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Friday, October 05, 2012


On R&B Departures, I touch base briefly with artists I play on the show.  Today, we hear from Nels Andrews, whose Scrimshaw is just being released here in the U.S.

I first came across Andrews' music with his 2004 Sunday Shoes release, a gentle but gritty album of great character portraits like "Jesse's Mom":  hallelujah to the fat man with the skinny little books on jesus / hallelujah to the gospel choir on hazeldine / there will be no more hard times out in louisiana / and nothing resting heavy on little jesse's mind   2008's Off Track Betting was a busier, more urban record, recorded after relocating to Brooklyn.  Produced by bassist Todd Sickafoose, the album brings in eclectic instrumentation from pump organ to "wine glass orchestra".

Nels Andrews' new Scrimshaw boasts many of the same players that built Off Track Betting, including producer Sickafoose.  With its greater leaning towards folk sounds, it's appropriate that Andrews dedicates the album to the great, underrated songsmith Jack Hardy.  The album notes define "scrimshaw" as "The art of carving or incising intricate designs on whalebone or whale ivory", and these intricate stories are carefully inscribed in a tiny illustrated booklet included with the album.  Sickafoose and Andrews have seemingly approached the album's songs with much the same minute care, from Rich Hinman's graceful pedal steel to the unexpectedly aggressive fuzz guitar. 

It all comes together when looking at Andrews' thoughtful reflections below.


Hometown: Just moved to Santa Cruz, Ca. a couple  of months ago, before that, Brooklyn, NY for a long time.  That's where my son and last two records were born. Before that, Albuquerque and Taos, NM. We'll see what's next.

Favorite music as a youngster:    First were the lyricists Dylan, Neil Young, John Prine, then Zeppelin in my early testosterone years,  and finally back to the folk, always back to the folk.

Your 5 (or six) favorite albums:
Van Morrison,  Astral Weeks
David Bowie,  Ziggy Stardust Live
Tom Waits,  Bone Machine
Dick Gaughin, Handful of Earth
Bruce Springsteen,  Greetings from Asbury Park , NJ
Warren Zevon,  Stand in the Fire

Lyric you wish you had written:
There are heroes in the seaweed, There are children in the morning
They are leaning out for love, And they will lean that way forever
Leonard Cohen, "Suzanne"

Best concert you've seen:
Tom Waits, Paramount Theater, Denver 1999 Get Behind The Mule Tour.  I drove up from Taos, NM with my buddy Jason. I was already a huge Tom Waits fan, so this was like going to church for me, but it was more than I even hoped for.  It was somehow both theater spectacle, and an intimate troubadour thing. The stage was mic-ed and covered with glitter, so every stomp of his foot boomed through the theater and sent up a shimmering cloud. The band thundered and he crawled on the ground with a lantern and a megaphone, then solemnly took to the piano and brought the crowd in from the ether to total silence. I was totally enchanted, I think I woke up on a stranger's lawn in Denver.  It's crazy.. Andrew Borger, who played drums and percussion on Scrimshaw was the drummer on that tour, on the stage that night.  Borger's and all the other anecdotes I've heard about Waits, confirm rather than contradict the mythology that surrounds him.  My kingdom for a coffee with Mr. Waits, or maybe a round of miniature golf (that time we were in boarding group C together on a Southwest flight from Oakland to Burbank, that just can't be it).

What's in your CD player these days:
Two Gallants- Self titled, Anais Mitchell Young Man in America, Corey Branan, Mutt, NIGERIA SPECIAL! Modern Highlife, Afro-Sounds & Nigerian Blues 1970-6, Tinarawen Aman:Iman, Ethioupiques vol 4 (ethio-jazz 1969-74), Hanging Johnny shanties and sea songs


Nels Andrews will be appearing at Castle Rock's Music on the Mesa series on Friday 10/12, as well as Swallow Hill in Denver (w/Caroline Herring) on 10/13 and Avogadro's Number in Fort Collins (w/Diana Jones) on Sunday 10/14.

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