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'Misery' And The Old-Timey Futurism Of Odetta Hartman

May 14, 2018

Odetta Hartman's songs have a way of spraying ideas in every direction. Sometimes, they don't even feel like songs so much as fragments, interludes or brief, fleeting brainstorms — blurted phrases set against chopped-up bits of violin, banjo, samples and effects. The effect is of a kind of old-timey futurism, if that makes sense: She's a singer and multi-instrumentalist who collects field recordings and studies early folk music, while her partner and producer Jack Inslee works to maximize her songs' darkest and most unsettling qualities.

On August 10, Hartman will release a follow-up to her terrific 2015 debut, 222. Old Rockhounds Never Die is highlighted by a brisk and unpredictable murder ballad called "Misery," which marries a hypnotic banjo hook to copious gunshot noises en route to a dizzying, rampaging climax. Like so much of Odetta Hartman's music, it draws from many styles and eras at once, while sounding like nothing and no one else.

"Perhaps the earliest song I wrote on banjo, this murder ballad has haunted me since I first visited the New Mexican deserts," Hartman writes via email. "The jury is still out over who killed who, but one thing is certain: the only justice found is that which we serve ourselves."


Old Rockhounds Never Die comes out August 10 via Northern Spy and Memphis Industries.

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