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Conrad Praetzel

OF MY NATIVE LAND (Paleo Music) • Clothesline Revival

Soundtrepreneurs Conrad Praetzel and Robert Powell and a mighty ass band of cohorts produce a disc deep and soul satisfying. Marrying traditional music from a wide range of sources to maverick musical treatments, loops, beats and samples has produced brilliant offspring. Bravo, gentlemen.

Right off, the name of the project struck me so funny that I went right to the website, something I rarely do. Then I was hooked. My first reaction was "Whoa, wait a minute now. What the hell is going on here..." and I began a little trip that included researching the various people involved (see links below to Wendy Allen, Tom Armstrong, and Sukhawat Ali Khan), and ultimately calling Herr Praetzel himself for the lowdown.

Conrad is not just an accomplished musician, he's also a beta tester for E-mu systems, and deeply versed and adept in the world of drum machines, samplers, and the like. "Atmospherics," as he puts it. Conrad also plays bass, guitar, mandolin, resophonic guitar, and dobro on the record. Robert Powell plays lap and pedal steel, as well as ebow, baritone, and electric guitar and bass.

But Praetzel's particular genius features the gathering of like minded bodies and souls. (Wow! There's Sukhawat Ali Khan going off on Wendy Allen's brilliant vocal arrangement of "Gypsy Laddie." Make sure to check it out on the Listen page.) Wendy Allen comes from North Carolina, but is now a San Francisco artist, with bands like The Court & Spark and Boxharp. She's a gifted and unusual singer, and comes up with some beautiful arrangements with Praetzel. Tom Armstrong is from IA, another great alt-country stylist who came from the punk ranks. (Those are some of my favorite alt country acts--heard Neko Case lately?) Conrad caught him on Bill Frater's radio show in Santa Rosa. (Frater has a great roots website at freighttrainboogie.com, check it out.) Those are the main players in the mix, along with Mark Fuller on the drum kit. Many other artists, living and deceased, are key elements, however.

Characters from various sources like the classic John Lomax field recordings find new atmospheric homes: Leadbelly, Ora Dell Graham, and an unidentified train caller each provide timeless lead vocals from the 1930s and 40s. And there's a storyteller named Doug Wallin, from an LP titled Family Songs and Stories From the North Carolina Mountains, whose "Story About William Riley Shelton" sounds so otherworldly when Conrad Praetzel gets a hold of it, I get goosebumps every time I hear it.

This project is way too interesting for a mere review. We'll be circling back to interview Conrad very soon. (see below) In the meantime, we wanted to introduce our readers to these artists and goings on with traditional music and modern treatments on the West Coast. There's a lot here. We hope you'll check out the clips, buy this amazing record, and visit the various websites involved.  • FG

view cover     listen to clips    paleomusic.com

robertpowell.com    tomarmstrongmusic.com

sukhawat ali khan (shabaz)     wendy allen (low country)

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