With most of us home full-time now, it’s fortuitous that Sarah Siskind is releasing a musical tale of discovery of her home this week. Entitled Modern Appalachia, it weaves together lyrical musings of her recent mountainous lifestyle and fusion jazz instrumental influences. All of it gels into an autological definition of modern Appalachia.
Several songs on the album document realizations Siskind had in the process of moving from Nashville back to her ancestral home in North Carolina. Porchlight, featuring Bill Frisell on guitar, explains to a former love that doesn’t understand; this is my home now. She hopes they’ll make the trip, but knows deep down they won’t. Carolina notes that while you aren’t where you’re from, there are a lot of resemblances. Punk Rock Girl, as much about attitude as music, has Siskind letting us know, “I used to be a punk rock girl..now I’m just a folk fatale.”
Some of the songs inject some of the spirituality that’s part of everyday life in that part of the country. Rest In the River turns the journey to everyday prayer into a gospel march to the water that cleans away your problems. In the Mountains is a kind of new age honky-tonk waltz about where you can let your burdens go. Musically, the outlier on the record is A Little Bit Troubled. It’s straight ahead rock and roll, with a jangly guitar and driving beat that would have made Tom Petty proud.
What kept bringing me back to Modern Appalachia again and again was the sonics of jazzy, progressive rock guitars. But then you top that with some profound and insightful lyrics and maybe this kind of art is what people should think of as the product of the Virginia and Carolina mountains, not coal. Either way, it’s a musical exploration that has many of the same roots as Twangville.
About the author: I’ve actually driven from Tehatchapee to Tonopah. And I’ve seen Dallas from a DC-9 at night.