For last week’s column, I featured a relatively new development in the crowdfunding world, its use by already established artists as a chance to offer bonus merchandise around the pre-order of an album. So this week, I want to counterbalance by bringing things back to the roots of crowdfunding, the very reason for its launch; getting independent artists the money they need to produce new music for their fans. This week brings us the fifth album from a veteran songstress, the second album from a family duo, and yet another proof that the enormous library of Woody Guthrie can still find new ways to be interpreted in 2016.
If anyone embodies the independent music spirit that drives crowdfunding, it’s Jennie Lowe Stearns. The New York-based songwriter has been gigging around the world for several years, making new fans at festival gigs (including fellow No Depression contributor Amos Perrine, who turned me on to her music after seeing her at Finger Lakes) and trying to scratch up enough money for the increasingly expensive studio process. After recording several demos using her Ipad, Stearns has hooked up with producer Craig Street and is ready to head into the studio to record her, in her words “long overdue”, fifth studio album. Backer rewards include a blank journal with a block print design by Stearns, a personalized song, and a songwriting session via Skype.
Natalya Zoe Weinstein and John Cloyd Miller are best known to most Americana fans as part of the North Carolina based collective Red June. Weinstein and Miller shifted gears toward their duet project in 2015 after the birth of their daughter and haven’t looked back. Now they’re headed into the studio to record the follow up to their highly acclaimed debut Equinox. The new album promises guest slots from several musicians, including their Red June partner Will Straughan. Backer rewards include a sourwood “honey bear” filled with honey from Miller’s father’s bees, a Skype lesson on the instrument of your choice, and a personal tour of Asheville with Zoe & Cloyd.
Woody Guthrie died nearly 50 years ago, so it’s a testament to his broad scope as a songwriter that, in 2016, people are not only still interested in his work but are still finding new ways to assemble them thematically to tell a story. That’s the goal of Bill Murlin, Joe Seamons, and Jon Neufeld, who are collecting the incredible 26 songs Guthrie wrote on a trip along the Columbia River in 1941. This is the first time all 26 of these songs have been collected into one project. Guest musicians called upon to help bring these songs to life include David Grisman, Peter Buck of R.E.M., and John Moen of The Decemberists. Backer rewards include a personalized thank you postcard, a CD of Woody Guthrie’s original recordings of these songs, a Roll On Columbia songbook, and a chance to choose your favorite Woody Guthrie song from across his catalog to be recorded by some of the guest artists.