U.S.A. OF WTF: What a gloriously nightmarish era we have sleepwalked into! Even our eloquent forefathers could only be moved to utter “WTF?!” at this bizarrely divided house, with its racist “no entry” signs. Sure, they had their Civil War, but has ever the human consciousness collectively wreaked such havoc on the planet in the name of America?
Questions like these I ponder when we have a few consciously geographical music artists singing of American soils in an often uplifting way: S.B.’s very own punk-become-Americana artist Dave Hause & The Mermaid, who plays with Kayleigh Goldsworthy at The Imperial (320 S. Kellogg Ave., Goleta) on Friday, February 3, and old-time musician Willie Watson, who plays Buellton’s Standing Sun Winery (92 2nd St., Ste. D) with Sean Watkins on that same night. These artists dig deep into the roost of American tradition, in old-time, bluegrass, country, and other styles, and punk in the case of Hause, recalling the America that is truly lovable.
IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN CALIFORNIA: “This record was more about moving west and falling in love with the discomfort that can come when you come into a new place,” said Hause on his new album, Bury Me in Philly, released the day he plays the Imperial. He first fell in love with Cali while getting a samurai tattoo in San Francisco in the ’90s and moved here from his Philadelphia home in 2013.
Upon the move, it became “abundantly clear that the thing that you leave ends up being sort of what you lean on and defines you in a new place.” His roots became the framework for his newest work. “I found myself not only missing my family and my tribe but really identifying with the working-class spirit and the grit that comes along with the East Coast.”
S.B.’s a different place, and he loves it here, but he admits the move was a risk — the basis of the lyrics for his new song “The Flinch.” “To put it on the line is scary, and you can fail; I think that little anthem hopefully is an encouragement to other people having a hard time in getting over that hump, whatever it may be.”
WATSON TAP: Watson, whose music delves deep into the history of Appalachian song, is an old voice in a troubling new time. His is quite the voice, too, sometimes almost a yodel or a wail, the type you might expect to surface on a dusty warm vinyl from decades ago. Since leaving Old Crow Medicine Show, Watson, the band’s cofounder, has readied up a new batch of songs in Folk Singer Vol. 2, a collection of covers from the last century of song, and he’s quite proud of the batch. “I actually like it; I can’t really say that for pretty much everything I’ve ever recorded,” he said. Being a solo artist is “very freeing,” he added. “What I’m doing now is back to the basics, back to the beginning as far as performing.”
He doesn’t feel especially cheery about the state of things but finds solace in songs of old, as does his longtime friend Sean Watkins, the Nickel Creek cofounder who addressed politics on his latest, What to Fear. “I don’t think America has changed so much as it’s sort of been discovered and uncovered. We’re coming to terms with who we actually are,” said Watkins of the new versus old America. “It’s going to bring about a lot of good art; it’s really cathartic,” he said, but there’s much good to be found, as well, in the wisdom of old songs, too. “The old songs, they still ring true and always will.”