There are local musicians, and there are local musicians. Friday night we were privileged to hear Daniel Machado lead The Restoration in an incredible performance of their new album Constance. The evening was so awesome that it deserves its own report.
The Restoration is a collection of talented musicians who play a variety of instruments. I’m not sure what genre fits them best; perhaps folk-rock? They incorporate older styles and skills into a modern musical landscape, blending the modern with the traditional.
What grabbed my attention about Constance several months ago was its back-history. Daniel was researching the history of his own hometown (Lexington) and was struck by the insidious racism that marked South Carolina’s history for a century (or more) after the Civil War. His research led to creative impulse, and this incredible album is the result.
The Columbia newspaper did a series of articles on the band and their historic/social project — I highly recommend them. The first one includes a lengthy interview with Daniel and the USC American Lit professor who helped him find literary voices from America’s racist past:
Restoring the past in hopes of a better future
Paste Magazine: 50 States Project (review)
Daniel Machado published two interesting articles on Scene SC while they were recording the album:
Part 1: Out of a Nashville Studio and into the Heart of Local Racism
Part 2: Smiling Faces, Beautiful Places, and Angry White Men
And you can watch the band’s short film about the use of shape-note singing in Constance
The Making of Constance
The CD release show was a great example of how music and performance and literature and art can all combine to communicate unified story. I felt like I was watching a living “Multi-Genre Project.” The release show band included additional musicians — our friends Steven & Collin; a cellist, a sax player, etc. If you hit The Restoration’s site you can hear some of the tracks, but the entire experience of sitting in the Trustus Theater and watching the music unfold live can’t really be reproduced in a recording studio. Sometimes the emotions behind the music get lost in the digitization. I still prefer the energy of a live show to a “perfect” CD.
(If you go listen, don’t miss “Constance.” That song will stick in your mind for days.)
I should mention that two interesting acts prepared us for the performance onslaught of The Restoration. The first were dancers from the Alternacirque dancers in Columbia. I don’t know what else to say other than “a displaced tribal belly dancer originally from New Orleans found herself in Columbia and opened a studio.” Lol. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen ….
Incredibly cool = getting to hear Riley Baugus play his Appalachian tunes in person. Riley is a world-famous banjo player and Appalachian mountain music man. He currently lives 10 minutes from Stevo in Winston-Salem (who promises me they’ll get to hang out soon, and I’m quite jealous). Riley gives you the history behind his tunes as he picks up the banjo or guitar or violin to transmit to us a tiny bit of America’s musical heritage. The modal melodies of the Appalachian tunes, the thumping rhythms, the lyrics/themes that suck your heart out through the sound of his raspy voice — that unmistakable blend of African and Irish/Scot/English and Native American — it takes me back to the PA mountains of my upbringing. I felt like someone had set a musical icon in front of me.
All this for $6. Ridiculous. I should mention too that the TRUSTUS Theatre is a really cool performance space! Black interior, uber-comfy seats, lots of leg room & places to put your snacks, a clear view of the stage. Thumbs up.
I bought the Constance book that accompanies The Restoration’s album, which includes lyrics and photos and the full short story which brings Daniel’s vision into focus. Holler if you want to borrow.
And if you want to hear The Restoration for yourself, they’re playing with Riley Baugus in Columbia at the end of May. Show dates/info are posted on their MySpace.