Thursday, June 20, 2024 
--archival-captured-cinematronic-continuity error-daily report-datastream-depth of field--
--drama-44.1 khz-gramophone-inquisitive-needle drops-picture book-twinklepop--
Neumu = Art + Music + Words
Search Neumu:  


edited by michael goldbergcontact

Tywanna Jo Baskette's Southern-Gothic Rock

Those who appreciate the eccentric yet endearing "outsider" recordings of such artists as Vic Chesnutt, Daniel Johnston and Victoria Williams will welcome the arrival of Tywanna Jo Baskette's debut, Fancy Blue. The album — whose songs feature a strong Southern-gothic mix of tragedy and comedy, all sung in a unique and deceptively childlike voice — will be released August 12 on producer Dennis Herring's Sweet Tea label.

Nashville-based Baskette is a provocative new artist born in the buckle of the Bible Belt, a place where churches compete in number with strip clubs for the public's attention. A large billboard greets visitors at the airport with "Welcome to Nashville. Home of the World's Largest Adult Book Store." This pious-vs.-pornographic juxtaposition seems oddly appropriate when considering Baskette, for she too embodies a strange duality — she is both stunning and spooky.

A former model who has appeared in over 50 music videos shot in the South, Baskette has been working on the periphery of the music business for a decade. In 1998, her then music-video director boyfriend began following her around their apartment with a tape recorder. He was trying to capture the impromptu tunes Baskette frequently whispered to herself. She calls these episodes of spontaneous singing "pass alongs," or "lost thoughts" — "songs" are the ones she can remember long enough to write down or record on her hand-held microcassette recorder.

Her history includes a startling number of tragic deaths, which she immortalizes and mourns in her music. Both her adoptive mother and father died of lung cancer, her best friend fell off a cliff, and her ballet teacher of 11 years hanged herself in front of the mirrors at the teacher's dance studio. Two first cousins are serving life sentences without parole for the murder of Grand Ole Opry performer David "Stringbean" Akeman (Bill Monroe's first banjo player) and his wife Estella. One gets the sense when speaking with Baskette that these traumatic incidents are just a part of her troubled life.

With the encouragement — "unbearably annoying prodding," she says — of her boyfriend, Baskette circulated a song demo around the Nashville music scene, eventually reaching producer Dennis Herring (Counting Crows, Cracker, Buddy Guy). "From the first listen, Ty's music has worked some kind of magic spell on me," Herring was quoted as saying in a recent press release about Baskette's album.

Herring signed Baskette to his new label, Sweet Tea Records, and partnered her with Mississippi musician and producer Clay Jones. When Jones first listened to her demo, he felt as if he had been handed the opportunity of a lifetime. "This is never going to happen to me again," Jones told Nashville's City Paper in 2001. "I'm never going to get a tape in the mail this good if I live for a long time. I'm never going to get the tape of a songwriter who is truly original. This girl is just way over the top, it completely freaked me out."

Together with engineer Ted Gainey and Herring, Jones helped Baskette craft a collection of 19 songs, each autobiographical and each harshly literal, sung from the mouth of what sounds like a shy and deeply troubled schoolgirl. A few of the tracks are essentially spoken-word pieces. Herring describes her style as "SO sad, and SO beautiful-innocently honest."

Though she sounds like a little girl, Baskette is actually 39 years old and not particularly innocent in the naïve or unsophisticated sense of the word. Her approach is matter-of-fact honest, sometimes brutally so. She writes about her life experience in a simple and straightforward style, closer to poetry than narrative. "I sing about what I know, and most of that is sad," she said recently, on the phone from Nashville, trying to explain her "quiet" sound.

When asked to explain one of Fancy Blue's songs, "Little Crazy Daisy," she said simply, "It's just really about a little daisy." "Everything Is Awful," she explained, is about the fact that "everything was awful at that moment" when she wrote the song. Like many artists she does her best to avoid explaining her songs, preferring to let them speak for her. "I think if people pay attention to the lyrics, that's all they really need to know," she told Nashville Scene in 2000.

She spends most of her time alone in her apartment, absorbed in the classics, her favorites written by authors of her native South. Her musical tastes run the same, with a special place in her heart for Dean Martin, who her mother loved listening to. Vic Chesnutt, Ron Sexsmith, Serge Gainsbourg, and M. Ward are a few of her contemporary favorites, and while she is aware of what's up with popular culture and music, she is not much of a fan. She prefers movies from the '50s and '60s, and country music from the same era. "Most of the artists I like and admire are dead," she said.

Baskette has not performed in public for almost two years, and is in no hurry to do so. "I'm terrified!" she said, confessing that she must wear clunky, heavy shoes on stage to keep her knees from rattling. That said, she does plan to tour once her album is released. "I guess I look forward to it," she said, sounding more resigned than enthusiastic.

