Collective Concerts Presents
Tomberlin, Keegan Trumpour
12 Clinton St.
Toronto, ON, M6J 2N8
Doors 8:00 PM
This event is 19 and over
On Valley Maker’s second full-length album, Rhododendron, songwriter Austin Crane sings about movement – from one kind of belief to another, from place to place, through time. This new record from Crane, a Seattle-based musician and PhD student in Human Geography, reflects both the rootedness and rootlessness that shapes his songwriting on the precipice of his third decade. Like his noted inspirations Jason Molina, Bill Fay, and Gillian Welch before him, he speaks to the strange and transitory ways we mark time through our lives. Years pass and fold in his cosmic American songs.
Crane formed Valley Maker in 2010 with a self-titled collection of songs written for his undergrad thesis project at the University of South Carolina, tracing existential questions around biblical origin narratives, as embedded in his spiritually-infused Southern upbringing. Similar themes shade his vision on Rhododendron, which follows 2015’s When I Was A Child. Prophetic and apocalyptic language shapes Crane’s lyrics, but his outlook is not bound by dogma. Instead, he uses the metaphors of faith to explore the ineffable and to navigate the intersection of belief, time, place, and the political present. Much of the album was written leading up to the 2016 US presidential election and in the months after as Crane was traveling for his PhD research on migration, borders, and humanitarianism. Tellingly, it grapples with what it means to share space with others as popular political discourses veer towards exclusion.
Named for the common plant which springs up in both Crane’s native south and his current home in Washington, Rhododendron speaks to how the places and moments we occupy become reflections of ourselves. In his careful, open-hearted songs, characters move from place to place, traveling through time and over lines on maps, driven to encounter the mysteries of existence and glimpse shared humanity. Though lyrically contemplative, the music floats. Crane’s songs retain their folk-based nature – they are the kind of songs that stand on their own with his lone voice and guitar – but they bloom paired with surprising rhythms and arrangements.
The album was recorded between two locales. In Portland, Oregon, Crane teamed with producer/engineer
Chaz Bear of Toro Y Moi. Longtime friends and schoolmates from the University of South Carolina,
Bear and Crane laid the groundwork for the record over four days, playing all instruments in tracking four songs between themselves. The record’s remaining songs were tracked in Seattle, Washington with producer/engineer Trevor Spencer (Father John Misty, Fleet Foxes). Having worked together on Valley Maker’s previous release, Spencer and Crane’s Rhododendron sessions aimed for imaginative, groove- oriented arrangements that remain concisely in step with the individual songs’ qualities, enlisting
drummer James Barone (Beach House, Tennis) and bassist Eli Thomson (Father John Misty), along with
Brandon Camarda on trumpet, and Andrew Swanson on saxophone. Amy Fitchette, a longtime collaborator whose roots with Valley Maker stretch back to the Southeast, provides richly layered vocal harmonies across the album to round out Rhododendron’s lush but spacious sound.
From the streamlined indie rock of opener “A Couple Days” to the swirling psychedelia of “Be Born Today,” from the soulful horns of “Rise Up” to the ambient touches of closer “River Bend My Mind,” the album demonstrates Crane’s distilled approach, his solidly built songs blooming with tasteful arrangements and touches. Out October 12, 2018 on Frenchkiss Records, Rhododendron is an album
about transition, about leaving, but also arriving, a document of the journeys in-between.
On her deeply moving debut album At Weddings, Sarah Beth Tomberlin writes with the clarity and wisdom of an artist well beyond her years. Like Julien Baker and Sufjan Stevens, she has a knack for transforming the personal into parable. Like Grouper, she has a feel for the transcendent within the ordinary. Born in Jacksonville, Florida, and now based in Louisville, Kentucky, Tomberlin wrote most of At Weddings while living with her family in southern Illinois during her late teens and early twenties. The daughter of a Baptist pastor, Tomberlin found herself questioning not only her faith, but her identity, her purpose, and her place in the world. In songwriting, she found relief and lucidity she had trouble articulating otherwise. When she was 19, she wrote "Tornado" on her parents' piano, and began to gain confidence in her music. A year later, Tomberlin had enough songs to fill an album. Throughout At Weddings, Tomberlin's lyrics yearn for stability and belonging, a near-universal desire among young people learning to define themselves on their own terms for the first time. The songwriter cites the hymns she grew up singing in church as her greatest musical influence, and while At Weddings in many ways documents the unlearning of her childhood faith, it's easy to hear the devotional quality of sacred music in her songs. The album is laden with reverence for music itself, for the power it has to heal and help people navigate their lives. It is a record about learning to love oneself and others without reservation, from a place of deep sincerity —a lifelong challenge whose tribulations Tomberlin articulates beautifully. "My number one goal with my music is for honesty and transparency that helps other people find ways to exist," she says. With At Weddings, this remarkable young songwriter offers up comfort and wonder in equal measure.