w/ Cara Louise | 8.31.17 | Old Rock House, 1200 S. 7th Street | $17 advance, $20 day of show
Carbon Leaf has new music, and it will be coming out “sooner than later,” according to lead vocalist and penny whistle player Barry Privett. This might not seem shocking—a band that has been together 25 years could be expected to have some new music always in the works—but Carbon Leaf hasn’t released an album of new material since 2013’s Constellation Prize. When I got a chance to talk to Privett in the weeks before the band’s August 31st show at Old Rock House (with local musician Cara Louise opening), one of my most urgent questions was that, after spending three years re-recording three previously released albums, was it finally time for some new music? “Eventually,” was his initial reaction, followed quickly by, “We’ve got some things in the works and we’re working on stuff as we speak, but we’ll be making some announcements shortly.” Privett sounds excited about the new material, though he also had a lot to say about the past few years, which were spent re-recording 2004’s Indian Summer, 2006’s Love Loss Hope Repeat, and 2009’s Nothing Rhymes With Woman.
So why spend so much time re-recording? When the band left Vanguard Records in 2010, they retained ownership of the songs, but not the masters. They had the choice, though, to re-record the albums on their own, after being off the label for five years—so they did. The band opened up PledgeMusic campaigns for all three, starting with Indian Summer (re-released as Indian Summer Revisited). Far from being boring or tedious, Privett tells me, “It was a lot of fun.” With Indian Summer, which he accurately describes as “a classic album for the fans,” they had to find a way to keep the spirit of the original album but “make sure the vibe and the sounds were there.” The goal, then, was to “improve on the performance and make it feel a little bit more organic and a little less put together in the studio.” The band succeeded—the new recording has the same heart as the original, but there’s an earthy depth that wasn’t there before. In some ways, the new recordings have more in common with their live shows, which are generally spirited affairs complete with the aforementioned pennywhistle and multiple sing-alongs.
Indian Summer Revisited was followed by Love Loss Hope Redux and Nothing Rhymes With Woman, which were changed to a greater degree, up to and including track order. The experience of going into the studio with the backing of PledgeMusic pledges instead of a record label was no doubt different. “You’re certainly more connected to who it’s going to be intended for,” said Privett. “When you’re on a label and you’re making a record, there’s all this talk about throwing it out to people who aren’t necessarily listening yet.” The decision to include the fans in the recording process lets the band know the music will be heard—people are willing to put their faith in the band and their vision, be it new music or re-recording previous albums.
New music and old will be present at the show here on August 31st, and it will be the band’s first show here in over two years. They took most of 2016 off from touring, a decision Privett doesn’t regret. After touring pretty nonstop for years, it was time for a break. “As you get older and everybody’s lives get a little more complicated, so having families and things like that,” makes planning tours harder. In fact, the band’s regular drummer, Jason Neal, hasn’t been going out on tour with the band this year. When I asked Privett about it, noting Neal’s absence from the promo poster, he assured me nothing was wrong, it’s just “Touring’s not for everyone all the time.”
Thankfully, though, the band appears to be reenergized and ready to enter back into touring while still preparing new music to release. Their show here will only be the second night on this leg of the 2017 tour, with a few weeks stretching out in front of them (including Kansas City on 9/16, and Chicago on 9/22), but if the past has served as any indication, the band will be as at home on the stage as they’ve ever been, bringing their mix of rock, folk, and bluegrass to an excited, expectant crowd who are clearly ready to help support whatever the band does next. | Teresa Montgomery