La Famille Léger….from heart to Hearth
If you’ve been a blogger or writer or broadcaster for long enough, there’s a good chance that you’ll be found by people who do public relations. Doesn’t matter much if your area of interest is music, film, cooking, cars, sports or knitting, trying to get you to write about their clients or influence public opinion is an ancient tradition and one that goes back to Socrates, Aristotle and Plato. And while the earliest press releases were written on stone tablets, modern day management of press and publicity is a hybrid of paper, electronic messages, social media, telecommunications, drop box and file sharing.
Over these past few years that I have been writing exclusively at this particular website, I’ve met quite a few publicists and many artists who really can’t afford to pay the costs of professional services and will try and DIY their own projects. Either method has pros and cons and while some musicians excel at both the business and creative tasks, many just want to write songs and play, and prefer to have somebody else do the heavy lifting.
A publicist is a lot like a gunslinger, in that most will take on any artist or project providing there’s a payday involved. And it really is just a job like any other. They will usually do some graphic and website work, write bios and press releases, utilize their mailing lists and contacts, reach out to booking agents and clubs, consult, advise and hold hands. When there’s press, airplay and bookings…they are heroes. When there’s no interest, it’s all their fault. The term “thankless” comes to mind.
Now to be brutally honest, every morning I’ll hear from one or several publicists and most messages get a quick look and then the delete button is hit. I don’t like to be promoted, pushed, cajoled, bent or shaped. And I hate to read the same words over and over and over…but a thesaurus is to a publicist what a tractor is to a farmer.
Unless you’re Devon and Dejah Leger (accent over the first e) and La Famille Leger, owners of Pacific Northwest’s Hearth Music. In that case, you’re not dealing with Have Gun Will Travel, but a family of performing musicians that “specialize in breaking new artists with strong traditional roots. Our goal in everything we do is to make sure that the music we love doesn’t go unheard.” And yeah…they make some music too.
Devon, as lead booker for one of the largest festivals in the nation, the Northwest Folklife Festival, learned what arts presenters look for in artists. He also learned how to market traditional arts and how to integrate this marketing with both traditional communities like radio and innovative communities like social networks. His wife Dejah, who is the in-house designer grew up in rural Oregon in a town of 14 people, and she has a trad music background, giving her valuable insights into the aesthetics of roots music products. She focuses on hand-drawn art and linocuts merged with digital formatting, and infuses her work with a rustic feel. (Much of this paragraph is lifted from their website.)
And who is Le Famille Leger? “We are a true family band who play Acadian and French-Canadian music from Eastern Canada. We live in Seattle, Washington and play Contra Dances, concerts, festivals, and even dinner parties. Devon plays fiddle, Dejah plays piano, guitar, sings & stepdances, Barb plays guitar, and Louis plays accordion, fiddle, spoons, and sings. Louis hails from a distinctive Acadian family from New Brunswick, and spent much of his youth in Québec City.” Louis and Barb are the parents of Devon.
So unlike a publicist who doesn’t know a Kalamazoo from Piedmont, Hearth Music knows roots. And world music, too.
When a Hearth envelope or email comes, I know two things are going to happen: I’m going to learn about something I didn’t know before, and I’ll be hearing incredible music. Since they opened for business in 2010, here’s just some of the artists and labels they’ve represented: Pokey Lafarge, Zoe Muth, Smithsonian Folkways, Elizabeth Mitchell, Caleb Klauder, Foghorn Stringband, Dirk Powell, Mary Jane Lamond, Hanneke Cassel, Joel Savoy, Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen, Cahalen Morrison & Eli West, John Reischman & The Jaybirds, Pharis & Jason Romero, The Two Man Gentlemen Band, The Honey Dewdrops and Woody Pines.
I’d imagine by this point you’re wondering if this is an advertisement or a story. I’d say the latter. Because my words are leading up to something: the music. A few weeks ago, maybe months actually, I told Devon that he has so much great music to share with our readers, I’d like to group some of them together in one article. (Devon actively writes here at ND, and many other sites as well.)
Without further ado, let’s check out just some of the artists and tunes that Hearth is working on at the moment. (There are lots more…this is just a sampling.) And I’d recommend that you check out their website for more information, links, music and some great music writing.
Woody Pines has been making music “for years, first cutting his teeth with the fabled Kitchen Syncopators, a street performance jugband from Eugene, Oregon that also included Gill Landry of the Old Crow Medicine Show. Going solo in 2002, Woody released the acclaimed 2009 album, Counting Alligators, and has been enjoying touring in the US and the UK. He may have gotten his start busking as a jugband on the streets of New Orleans and the Pacific Northwest, but years of hard-traveling and touring, plus guest spots with powerful artists like David Rawling, The Felice Brothers, Justin Townes Earle, and more have honed Woody’s music to a razor’s edge. Woody’s vintage vocals lead the band’s hot accompaniment, sounding at times like a reborn Bill Haley.”
Pharis and Jason Romero “live in the British Columbia woods. They spend their days building fine open-back banjos, and singing and playing the old-time and early country music they love. This is music not made for profit or for product, but made by hand, the old-fashioned way. Music made from a true love of the tradition and informed by an insatiable need to find or write the most beautiful songs. Aside from building and performing, they also spend much of their year teaching at music camps and workshops including BC Bluegrass Workshops, Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, Voiceworks, Fiddle Works, 108 Mile Bluegrass Camp, Georgia Straight Guitar Workshop, and others.”
Maya and The Ruins: “Maya Lerman is a singer, songwriter and guitar player, originally from the Washington, DC area, and now living in Charlottesville, Virginia. Since a very early age, she has been an active part of the American folk and roots music community. Her passion for this music has inspired her to travel the country to participate in music camps, conventions, and festivals as well as to pursue a career in archiving music. Take This Song With You is her first full-length record, which she recorded in Lafayette, Louisiana, with a great cast of musicians—members of the Red Stick Ramblers/The Revelers, Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, as well as other talented players and singers from the roots music community.”
Rita Hosking is a California based singer, songwriter and guitarist with several albums in her portfolio.Her latest Little Boat includes her husband Sean Feder (dobro/banjo/harmony) and her her 18-year old daughter Kora Feder, now writing songs with her and playing beautiful clawhammer banjo. The album was recorded in late 2012 over four days in Austin, Texas at the home studio of producer Rich Brotherton—who also produced Rita’s last two records, Burn(’11) and Come Sunrise (’09), both of which went on to win awards and accolades from the US and abroad.
Finally, this brings me to one of my favorite discoveries from Hearth. Cahalen Morrison & Eli West’s new album, Our Lady of the Tall Trees is an absolute joy to behold. Abbey Simmons wrote in Sound on The Sound this: “In a city and era that can seem crowded with ‘genericana,’ there’s no chance of Morrison & West getting lost amongst the new crop of beards in Ballard. Because when someone says Morrison & West are of another era, they’re not talking about warm Laurel Canyon harmonies; they’re talking dust-bowl dirges, lightening-quick finger-picking on a clawhammer banjo, and twang that recalls tintype portraits. Morrison & West’s vocals are more like Dan Tyminski, than Graham Nash.”
Unless I really mess this up (Kim…standby to repair please), here’s the entire album you can stream.