Newgrass Mamma’s Marmalade quartet wastes no time jumping headlong into an American tribute to their latest, Analog Rabbit.
The record draws on the acoustic traditions of the Appalachians and the Ozarks while tapping into a sound that is both familiar and refreshing, mixing soundscapes of steel strings with a slightly more pop melody.
Taking turns writing in a New Orleans rental home, a minibus crossing the Ozarks, and a drafty Massachusetts garage in the middle of a spring lockdown, Analog Rabbit is imbued with the euphoria of travel and discovery, and the emotional encounters that accompany it. With the lyrics and arrangements done and dusted off, the band headed to Sleeper Cave Records, a recording studio – built in a historic mill in Haydenville, MA – to follow.
With the release of the album, the band sat down to write one track by track of their inspiration.
Click play and read along. If you dig into what you hear, consider supporting the group.
Our dear friend Ali Telemsani wrote Chicopée Child, a ballad with an energetic and catchy melody, and we are so grateful to him that he lent it to us to record it. We were drawn to the story of adventures and outlaws told from the first person perspective of a female character, a rarity in bluegrass music. We had a lot of fun creating instrumental solos within its sinuous and expansive chord progression. After tracking was complete we felt this trail needed a little extra ‘grassy’ feature. Luckily, Lily’s partner Max Wareham is a world-class banjo player and was kind enough to add the missing ingredient that brought the song home.
Written in the depths of my forties, Small hometown talks about the tension of wanting to come home when your home no longer exists; the feeling of being detached, adrift and deeply alone – that feeling musically interpreted by a steel pedal guitar, masterfully played by Rebecca Branson-Jones. As the lyrics unfolded and we thought more about the concept of calling New England our home, the focus of the song shifted to recognizing the Indigenous people who ruled this land long before it was born. arrival of the settlers. Their experiences of displacement (and worse) have been passed down through countless generations, and we want everyone who hears this song to be aware of the current struggle to cede land to these nations. Here are some resources to check out: https://nolumbekaproject.org/ https://landback.org/ https://www.stopline3.org/
Don’t call me alone
It was remarkable how effortlessly this song came together, the hook and verse are so catchy. This song ended up having great free-form energy, especially the instrumental bridge, where we explored harmonic modulation and extended our improvisation with other genre influences (jazz, pop, progressive rock). Throughout, the narrator insists that their loneliness suits them perfectly although it is misinterpreted as loneliness; a validation of the fact that the time spent in introversion is precious, even if it is the imposed isolation of quarantine.
This issue by Hoyt Axton and Kenneth Higginbotham features the best of the country from the ’70s. At this point in the album, the listener is probably aware that we love a beautiful melody, a gripping story and surprising chord progressions, that this song delivers in spades. Dan Bisson (bass) has created the perfect combination of structure and space, Sean Davis (guitar) strumming inner steel-string cowboy really shines on his solo, and Mitch Bordage on mandolin joined by Lily Sexton on violin extend harmonies of sparkling strings on the mix, like a dome of stars in the West. Rebecca Branson-Jones joined us on this track on pedal steel, completing the backdrop of a vast desert that stands between two lovers.
We went to New Orleans in January 2020 for the Folk Alliance International Conference, playing and seeing new cities along the way. Each place brought a new adventure and with it a chance to explore a new slice of life. So when we reached our destination and rested in our Air BnB, Louisiana was born from this feeling of opportunity. The song features a bowed bass, weeping steel pedal, and interwoven violin ornaments on a panoramic guitar part. It develops across a dramatic bridge that comes to a point when the character in the song turns to reflect on the familiarity that has been left behind.
One-ride pony is our best attempt at a real pop song, and creating this track was so much fun! The writing of the lyrics started with the idiom “one trick pony”, which sounded good. The bouncy, dance-able mind of this melody is incredibly fun to create on acoustic instruments. Sean’s ability to incorporate elements of funk into his rhythmic playing pairs perfectly with Dan’s dynamic basslines, with Mitch’s catchy groove on the mandolin pushing the tempo of the song up.
Concert last night
Being a woman in music (especially bluegrass / Americana) can be a varied thing. Sweet, victorious moments can be offset by a feeling of condescension, alienation, underestimation, or invisibility. What started as reflections on those experiences expanded to understand that feeling mistreated can lead to inadvertently treating others in this way. The dark and ample web of the minor tonality pulls the listener into this dream of self-realization.
Waltzing with a big strut is Potion. The chords and melody of this song are catchy, fast and psychedelic, reflecting the confidence present in the lyrics. In a nod to the ancient myth of Icarus, Potion then change your tone for a gentle reminder to stay humble as you aspire to the higher goals you set for yourself. Sean and Mitch worked on putting the chord progression and melody together and once Dan added the bass part the song was groove. Lily, typically, wrote tasteful violin lines and harmonies that elevated the song and gave it a thin layer of polish. As one of the more rock and roll songs on the album, we took the opportunity to experiment and added a little slide guitar to bring it home.
Analog Rabbit is one of our more adventurous tracks and the namesake of the album. The only instrumental of the album, its form evolves more with the rupture of each member of the group. Although the different parts are distinct from each other, there are common themes in the melody that persist and hold the song together. Considering our choice to follow this in one take, it was challenging but ultimately rewarding, spanning two sessions. Bluegrass fans may recognize that the song / album title is a play on words, referring to the classic number “Rabbit in a log (feast here tonight ” (we know… it’s hilarious).
Keep talking to me
The origins of this song go back years, to a freezing January night when Lily was the only one to witness a near-fatal hit and run. Eighteen years old at the time, Lily waited for help to arrive for the victim as she tried to encourage him to stay conscious by talking to him. This song is the treatment of a traumatic event and the recognition that the only path to healing for humanity is our ability to connect. Max Wareham contributed piano and organ to this track, which bubbles through the bridge before arriving at a final hymn to complete the song.