LISTEN: Former Longwave Drummer Channels T-Bone Burnett On Rustic New Project

“Easy To Remember” finds Mikey James bringing some more of that “Northern Folk” vibe to his new outfit with longtime collaborator Anthony Kuhn as Singing River

Singing River (Art: Ron Hart)

Now that the historical acknowledgments of millennial New York rock have begun to unfurl with the recent 20th anniversary celebrations for The Strokes’ Is This It?, it is time to acknowledge this fertile scene that grew from the concrete on the Lower East Side beyond the obvious hypefits. 

One such group who deserves far more accolades than they receive as one of the earlier groups who made their name gigging nightly at such halcyon clubs as Brownie’s, Luna Lounge, Arlene’s Grocery and Baby Jupiter is Longwave. Especially one album in particular, their second LP The Strangest Things, which was released in 2003–a collection of songs that bridged the darkness of Interpol with the light of The Realistics to a sound that smacks of such classic 4AD acts as Modern English and Pale Saints. 

Mikey James played drums on their best album–the Dave Fridmann-produced The Strangest Things–as a momentary member of Longwave. And his participation on this sleeper classic of the early aughts tethering him to a time period in modern rock that will never be forgotten any time soon. So when word emerged that James has emerged from the Quarantine Year with a new project called Singing River, I was all ears. 

 

VIDEO: Longwave “Tidal Wave”

Released as a digital 45, “Everyday Love” b/w “Easy To Remember” finds James and collaborator Anthony Kuhn (both from the pre-Longwave 90s group Native Kin) moving into an earthier territory from his prior endeavors with a built-in sense of comfort that can only come with the history of friendship. And for these two new songs in particular, you can hear the warmth in the delivery, citing the likes of Leonard Cohen, Neil Young and The Band as touchstones for the style they are calling “Northern Folk” with ties that go back to the early 20th century. 

“It’s funny,” James explains, “my love of production has taken me down all these rabbit holes that ultimately led me back to the most organic music that’s ever been made. If you listen to these old 78 rpm records of country, blues, and jazz from the ‘20s and ‘30s, there’s no ‘production’ to speak of, but there’s obviously something there. And it hits me in the same place—maybe even a little closer to my heart, in a way.”

For “Easy to Remember”–which the Rock & Roll Globe is happy to premiere today–James credits a recent T-Bone Burnett kick for the direction upon which he and co-writer Callan Saunders took for its nuanced feel–distinctly his work with Robert Plant and Allison Krauss. 

“The sound for this I was trying to get some Raising Sand vibes again (like “Cold Blooded Moon,” another one of our songs),” James tells us via email. “Always chasing down T-Bone Burnett. We even use his mastering engineer. In fact, I’ve been reading Lloyd Sachs’ biography of T Bone, and without me knowing, I’ve been developing some techniques and mindsets that derived from my own gumption, and discovered he does some of the same things. Must be in the ether. Makes me want to keep going down those paths.”

 

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Ron Hart

Ron Hart is the Editor-in-Chief of Rock and Roll Globe. Reach him on Twitter @MisterTribune.

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