Jake Xerxes Fussell discusses the inspirations behind new LP ‘Good and Green Again’
Singer-songwriter Jake Xerxes Fussell just released a new album, Good and Green Again. Produced by James Elkington (who also plays on the album), it's a work of lush folk, gorgeous orchestration and rich lyrical imagery, and features appearances by Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Casey Toll, Libby Rodenbough, and Joe Westerlund. You can stream the whole thing below.
We talked to Jake about the influences behind Good and Green Again, which includes music, film, cooking shows and more. James gives insightful commentary for each of his picks and you can read that below.
Jake starts his Good and Green Again tour tonight in Chapel Hill, and dates include Brooklyn's Knitting Factory on January 26 with Allegra Krieger, and L.A.'s Gold Diggers on February 17 with Tom Brosseau. All dates are listed below.
Jake Xerxes Fussell - Inspirations Behind Good And Green Again
Through the Garden Gate: a Diary of the English Countryside
At the start of the pandemic I really got into watching British nature documentaries by this filmmaker named Stephen de Vere. His films are pleasant and slow-paced and beautifully shot. De Vere’s voiceover narrations have this minimal, dreamlike quality and the timbre of his voice is very soft and pleasing to the ear, like a softly played clarinet. He’ll make repeated early morning visits to one location on a creekbank at the edge of a meadow in hopes of catching a family of otters at play. But sometimes they’re not there, or they quickly scatter and disappear when he shows up, so he’ll start filming a nearby water vole instead. Then, because of his hypnotic way of luring you in, you get all invested in this vole and its daily activities and meanwhile you’ve forgotten all about the otters. I recommend “Through the Garden Gate: a Diary of the English Countryside.”
La Bottine Souriante
I love this French Canadian band called La Bottine Souriante. I’m told that their name means “The Smiling Boot.” Their records have a bright, shimmering wildness to them and somehow they always manage to make me feel good even though I can’t understand the lyrics because they’re in French. In their earlier days they played traditional Québécois music with fiddles and accordions and the sort of instrumentation you might expect from such a group, but as they progressed they expanded with more ornate arrangements, including horns, and some unexpected chord changes. This creative direction works particularly well, I think, on two albums of theirs: “Je Voudrais Changer d’Chapeau” (1988) and “La Mistrine” (1994). Here’s one from each of those records:
Jacques Pèpin’s “Cooking At Home”
The legendary French-American chef Jacques Pèpin’s “Cooking At Home” series of videos on the KQED YouTube channel are well worth the time. He’s a far cry from the pretentious celebrity macho chef culture that so dominates food documentary these days. He cooks quick pizzas on cheap flour tortillas and freezes bundles of old cilantro stems to shred into a pot of soup later. His delivery is confident but curious and funny. Sometimes he’ll carve a little swan out of an apple or turn a lemon into a tiny pig with toothpick legs. Why not?
Amanda Portales - "Mi Diccionario"
I listen to a lot of Huayno music. Maybe it's my favorite genre to listen to? I don't know. For those who are unfamiliar, Huayno (pronounced WHY-no) is generally recognized as the popular regional music of the working class people of the Peruvian highlands. That's my very unschooled definition of it at least. I've never been to Peru. I've just read a bunch of CD booklets about it. Anyway, I think Huayno is pretty different from the panpipes led stuff that you will sometimes hear at places like the mall, and my understanding is that type of music is sort of a crystallized Andean folk revival form that took off in the States some years back. Huayno music is different from that in that it seems to be everchanging in terms of its production approach and instrumentation. There are great instrument combos - like a harmonica and a baritone saxophone will be working the melody in unison while a harp and a synth snare are carrying the backbeat. If you are interested in learning more about Huayno music I recommend John Cohen's wonderful 1992 documentary "Dancing with the Incas." I also recommend watching this music video by Amanda Portales. The song is called "Mi Diccionario.”
