Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Gothic Americana with The Victor Mourning #music
In the old days I might’ve borrowed a CD from a friend or, horror of horrors, have them record a tape. Nowadays all the really cool bands are lurking on websites like ReverbNation and Bandcamp, among others, and are easily accessible via Twitter and Facebook. And when I think back to the days when I used to root around books-per-kilo stores for foreign music magazines featuring music biz news at least a year out of date…
But getting back to The Victor Mourning, they’re really special, and an acoustic Gothic Folk or Dark Americana band that originally pulled together in Austin, Texas, in 2008. Stephen Lee Canner takes care of guitar and vocals, with Lynne Adele on guitjo and vocals, and Stefan Keydel on fiddle.
With regard to the group’s overall musical arrangement, Canner explains: “Our core instrumentation is guitar, guitjo (six-string banjo), and fiddle. Adele and I share two-part harmony vocals, which really is like another instrument in itself.
“Our last album featured a button accordion on one track, and I also play five-string banjo on the occasional tune.”
Although Canner and Adele have since moved to East Tennessee – which Canner names as the band’s spiritual home in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains – Keydel is still considered a part-time member.
Canner adds: “Keydel will still perform and record with us as distance and time permit. He recently flew in to record a few songs with us for an upcoming single and our next album. During that session we used a 19th-century reed organ to fill out the sound on one song. We’ll be looking for other folks to play with here in Tennessee as well. We’re very open to expanding the instrumentation as we meet other kindred musicians here: accordion, percussion, even cello.”
Canner himself lays claim to a musical legacy that infused his background that now finds expression through The Victor Mourning. He says: “I come from a long line of southern mountain people, and music has always been a big part of that culture. The music of the southern mountaineers often focuses on death, longing, sadness and tragedy, which were all part of everyday life in the days when that music developed. In my earlier days, I would write songs to fit whatever band I was in at the time (post-punk, 1960s garage, glam), but when I was home alone just working on my own ideas, I would write these plaintive mountain-flavoured tunes. In time I realised that these dark little acoustic songs just fell out of me naturally. They are in a literal sense a part of who I am. So it’s not so much about loving a particular style of music, it’s about having no choice in the matter.”
Canner says people from all walks of life responded to The Victor Mourning from their very first shows. “We get everyone from young hipsters to senior citizens coming up to us after a show, buying merchandise and being very enthusiastic about what we do. For some reason our song Zachariah is very popular with the pre-teens.
“In contrast, the person who books the acts for the waiting area at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport told us, ‘As you seem to focus on the darker side, I do not feel comfortable presenting you to our travellers.’ We took that as a huge compliment, of course. At a show in West Virginia an audience member told us that after seeing us he needed to see his therapist.
“Personally, though, I think our material is dark in that subtle, atmospheric way that much 19th-century Gothic literature is dark. It’s the darkness of an eerie old folk tale or a patch of woods with a legend attached. We don’t offer shock value, but we do offer mystery.”
Good news is that The Victor Mourning are laying down tracks for a new album. Canner says: “We’ve decided to take our time on this one in order to put out the very best product we can. I would expect that it will see the light of day by sometime next year.
“Before that happens, though, we have a vinyl 45 in the works. One side of the disc is Kill a Spider (Frankie Silver), an original of mine. The other is The Ballad of Frankie Silver, a traditional, 19th-century ballad. Both songs are based on the true story of Frankie Silver, who murdered her abusive husband in 1831 in western North Carolina, and was later hanged.”
Although the music business is in a state of flux, Canner remains optimistic. He concludes: “Writing and playing music are things we’ve always done and will always do. The times when the music at least pays for itself are nice, and the times when there’s a bit left over are even nicer. But regardless of economics, we’ll be playing music one way or another as long as we’re physically and mentally able.”
The Victor Mourning’s music is available at all iTunes stores, Amazon MP3 (both US and UK), eMusic, Napster, and also streams on |Spotify. CDs, T-shirts and The Victor Mourning Whiskey Soap can be ordered directly from the website: www.thevictormourning.com
This article initially appeared in the Sunday Independent Life supplement on Sunday, August 12, 2012.