Artist of the Week: Alec Ounsworth

Don’t you wish you had songs laying around that you could drive down to New Orleans, whip into shape, and then deliver to Anti Records for a debut venture? How about being able to call on some of Philadelphia’s indie elite to form a band that wouldn’t even receive a proper release? Such is the life of Alec Ounsworth, singer/songwriter of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Anti’s latest signee, and the brains behind Flashy Python.

It’s been a busy year for Alec. Amidst talks of CYHSY being on an “indefinite hiatus”, he toiled away on two projects released within months of each other. In August, Skin and Bones appeared on Flashy Python’s web site with no press push and the entire record could be streamed for free. This came as a surprise because the band was tagged a “supergroup”, being comprised of members from The Walkmen, Man Man, Dr. Dog, and Alec’s signature wail leading the way. The material is steeped in darker tones, as if it were recorded in the foggy London streets Jack the Ripper used to roam. The title track reminds me of a mustache phase I recently endured with the line, “Is it time to grow a beard and address myself in the mirror as though addressing a stranger?”

Then in a return to form, Mo Beauty was released in October under the Alec Ounsworth name and it also features a ragtag bunch. While in New Orleans for an artists’ retreat to learn about the current situation of the city still in need, he met producer Steve Berlin (Los Lobos, John Lee Hooker, and The Replacements) who suggested they record together there to take advantage of the magic seeping underneath and the musicians still roaming it’s quarters. They enlisted Stanton Moore (Galactic, Street Sweeper Social Club), George Porter Jr. (The Meters), and Robert Walter (The Greyboy Allstars) to be the core group, while also tapping local talents such as Mark Mullins and Craig Klein (Bonerama), Washboard Chaz, and Al “Carnival Time” Johnson.

Alec has admitted that most of the tracks on the record are from a cache he had tucked away from even before the CYHSY era, but the influence of New Orleans is evident by the booming brass of “That Is Not My Home (After Bruegel)”, the strut-worthy jazz tinges on “Bones In The Grave”, and the sweet ballad “Holy, Holy, Holy Moses (Song For New Orleans)”.

For those longing to hear “Satan Said Dance” live, Alec is carrying on the torch by playing music from all three phases of his career on his current tour, and has plans to join The Cold War Kids for a trek in January.

 

Live Dates
Dec 1   DC9 – Washington D.C.
Dec 2   Johnny Brenda’s – Philadelphia, PA
Dec 7   DC9 – Washington D.C.
Dec 8   Johnny Brenda’s – Philadelphia, PA

 

– Phillip Nguyen

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