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LONG GONE • Clothesline Revival

In the nearly five years that we’ve been doing Puremusic, one of our favorite and most important finds has been Clothesline Revival. We’ve never heard a more compelling synthesis of seemingly disparate sounds with such melodious and funky results.

Each song on Long Gone began with an a cappella source vocal, from a field recording made between the 1930s and 50s. The vocals are mostly singing, but frequently spoken word as well. Many were recorded by the famous archivists John and (son) Alan Lomax, but a handful of other recordists contribute equally compelling source material. Praetzel and Powell take each vocal and plant it in sonic beds worlds away from whence it came, where exotic things are growing. The interplay of the depth and the lightheartedness involved produce tracks that contribute something inspired and vital to Americana, a genre which is sometimes a hotbed of mediocrity.

Conrad Praetzel of Santa Rosa CA is an accomplished roots and old time musician on guitars and other strings like bass and dobro, but also has an extensive background in sound design for Emu systems. (Not just designing with sound, but the designing of sounds, actually creating new sounds, frequently by the creative manipulation of other sounds.) Along with playing, Praetzel produces and arranges the music, and is the creator of the beats and atmospheres.

Conrad’s running partner in C.R. is Robert Powell, also a Northern Californian. He layers tracks of pedal and lap steel and acoustic, electric and slide guitars, frequently as much like a painter as like a player. As on the first recording, vocalist Wendy Allen contributes celestially. She only graces two numbers here, “Crawdad Song” and “I’m Troubled About My Soul.” Bruce “Creeper” Kurnow is a rocking addition on “Morning Train” and “Big Boy Can’t You Move ‘Em,” two of my personal favorite tracks. Scoop McGuire and Adam Berkowitz play mighty good bass and drums on three tracks apiece, together on two.

Conrad’s affinity for primitive art was beautifully represented by the work of E.T. Wickham on the cover of his previous Clothesline Revival CD, Of My Native Land. Here that spot is fantastically filled by a few of the awesome figures in Fred Smith’s Concrete Park in Phillips, Wiconsin, photographed by Dave Nance.

Hard to pick favorites from Long Gone--the jams each have something mystical and mindbending to offer. But we respectfully insist that you check out the clips of this amazing release. What Conrad Praetzel and Robert Powell have done (again), no one has done. These guys are Americana heroes. Buy this record, and turn your friends on to it.
• Frank Goodman

[To find out more about Clothesline Revival, check out our interviews with Praetzel and Powell and several participants in Of My Native Land; some clips from that album are here, and a review is here.]

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See more Dave Nance  photographs here

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