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Fri December 14, 2007
Ordinary Seasons -- Polecat Creek
By George Olsen
New Bern, NC – INTRO - The roots group Polecat Creek recently released their third CD Ordinary Seasons, a mix of traditional sound and contemporary topics with plenty of input from the families of the group's front-women. George Olsen has more.
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00:49 (LD) I had recently moved to Greensboro and I think Kari had also just moved back to Greensboro is that correct Kari (yeah, 1994, 1995) so we were both looking to meet new people and make some new friends so we were in the book club. I had just started playing the guitar. I think I just said to her do you want to hear a song and played Gillian Welch's Orphan Girl, and we started singing together that night and it was really fun.
and from that book club meeting Laurelyn Dossett and Kari Sickenberger formed the core of Polecat Creek. Their first CD came out in 2002 and this past summer brought their 3rd, Ordinary Seasons, a title inspired by nay, authored by a member of the Sickenberger household.
33:02 (KS) That's my daughter Rosa. She was 3 years old when she had finished dinner and I was cleaning up the dishes and gave her some paper and pencils to entertain herself when she simultaneously started to write and sing this amazing epic song which lasted about 13 minutes and one of the themes was ordinary seasons, she was the one who coined the term through this song she was singing. The song, it's Shakespearean (of course) and speaks of love and death and nature and weather, it's pretty remarkable.
Rosa comes by her skills naturally. Her mother is an accomplished songwriter as is her Polecat Creek partner Laurelyn, though in their beginnings they started out doing a lot of traditional songs by the likes of the Carter Family in addition to contemporary writers like Gillian Welch. Their recordings nowadays draw more from their original material, but they still dip into the traditional catalog, including a song that could be making its recorded debut on Ordinary Seasons Union in Heaven.
26:14 (LD) I was doing a little show with the Curriculum folklore down at Chapel Hill, and they had a woman named Sister Lena Mae Perry who is the last surviving member of a gospel group the Branchettes, and she did the song. At first I thought it was a union song but after I listened to the whole thing I found out it was more about meeting on the other side (unity) unity, yeah. So I got home and couldn't find a recording anywhere and contacted the curriculum and folklore guy and he didn't know where to find it but he gave me her phone number and I called her up and she said she didn't know if there was a recording of it, that she had learned it at revival when she was a little girl, which would've been 70 years ago or so, and that her church, she's still in the same church and her church still sings it at revival, and she sang it into my answering machine and we I taped that and sent Kari an MP3 and we put it on the record.
Original songs make up the bulk of Ordinary Seasons, though they still maintain a traditional sound, evidenced in part by their best neo-traditional band nod during the 2006 Appalachian String Band festival. Still, Ordinary Seasons has a more personal feel than most traditional projects, perhaps best evidenced by musical musings about the afterlife on the track Wish I May, a track primarily written by Kari's brother Dave.
29:07 It actually started with a poem my father wrote about how he wished he believed in heaven because then he could walk with his grandfather by the banks of the Jordan and he would know that's where he'd end up. It's a really beautiful poem. My brother is a really amazing poet and songwriter himself, and this song was a response to my dad, basically saying, go ahead and believe that, why not?
It's also a disc that, even with its traditional sound, is very much in the here and now. Kari is no longer living in Greensboro, as she did when she first met Laurelynn, having moved to Asheville just in time to experience an event typically not of concern in the mountains a hurricane. Hurricane Frances in 2004 caused flooding of the Swannanoa River which flooded hundreds of businesses and caused tens of millions of dollars of damage in Asheville, prompting the tune Buckets of Blue.
19:11 I just thought about being in a house and having this river beside you that's been there all your life that maybe you fished in, swam in, that you love sort of betray you like that. It was just about disillusionment in general.
For all the tunes about the afterlife and unexpected natural disasters, Ordinary Seasons still has a fairly re-energizing feel about it. The tune that might refer back most to the disc's title beyond 4-year-old Rosa's Shakespearean epic could be the track Kiss Me over the Garden Gate, whose bouncy, almost Texas swing-ish pace speaks to the revival we all perhaps feel when the dark winter months give way to brighter days.
23:21 I think Kari and I both are really tuned into seasons and the outdoors and there's a thing that happens to me in the springtime where I really come back to life. I go dormant in the winter, physically and emotionally, and when it warms up and I I don't know, I just start feeling alive again, and there is something romantic about being out, walking at night, going for walks around the neighborhood in the evening again and being out in the warm at night, there's just something about that that's reminiscent about being young and meeting your boyfriend when your parents don't know you're there, that kind of stuff. It feels playful.
The new CD from Polecat Creek is entitled Ordinary Seasons. I'm George Olsen.