NORA JANE STRUTHER + the Party Line
Award-Winning Americana Singer-Songwriter Issues Sophomore Effort!
"When you go to a carnival, you go into a sideshow tent, and on every stage you find a different person with a different story," says Nora Jane Struthers. "That's why I'm trying to do with this album craft vignettes, and in some cases more developed narratives, about imaginary people's lives."
Struthers' album Carnival, which will be issued on the singer-songwriter's own label on April 16, is an ambitious and literate follow-up to the Nashville performer's much-praised 2010 debut.
Produced by Brent Truitt (Dolly Parton, Alison Krauss, Dixie Chicks), who also helmed Struthers' self-titled bow,Carnival comprises 14 fresh original compositions in her "Classic Americana" vein that richly show off her skills as a sensitive and intelligent tune-weaver and a warm and persuasive vocalist.
Recorded at Truitt's East Nashville studio, the album marks the recording debut of Struthers' touring band, the Party Line (which takes its handle from one of the record's songs, about the early days of rural telephone calls). The gifted group of instrumentalists includes Struthers' longtime collaborator P. J. George (upright bass, harmony vocals, pedal steel guitar, accordion and banjo), Joe Overton (clawhammer banjo and harmony vocals), Aaron Jonah Lewis (fiddle, three-finger banjo, baritone fiddle, mandolin) and Drew Lawhorn (drums). Guests include producer Truitt on mandolin and singers Rachael Hester and Nick Woods. Nora Jane Struthers & The Party Line support the album with heavy touring in theaters, clubs and festivals, including the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival and Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion.
Carnival caps three years of intense work by the 29 year old that included recognition of her group as best band at Colorado's prestigious Telluride Bluegrass Festival, a stint as featured vocalist and songwriter in the Alaska-bred, Nashville-based band Bearfoot, and touring in the U.S., France and Germany.
Struthers now re-emerges as a band-leader with a smart, affecting cycle of songs sporting a timeline that stretches from the antebellum 19th-century South to the middle of the last century. Reflecting her background in literature she taught English before undertaking a full-time career in music in 2008 the tunes are deftly-told stories that survey the American terrain from a uniquely focused point of view.
"I realized that I was writing a collection of story-songs from a female perspective," Struthers says. "I was able to arrange them chronologically, as teenagers, then women, then old women. The album has a narrative, from girlhood to death."
The instrumentation and form of Struthers' music draws on her traditionalist roots her father Alan is himself a bluegrass musician but with the addition of drums, this record takes a bend toward more progressive roots-rock bands like Mumford & Sons and The Avett Brothers.
"I'm really passionate about the stories in the old ballads and story-songs," says Struthers. "I'm trying to bring that element of traditional music forward into a contemporary sonic space. I want story-songs to live on in a way that will be accessible to more people. That's my artistic mission. When we hear another person's story, we gain perspective and are changed; we're able to see our own lives through new eyes."
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