Wednesday, October 10, 2007
The Cave Singers
Here is the mystery of Seattle’s Cave Singers: They never listened to much folk music, they never intended to play folk music, and more importantly, their guitarist never picked up the instrument until recently. Yet, this strange trio is writing and performing some of the most hypnotizing folk music we have today.
One listen to Invitation Songs, however, and you’re ready to call bullshit on them. It sounds like an updated version of the Anthology of American Folk Music. Not the graduate-student, learned interpretations of folk music circa 1962, but folk music approached by way of punk rock. It's sparse, melodic, creepy, and alluring, like the widow mourning graveside in Johnny Cash’s “Long Black Veil”. Guitarist Derek Fudesco's bottom-end acoustic work sounds like Mississippi John Hurt's soft, rolling finger plucks. Singer Pete Quirk's appealingly nasal voice simultaneously echoes Arlo Guthrie and a mosquito's buzz. And drummer Marty Lund plays like he's slapping a newspaper on a kitchen table.
Though Quirk spent time in Seattle post-punk group Hint Hint, Lund in Cobra High, and Fudesco as bassist for Pretty Girls Make Graves and the legendary Murder City Devils, maybe they’ve been folk artists all along and we just haven’t been open to the idea.
The band maintains that they never made a conscious effort to play a certain 'style' of music, and that, besides the odd Dylan record, their favorite bands are still the Replacements, the Pixies, Fleetwood Mac. With that in mind, I do believe it was Big Bill Broonzy who quipped: “All music is folk music.”