OR HOW A CAROLINA CHOCOLATE DROP, A SONGWRITER COVERED BY LEVON HELM, AND A JOHN HARTFORD BAND MEMBER FOUND THEMSELVES IN THE NC WOODS RECORDING A WINTER & CHRISTMAS MUSIC ALBUM
'The Gathering' is both a song cycle of the prodigal daughter's return on a North Carolina winter night in the mountains and a story of six remarkable folk musicians coming together for a one-time only collaboration and finding uncommon personal and musical kinship.
The aggregation came together because Dossett (who wrote "Anna Lee" from Levon Helm's GRAMMY-winning album 'Dirt Farmer' and the new 'Ramble At The Ryman' album); Mike Compton (of Elvis Costello & The Sugarcanes, The Nashville Bluegrass Band, The John Hartford Band); Rhiannon Giddens (a member of the GRAMMY-winning and Newport headlining Carolina Chocolate Drops), famed old time musician Joe Newberry, and engineer and bassist Joe DeJarnette had all taught at the Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins, WV. Laurelyn has long been a mentor for Giddens as they are neighbors in Greensboro, NC. Bassist Jason Sypher (Irma Thomas, Clarence Gatemouth Brown) was a late but necessary addition to the crew.
The chemistry between musicians was immediately apparent when they gathered in the North Carolina woods to rehearse and record during a five-day period in August. Laurelyn Dossett says, "This record should not really have worked, but there were six on-the-job collaborators in one room. That we had not really played together and didn't really know the material was secondary to the fact of their incredible talent and true hearts."
Check out video on the making of the album.
Stream the song "Lights in the Lowlands."
Many of the musicians were introduced to the material, centering on a six-song cycle by Dossett commissioned by the North Carolina Symphony, the same day as they recorded it live in one room and virtually without overdubs.
New York-based bassist Jason Sypher said, "We have never all sat down knee to knee and played together and it was immediate chemistry from the first note on." He continues, "Respecting the music and each other created an atmosphere of warmth and fun that you can hear and feel on the final record. Recording live can be a little nerve wracking, but the immediacy of the music is worth the extra tension."
Engineer Joe DeJarnette observed, "This record captures the magic moments of true discovery, where everyone is listening closely and responding to each other in real time. The record feels as though you have the finest stringband pickers and singers in your living room sharing music, stories, and life at a holiday gathering. It was a rare and delightful opportunity to work with such talented creative musicians who were willing to just go for it live."
Roots music star Larry Campbell responded to both elements, saying "The combination of heart and intimacy on 'The Gathering' feels like a warm wood-smoke fire on a cold North Carolina winter's night."