Despite the depressive nature of her subject matter, melancholy Baskette has managed to diffuse her darkness with both the gentle grace and silly humor of a child. Her songs share with us her memories, at least the ones she has "caught." She sings about her confusion about the world, the details of her life, her (dead or lost) pets, her ubiquitous pain, and occasional joy. Like a precocious child, she whispers out loud things that are uncomfortable to hear. She said she writes about these sad subjects "because I have to get it out," and in doing so perhaps has found a way to cope with the specter of Death that has surrounded her; softly laying these memories to rest in a beautiful, musical place.

For more information, check out her label's Web site. — Nicole Cohen [Thursday, July 31, 2003]

Alejandro Escovedo's Joyous Rebirth

John Vanderslice Kicks Genre

Paul Duncan's Elusive Pop

Stephen Yerkey's Wandering Songs

French Kicks Complete 'Two Thousand'

Spazzy Romanticism: Love Story In Blood Red

Brain Surgeons NYC Rock The Big Questions

Jarboe's 'Men' Charts Turbulent Emotions

Delta 5's Edgy Post-Punk Resurrected

Blitzen Trapper Spiff Things Up

Minus Five: Booze, Betrayal, Bibles and Guns

New Compilation Spotlights Forgotten Folk Guitar Heroes

Chris Brokaw's Experiment In Pop

Old And New With Death Vessel

Silver Jews: Salvation And Redemption

Jana Hunter's Beautiful Doom

Vashti Bunyan Finds Her Voice Again

Nick Castro's Turkish Folk Delight

Katrina Hits New Orleans Musicians Hard

Paula Frazer's Eerie Beauty

The National Find Emotional Balance

Death Cab For Cutie's New Album, Tour

Heavy Trash's Rockabilly Rampage

Help The Wrens Get Their Albums Released!

Devendra Banhart, Andy Cabic Launch Label

Lydia Lunch's Noir Seductions

Bosque Brown's The Real Deal

PDX Pop Now! Fest Announces Lineup

Sarah Dougher Starts Women-Focused Label

Jennifer Gentle's Joyful Psyche

Mountain Goat Darnielle Gets Autobiographical With 'Sunset Tree'

Mia Doi Todd's Beautiful Collaboration

Return of the Gang of Four

Martha Wainwright Finds Her Voice

Brian Jonestown Massacre's Acid Joyride

Solo Disc Due From Pixies' Frank Black

Heartless Bastards' Big-Hearted Rock

Mike Watt's Midlife Journey

The Black Swans Balance Old And New

Nicolai Dunger's Swedish Blues

The Insomniacs' Hard-Edged Pop

Yo La Tengo Collection Due

Juana Molina's 'Homemade' Sound

Beans Evolves

Earlimart's Songs Of Loss

Devendra Banhart's 'Mosquito Drawings'

Negativland Rerelease 'Helter Stupid'

Alina Simone Transforms The Ordinary

Sounds From Nature: Laura Veirs

Octet's Fractured Electric Pop

Sleater-Kinney Working With Lips Producer

The Cult Of Silkworm

The Evolution Of The Concretes

Devendra Banhart's Exuberant New Songs

Catching Up With The Incredible String Band

Gram Rabbit's Desert Visions

Three Indie-Rock Stars Unite As Maritime

Remembering Johnny Ramone

Jarboe's Many Voices

Phil Elvrum's Long Hard Winter

First U.S. Release For Vashti Bunyan Album

Incredible String Band To Tour U.S.

New Music From Lydia Lunch

Le Tigre Protest The Bush War Presidency

Joel RL Phelps: Bleak Songs Rock Hard

Time Tripping With Galaxie 500

Patti Smith Wants Bush Out!

Sharron Kraus: A New Kind Of Folk Music

The Fiery Furnaces' Psychedelic Theater

Harder, Heavier Burning Brides

Sonic Youth's Ongoing Experiment

The Dt's Do It Their Way

Poster Children Cover Political Rock

Rare Thelonious Monk Recordings Due

Uneasy Pop From dios

Beck, Lips, Waits Cover Daniel Johnston

Understanding Franz Ferdinand

The Truly Amazing Joanna Newsom

Mylab's Boundary-Crossing Experiments In Sound

Have You Heard Jolie Holland Whistle?

The 'Magical Realism' Of Vetiver

The Restless, Rootsy Songs Of Eszter Balint

The Sun Sets On The Blasters

Devendra Banhart To Tour U.S.

The East/West Fusion Sounds Of Macha

Destroyer Gets Mellow For Your Blues

TV On The Radio Get Political

Sonic Youth, Modest Mouse To Play Lollapalooza 2004

New Music From The Fall

Apocalyptic Sound From The Intelligence

Fast And Rude With The Casual Dots

'Rejoicing' With Devendra Banhart

New Album, Tour From The Polyphonic Spree

Shearwater Take Wing

Sleater-Kinney To Tour East/West Coasts

Resurrecting Rocket From The Tombs

Visqueen Want To Get A Riot Goin' On

Lloyd Cole Makes A Commotion

Funkstörung's 'Cut-Up' Theory

Waiting For Mirah's C'mon Miracle

Electrelane Find Their Voice

The Television Is Still On!

