Until I Uproot and Walk Again by Twin Cities band the Poor Nobodys sees its CD release at the Cedar Cultural Center this Saturday, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone if the place is packed. The group have received good press, have another recording (the successful EP The Poor Nobodys) under their belt, and thoroughly engage with a sound borne of rustic grace and ingenious inspiration.
“Canary,” despite being overproduced with gimmicky effects on Jenna Wyse’s voice, works, a Zorba-the-Greek-sounding marvel of melodic songwriting matched to crystal clear, artful phrasing. The lyrics are solid, inspired by ancient days when coal miners took caged canaries down in to the mountain with them. If the little bird dropped dead, the men knew poisonous gas was leaking out of the ground and they had to get back above ground to fresh air while the getting was still good. “You could’ve had me at your dying side/ A coffin made of Kentucky pine/ But you lose your grave and you lose your bride/ You’re not coming out of that mine alive/ That mine’s a devil, she’s a curse/ She took my lover and she left him thirsty for a/ Pocket of gold or a lump of coal/ And if it kills him, Devil take his soul.”
The blues-tinged “No Disassemble” is state-of-the-art classic jazz. It’s evident that Wyse has listened closely to a Billie Holiday recording or two. Not that she is at all derivative. Indeed, with an amazing range that brandishes aria quality, Jenna Wyse stakes a claim to unique artistry. She makes a stylistic mark all her own with shaded tones and bending notes, fluid as water. The cut features more of her hand at sardonic poetry as well. “Star! Make a wish on me!/ Fling it fast past flying debris/ If I burn out see that I safely land/ And pry your wish from my rigid hand/ Oh! The Earth suits you well! (so well) Here’s my hell.”
The band comrises Wyse, Chris Hepola (piano, accordion, melodica), Eric Struve (bass), Chris Becknell (violin), Aaron Cantine (banjo, guitar), Chris Duba (mandolin), and Brandon Hepola (guitar), an ensemble of fine musicians who take the folk music genre to wondrously strange places with eclectic influences making for fascinating arrangements. In short, this album is an adventure, an extraordinary accomplishment. After you finish listening to this remarkable sophomore disc, you’ll likely find yourself on your way to the record store to get your hands on the Poor Nobodys’ first release.