Okay but what about music with no instruments at all? Sure! I adore the recordings of this Irish ballad collector and singer named Frank Harte. I get the sense that he was a real loveable character. I've read that he made his living as an architect by day and was a pub singer by night. Irish traditional music is such an intensely huge and varied world. I've enjoyed a lot of it but I'm by no means an expert or even very knowledgeable about all the regional styles and tunes. But I think this guy Frank Harte is one of the most expressive singers I've ever heard. He really puts you there in the scene, you know? He made a record on the famous Topic record label called "Dublin Street Songs" that is a wonderful collection of urban ballads and street cries from the city of Dublin. So many Irish narrative songs are pastoral in nature, and while I appreciate and enjoy that too, there's real immediacy and raucousness to Frank Harte's street songs. He's just so damn good at painting a scene with words, even if the words aren't his. That's not always a particularly easy thing to do. Here he is singing an old highway robber ballad, "Valentine O'Hara”:
I don't know much about the singer songwriter Tara Nevins. I met her many years ago backstage at a festival we were both playing in Taos, New Mexico, and she was friendly. I have a vague memory that she handed me a beer and a bag of cheetos. I could be totally mistaken about this. I do know that she was there with her band Donna The Buffalo - a group from upstate New York whose music I know little about. Recently I was looking at some video footage of some campsite old-time jams at the Mt Airy Fiddlers Convention back in the late '80s and early '90s. Tara Nevins shows up in a lot of this footage, as does this amazing fiddler named Greg Hooven as well as some well known people like Bruce Molsky. Anyway, this vintage Mt Airy footage led me to a video of Tara Nevins and another band she had called The Heartbeats playing a venue called "Joyce's Kegroom" in Jamestown, New York, in 1991. The song is called "Hollywood Dream" and it really slaps.
Jake Xerxes Fussell - 2022 Tour Dates
JAN 21 FRI - Nightlight Bar & Club @ 7:00pm - Rosali - Chapel Hill, NC, United States
JAN 22 SAT - The Camel @ 7:00pm - Deau EyesSaw Black - Richmond, VA, United States
JAN 23 SUN - Pie Shop @ 7:00pm - Sam Moss - Washington, DC, United States
JAN 25 TUE - PhilaMOCA @ 7:00pm - Purling Hiss - Philadelphia, PA, United States
JAN 26 WED - Knitting Factory Brooklyn @ 7:00pm - Allegra Krieger - Brooklyn, NY, United States
JAN 27 THU - Club Passim @ 7:00pm - Cambridge, MA, United States
JAN 28 FRI - Nova Arts @ 7:00pm - South Keene, NH, United States
JAN 29 SAT - Caffe Lena @ 7:00pm - Saratoga Springs, NY, United States
FEB 17 THU - Gold Diggers @ 7:00pm - Tom Brosseau - Los Angeles, CA, United States
FEB 19 SAT - McCabe's Guitar Shop @ 7:00pm - Tom Brosseau - Santa Monica, CA, United States
FEB 22 TUE - The Old Church @ 7:00pm - Tom Brosseau - Portland, OR, United States
FEB 23 WED - Fremont Abbey Arts Center @ 6:30pm - Tom Brosseau - Seattle, WA, United States
APR 29 FRI - Kilkenny Roots Festival 2022 @ 7:00pm - Kilkenny, Ireland
MAY 3 TUE - BelloBar @ 7:00pm - Dublin 8, Ireland
MAY 4 WED - Cathedral Quarter Belfast @ 7:00pm - Belfast, United Kingdom
MAY 6 FRI - Gullivers @ 7:00pm - Manchester, United Kingdom
MAY 7 SAT - Oslo Hackney @ 7:00pm - London, United Kingdom
MAY 8 SUN - The Glad Cafe C.I.C @ 7:00pm - Glasgow, United Kingdom
MAY 9 MON - The Fulford Arms @ 7:00pm - York, United Kingdom
MAY 11 WED - Tivoli Vredenburg @ 7:00pm - Utrecht, Netherlands
MAY 12 THU - Het Bos @ 7:00pm - Antwerpen, Belgium
MAY 13 FRI - Merleyn @ 7:00pm - Nijmegen, Netherlands
MAY 14 SAT - King Georg @ 7:00pm - Köln, Germany
MAY 16 MON - Aalhaus @ 7:00pm - Hamburg, Germany
MAY 17 TUE - Paradiso @ 7:00pm - Amsterdam, Netherlands