Experimental Sounds From Hannah Marcus

The Ponys Play With Rayguns

Ex-Mono Men Leader Returns With The Dt's

Mountain Goats' Darnielle Adopts A More Hi-Fi Sound

Sun Kil Moon To Tour U.S., Europe

Nothin' But The Truth From The Von Bondies

Sultans Survive 'Shipwreck'

Sebadoh Reunite For Spring Tour

Xiu Xiu's 'Reality' Rock

Meet The Patients

Beth Orton, M. Ward Make Sadness Taste Sweet

Oneida's Pathway To Ecstasy

Radiohead, Pixies, Dizzee Rascal To Play Coachella

Young People Tour Behind War Prayers

Pixies Tour Dates Announced

Ani DiFranco Tells It Like It Is

Deerhoof Back For 2004 With Milkman

McLusky Set To 'Bring On The Big Guitars' Again

Pixies Reunite For U.S., European Tours

American Music Club, Decemberists To Play NoisePop 2004

Damien Rice Set To Tour U.S.

The Frames Accept Your Love

Punk Rock's A-Frames To Re-Record Third Album

Finally! Mission Of Burma Record New Album

A Solo Detour For Ladybug Transistor's Sasha Bell

Return Of The Old 97's

Spending The Night With Damien Rice

Tindersticks Reissues Due This Spring

The Evolution Of 'A Silver Mt. Zion'

Neil Young Rocks Australia With 'Greendale'

Poster Children Back In Action

'The Great Cat Power Disaster Of 2003'

Chicks On Speed's Subversive Strategies

Oranger At A Crossroad

Peaches On Tour And In Control

Jawbreaker's Complete Dear You Sessions To Be Released

Belle & Sebastian + Trevor Horn = Sunny Pop Nirvana

Von Bondies' Pawn Shoppe Heart

Descendents Are Back!

Modest Mouse Touring; Album Due in 2004

London Suede Take A (Permanent?) Break

Saul Williams Wants You To Think For Yourself

The 'Zen' Sound Of Calexico

Elliott Smith Dead AT 34

Debut Due From Mark Kozelek's Sun Kil Moon

The Hunches: Music That'll 'Fucking Live Forever'

Vic Chesnutt Speaks His Mind

90 Day Men Cancel Tour

Keith Jarrett, Cecil Taylor Highlight SF Jazz Festival

For My Morning Jacket, It's The Music That Matters

EP Due From The Polyphonic Spree

Bright Eyes, Neva Dinova Collaborate On EP

The Rise & Fall & Rise Of Ben Lee

Catching Up With Cheerfully Defiant Tricky

Hanging Around With The Polyphonic Spree

Sophomore Album Due From The Shins

Noise Rock From Iceland's Singapore Sling

Death Cab To Tour U.S.

Rufus Wainwright's Want One Is 'Family Affair'

Death Cab's Transatlanticism On The Way

Heartfelt Rock From Sweden's Last Days Of April

The Minus 5 Get Down With Wilco

Tywanna Jo Baskette's Southern-Gothic Rock

Xiu Xiu's Stewart Takes On 'Gay-bashing'

Portishead Producer Resurfaces Behind New Diva

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Wire, Primal Scream On Buddyhead Comp

Yeah Yeah Yeahs To Tour West Coast

Sonic Youth, Erase Errata Kick Off 'Buddy Series'

The Locust Are One Scary Band

Damien Rice In The 'Here And Now'

Remembering Karp's Scott Jernigan

ATP-NY Postponed 'Til At Least 2004

The Soul Of Chris Lee

Gits' Frenching The Bully To See Re-Release

Stephen Malkmus Is In Control

Superchunk To Release Rarities Set; Teenage Girls To Swoon As A Result

Summer Touring For The Gossip

Babbling On About Deerhoof

Irish Song Poet Damien Rice's O Released In U.S.

Chatting With ATP's Barry Hogan

Former Digable Planets Frontman Surfaces With Cherrywine

ATP L.A. Festival Rescheduled For Fall

Freakwater's Janet Bean Takes A Solo Turn

Lee's 'Cool Rock'

Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs Highlight YES NEW YORK

Mark Romanek's 'Hurt' Revives Johnny Cash's Career

The Rapture's Post-Punk, Post-Dance Sound

R.E.M., Wilco, Modest Mouse Highlight Bumbershoot Fest

Set Fires To Flames' Sleep-Deprivation Sound

Southern Gothic Past Shadows Verbena's La Musica Negra

The Subtle Evolution Of Yo La Tengo

Spring Tour For Jolie Holland (Plus A Live Album)

Liz Phair Still Pushing The Limits

Gold Chains Wants You To Dance And Think

Young People's War Prayers On The Way

peruse archival

-snippetcontactsnippetcontributorssnippetvisionsnippethelpsnippetcopyrightsnippetlegalsnippetterms of usesnippetThis site is Copyright © 2003 Insider One LLC