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Label: LoHi Records
Jump Change; Ghosteather; Falling Flowers; Scratch Out; Little Bell; Big Bongos; Amor Eterno; Mel's Drive In; Tiny Lion
Erik Deutsch: keyboards; Avi Bortnick: guitars; Mike McGinnis: reeds; Brian Drye: trombone; Jesse Murphy: bass; Tony Mason: drums; Victoria Reed: vocals; Scott Metzger: guitar; Andy Thorn: banjo
“We got the Louisiana boogie and the Delta blues/We got country, swing, and rockabilly too/We got jazz, country-western and Chicago blues/It’s the greatest music that you ever knew” —The Blasters, “American Music” Keyboardist Erik Deutsch makes American music, pure and simple. Over the last two decades plus, he’s earned a stellar reputation as a bandleader and collaborator, working with artists like Steven Bernstein, Theo Bleckmann, Rosanne Cash, Nels Cline, Charlie Hunter, Shooter Jennings, Norah Jones, Leftover Salmon, Shelby Lynne, and many, many more. At the same time, he’s made five albums under his own name full of willfully uncategorizable compositions that combine jazz, funk, country and rock into a swirling, raucous blend that jumps, struts, croons and shouts. His sixth album as a leader, Falling Flowers, will be released September 14 on LoHi Records. “The more I’m deliberate in my compositional style, the harder it is,” Deutsch says. “I really just try to write stuff that I hope is good and makes sense musically...then to follow it through how it needs to be followed through and not focus so much on what it is, but just try to make a good song.” The album kicks off with “Jump Change”, a shuffling New Orleans groove jam with a churning bass intro and a fierce, growling trombone solo from Brian Drye. “For my kind of tunes, it’s more straight- ahead and simple,” Deutsch says. “There’s something about that intro and that bass—and by the way, Jesse Murphy came up with that intro right there in the studio. I usually don’t have that much of an idea about [running] order, but once I sat with the songs, it was pretty clear that was a good way to start.” The title track was co-written with his wife, singer Victoria Reed. “It’s one of those musical marriages that I’d heard about, where we’re always talking about music,” he says of their relationship. “We’re kind of messing around with ideas all the time at the house. If I’m watching a ball game on the couch, she might be playing the Steinway, which is about one inch from the couch, or I might come home from a gig at one or two in the morning and find her strumming a guitar and writing a new song. With ‘Falling Flowers,’ I had this gospel kind of melody, and Victoria said, ‘I have a lyric I’ve been working on that could fit this.’” Built on a foundation of piano, organ, banjo and slide guitar, it has the feel of a lost ’70s country-rock classic. In the middle of the album, things get weird. “Little Bell” is ten minutes long, a quiet, atmospheric piece that gets almost psychedelically abstract in the middle. “The song is a melody that’s repeated twice, then an open section that’s improvised all the way until the melody comes back and there’s kind of a trippy coda,” Deutsch says. “I think that if you look all the way back, I have a song like this on almost all my records. If you look at the Demonio Teclado album [from 2012] there’s a song called ‘Creeper’ that’s kind of on the gospel-dub tip, and this is the next version.” There’s one cover on the Falling Flowers—a version of saxophonist Mel Martin’s “Mel’s Drive In”, a little-known tune that saxophonist Mike McGinnis also recorded on his 2017 album Recurring Dream. (The connection is pianist Art Lande, a friend of Martin’s with whom Deutsch studied, and who backed McGinnis on Recurring Dream.) “I heard it as this slow, greasy clavinet thing,” Deutsch says. “On the record, it’s a wah-wah Wurlitzer [organ]. It’s essential in our live show, and I just felt like, we’ve gotta put that one on the record.” The band on Falling Flowers is a mixture of longtime acquaintances and kindred spirits, and Deutsch has nothing but praise for every one of them. He calls Mike McGinnis (saxophone and clarinet) “a great positive energy—he’s always excited to play my music.” Of trombonist Brian Drye, he says, “This is the first record I’ve had a trombone on, and when I felt like this was what I wanted...[I got a] supremely talented, supremely positive, supremely energetic and professional musician. Another guy I love having around.” Avi Bortnick is simply “the best rhythm guitar player on the planet, like Nile Rodgers and Prince level, and obviously a great soloist and sonic contributor as well.” Bassist Jesse Murphy is “insanely talented, next level, one of those musicians who’s every bassist’s favorite bassist, and equally good on electric and acoustic on bass.” Of drummer Tony Mason, he says, “There’s no drummer with a better beat. Something about Tony feels as good as it can possibly feel. He’s just my guy, and we’ve been making music together for nearly 10 years.” In addition to these core players, two special guests appear. Scott Metzger plays lead guitar on “Falling Flowers” and “Big Bongos”; Deutsch calls him “a great, great soloist, just a crack studio cat. I’m not one of those guys who just changes up the band when I’m making a record, but I wanted to have him play a little bit. I always have him play the slide, and he laughs because no one ever asks him for it.” Andy Thorn, Deutsch’s band-mate in Leftover Salmon, contributes banjo to “Ghostfeather” and “Falling Flowers.” Deutsch says, “He happened to be in town the night I was doing the session with Scott, so I just had him play on the record—it’s fortunate that he was there—he’s the best.” Falling Flowers was recorded at Trout Recording in Brooklyn, with engineers Bryce Goggin and Adam Sachs. “I wanted a studio with an analog board, I wanted great drum tones, and the price mattered,” Deutsch says. “I needed a place with a good enough piano, not the best piano, but a good enough piano...Bryce is a recording genius, he’s made a lot of cool records there in a lot of different genres. He’s fast, his gear works, his drum sounds are amazing, there’s a lot of bleed so it’s got that vibe—I wanted to make the record feel like when we play live, and have that energy, and I think we accomplished that.” Blues, jazz, country, rock, funk—it’s all there in the gumbo that is American music. Erik Deutsch dips deep and serves it up hot on Falling Flowers.