple.

I’m reluctant to compare living in Appalachia, or anywhere else for that matter, to something as sacred as marriage; however, when I really break it down and examine marriage as the beginning point of many families including my own; when I trace my own family line back through over a century of people who lived, and died, in these ruggedly beautiful mountains; a line that includes farmers and prison guards and automobile mechanics and coal miners and storekeepers and mothers and fathers and husbands and wives, I can see where you definitely draw the similarities.

As I approach my twenty-ninth year on this planet, family is becoming more important to me than ever before. Having all ready lost most of my grandparents, I know that I will not have the wisdom of older generations to draw on forever, and there will come a time in the near future when I will have children of my own to guide and to mold to the best of my ability. And there will come a time, hopefully several decades down the line, when my own life will draw to a close and it will be time for me to exit the stage, hopefully with grace and dignity, having left things in my community and in my world at least a little better than they were when I got here and having left something of value for the generations to come.

My family is here, and that is why when I think of Appalachia in general and southwestern Virginia in particular, I can only think of home. This place isn’t perfect. Its economic struggles have been well-documented and its spiritual ones have been as well. But show me a perfect city. Show me a perfect community. Show me a perfect family, or a perfect marriage, or a perfect person. And I will show you a carefully crafted facade. Perfection, at least in this realm, does not exist and never will. 

But Love does.   And home is wherever love is.  

And for better or worse, I’m home. Til death do us part.

Album Review– Keaton Lawson: Pink Sounds

I should preface this review by saying that I have known Keaton Lawson for over fifteen years.  I should also mention that I am practically related to the man as he is engaged to my cousin, has lived in my house on several occasions, and was the dude who handed me the ring I slipped on my wife’s finger at our wedding.  Did I mention we’ve also made a lot of music together?  Oh yeah, there’s that, too. Needless to say I’ve watched Keaton’s artistic and musical evolution for almost the entire time I’ve known him since it was a mutual love of music and art, especially ‘weird’ music and art that brought us together in the first place.

 

 

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When Keaton told me that his new album only had fourteen songs, I was a little bit taken aback.  This is the same dude who once made two albums with forty songs each, the aptly titled “Music #1” and “Music #2.”  The same guy who sat up late in my tiny first apartment creating the abstract work of audio art that was “Carpet Hazard.”  This is also the same guy who is beyond a shadow of a doubt one of the best songwriters I’ve ever met but who continues to record abstract audio art by his own admission instead of a collection of “real” songs.  Songs like this, which when combined with the voice of my cousin Kristina Garrison are as hauntingly beautiful in their own way as anything you are likely to hear:

So, I was excited by the idea that Keaton had maybe just set down with an acoustic guitar and recorded fourteen songs.  Of course, as excited as the idea of such an album by my good friend makes me, that isn’t what this is.  Nope, not at all.  This is, in fact, more abstract Appalachian audio folk art from the master of abstract Appalachian audio folk art.  And it’s absolutely wonderful.

Here, Keaton has tightened up his approach and created a thirty minute expedition into the workings of his mind, and though the trip is short, it’s the most interesting thing he has done to date.  Created entirely on an iPhone, the album incorporates loops, samples, acoustic guitar, and spoken word pieces to create a bizarre and wonderful piece of art.  It’s hard to classify this as “good” music, because it isn’t necessarily aiming at being “music” at all in the popular sense.  And although Keaton Lawson is more than capable of creating an album of catchy, folksy pop songs,  he has instead created an album that is a masterpiece in its own right.  Right out of the gate, “Buddha Dance” throws the listener into what is going to be a weird and wild ride.  “Hide My Soul Away” incorporates synth noise and distorted acoustic guitar in a deconstruction of what could be a beautiful song if that were the goal.  “Jeopardy” opens with two lines of lyrics, followed by two minutes of sampled TBN hellfire preaching.  “The Rain Burns” is reminiscent of early Ween.

The best track of the bunch, and undoubtedly the best thing I have ever heard by Keaton Lawson in this vein of his work, is the nearly seven minute “Chester” near the end of the album.  This haunting spoken word piece has its titular character exploring the sort of philosophical issues that Keaton and myself usually talk about when we meet up.  It’s a horror story told through folk poetry that echoes the work of Southern writers such as Flannery O’Connor and Harry Crews.

This track alone makes the entire album worth downloading.  It’s a work of southern Appalachian beat poetry that’s full of humor and dread.   And while I’m still waiting to hear that collection of “serious” songs rather than an experimental album by Keaton Lawson, this album is a great gateway into his work and is sure to be completely unlike anything you have ever heard or experienced.

Relaunch

I’ve been kicking around the idea of starting a blog for quite some time now and have been urged to so by several people.  Having a few spare minutes this morning, I remembered that I actually already had one which I had to start for a business oriented communications course a couple of years ago.  I figured today was as good a day as any to revamp what used to be called “The New Century” and was previously geared toward discussions of alternative energy and corporate news into a blog that was far more personal.  In the coming weeks, I hope to being writing about topics that are of great interest to me:  music, the arts, religions, politics, philosophy, movies, professional wrestling.  Some posts will be deep.  Some will be shallow.  I hope that all will be enjoyable and thought provoking to some degree.

There’s a good chance that I’ll integrate much of this with my blog on Tumblr.  Feel free to follow me in both places.

In the mean time, it wouldn’t be proper of me to leave without plugging something, so. . . . . .

Check out my Bandcamp site, where you’ll find a shit-ton of my music available for download at rancegarrison.bandcamp.com.

I also highly recommend checking out this lovely album called “Wet Wood” by Philadelphia based musician The Ghost in You.  This album is simply beautiful, especially the song “The Shape.” All of the music is haunting and melodic, with sparse acoustic and synth arrangements. I started listening and got to feeling sentimental and wrote a love letter to my wife, inspired by the beauty of this album while thinking of memories of her and I together when we first met nearly five years ago. This album is so beautiful with such simple yet lavish production that is sure to stir the emotions of any listener that has a heartbeat.  Do yourself a favor and check it out at  https://theghostinyou.bandcamp.com.Image