Saturday, February 04, 2012
The first Tree People album gets a few pages in a wonderful new book about folk music by French authors
Bruno Meillier and Philippe Robert. It is nice to see us remembered in print!
Special thanks to my friend in France, Jaak, who translated the Tree People pages in the book from French to English for me. Here it is:.
FOLK & REVIVAL
An Anglo-Saxon stroll
The Tree People – The Tree People (Tiliqua 1979)
In the music of The Tree People, a band founded in Eugene (Oregon) in 1977, there are echoes of that obscure era straddling the seventies and eighties (of the 20th century), that dark age in the grand history of folk music. Either as precursors of the renaissance of the acid folk scene that would take place 2 decades later (the lunar melodies present here are a prequel to those that would well up later on in acts such as Vetiver, Espers or Joanna Newsom), or as distant echoes of those good old hippie vibrations of 1967, the nine tracks of this eponymous self-produced first album conjure up an overall timeless impression. With the help of flutist/percussionist Jeff Stier and flutist Rachel Laderman, Stephen Cohen put himself to the task of translating the then present moment into sound. James Thornbury, who would go on to play bass in Canned Heat, joined the three of them deep in the woods, in a recording studio chosen especially to get as far away as possible from the commotion of civilization. The sound, very much akin to the one typical for some Canadian progressive folk combos, is characterized by an introspective Americana-like pace owing to the ethereal sound frequencies (guitars, transversal flute, recorder and xylophone), and makes the listener comfortable like when he were witnessing a ruby red and honey colored sunset. ‘Pot Of Gold’, out of an ever swelling cymbal sound and loose guitar picking supporting a comforting and hearty vocal, creeps in in a heady kind of way. The instrumental tracks ‘Opus’ and ‘Space Heater’, aside from marrying raga and blues born out of a series of glissandi and sitar-like strung chords, partake of a delicacy made of subtle harmonies, with the bongos and triangle tinkling acting as beacons for the powerful moments. In the background two flutes, cautious and restrained, are present in counterpoint. Then, after a melancholic guitar solo in the best of west coast traditions (Takoma scene and Ali Akbar Khan merged into one), the album ends with a return to the slide mode owing to the gripping modernity of ‘Bring In The Water’, in which Stephen Cohen words the need for a return to the soil so dearly chanted by many a neo-rural at the end of this first decade of the 21st Century: “… bring in the water, chop the wood, if [we] only could”. In 2007, following the reissue of their first two albums that were released shortly before the band split up in the mid-eighties, The Tree People reformed, with Stephen Cohen and Jeff Stier indulging in the recording of a third album with a limpid and clear sound the prince’s kiss brings back to life after a twenty-six year long profound sleep.
Human Voices (1984), It’s My Story (2010)
More recommended listening:
Stephen Cohen & Rich Hinrichsen, The Walking Willows, Connivence, L’Engoulevent, Les Karrik, Ptarmigan, Van Morrison