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After an unusual career as a New York City Park Ranger, Andrew Vladeck walked out of Central Park to play more music. He brought with him his fascination for contrary things – the city and country, the modern and the historical, and sought ways to blend them together.
On the Passing Knowledge EP (End Up Records), he balances spirited, lyric-driven songs with finger-style acoustic instrumentation, deft wit, and some freewheeling fun. Produced by Misha Volf and mixed by Dave Schiffman, this recording signals a new direction for Vladeck, one in which he embraces his strengths: his virtuosic handle on traditional folk music and his well-crafted songwriting – he won first place in the International Songwriting Competition, judged by Tom Waits and Brian Wilson.
The accompanying book – the first of End Up Record’s Pocket Songster Series – is an homage to City Lights Bookstore’s Pocket Poets Series, and was created by End Up in cooperation with BOOKLYN Arts Alliance.
Vladeck was born in Manhattan and raised upstate next to Harriman State Park. His music-loving family had three vintage jukeboxes filled with MoTown and Doo Wop 45s, an old upright piano and a guitar. His brother was consumed with Hip Hop, his twin sister with Country. From a young age he began experimenting, welding the edges of the different music he was hearing to form his own style, soldering pickups into his various old-time instruments.
Recently returned from a European tour and a regular at venues in New York, Andrew was featured on BBC’s The World, and was voted NYC Artist of the Month in The Deli Magazine. He’s opened for Andrew Bird, The National, Soulive, Marah, Hem, Brothers Creegan, Alejandro Escovedo, and many others. He’s also a founding member of the indie folk quintet The Honey Brothers and the folk collective Balthrop, Alabama.
Passing Knowledge is Vladeck’s first release since 2008’s The Wheel. He will be touring extensively throughout the summer and fall in support of the new record.
About PASSING KNOWLEDGE
It’s not every day someone has a record release and a book launch, but Andrew Vladeck, a native New York singer-songwriter, will be doing so this this spring.
In this case, the record is the Passing Knowledge EP (End Up/Sonic Rendezvous). The book, Passing Knowledge and Other Songs, is the first edition of the Pocket Songster Series, which presents lyric-based songs and additional writings in a pocket-size book format. It is published by End Up Records in cooperation with the BOOKlyn Artists Alliance.
The EP signals a new direction for Andrew Vladeck, one in which he embraces his strengths and fuses them together. Produced by Misha Volf and mixed by Dave Schiffman, the EP balances spirited, lyrical-driven songs with finger-style instrumentation and deft wit.
Andrew has a long-held passion for American folk music, of which his knowledge borders on the encyclopedic. It began with a lesson from his father’s cousin, the Grammy-Nominated folk musician David Bromberg, who studied with Reverend Gary Davis in the early 1960s. From that moment on, Andrew went on a tear backwards through the catalog of the early 20th century, teaching himself various old-time instruments. Heretofore, Vladeck has played that music largely for his personal enjoyment, occasionally capping off a set with a song or two.
With Passing Knowledge, Andrew incorporates the musical techniques and intimacy of those early recordings with his modern style of songwriting. This combination is well-suited for the collection, which focuses on themes of yearning, longing, and acceptance – the stretch for things just out of reach. Vladeck colors these songs with sparkling details, in largely narrative fashion, with lyrics that cascade in rhythm to the music.
The pocket book and the artwork are an homage to the Pocket Poet Series published by City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, in particular the work of Allen Ginsberg. Accordingly, this pocket book demonstrates the influence of literature upon Vladeck’s writing. The American writer Will Heinrich, winner of the PEN/Bingham Award, contributes a letter of introduction and an epilogue.
The record begins with “Living the Dream,“ a quasi-hallucinogenic ode to Allen Ginsberg’s HOWL in which the words are more spoken than sung. The interplay between the skyline and sunset become a canvas for existential yearnings.
The title track, “Passing Knowledge of the Sexes,“ is about the modern-day search for love and the creative and oft-misleading way people choose to present themselves to the world through their online profiles. The song was inspired by a passage from Freakonomics, by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt and was written with members of The Honey Brothers.
There is a new rendition of Vladeck’s psychedelic slide-banjo dream-song, “Coney Island,“ a romantic vision for a lost love from another time. The song first appeared on Vladeck’s eponymous debut CD, performed with The Honey Brothers. In this version, Lauren Balthrop adds piano and the cello arrangement by Colette Alexander carries the song to a dramatic conclusion.
“Within Reach” is a song about the loss of a soulmate, and, as Joan Didion wrote about in her book, The Year of Magical Thinking, the “magical thinking” that can comfort and console as one grapples with such a thunderous loss.
Vladeck borrows the musical refrain from the American folk song “Moonshiner” to help convey a modern-day story of the joy, passion, and reckless sadness of growing up. “Can’t See Why” brings the listener along on various escapades – breaking into the Hayden Planetarium, swimming in a water tower, drinking by the Domino Sugar Factory – as they watch the protagonist wrestle with self-image and acceptance, only to alienate herself further.
Finally, East meets West in this post-Cold War love song, where the remaining barriers are language and distance. Written with Morgan Taylor (Gustafer Yellowgold), the song describes the thrill and the challenges of lovers from different worlds as they explore ways to communicate with each other.