From the opening strains of Ode Hazelwood's "Jamestown," you know you're listening to something out of the ordinary. As the Americana format devolves into caricature, the Nashville duo, comprised of Joseph and Raven Hazelwood, strives to bring a revived spirit to American music (and it's European antecedents). Rather than rehash the past, Ode Hazelwood looks to a future where cabaret and jug band music can coexist with anti-folk artists like Beck--a world where the antique and the contemporary meld into an irresistible yet otherworldly whole. This forward-thinking eclecticism is apparent on Ode Hazelwood's debut CD, Radio Noise. "Jamestown," for example, begins with a scratchy Optigan drum loop and Joseph's front porch-sounding banjo line. As the song builds, Raven's resonator mandolin plays a hooky countermelody that owes as much to U2 as it does to hillbilly virtuoso Jethro Burns. Musical saw adds a ghostly touch to the track, which borrows from the past but refuses to stay there. Ode Hazelwood's debt to German-American composer Kurt Weill is apparent on "Traveling Hard," another track from Radio Noise. Accompanied by a Salvation Army Band brass section, Raven (channeling Weill's wife, Lotte Lenya) sings "Baby I'm traveling hard tonight/ By the pale hollow starlight/ It kind of makes me want for you." With that, the band crashes in with a drunken circus groove worthy of a Weimar-era cabaret. Joseph and Raven Hazelwood both attended Nashville's Belmont University--he was a percussionist and a songwriter from Kentucky; she was violinist and voice major from eastern New York state. They met in Concert Band, which is appropriate given the orchestral nature of their future collaboration. The pair found they shared a love of pre-war blues, classical composition, jug band music and British psychedelia. Academic careers were ended, and Ode Hazelwood was born. "We have an almost mystical connection to pre-war blues--Blind Willie Johnson and The Mississippi Sheiks" says Joseph of his band's influences. "I have no idea where the cabaret stuff comes from--maybe reincarnation? We also love Pink Floyd, the Moody Blues and British pop. But it seemed wrong to self-consciously ape those styles, and for a long time we fought it. Eventually we just let things happen; the result has a great vintage sound without being revivalist." Radio Noise was co-produced by Joe McMahan, known for his work with roots-rocker Kevin Gordon and chanteuse Jennifer Niceley. In addition to Joseph, Raven and Joe, the recording features bassist Dave Jacques (John Prine), drummer Paul Griffith (Todd Snider), autoharpist Kelli Shay Hicks (Deanna Veragona) and musical saw player Calder Dudgeon (The Howling Brothers). Ode Hazelwood is currently on tour in support of Radio Noise. For booking and all other information, go to odehazelwood.com or email email@example.com.
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