When faded photos come alive, voices of ghosts fill the ether to be ringing down the years – from The Great Depression to The Great Unknown.
The ’30s were the era of immense decline and immense mystique that brought forth immeasurable amount of music oozing out even of images such as Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother” which graces the cover of Andrew Durr’s debut album. It also lent its title to a stage production where the artist from Modesto played Kid Guitar before reworking old pieces he performed in front of audience for “Time Frame”: a reflection on the period when skies went black and light seemed to be a glimpse of heaven. Still, for all their gloom, these are songs of hope, if not glory of human spirit – that indomitable impetus to live and carry a tune no matter what.
Some of it became part of American psyche and turned into staples of folk repertoire, but Durr has found a way to make even the obvious likes of “Will The Circle Be Unbroken?” and “Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?” – the two ever-relevant inquiries – sound intimate and timeless, with just a right dose of theatricality thrown in. Alongside mellifluous “The Way You Look Tonight” which will blow blue-eyed crooners out of the water, there’s unexpected tenderness to the violin-adorned “Pennies From Heaven” that’s being reclaimed from a patinated past and given a new shine to share a smile with the lively wigout “Who’s Been Polishing The Sun” – a rockabilly prototype – while, dipped in ragtime thanks to the presence of piano, “Are You Making Any Money” is simultaneously playful and desperate.
“Hard Times Come Again No More” may tap into eternity by introducing otherworldly wooziness to traditional brace of acoustic guitar and harmonica, and female backing – the communal setting which would exudes warm support for any toil and trouble a person can encounter – yet it’s impossible to ignore deep darkness in “Pasture Of Plenty” whose solemn organ adds gravely gravity to Andrew’s funereal delivery and the tentative march transpiring from the mesmeric picture. The result is raw and unsettling, as is the eerie “Keep On The Sunny Side” – emotionally austere dirge housing desolate horrors – which could be beamed in straight from the Dustbowl, although “Life Is A Bowl Of Cherries” – helped with whistle and mouth sax – feels exhilarating.
This is the outlook that kept America great through the worst of times, and this is the perspective that must make it survive now.