Bonjour, readers! Yes, “Roots Radicals” is a punk song by Rancid about loving reggae but this week I am looking at some artists doing authentic new music steeped in the “roots” of rock ‘n‘ roll. The Hudson Valley regularly is visited or called home by many performers who really carry the mantle of rock history in their hearts. Oh, and this area is kind of also known for the Woodstock festival and The Band and stuff.
Alynda Lee Segarra is the stunning face, voice and primary songwriter of New Orleans-based Americana band Hurray For The Riff Raff. Her record Look Out Mama made the 2012 best-of lists for NPR and Mojo, among others. I met Segarra a few years ago in NOLA when I drove down there for my regionally transplanted best friend Darla’s wedding to the reincarnated Jim Morrison (artist Louis Braquet) at the Saint Louis Cathedral in Andrew Jackson Square. I was hanging out in a friend’s kitchen a day or so before the wedding while Alynda was playing guitar and her music blew my mind.
Segarra really has lived for her art. She ran away from home at a young age and hopped trains around the country, finally calling New Orleans home. Along the way she has written many songs and made lots of friends.
Recently Segarra’s full band made a stop at Colony Café in Woodstock. The intimate, almost-Zen setting was perfect for them and many locals came to represent the “Valley/NOLA connection,” as we like to call it. Segarra is informed by music history but her music comes off as her own.
“I think that’s important,” Segarra says, via phone two days after the show. “In New Orleans there are a lot of great traditional bands and I really appreciate what they’re doing, but a lot of people don’t fit into those traditions. Growing up as a Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx I never thought I fit into Appalachian music very well. I’m inspired by it but continuing to grow.”
Hurray For The Riff Raff recently played the Newport Folk Festival. They are even now signed to ATO records, the same label as the thoroughly kick-ass Alabama Shakes, with whom they recently toured and befriended. Expect a new record soon. “It’s already recorded. We are so excited. It’s a new world for us,” says Alynda. “I think the stuff we’ve recently done is my best stuff.”
One stand-out new song at the Colony show was a stark tune called “The Body Electric,” an “anti-murder ballad” song.
“I can be a news junkie sometimes,” says Segarra. “On tour I try not to read it to much because my head explodes. I was reading so much about violence against women. There was the woman in India who was gang-raped on a bus publicly and then killed afterwards. So many stories making me feel so crazy. After hearing that I did a show and someone played a song in an old-time style about shooting their woman down for foolin’ around. I got so mad. I don’t want to hear that shit anymore. I’m inspired by folkies from the ’60s who tried to make things political. I’m trying to figure out how to do that with our generation and not freak people out. It puts me in the right frame of mind to come to this region because we can be inspired by amazing spots. Yesterday we went to Rick Danko and Levon Helm’s graves and then to Big Pink and basically stayed there until we were worried we’d get kicked out.”
Blues rock at BSP
Blues rock band Husky Burnette will be playing the Rondout Music Lounge in Kingston on Sunday, Aug. 18. The group cites Muddy Waters and RL Burnside as influences and are named after their friendly, high-energy singer.
“The lineup of my current backup band has been together since the beginning of this year,” says Burnette. “It’s grown to a three-piece instead of two. I’ve been doing this solo thing since about 2006, so the band line up behind me has changed many times. Lately I’ve been promoting a new record, Tales From East End Blvd., due out Aug. 24, on the Rusty Knuckles record label. We just shot a new video for the single “Beat & Lowdown” from the new album. You can check both of those out at www.rustyknucklesmusic.com. I like that the folks that have always came out to the Music Lounge have been so nice and welcoming. They have a lot of friends of mine playing there too. Definitely a good stop for all of us on this Northeastern run. I consider our style of music to be blues rock, I guess. An amped-up version of the blues.”
OK, friends. Until next we meet, remember to love thy neighbor and put lots of hot sauce on everything. It wouldn’t be a Morgan Y. Evans article if I didn’t go on a random tangent about heavy metal, so this week I just want to say that a new Turisas album is coming out soon. They are Finnish, named after an ancient war god and paint themselves red while singing merrily atop big riffs and absurd orchestral arrangements. This makes me happy. Yay!