Jalopy Records, the record label of Red Hook's Jalopy Theatre, is proud to announce the release of Lone Prairie, the first LP from The Down Hill Strugglers on April 28.
The Down Hill Strugglers is a string band composed of Eli Smith, Walker Shepard and Jackson Lynch, who play at various times; fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin and harmonica. They have been playing together for five years and have performed at the Newport Folk Festival, the Kennedy Center, the Library of Congress, the Brooklyn Folk Festival and many other places. In 2013 they were featured on the soundtrack to the Coen Brothers film, "Inside Llewyn Davis" produced by T-Bone Burnett. The Down Hill Strugglers band formed while hanging out at the home of their mutual friend Peter Stampfel of the Holy Modal Rounders, where they also met friend and mentor John Cohen of the New Lost City Ramblers.
The album features 13 all new recordings from the band and liner notes by Amanda Petrusich, contributing writer for The New Yorker, Pitchfork and a contributing editor at The Oxford American. Her music and culture writing has also appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Spin, BuzzFeed, and she is the author of “Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records”. Petrusich has written that “The Down Hill Strugglers are, to my ears, the very best interpreters of traditional material presently going.”
From the liner notes:
“Lone Prairie was recorded in the spring of 2016 at the Jalopy Theatre in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The band used two microphones, and played directly into a mono Nagra one-quarter-inch tape machine. They either ducked away from or leaned toward the mic to get their sound levels right. Then they stopped monkeying with the recording altogether, which is surely part of why it feels so pure and urgent. It is energizing in the way that looking at a river is energizing.”
“So what does it mean for a young band to make music like this right now? Our cultural moment certainly allows for (if not encourages) gratuitous elevation of the Self above all – but the Down Hill Strugglers think about their work differently. Each of these tracks takes inspiration from the rural visionaries of the early twentieth century, from the melodies and expressions that once guided and sustained whole communities in the Mountain South, the Deep South, and Way Out West. Lone Prairie is an earnest monument to the rural artists and songs this band loves: the Mississippi Possum Hunters, the Skillet Lickers, Bill Shepherd and Dock Boggs, the Carolina Tar Heels, Frank Blevins, George Pegram, Wilmer Watts, and many others. Using lovingly excavated 78 r.p.m. discs as source material – Walker, Jackson, and Eli disappear inside these tunes. In this way, the Strugglers become part of a continuum. Their performance is less about ardent self-expression and more about empathy, of finding a way in to other people’s anguish and elation: understanding it, bodying it anew, respecting it, and carrying it on. They pay homage to and remake in equal measure, as artists have been doing for centuries. This, I believe, is the best and most useful work a folk musician can hope to do.”
Lone Prairie will be released in conjunction with the Down Hill Strugglers April 30th appearance at the Brooklyn Folk Festival. The album will be released as an LP, as well as on CD and via digital download.
The band will be touring in support of the album in May, June and September of 2017. Tour dates at http://www.DownHillStrugglers.
More Quotes About The Down Hill Strugglers:
"Many string bands have the tunes but not the chops. Some have chops and tunes, but can't achieve lift-off, marching along politely like so many historical reenactors. But the Down Hill Strugglers hit the trifecta, pulling their bows deftly across the best numbers in the old-time songbook with more grit and style than just about any group fiddling away today."
- Nathan Salsburg, Curator, Alan Lomax Archive.
“The Down Hill Strugglers bring back the true spirit of Old Time Music, where every singer invented his own performance. Besides being excellent musicians on fiddle, banjo and guitar, pump organ, harmonica, etc., they sing with the high voices that echo the sounds of young artists heard on the old 78s, evoking the spirit of the “Golden Era” of recording, and the mystery of their own identity.
They have built their repertoire from some of the best music of the past and they keep it alive and lively. They have found resonance with the intensity of rural music, while delighting in the nuances that preserve the individual uniqueness of the genre. This is music that will keep your mind dancing.
The Down Hill Strugglers are reaching for new musical highs, and they play the kind of music I want to hear.”
- John Cohen, New Lost City Ramblers.