“The Moonshine Sessions” – $olal (¡Ya Basta!) [ALBUM] November 13, 2007Posted by rocketsciencemedia in Press Releases.
Tags: 25th february, solal, the moonshine sessions, ya basta
TITLE: The Moonshine Sessions / ARTIST: $olal / LABEL: ¡Ya Basta / RELEASE DATE: 25th February / CAT NO: YAB035CDLTD
“The Moonshine Sessions” – the new album from Philippe Cohen Solal, French composer, DJ/producer and co-founder of Gotan Project – is as unexpected as it is remarkable. Recorded near Nashville with an ensemble of virtuoso musicians, and devoid of dance beats or electronica, this is an album of purist acoustic country music. Haunting, ghostly, unobtrusively emotional, its frugal use of melody is in vivid contrast to Gotan Project’s multi-million selling, velvety fusion of live tango and electronica. But it’s a piece of creative risk taking that has paid off dramatically.
Produced by Philippe Solal and Bucky Baxter during an enjoyably fruitful fortnight at Baxter’s rural Three Trees Studios, “The Moonshine Sessions” became a labour of love for all concerned, creating a buzz around Nashville’s country scene, and features musicians such as Richard Bennett – who’s worked with Neil Diamond and Emmylou Harris – Kenny Malone, Stuart Duncan and Shawn Camp.
Philippe’s love affair with country first began when he heard Neil Young’s Nashville-recorded album “Harvest”. Years later while touring with Gotan Project, he found himself writing darker, more personal songs. In June 2004 he took a bluegrass course at the Maryville College near Knoxville, Tennessee to improve his flat-picking guitar technique, hang out with fellow country enthusiasts, and wallow a little in the atmosphere of the Deep South. He drove to Nashville in search of the right producer and musicians to record and perform what was now an album’s worth of songs, and found Bucky Baxter and his Three Trees Studios. Baxter – a musician of no small repute – toured for 8 years with Bob Dylan as a multi-instrumentalist and colourful on-stage foil. He also played on the Ryan Adams albums “Gold” and “Demolition”, and the vinyl-only album, “Country Mike’s Greatest Hits”, with the Beastie Boys.
You can feel the languor of a Tennessee day and the heat of a Tennessee night ever-present on the album. Songs like “The Academy of Trust”, sung by Jim Lauderdale, carry a depth and intensity that belies their simple arrangements: the gentle acoustic guitar, the sighing pedal steel, the bitter vocals. There is longing, in Melonie Cannon’s exquisitely sad vocals on the tender “I Lost Him”, about the sudden death of a loved one. “Always Alone” is sung by Ronny Bowman, who magically appeared when Philippe was looking for someone who sounded like James Taylor doing country. This song brims with the kind of loneliness and regret that make country the best break-up music there is. But there is light amongst the shade in two playful, contrary, yet complimentary covers: ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” and the Sex Pistols’ “Pretty Vacant”.
Back in Paris, $olal tried to add electronic beats and textures – but it didn’t work. He decided to accept that “The Moonshine Sessions” should be totally acoustic, adding noises of the Tennessee day and night, snippets of conversation, the noise of a truck engine rumbling into life and the hum of crickets – all elements that bring a contemporary edge to an album that is pure country, refracted through the eyes, ears and experiences of a French DJ and producer not afraid to push his creative freedom to its limits.
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