Format and Editions
• Double CD release by Chris Stamey and the ModRec Orchestra. • Featuring contributions from Branford Marsalis, Bill Frisell, Nels Cline, Peter Holsapple, and more. • Vocalists include Nnenna Freelon, Marshall Crenshaw, Don Dixon, Django Haskins, Caitlin Cary, Brett Harris, Skylar Gudasz, Millie McGuire, Ariel Pocock. • Written, arranged, and produced by dB’s cofounder Stamey. The way Chris tells it, “One day in 2015, an old piano arrived at my home, with a bench full of magic: songs by Jerome Kern, George and Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, Henry Mancini, Irving Berlin, Leonard Bernstein . . . many more. I fell head-first under their spell, awakening three years later with a long white beard and this collection: 26 songs on two CDs, written and arranged ‘under the influence,’ performed by some of my favorite singers and players.” Vocalists on the two volumes of this lush, orchestrated, jazz-flavored outing include jazz legend Nnenna Freelon, pop icons Marshall Crenshaw, Don Dixon, and Caitlin Cary (Whiskeytown), North Carolina stalwarts Skylar Gudasz and Brett Harris, and exciting newcomers Millie McGuire, Kirsten Lambert, and Faith Jones. Highlights include Django Haskins (The Old Ceremony) and renowned saxophonist Branford Marsalis together on the Irving Berlin-like overture, “Manhattan Melody (That’s My New York),” and rising-star pianist Ariel Pocock singing “There’s Not a Cloud in the Sky.” Cary adds a bit of Americana into the mix, with “Your Last Forever After.” All are backed by the “ModRec Orchestra” (named after Modern Recording, Stamey’s studio home base in Chapel Hill, NC) with Bill Frisell, Nels Cline (Wilco), and Matt Douglas (Mountain Goats), as well as NC jazz virtuosi Stephen Anderson, John Brown, Will Campbell, Jim Crew, and Dave Finucane, taking turns at the microphone. Inspired by the canon of the Great American Songbook but with Stamey’s own distinctive melodic and lyrical twists (familiar to fans of the dB’s cofounder), New Songs for the 20th Century uses Mid-Century Modern harmonic and lyrical inflections to evoke an earlier era. “I was intrigued by reimagining that period before the Beatles appeared, before President Kennedy was killed, when it seemed like the world was looking around, catching its breath, and wondering what was to come.” “What came first here was the sheet music, the notated chords and melodies,” Chris explains. “I’d write out the songs in silence, then simply put the sheets of paper in front of the players and singers. It was fascinating to hear them bring the tunes to life in the studio in ways I’d never expected. Then I would orchestrate for strings and winds as needed, connecting the dots in the old-fashioned way records were made before Leo Fender came along.” Included are also full-length, remixed performances (not previously available) of several songs from the nationally broadcast holiday radio musical Occasional Shivers, including “Beneath the Underdog” (titled after the Charles Mingus autobiography), “In-tox-i-cho-cli-fi-ca-tion,” “What Is This Music That I Hear?” and “I Am Yours.” And there are even new versions of a few older Stamey tunes that seemed to want to sing along, such as Faith Jones’s powerful “In Spanish Harlem” and Cline’s and Frisell’s dreamscape treatment of “Insomnia.” Grab a Manhattan or some champagne, sink down in front of the fireplace, dim the lights, and let these New Songs carry you back to the “pre-postmodern” era of the romantic ’50s and ’60s.