Clothesline Revival: Long Gone

Fall 2006

Remixing the blues isn’t a new phenomenon any more than remixing any music that is fresh in our sonic psyche.  Moby, for one, updated old blues and gospel hits on his multi-million selling Play.  Archival recordings have also become popular as modern musicians pay homage to the work men like the late Alan Lomax did in the earlier half of the last century.  We need only look at the opening track to the runaway O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack for proof.  Yet in the remixing of field recordings – the actual, gritty, lo-fi sound bytes – has remained rather aloof.  Enter Clothesline Revival, whose debut, Of My Native Land, created waves in the blues community for doing just that.  On their second effort, Conrad Praetzel and his guest musicians, most notably Robert Powell, keep the steam engine rolling with a baker’s dozen selections of Americana classics.  And selection is an opportune word: first and foremost, Praetzel’s choices are excellent.  E.M. Martin and Pearline Johns’ 1942 version of “I’m Going Home on the Morning Train” and Florence Stamp’s “Satisfied” open the record brilliantly.  Now, as for Praetzel’s work, let’s not call it remixing as much as accompanying: save for a more electronic big-beat version of Ora Dell Graham’s “Shortening Bread”, wittily crafted with Jew’s harp and Powell’s stellar steel guitar, the record is approached in a much more organic setting.  Taking minimal instrumentation (as it was originally) and the vocal lines, refining them in the studio and playing along, this crew has created a completely new record informed by old standards.  Hence, there is something new and something old about it, but most importantly, the simplest summation is the best: it’s a damn good blues record.  - DB