Portents of Love
Named after the Russian anarchist prince Peter Kropotkin, this New York City and Memphis-based sextet was created in 1994 by singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and neuroscientist Dave Soldier along with adroit percussionist Jonathan Kane after they were exposed to the homemade abandon of North Mississippi rhythm ‘n’ blues and fife and drum music. Soldier also acknowledges both Bill Monroe (a bouncy vision of his instrumental gem “Stoney Lonesome” is here) and Howlin’ Wolf as influences along with some unreleased hill country tapes recorded by folklorist Alan Lomax and cassettes of Junior Kimbrough, R.L. Burnside and Othar Turner that venerated journalist Robert Palmer gave him. In addition to Soldier and Kane, the other current members of the band are vocalist Lorette Velvette, vocalist and rootsy violinist Charlie Burnham, guitarist Mark Deffenbaugh (aka Dog) and keyboardist Alex Greene. This is the ensembles’ fourth album in six years and all thirteen titles seem haunted by the Spanish poet Gabriel Garcia Lorca, whose portrait is on the bed stand on the cover – one of Soldier’s most inventive songs, “The Stars Of Country Music Greet The Spring” is a rendering of a Sevillianas, a traditional Spanish dance. Further ear-catchers, many featuring the penetrating, hypnagogic singing of Velvette, encompass a dream-like recall of Woody Guthrie’s anthem “This Land Is Your Land,” a violin-soaked recall of Louise Johnson’s raucous country blues “On The Wall,” and an unbridled take-off on Mickey and Sylvia’s 1950s r&b charter “No Good Lover” (with co-producer Rory Young on synthesizer), as well as Soldier and Velvette’s heartfelt homage to Mississippi Delta legend Fred “Shake ‘Em On Down” McDowell on both the hair-raising “Fred Goes Out At Night” and his rural-rhythmed, punk-tinged “Whippoorwill Blues.” Their best yet.
— Gary von Tersch
A few samples from the album:
Track 1: The Moon’s Already Down
Track 2: Fred Goes Out at Night