Preview track from the forthcoming solo debut "Blue Rider Songs" by Scott Hirsch. LP out August 19th 2016
After many years spent as a steadfast and inventive collaborator—not only playing bass and producing four albums with Hiss Golden Messenger, but in large part forging that band’s sonic signature—multi-instrumentalist, recordist, and audio engineer Scott Hirsch has finally made a solo album, and it’s called Blue Rider. The very notion of a “solo” album, and its associated emancipatory baggage, is a specious designation in this case, since music this quietly assured, this effortlessly unfolding, does not bloom in isolation or solipsism. Although Blue Rider articulates Hirsch’s singular aesthetic (more on that soon) more lucidly and forthrightly than any other album on which he has worked, it is also, like most good music, the alloyed fruit of long hours, and long travels, with other writers and players, and with other records, and books, and films.
And indeed, these recordings feature notable, and notably subtle, contributions from Jade Hendrix (harmony vocals); Thomas Heyman (pedal steel), Hirsch’s old bandmate in the San Francisco group the Court and Spark; and HGM stalwarts Phil Cook (organ and harmonica) and Matt Douglas (saxophones), among others. But as a primarily single-artist vision and statement, it does speak to the way that back roads, detours away from or around one’s other, more high-profile creative pursuits, can lead lead to unexpected destinations arguably more compelling than anything the highways could provide. Sometimes, as William Least Heat-Moon demonstrates in Blue Highways, his classic travelogue of rural America (an admitted influence on this album), you have to leave the main roads to understand their contours and their worth. And as in “Sundown Highway,” that can be a slow, and heavy, journey; you might, like Lowell George, require “weed, whites, and wine.”
Blue Rider emerged from various personal contexts: a year of near-constant touring with Hiss Golden Messenger in 2015; a move with his family from Brooklyn to Ojai, California, and the launch of his new Echo Magic West studio there; and above all, the process of making the self-titled Golden Gunn album with longtime musical partner M.C. Taylor of Hiss Golden Messenger and their mutual friend Steve Gunn. Hirsch wrote much of the music on that album, and watching Taylor and Gunn set words and vocals to his instrumental productions proved the necessary catalyst to take his writing and recording into fresh territory under his own name. Hirsch even reinterprets Golden Gunn standout track “The Sun Comes up a Purple Diamond” here, repurposing Gunn’s lyrics, but attenuating the song into something even more heat-stricken and dilatory than the hazy original version—no mean feat...
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
- Folk & Singer-Songwriter