For the past couple of days, I’ve been listening exclusively to local singer-songwriter Eric Tollefson’s new album, “The Polar Ends,” in my car. Adding up the short drives and long cross-town trips, I’ve probably made it all the way through the record four or five times.
Mind you, I finished writing this week’s cover story about Tollefson on Tuesday, so these most recent listens have been free and easy, unburdened by the need to listen with a critical and analytical ear. In other words, I’ve just been listening for fun, not as prep for the story.
My conclusion: This thing has a bunch of great songs on it. And boy does it sound good.
On Thursday, Tollefson will play his official album-release show at McMenamins Old St. Francis School. A couple weeks ago, he and I chatted about all kinds of stuff — writing songs, making the record, pressure, nerves, his upcoming relocation to Seattle to try to make it in a bigger pond. Here’s an excerpt:
How the big pond treats him remains to be seen. Not that it matters much.
“If the wheels fall off and people don’t respond to anything I do, I’m still going to write songs every day,” Tollefson said. “There’s just nothing in my life that makes me happier.”
What matters, truly, is Tollefson’s attitude, his approach to music, and how he feels about his work.
“Be a student of music and the industry. Represent yourself the right way and work hard,” he said. “If you’re going to approach something big, you’ve got to do something bigger than you.
“If this record was just me, I don’t think it would come off the same,” he continued. “I wanted it to sound bigger than something I was capable of. And I think, at least, I achieved that.”
Elsewhere in this week’s music section: local singer-songwriter Jackie Barrett’s new album, plus The California Guitar Trio and Montreal Guitar Trio, Keola Beamer, Mann, Betty and the Boy, Polecat, A.M. Interstate, Sara Jackson-Holman, a Last Band Standing update and more.
Pokey LaFarge and The South City Three will bring their throwback take on Americana music to the Domino Room next week to help KPOV celebrate its fifth birthday. I chatted with Pokey about how he became such an anachronism.
LaFarge’s work tramples old-time genre boundaries, bouncing around from folk to blues to swing to jazz, but always rooted in American tradition, and always rooted in what he calls the “purity” and “honesty” of acoustic music.
It’s a style that attracted LaFarge in his teens, which is when he figured out just how much he prefers the sound of America’s past over the sound of its present.
“When I realized that rock and pop and all this other kind of stuff sucked, right around the same time, I started listening to the blues … and I started digging my way back from there,” he said. “I started getting into bluegrass, which got me into old-time fiddle music, which in turn got me back into old country-blues and jazz and ragtime and Western swing and all that kind of stuff.”
I hope you’ll read the whole thing here. And click here to study up on Frank Fairfield, who’s also on the bill.
With two genuine country rebels — Merle Haggard and Hank Williams III — in town, I rambled a bit about the genre’s long, proud history of outlaw behavior, and whether it’s been killed and buried for good by the modern music industry.
In the shadow of today’s airbrushed and Auto-Tuned Nashville, it can be easy to forget that country music has a long, proud tradition of outlaw behavior.
Modern country stars are as handled as politicians, every tooth polished and straight, every opinion run through focus groups, (almost) every song crafted by a team of professional tunesmiths.
Beyond that, we also have the Conjugal Visitors kicking off the summer season at Angeline’s Bakery in Sisters, Betty and the Boy at portello winecafe, Stephanie Schneiderman back at McMenamins Old St. Francis School and The Voodoo Fix at Silver Moon. As usual, there are lots of other options in The Bulletin’s complete music listing.