A show played perfectly to an empty bar. A singer with life and death on his shoulders, swinging a microphone like Samson swung a jawbone. The real ones who die with nothing half the time. With Salt As Wolves – his fifth collection of original songs – Jeffrey Foucault gives us what poet and author Chris Dombrowski calls in the albums liner notes, that rare artistic combination of a voice and a world: a tough, spare collection of darkly rendered blues and ballads, like a field recording of a place that never existed. In a series of letters to lovers, friends, heroes, and family, Foucault deftly weaves together disparate strands of sound and experience, raw love, and hard wisdom. Jeffrey Foucault will release Salt As Wolves on October 16 via Blueblade Records
Photos Credit: Joseph Navas
One of the finest songwriters of his generation, Jeffrey Foucault has taken, in his own words, ‘the small roads;’ building a brick and mortar independent international touring career of ten studio albums, countless miles and critical accolades. He’s been lauded for “Stark, literate songs that are as wide open as the landscape of his native Midwest.” (The New Yorker) and described as “Quietly brilliant” (The Irish Times), while catching the ear of everyone from Greil Marcus to Don Henley (who regularly covers Foucault in his live set), to Van Dyke Parks (who offered to play on Foucaults 2011 album, Horse Latitudes, after catching a live radio interview). ‘Salt As Wolves’ is a line from Othello describing boldness; a fitting title to frame a record of blues played bold and loosely, without rehearsal or cant. With his fifth collection of original songs Foucault stakes out and enlarges the ground he’s been working diligently all the new century, quietly building a deep, resonant catalog of songs about love, memory, God, desire, wilderness and loss. Salt As Wolves gives us Jeffrey Foucault at the height of his powers, fronting an all-star band, turning the wheel of American music.
The first track available from Salt as Wolves is “Left This Town“, a number Foucault describes as, “A straight-up rocker without pretense. ‘Left This Town’ is one of the first songs I wrote for the Wolves record: a bottleneck slide figure in open C tuning. If Salt As Wolves is a reckoning – with the past, with the things I was raised on, ghosts and lovers, leaving town and becoming a stranger – ‘Left This Town’ is where the yelling happens. A metaphorical travelogue. We got this song in two takes, and its just TOUGH; No solo, no halftime bridge, no one gets fancy. The band just lays it down.”
Jeffrey Foucault was 17 when he learned to play all the songs on John Prine’s eponymous debut on his father’s mail-order guitar, spending long evenings in his bedroom spinning piles of old records on a hand-me-down turntable, lifting the needle to transcribe every line of “Desolation Row”. At 18 he stole a copy of Townes Van Zandt: Live and Obscure from a friend, and a few years later, having quit school to work as a farm-hand and house-carpenter Foucault began writing the songs that became his first record (2001s Miles From the Lightning). Since that release he’s been everything from solo country-blues troubadour to frontman for a six-piece rock ‘n’ roll band, along the way compiling a discography remarkable for its visceral power and complex poetics. Yet it wasn’t until he paired with former Morphine drummer Billy Conway that the final piece fell into place and Foucault found the Luther Perkins to his Johnny Cash: the truly sympathetic collaborator to both frame and fire his terse brand of minimalist Americana.
Since 2013 Foucault and Conway have toured across the United States and overseas together, refining a primal, stripped-down stage show: two men, two chairs; a Sears Silvertone electric tuned low and played through a 5-watt amp; a suitcase kick drum, a low-boy cymbal, a snare drum. The pair play only what they can carry into the club alone in one trip, and cover all the territory from blues and country, to rock ‘n’ roll and folk with a laconic ferocity and timeless cool. Their dynamic partnership – as nimble as it is sonically powerful – is the bedrock from which Salt As Wolves builds an eerie and muscular existential blues. Foucault and Conway will be on the road through August with an album release tour starting in the fall, making a stop in Nashville in September to play the Americana Music Conference. A full list of dates can be found below with more to be added.
