I’m doing a short opening set for Bert Jansch this coming Wednesday at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. Not a bad welcome to the neighborhood eh? Here’s an article about the show where I pitched in a few quotes. It appeared in yesterday’s East Bay Daily News and Palo Alto Daily News.
Did an e-mail interview for EconoCulture — sent it over Sunday and it’s up already. The wonders of the intermawebs. Also, here’s another one that I did for Pioneer Press last month and forgot to post. That one was a phoner. I don’t do so well at those; I guess I’m a better writer than I am a talker. Yeah I know that’s not saying much… ;-)
Got a short interview in this month’s issue of Harp. The quotes are taken from an e-mail convo I did some weeks ago with fellow musician Edward Burch. E-mail interviews are good because I can think about what I’m saying before I open my yap. Gotta love it when they let me speak for myself, or dig my own grave as the case may be! They did an album review as well. Thank you Harp!
An interview I did with Gretchen Kalwinski a couple of weeks ago just appeared on the Venus website… I guess it’s going in the winter issue? It’s a good one. I’m a little hyper aware of the way she smoothed out my words, plucked out the non-sequitors and shuffled around the backwards thoughts so it actually makes sense. Just edited it for clarity. I dig that, I would’ve done the same thing if I were transcribing my own interview. I hate the way I sound on tape…!! Like, I just sound, just like… omigod! Soooo retarded. So that’s cool. And look how she’s treating me so respectfully regarding the personal stuff. She doesn’t try to hype up my heartaches, she doesn’t even pull from my blog, just lets me speak for myself with my own fresh up-to-the-minute thoughts. That’s really good interviewing skillz, dude. Thank you Gretchen!!
Full-page article in today’s Trib. (bugmenot) They quoted both Riyans! No glaring errors, and very complimentary of the new record, which I so appreciate. Half of me wants to go out and shake everybody’s hand — I’m a genius!! — and the other half wants to crawl under a rock because it gets so personal. Arrrrgh! I’ll try to explain…
Too Much Information
The well-documented world of Edith Frost
Why bother interviewing Edith Frost? After all, the 40-year-old singer-songwriter from Chicago already bares her soul and more on one of the most exhaustive online diaries offered by any artist, musical or otherwise. Go to EdithFrost.com, and you’ll find daily updated accounts of her career in music, her weight, her hangovers, her baby pictures, unsent letters to childhood friends about her drug use and hair styles — even the precise date and time of her first… um… menses. You’ll witness every piece of press written globally about her collected, dissected and occasionally corrected. I can try to do her justice in print, but trust me: the Edith Frost she wants you to know is out there in a bunch of ones and zeros. “I guess I’m kinda anal about gathering things,” she humbly tells me in the understatement of the year.
Why bother writing about Edith Frost? After all, a legion of scenester music writers have already pigeonholed Frost’s three excellent albums into a tight network of faux-mathematical equations meant to avoid any qualitative descriptions of the music. She’s the alt.country Patsy Cline. The union of Nancy Griffith and the underground country rock group Freakwater. Liz Phair, Gillian Welch, Aimee Mann, Joni Mitchell and Pink Floyd founder and famous acid casualty Syd Barrett also get whisked into the conversation. Artists like Frost, whose toes skim across a different musical genre pool with each new song on each new album, are a chance for writers to flex their muscles and show off their own CD collections. I’ll try to rein in that urge, while admitting that my first impulse upon listening to Frost’s 2001 release Wonder Wonder was to pen an e-mail saying I had “found” an artist who beautifully combined the deep voices and visionary arrangements of long-dead folk heroes Tim Buckley and Nico — also two of the most notorious heroin pincushions in the history of snob-rock. “Wow, that’s nice,” Frost replies to the analogy, “But I’ve always just been a pothead. Never got into the heavy stuff.”
Why bother listening to Edith Frost? That’s much easier to answer. First, that voice. It is not the type that would get her on American Idol — indeed, its human crackles and wavers might get her ridiculed by Simple Simon — but it is one of the most intricate and endearing on the contemporary musical landscape. When Frost sings low, as on the excellent title track of Wonder Wonder, she sounds as if her chin is buried in her chest, her eyes on her shoes. When she sings high, she exhales so much as to almost become inaudible. If this is rock music, it isn’t the kind that is meant to overwhelm a listener or whip an audience into an emotional frenzy. It burrows into the skin, leaving a vague but lingering impression of something hovering between sadness and sarcasm.
Second, those arrangements. Frost’s songwriting is bare bones, only encompassing herself, a guitar, a keyboard and piles of scribbled notes and phrases — what she calls “my snippets.” But her producer Rian Murphy employs such a huge payroll of instruments and players on Wonder Wonder, I can’t help but wonder wonder if they had to unionize. Strings, horns, clarinets, organs, wood blocks, cowbells and bass harmonicas all pop up decoratively throughout the album, turning slow country weepers into sultry torch songs and simple, childlike melodies into eerie adult nursery rhymes. If this is country music, it is country that can only come together in cramped urban settings on tight studio timelines. But with Frost’s voice as the cork bobbing on the orchestral torrent, the result is accessible enough that you’ll quickly find yourself burning copies for your parents as well as your friends. But I don’t mean that as an insult; your parents are in dire need of music this good.
If the popular music hierarchy had anything to do with talent, Frost would be far more than an intellectual exercise for underground critics. As it is now, she laughs incredulously at the prospect of ever having a “hit,” and rightly so. She is, and will probably remain, the kind of artist to fill the important niche of “someone whose record you put on for your friends, to laud it over them that you stumbled across her first.” But for someone like Frost, a maniacal vinyl collector with over 15 feet of records lined up in her house, that kind of off-mainstream notoriety is the ultimate compliment. “I’ve always thought, CDs, they’re OK,” she explains, “but if I could put a needle down and hear my own voice coming out of the speaker, that would be the ultimate thrill of a lifetime. They can just toss CDs off, but a record … that’s the real deal.”
Edith Frost with Manishevitz and Kris Doty, Sunday, December 5, 9 p.m., $5, Neurolux, 111 N. 11th St., 336-5034.
I’ve been featured this week along with fellow Chicago wiseass Fred Armisen in Dusted Magazine. They wanted some sort of music-related list, so I gathered a list of my favorite songs about clothing. Believe it or not Fred took the idea much more seriously than I did — who’s the comedian here anyway?!?
Edith Frost’s songs taking on new topics, moods
A quieter, more confessional Edith Frost comes out on her latest disc "Wonder Wonder."
By Kevin McKeough
Special to the Chicago Tribune
Edith Frost recently heard from her high school sweetheart for the first time in years, congratulating the Chicago singer on fulfilling her lifelong dream of making music. "He said, it’s really cool to see you do this, because you wanted to do it when we were going out," the now 37-year-old Frost reports.
A very good article/interview by my friend Linda Ray which appeared in the April 18-24, 2002 edition of Tucson Weekly: Chicago Style: The Fruit Bats, Edith Frost and The Chicago Underground Duo offer a taste from the Windy City.