On the early evening of Thursday, June 2, 2011, the mists and songwriter spells of the Missouri Ozarks came to the Pacific Northwest for the 2011 chapter of the Seattle International Film Festival. The lifetime musicians who supplied the darkly emotional storytelling and entrancing soundtrack that wove through the dark blue hues of the masterful redneck-noir indie film Winter’s Bone hit the also-aqua ambient stage of the comfortable Triple Door to provide two sizzling sets of backyard holler, strum, stomp, and weep. The downtown Seattle crowd joined them in every musical peak and emotional valley.
The ecstasy-inducing vocal chops of Marideth Sisco was accompanied by guitarist and songwriter Van Colbert, bluegrass master Bo Brown, and ace of Western Swing guitar Dennis Crider, along with Blackberry Winter, Tedi May, and Linda Stoffel and others. The tribe stood and sat in a single line across the Triple Door stage in their jeans and work shirts and boots, performing with crystal clear mountain soul through instruments that have been tuned and burned-on daily for decades. It actually seemed as if the posh venue was built for the aural beauty of this night, the experience and craft-perfected songs like “In The Palm Of His Hand,” “The Ballad of Jessup Dolly (The Wind And The Rain),” and “High On A Mountain” warmly cupping us in the middle of the players’ artistry.
A lot of this was admittedly meth-world, whiskey-drowned blues. Much of the between song chat and lyrics themselves were confident to be both pessimistic or confessing as belief in spirits beyond. The reality of the declining Ozarks took us a little out of complete otherworldly bliss, which seemed to inspire an almost contemporary protest rock vibe that could be said to be a little out of this time. But surely welcome in a period when bands have nothing to say with musical voices far less capable of delivering anything.
But Sisco’s voice throughout was as bold and rousing as Pete Seeger’s and Ronnie Gilbert’s of the Weavers, and as dusk-time diva as Billie Holiday’s. She has a voice of a mother, wife, lover, fighter, comrade, and conscience for the black back hills of some of the poorest areas in our country, regions where economic hope has long been buried in the now-ancient mines. The musicians carefully construct a beautiful bridge between raw pining and the play of claw hammer banjo picking, washboard rhythm keeping, and a sweep of different sized guitars and mandolins that have all been played on many damp, nothing-else-to-ever-do nights.
The Winter’s Bone band bring their stories to you, but they’re stories you can find your own dreams and nightmares in as well. For better and worse, the music seems enjoyably antediluvian and scarily our future at the same time. If you claim to love “roots music” but haven’t gotten a copy of the soundtrack album to Winter’s Bone, do so now and learn this lush testimony to our heartland before the real hootenanny returns.
Sisco and the rest of the performers of the Winter’s Bone band are touring and heading east. You can catch them at these locations:
6/11 Dallas, TX – The Loft – 8:30PM
6/25 Little Rock, AR – Juanita’s Cantina Ballroom – 8:30PM
6/26 Nashville, TN – The End
6/27 Atlanta, GA – The Earl – 8:30PM
6/28 Chapel Hill, NC – Cat’s Cradle – 7PM
6/29 Washington, DC – Rock and Roll Hotel – 7PM
6/30 Philadelphia, PA – World Café Live – 7PM
7/1 Boston, MA – T.T. The Bear’s – 8:30PM
7/2 New York, NY – Highline – 6:00PM
7/3 Cleveland, OH – Beachland Ballroom – 7:30PM
7/5 Columbus, OH – Rumba Cafe – 8:00PM
7/6 Chicago, IL – Lincoln Hall
7/7 Minneapolis, MN – Cedar Cultural Center – 7:00PM
7/8 Kansas City, MO – Crosstown Station – 8:00PM
7/9 St. Louis, MO – Off Broadway Nightclub – 8:00PM