Salt As Wolves is not an exploration but a statement: here is the man in full, extending his musical reach in the toughness and precision of his electric guitar work (as he distills a modal, hypnotic electric blues reminiscent of John Lee Hooker and Jessie Mae Hemphill), in the mature range and depth of his singing, and in the intimacy and vulnerability of his songwriting. Cut live to tape in just three days in rural Minnesota, Salt As Wolves moves like a vintage Chess record, with an openness and dimensionality that beckons the listener further in. In language richly simple and profound, Foucault plumbs the implications of a life spent looking for the Real, in a series of epistolary songs that locate the transcendent moment or its seeking, the love we dont understand, the thing that is lost when a great spirit dies. At the heart of the record the song “Slow Talker” frames the whole in its refrain: ‘Theres one note / If you can play it / There’s one word / If you can say it / There’s one prayer / If you can pray it / And each one is the same.‘
Salt As Wolves reunites Jeffrey Foucault with legendary electric guitar player Bo Ramsey (Lucinda Williams, Greg Brown), and bassist Jeremy Moses Curtis (Booker T, Cold Satellite), as well as longtime drummer and tour partner Billy Conway (Morphine). Caitlin Canty, whose breakout 2015 release, Reckless Skyline Jeffrey Foucault produced and played on, joins the band on backing vocals. It’s a hand-picked lineup whose natural affinity – Ramsey’s economy of phrase and raw simplicity the perfect compliment to Foucault’s elegant lines and weather-beaten drawl – is evident from first moment, the whole ensemble notable for an instinctive restraint and use of negative space. These aren’t kids copping riffs: these are grown men drawing from the deep, strange well of real American music, and they have nothing to prove.
Jeffrey Foucault Tour Dates:
Aug 15 – Bellingham, WA – Green Frog Acoustic Tavern (Co-Bill with Kris Delmhorst)
Aug 28 – Miles City, MT – Range Riders Museum
Aug 30 – Greenough, MT – Beargrass Writer’s Retreat
Aug 31 – Greenough, MT – Beargrass Writer’s Retreat
Sep 17 – Nashville, TN – City Winery (Americana Music Conference)
Oct 14 – Spring Lake, MI – Seven Steps Up (Caitlin Canty opens)
Oct 15 – Chicago, IL – Schuba’s Tavern (Caitlin Canty opens)
Oct 16 – Rhinelander, WI – WXPR @ Nicolet LRC Theater (Caitlin Canty opens)
Oct 17 – Stoughton, WI – Stoughton Opera House (Caitlin Canty opens)
Oct 22 – La Crosse, WI – Cavalier Theatre (Caitlin Canty opens)
Oct 23 – Milwaukee, WI – Anodyne (Caitlin Canty opens)
Nov 06 – Santa Monica, CA – McCabe’s Concert Hall
Nov 07 – San Francisco, CA – Makeout Room
Dec 03 – Burlington, VT – Arts Riot (Caitlin Canty opens)
I first saw Foucault play in a little Missoula theatre years ago, when many of us who grew up spinning our elders’ albums-Townes and Dylan, John Prine and Greg Brown-wandered around dolorously wondering when the next real songwriter would come along. Stetson sweaty, that little vagabond spark in his eye, he spun out a long Beam-fueled set and when it was over I walked out into the warm rain and thought, Damn. So that’s where he’s been. Since then Foucault has given American poetry some of its most vital lines and his musical searchings have become touchstones of density and durability. On this new record-his most poignant, honest, even scathing-his cry is a belt of pure blue Wisconsin lake ice with a back of December sunlight angling through bare limbed birches. Not so much penned as lived, these songs-about a show played perfectly to an empty bar, the real ones who die with nothing half the time-offer listeners that rare artistic combination of a voice and a world. And while there’s nothing not lonely about these songs, you can’t hear them and feel remotely alone. Here is our hurricane lamp, the heart whose flame won’t go out, whatever the wind. Hold it close.
-Chris Dombrowski (from the liner notes to Salt As Wolves)
Jeffrey Foucault Salt As Wolves Track List Track List
1 – Des Moines
2 – Rico
3 – Left This Town
4 – I Love You (And You Are a Fool)
5 – Blues for Jessie Mae
6 – Slow Talker
7 – Jesus Will Fix It for You
8 – Oh Mama
9 – Hurricane Lamp
10 – Strange Heat and Thunder
11 – Paradise
12 – Take Your Time
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