And the indierockization of the folk canon begins?or really it continues. We all know how the Harry Smith thing has been fetishized by two (three?) generations of hipsters, and it?s that, the instinct to deify crusty weird dirty old Americana that Liz Janes and Create! make explicit with this collaboration (Janes being a solo artist from Virginia, Create! a free-jazz outfit from L.A.). The list is long and well-known: the Animals did garage damage to ?House of the Rising Sun,? the Band mined Southern myths and songs for its muddy, where-them-drums-at sonic aura, Cream laid a thick coating of acid and fuzz on Delta blues, etc., etc. down to Jack White Civil-War-reenacting on the "Cold Mountain" soundtrack. The drive to assimilate this country-folk base is by and large an honest one, don?t get me wrong, but it?s oft-done and with varying degrees of depth and understanding. Most who know of the canon, who slot Dock Boggs or Furry Lewis or Mississippi Fred McDowell right in with more modern-day avatars, really are drawn to the evil allure of murder ballads, obsessed by the topical detail of the political songs, captivated by the timeless tales of love lost and ? well, mostly lost. Liz Janes and Create! are on this sincere side.
And they do well revisiting folk songs using styles gleaned from the last few decades of underground acoustic music as well as more purely traditional approaches, and the songs don?t seem to mind. ?All the Pretty Horses? is garnished with spooky, droning, creaky strings; ?Be My Husband? has clattery percussion rudely interrupting muted guitars. Tony Conrad? The Ex? Yes, both seem to be informing these goings-on, but the core of the work is the haunted, ancient song. The band?s take on ?Careless Love? is like the Carter Family by way of Bettie Serveert, remarkably catchy yet un-callow, preserving the song?s sorrowful core. ?Jesus is a Dying Bed-Maker? is the kind of spiritually centered that (let?s face it) might escape the notice of those more secularly inclined, but for the gently psychedelic melody Janes and company drape over it.
The biggest risk the ensemble takes may be ?Run, Ol? Jeremiah/Keep Your Hands on the Plow,? a driving run at an old slave chant topped off with a churning, uptempo blues. It?s one thing to stylize country blues in the idiom you know, another to run headlong back into what Alan Lomax was looking for, hardwiring yourself back into the oral traditions of the oppressed progenitors of most musical forms we now know and revere. But Janes and Create! pull it off; their modest surroundings (recorded in a shack, no electric instruments) help them focus on the song, not themselves as singers. No audible smirks or noblesse oblige; just music. Well done.
8/10 -- Sal Addays (28 June, 2006)