Jake Xerxes Fussell - Good And Green Again
Jake Xerxes Fussell’s fourth album finds the acclaimed folksong interpreter, guitarist, and singer navigating fresh sonic and compositional landscapes on the most conceptually focused, breathtakingly rendered, and enigmatically poignant record he's made yet.
Produced by James Elkington , who also plays many of the instruments on the album, and accompanied by a group of formidable players hailing from Durham, North Carolina (where Fussell lives) and elsewhere, including regular bandmembers Casey Toll (Mt. Moriah, Nathan Bowles) on upright bass, Libby Rodenbough (Mipso) on strings, and Nathan Golub on pedal steel. They were joined by welcome newcomers Joe Westerlund (Megafaun, Califone) on drums, Joseph Decosimo on fiddle, Anna Jacobson on brass, and veteran collaborator and avowed Fussell fan Bonnie “Prince” Billy, who contributes additional vocals.
In all his work Jake humanises his material with his own profound curatorial and interpretive gifts, unmooring stories and melodies from their specific eras and origins and setting them adrift in our own waterways. The robust burr of his voice, which periodically melts and catches at a particularly tender turn of phrase, and the swung rhythmic undertow of exquisite, seemingly effortless guitar-playing here he plays more acoustic than ever before pull new valences of meaning from ostensibly antique songs and subjects.
On Good and Green Again, Jake not only ventures beyond his established mastery of songcatching and songmaking into songwriting, Album opener 'Love Farewell' (featuring some beautiful singing by Bonnie “Prince” Billy), an elliptical tale of the folly of war, set to the world’s most heartbreaking goodbye march for a lover left behind. 'Carriebelle' and 'Breast of Glass' each similarly concerns, in its own way, romantic love and leavings. All three songs highlight Jacobson’s diaphanous, understated brass parts, tying them together in a true lover’s knot. 'Rolling Mills Are Burning Down,' with its distant keening strings and capacious sense of space, observes and mourns the loss of work and community in the wake of elemental disaster. Nine-minute tour de force 'The Golden Willow Tree,' the sole explicitly narrative song herein, is a hypnotic, minimalist rendering of a tragic maritime ballad about scuttling an enemy ship in exchange for wealth and glory and a captain’s inevitable betrayal. It’s a rejoinder to “Love Farewell”’s naïve cheer in the face of imminent violence.
One of the most striking and strangely moving moments on the album arrives at its very end, with the brief words to the final song 'Washington.' “General Washington/ Noblest of men/ His house, his horse, his cherry tree, and him,” Fussell sings, after a hushed introductory passage in which his trademark percussively fingerpicked Telecaster converses lacily with James Elkington’s parlor piano. That’s the entire lyrical content of the song, which proceeds to float away on orchestral clouds of French horn, trumpet, and strings, until it simply stops, suddenly evaporating, vanishing with no fade or trace, no resolution to its sorrowful minor-key chord progression, just silence and stillness and stark presidential absence. It feels like the end of a film, or the cold departure of a ghost, and is unlike anything else Jake has recorded.
“Fussell is creating his own legacy within the long lineage of traditional folk musicians and storytellers that have come before him” - The New York Times
“So elegant … It’s relaxing in the way that pondering a Zen koan is relaxing, and sweet in the way that the wounded, honey-voiced blues of Mississippi John Hurt are sweet” - Pitchfork
“Music that resides at the seams of Appalachia and the cosmos” - NPR
Breast of Glass
Rolling Mills Are Burning Down
What Did the Hen Duck Say to the Drake?
The Golden Willow Tree
- US import
- Features album artwork by Art Rosenbaum
- LP pressed on 140g vinyl and housed in heavy-duty board jacket with download coupon
- CD housed in gatefold card jacket with 7mm spine
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