An Intimate Evening with So BrownThis event took place Saturday, June 1st 2013
Join us in welcoming So Brown, now based in Brooklyn, New York, back to her native Alabama for an intimate evening of music at the Crescent Theater on June 1st at 8:30 PM.
So Brown saunters by on the sidewalk dressed unassumingly in an old suede bomber jacket, dark dungarees, and a fading gray army cap. Guitar in hand, you might mistake So for a rebellious teenage boy. But when So begins to play, sensually engrossed in ethereal song, you quickly realize: this is not child’s play, this is a highly developed, fully realized artist. And, in observing the audience, ladies rapt with yearning, there is a seductive magnetism at work that affects everyone present. From out past railway tracks and the forgotten rivers of rural Alabama, So Brown has emerged with haunting songs of love, women, nature, and death.
A gender-bending outcast from an early age, So believed she was a boy spirit trapped in a girl’s body, and trying to honor that spiritual reality in the Houston, Texas society she was raised in caused constant friction. While other children passed time playing together and learning their socially ordained gender roles, So was alone wandering in bayous, fishing, or chasing down animals and bugs. Themes of conflict between flesh and spirit and society appear in So’s work, yet as So says, it is not the point of the music. Rather, “My first priority is always making beautiful, moving music. I’m not a protest writer and I don’t have an agenda, I just love music that moves my being, and I try to be honest in how I deliver it…”
In 2004, So moved to Point Legere, a hidden peninsula outside Mobile, Alabama where her family has lived for four generations, and began penning the songs that would become the album of the same name on an old porch surrounded by tall pines and a brackish river. It would end up taking seven years until it was finished and in a tangible form. Why would anyone dedicate seven years of life to writing about a peninsula in Alabama? So replied, “I’m not sure it makes rational sense, but I have been obsessed with that place my entire life – the old barn, the smell of the pecan trees…It’s my great love, my lifeline.”
The tracks on the album appear in the order that they were conceived. They call on an immense pool of influences— from the refined classical aesthetic derived from her piano teacher mother to the ghosts of delta bluesmen like Skip James and Leadbelly. Part Gershwin and Stravinsky, part Muddy Waters, with some David Bowie androgyny thrown in for good measure. A penetratingly gifted guitarist and lyricist, So paints an almost Faulknerian portrait of the South, alternately sublime and brutal. The hard-hitting One by One, a sinister account of food and feeding, sits next to the beautiful Dauphin Island, a sweet, nostalgic childhood photo of a song about fishing with Grandpa on the barrier island off the coast of Alabama. That song was all the more relevant because Norah Jones and Sasha Dobson covered it in concert in Mobile, Alabama the very same night tar balls began washing ashore from the BP oil spill. And let’s not leave out the driving, freight-train push of Johnny Cash that pulses in songs like Bad Love. Hell, the animals themselves seem to have become arranged in the music: old tortoises and owls, crabs and coquinas, all the life of the Gulf Coast wrapped up into a song . And ultimately there are the relationships and the women; bold and lusty, but plagued by hidden psychological forces, and thus doomed.
In 2009, So Brown left the hermetic peninsula for Brooklyn and found the extended musical family that would help record the album. Bryce Goggin signed on as co-producer, an appropriate fit having worked with Anthony and the Johnsons, and Joan as Policewoman. In keeping with the sound and legacy of so many of the artists who had inspired her, it was important to So to record the album live to analog tape (she didn’t even wear headphones for most of the recording). So began assembling a team of musicians who were technically brilliant but also sensitive enough to honor the vulnerability of her music. In the end there would be an all-star cast of 14 musicians appearing on the album. Friends Norah Jones and Sasha Dobson appear alongside legends of the NY country (Jim Campilongo of the Little Willies), jazz (Adam Levy and Tony Scherr) and art rock world (Doug Wieselman). The stars aligned and every one was in town, and they spent one week recording at Trout Studios in Park Slope.
Far from the little house on the river, So Brown lives in Brooklyn now. A life that was mostly solitary and sedentary is now filled with people and is lived mostly on the move. Point Legere is complete, and the word is getting out. Adam Levy tweeted “So’s new ‘Point Legere’ is the best record I’ve heard so far this year,” and tours are in the works for both North and South or the Mason-Dixon line, and beyond. So’s mission: “It’s time to share the hidden secrets and hidden loves of my youth; I put it all into this album.” And thus a little unknown pocket of Alabama is introduced to a world that has no idea it exists, as So takes a place alongside the great American songwriters. The music is bold, sensual and mesmerizing; by all means, experience it, and of course keep a sharp eye on your woman.