words & photos by Dominick Mastrangelo
On an old bio page for Rhode Island's The Low Anthem, the last line reads, "The snowball gathers speed."
And in this winter of near-record snow perhaps there's no better way to describe the past year and the year ahead for the folk rock quartet. In recent days they played Letterman and a spot on WNYC's Soundcheck and capped it with a breathtaking performance at Jazz at Lincoln Center on Thursday night (1/13).
The band is already out in support of their upcoming release, Smart Flesh, due February 22nd via Nonesuch (tracklist below), and the unique venue and view that the Allen Room provides, overlooking Columbus Circle seemingly prompted the band to up their game just a bit more.
For their American Songbook set, a beautiful pump organ that was given to the band, was shipped from Providence just for the performance. It hovered over the much smaller pump organ the band usually plays during their shows. Lead singer Ben Knox Miller said it might be the only show they play with it due to the cost of moving such a large, fragile instrument from city to city. Miller's brother, Steve, came up to crank the organ on the couple songs it was used and after one song Miller thanked him for "performing that demeaning task."
The band said they worked during soundcheck to get the sound just right. Given how full songs like set-opener "For Those Who Write History Books" sounded or the snap of the drums on the unusually subdued cover, "Sally Where'd You Get Your Liquor From" or how hushed yet crisp the harmonies of "Ghost Woman Blues" (which they performed on Letterman) were, the extra effort to get the sound just so paid off.
When the band came out for their one-song encore, "This God Damn House," Miller asked everyone to ready their phones as he does almost every time they play the song. And in the instant toward the end of that melancholy song, when Miller whistled into his two cell phones, the audience's phones, set to speaker, crackled to life. Miller turned as he whistled and faced the massive windows and cityscape before him in a bit of wonder. Or perhaps because the sound of that haunting chirp echoing through the room resembled crickets - and that late-night country staple contrasted so starkly against the rushing city below.
UPDATE: The Low Anthem will return to NYC to play Bowery Ballroom on March 8th. Tickets are on sale.
More pictures from the NYC show, new album info, new video the Letterman video, and more dates, below...
the Low Anthem - Ghost Woman Blues
'Smart Flesh' Tracklist:
1. Ghost Woman Blues
2. Apothecary Love
3. Boeing 737
4. Love and Altar
5. Matter of Time
8. Hey, All you Hippies
9. I'll Take Out Your Ashes
10. Golden Cattle
11. Smart Flesh
'Smart Flesh' Limited Edition Bonus Tracks:
1. Maybe So
3. Dreams Can Chase You Down which (by Dan Lefkowitz)
The Low Anthem - 2011 Tour Dates
1/26 Los Angeles, CA @ The Wiltern (w/ Iron & Wine)
2/24 Washington, DC @ Sixth I Historic Synagogue
2/25 Philadelphia, PA @ First Unitarian Church
2/26 Pittsburgh, PA @ Brillobox
2/27 Charleston, WV @ Mountain Stage
2/28 Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall
3/2 Toronto, ON @ Great Hall
3/3 Montreal, QC @ Sala Rosa
3/4 Boston, MA @ Old South Church
3/5 North Adams, MA @ Mass MoCA
3/7 Portland, ME @ Space Gallery
3/8 New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom