The Wandering

Go On Now, You Can't Stay Here: Mississippi Folk Music, Vol. 3

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The Wandering is a supergroup of five traditionally minded artists who have migrated to or have origins in the Deep South; they were assembled by guitarist Luther Dickinson. He is the only male member. The others are all established artists: guitarist Shannon McNally, upright bassist Amy LaVere, banjo prodigy Valerie June, and fife player and drummer (and Rising Star Fife & Drum Band leader) Sharde Thomas. The songs on Go On Now, You Can't Stay Here are covers whose origins range from folk and blues songs and rock & roll tunes to deep R&B, gospel, and outlaw country -- all played acoustically and intimately but adventurously. Individually, the songs and readings are unique; taken together, they uncover previously hidden -- and perhaps even unthinkable -- connections between them, from one tradition to another, and find their collective unconscious base here. Blues standard "Sittin' On Top of the World" is introduced by Thomas' fife, LaVere's bass, and Dickinson's mandolin before Thomas' vocal enters: slurry, plaintive yet confident. Her protagonist can see it all and isn't worried about a thing. It's followed startlingly by LaVere singing Roger McGuinn's "Hey Mr. Spaceman" with acoustic guitars, snare, upright bass, and three-part harmony (and a guest kazoo solo). Together, they offer views from outer and inner space, one outside the world and happy, one inside looking out, but both pointing to an other world where past and future are erased in an ongoing juxtaposition of tensions. They signal the beginning of the mysterious delight that this album is. McNally's vocal on Kris Kristofferson's "Loving Him (sic) Was Easier Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again," with a skeletal banjo just under it, evokes Anita Carter's version, but with Thomas' drums, it's more sultry in its expression of bittersweet eros. Her vocal on "Life Love, and Money" (a Little Willie John vehicle) takes the other side of the road. Acoustic guitars, a cymbal, and LaVere's bassline drop the blues down hard, and she struggles with memory and misery, trying to claw her way out -- without ever overstating her case. The gospel standard "Glory Glory" immediately follows this, as if it should be a set-closing anthem, but it's in the middle; it's trying to balance the scales and almost succeeds, but instead provides strength to carry on. Thomas' fife and vocal and Dickinson's slide add earthy dirt to the collective celestial vocal wail. The set closer is another Southern anthem: a radical, unsentimental read of Jimmie Davis' "You Are My Sunshine," led by Dickinson's banjo, snare, and bass drums. June's vocal, sung in mountain holler style, carries within it not only a plea, but the unbearable weight of regret inside the simple melody. The 12 songs on Go On Now, You Can't Stay Here, are gems -- ultimately asking questions but leaving the answers to dangle in the heavy, humid, Southern air. These songs are open-ended because they exist in a continuum, a living tradition that is still "wandering" in its own myth and culture, and far too mercurial to pin down.

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