May 16, 2023
7:30pm (doors), 8:00pm (performance)
Josephine Foster with special guest Louise Landes Levi + Gray/Smith
Brooklyn, NY 11249
Breathing new life into archaic forms, Josephine Foster channels the history of recorded music to create a strange, distorted likeness of folk song in the present. Rife with the sounds of other times and places, the Colorado-born artist’s discordant melodics bear witness to the more mellifluous traditions of the past, variously channeling Tin Pan Alley, several eras of American and British folk, blues, and opera. Trained as an opera singer in her youth, Foster honed her performance style by singing in a funeral parlor, which she likened to a rock club—backstage was simply where they kept the body before the performance. Her mezzo-soprano vibrato is delicate yet spacious, as if her voice embodies the flickering light of a candle that refuses to burn out. Her records foster a sense of the miraculous, each listening session containing the warmth and mystery of a 78 played on an old Victrola. A song is words with music, and Foster’s spare, haunted songwriting reaches toward piety, benevolence, magic, and the arcane. Throughout her new solo LP, Domestic Sphere, her floating, electric voice dips up and down, theremin-like, accompanied by spare guitar and the evanescent, eerie sounds of animals, insects, and birds, suspended in the fleeting moment that follows after the past is gone.
As the duo Gray/Smith, drummer Rob Smith of Rhyton and Pigeons and guitarist-vocalist Keith Connolly a.k.a. L. Gray of No Neck Blues Band tap into New York’s psychic reservoir of folk music and draw out sparse, intimate melodies redolent of mid-century Americana. Their self-titled, self-released debut album, recorded under extraordinary circumstances at Gary’s Electric studios at the beginning of 2021, documents Connolly and Smith’s experiments in unfurling layers of composition—both their own and those of their heroes, Ronnie Milsap and Sonny Curtis among them—while remaining true to the melancholy emotional tenor of their mutual inspirations. On both electric and acoustic guitar, Connolly lollygags and hopscotches; on drums, Smith plays wistfully and with precision. Gray/Smith’s sound approaches the Grateful Dead by way of English band Free, distilling country classics with a knowing minimalism.
Louise Landes Levi has translated the work of Henri Michaux and Indian mystic Mira Bai (for whose Sweet on My Lips La Monte Young wrote the introduction). Levi is responsible for the first English translation of René Daumal’s Rasa, or, Knowledge of the Self: Essays on Indian Aesthetics (New Directions, 1982). She has published over a dozen books of her poetry, most recently Crazy Louise (or La Conversazione Sacra), a series of poems examining sexual trauma from the perspective of an initiate, delineating an alternative interpretation of lunacy to reclaim the notion of the feminine hysterical from its subordinate and abusive occidental role.
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