Tift Merritt with Special Guest David Wax Museum
Saturday, February 2, 2013 - 8:00pm doors / 9:00pm show
"I've always had a taste for traveling alone," Tift Merritt sings in the title track of her fifth album. This time around, she got to prove it, "calling the shots myself and letting myself go wherever I needed to go" at a point in time when she was a free agent without label or manager. But the song does also conclude that "Everybody here is traveling alone," a realization that places as much value on community as iconoclasm. And Merritt put together her "dream cast" of fellow travelers to play on Traveling Alone, which found its happy home at her new label, Yep Roc. The road less taken doesn't preclude good company.
The New Yorker has called Merritt "the bearer of a proud tradition of distaff country soul that reaches back to artists like Dusty Springfield and Bobbie Gentry," a standard upholding that got underway in earnest with Bramble Rose, the 2002 solo debut that put her on the Americana map forever. As her sophomore album, Tambourine, was followed by Another Country and See You on the Moon, Merritt found acclaim coming not just from critics and awards orgs but her own heroes, like Emmylou Harris, who marveled that Merritt "stood out like a diamond in a coal patch." Now a leading lady in her own right, Merritt is hardly one to hog the spotlight. She engages in dialogue with fellow artists of all disciplines on her public radio broadcast and podcast "The Spark With Tift Merritt," bringing in fellow sojourners ranging from Patty Griffin and Rosanne Cash to Rick Moody and Nick Hornby (who devoted a chapter to Merritt in his 31 Songs book).
For Traveling Alone, Merritt knew-and got-exactly the journeymen she wanted with her on this 11-track trip: legendary guitarist Marc Ribot, Calexico drummer John Convertino, steel player extraordinaire Eric Heywood, acclaimed jazz and rock multi-instrumentalist Rob Burger, and longtime cohort Jay Brown on bass. As captured by producer Tucker Martine (known for working with the Decemberists, and one of Paste magazine's "10 Best Producers of the Decade") and mixed by three-time Grammy-winning engineer Ryan Freeland, the sound is both spare and luxurious. "Maybe I was bored with bells and whistles and wanted to go without them. It might have been that I didn't have enough money for bells and whistles," she quips. "But once you get in that sweet spot where things feel real and right, you just want to burrow down in that feeling. Nothing to hide behind, no distractions, no sense trying to be everything to everybody. There's a beautiful economy of motion in that place." Who wouldn't want to tag along?
Recently anointed as Boston’s Americana Artist of the Year (2010 Boston Music Awards), the David Wax Museum has been called “one of Boston’s hottest new bands” (Boston Globe) and “a revelation” (Providence Journal). It is no surprise that their acclaimed performance at the 2010 Newport Folk Festival was hailed as one of NPR’s All Songs Considered Highlights of the entire weekend. The Museum’s ability to fuse traditional Mexican folk with country, folk and rock, creating an utterly unique Mexo-Americana aesthetic, is what generates its contemporary sound and its broad appeal. Combining Latin rhythms, call-and-response hollering, accordion pumping and donkey jawbone rattling, they have electrified audiences across the country. And they’ve just gotten started.
David Wax's circuitous journey from mid-Missouri to the back roads of Mexico inspires the Museum’s blend of traditional Mexican and American folk music. While attending Deep Springs College, an unconventional school that doubles as a cattle ranch, David spent his summers working in rural Mexico with the American Friends Service Committee. He finished his degree at Harvard University before heading back to the Mexican countryside to study its rich folk music tradition on a year-long fellowship. It was there that he first began blending Midwestern folk with the instruments, rhythms, lyrical themes and song structures of son mexicano.
Homeschooled by her father on a small farm in rural Virginia, Suz Slezak was reared on music -- traditional Irish, classical, old-time folk. She graduated from Wellesley College, traveled around the world on a Watson Fellowship to study textiles, and then found herself back in Boston where she met David Wax, recently returned from his Mexican travels. He convinced her to track down a donkey jawbone, a traditional percussion instrument from Veracruz, and join his band. Suz is the Museum’s anchor to American roots music and helps fashion its distinctive sound with her fiddling and harmony vocals. Since 2007, David and Suz have formed the core of the Museum.
David Wax Museum’s ascent has been a steady one. The band now consistently sells out historic venues such as Boston's Club Passim, often performing two shows in a single night due to heightened demand. The Museum is closely associated with many of the most innovative Americana bands active today, having toured nationally with the Avett Brothers and the Old 97’s and having shared bills with such acts as Carolina Chocolate Drops, Langhorne Slim, Ben Kweller, The Low Anthem, and Nathaniel Rateliff. In addition to packing clubs and theatres across the country and touring with national acts, David Wax Museum has been causing a ruckus in living rooms and backyards throughout the country. In these unique settings, the band's fiery and heart-wrenching shows have created an undeniable buzz and a devoted following.
The David Wax Museum’s exposure is not limited to its performances. The Museum receives consistent play on XM Sirius Radio's Acoustic Coffeehouse and on numerous radio stations in the Northeast. The Boston Globe selected the band’s second album, Carpenter Bird, for its top 10 local albums of 2009. The band is featured semi-regularly on NPR, having been spotlighted on a segment about Mexico-centric indie rock and, more recently, as a favorite act of the 2010 Newport Folk Festival. A new album, Everything Is Saved, is produced by Sam Kassirer (Josh Ritter, Langhorne Slim, Erin McKeown) and will be released February 3, 2011. Along the way, the David Wax Museum has had the good fortune to ally itself with a uniquely talented corps of musicians for recording and touring: David’s cousin Jordan Wax (People's Republic of Klezmerica) on accordion and piano, Mike Roberts (Wooden Dinosaur) on upright bass and electric guitar, Greg Glassman (The Sacred Shakers) on drum kit and requinto, Jiro Kokubu on mandolin and dobro, Alec Spiegleman (Cuddle Magic) on baritone sax and clarinet, Brian O'Neill on percussion and Sam D’Agostino on upright bass and tenor sax.