A note bends down on a synth. There’s a harp flourish. A beat drops. And a clip from a lecture runs. “What do we see what we look at art?” a voice says. “Consider how something is made as well as what it is.” The voice shifts. Art is “not that different from having a conversation with someone.”
The music on gets a little more menacing, and that’s when Ibn Orator comes in, dropping lines that break across the beat in inventive inflections that range from funny to piercing. “I get muscle spasms every time you ask if I’m still doing music,” he raps. “Nobody asks if you still racked in the 9 to 5 / Nobody asks if a lion catches its food alive…. I want to say please wait and enjoy the ride.”
“This City,” from the New Haven-based Mountain Movers’ recently released album, Pink Skies, starts with an ominous, churning rhythm from guitarist Dan Greene, bassist Rick Omonte, and drummer Ross Menze, while lead guitarist Kryssi Battalene lets out a pulsing alarm from her guitar. Together they establish a complex mood in an instant, somehow peaceful and tense at the same time, dense and heavy yet expansive and atmospheric.
“‘Time out,’ I said / ‘Hold on,’ I said,” Greene sing-speaks. “We’re going two steps at a time / You’ve got to decide if you want the old way or the new way / The sun belongs to you / And so does the sky / The living and the dead / They both walk through this city.”
The lyrics point to everything and nothing. They show Greene’s practiced hand as a songwriter, and the obvious chemistry among its members — a chemistry that, as it turns out, was a decade in the making.
Folk tinged with blues and R&B. Folk tinged with pop. Just straight-up folk.
Whatever the word means to you, the CT Folk Fest and Green Expo is likely to have it when it takes over Edgerton Park this Saturday, Sept. 8, featuring a range of performers and vendors from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
There’s a line ripped from the lowest string of a guitar, somewhere between a flutter and a machine gun. The notes rise and fall, like they’re trying to say something. A chirp. Another, interrupting. Now more and more, like hail from the leading edge of an approaching storm. The notes get sharper, more intense, and there are more of them, until it’s hard to imagine at times how one player is making all that sound. It’s the product of a lot of practice, of a rigorous approach to the instrument.
But then there’s the title of the piece: “Blades, Meet Fingers.” It’s the first cut off Chris Cretella’s latest solo release, Just Trying to Hold It Together in the Face of Total Collapse, and as improvisational and spontaneous as the playing is, the blend of the serious and the ridiculous is no accident.
“Goodbye Sky,” from the New Haven-based Head with Wings’s latest album, From Worry to Shame, starts with the dynamic that drives the song: Joshua Corum’s and Brandon Cousino’s guitars weaving their lines together. Andrew Testa’s drums come in, spacious and crackling, Joe Elliott’s bass rumbling underneath. And then the vocals, direct and honest, electric with emotion.
“Find me underneath,” Corum sings. “Her body lies still. / The findings are impure as hell. / Goodbye sky. / You’re so far from here. / When lights go out, / you’re darkening all that I fear.”
The Sawtelles’ “Lose Her” starts with Peter Riccio’s jangling guitar — once upon a time it was a banjo — letting a set of descending chords move through open strings. Julie Riccio’s drums pick up after one revolution. It starts to sound like a journey already, and sure enough, it is.
“Driving back toward my hometown,” Peter sings. “the mills are closed and the industry’s gone now / It’s fall and everything’s turning brown / The car advances like a magnet pulls it down.”
For Peter, the imagery in “Lose Her” isn’t an apocryphal American highway. It’s Route 8, following the Naugatuck River back to Shelton, where he grew up.
The chords that start “Comfortable,” the first song from Manny James’s latest album, Church Street South, are pure bedroom. A melody line purrs in the background, held up by crooning voices. Then the beat drops, and James’s voice comes in strong. “If you feel that comfortable, you ain’t got to go nowhere,” he sings. “Let’s do what we came here to do.”
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