Reality Check with KT: Red Cedars give a beautiful voice to the winter blues with their first release; Bottom Side of Blue.
Red Cedars; Dinah Devoto and Patrick Kennedy have been making some beautiful noise in the Cincinnati Scene for about six years. They recently, very quietly, released their debut album, Bottom Side of Blue. We all know what a hard winter we had this past year, hell some of us are still thawing out, winter is such a profound time for reflection and oft times getting in touch with our lows and the dark places we are pushed to keep hidden. This album is the outcome (and in my opinion—the joyous result) of that dark season.
Check out these great photos of Red Cedars by KP Photography!
From start to finish this album pulls you in. The first track (which was written for Mark Utley’s pet project, Music For The Mountains) “Mountain That Eats Men” was inspired by the story of a mountain in Bolivia that has been mined so much it caves in on the workers. It’s dark, and an ugly refection of the results of greed and excess that plagues our world all too often, wrapped in beautiful harmonies and a melody that clips along, like humans tend to. “I swore to my dad I’d never work there/but here I stand breathing this foul air/from that mine/ down in that mine/This mine it killed my grandpa it's dust killed my dad/I can't believe I'm still down here, It's like I'm already dead/From that mine, down in that mine/I lost my soul, I'm gonna die, down in that mine.” These are honest tunes about the ebbs and flows of relationships, feelings of isolation, feelings of doubt and the highs and lows of life itself. I think people are so sick of contrived, shiny, music. I know I certainly am. I can’t take it at all. It has nothing to do with the life I live, the work I do, the struggles and joys of the day to day. This album fills up the desire for truth and, in the way folk music has always done, paints a sonic picture about life as it really is.
Pat and Dinah have those special harmonies that blend so well, but each voice stands out on its own. Pat’s guitar picking is so tasteful, interesting but not just busy for the sake of busy. I asked Pat and Dinah about their writing process. (What a lovely way to interview musicians, on a dock, by the river, with ducks swimming nearby and fish jumping.) I really enjoyed talking with these folks and I think their genuine nature and openness was a nice reprieve from the way people can be. For Pat and Dinah, the music seamlessly reflects them; who they are as people, who they are as a couple negotiating the many seasons of a long term relationship. I asked if they usually write together and Pat quickly joked, “Not with any sharp objects nearby.” Sometimes Dinah will have lyrics, almost poetry-like and she’s learned to structure them with verses and choruses and they can create a melody to fit. Pat writes many of the tunes alone and Dinah just instinctively puts the perfect harmony on the songs. They talked about how natural that came. Dinah even noted she just can’t find those kind of harmonies with any other singer.
Some of my favorite tracks off the new album include; “She’s Out There”, which reminds me a bit of John Prine or Woody Guthrie, lots of real talk about the beloved; “hope and pray almost every evening to any god that' ll listen to me/That she makes peace with all of his demons and that she stops smokin' all of my weed/But in my heart I got this feeling, I think I even got it in my spleen/She'll get the urge for leaving and try to take a little bitty piece of me/ She's out there, just where she's supposed to be flying high, sometimes too high to see/She'll come crashing and a crying and a needing somebody to hold her/I'll be there till the day I die to give her what she needs.” That’s a real romantic notion right there folks. Give me that any day over flowers and candy.
Another favorite is the track that closes out the album, “Dinah’s Circle Song”. It is hauntingly beautiful with an a cappella kick off of just Dinah singing “Do not deceive me, oh my darling, if your intent is not to love me for a while. Do not fake a warm embrace or steal my kisses. My heart is true still holds it youth, like a child.” What a brave statement. It’s so easy to be jaded, rather than vulnerable. But, really what’s the point, if you can’t be? Maybe that’s what I love so much about the entire collection of songs. The honesty, the willingness to put the truth to the melody, the willingness to risk showing the underbelly of feelings we all wade through. I truly encourage you to go see the Red Cedars soon! They’re singing our lives to us; yours, mine and theirs, beautifully.
Go check out their music HERE!
See the Red Cedars at The Whispering Beard Folk Festival
Sunday, August 24th
Pat’s Sunday afternoon show at The Crow’s Nest
Sunday, August 31st at 3 p.m.
Imago Earth Center
Music in the Woods
Saturday, September 13th at 2 p.m.