The marriage of four Rick Bass narratives to Stellarondo’s acoustic accompaniments is a welcome exploration of some serious “what if” questions: What if the ancient bardic methods still work? What if a story-teller came down out of the woods bearing a few tales that, over the course of a winter, had moved from his heart to his imagination to his tongue? And what if, instead of imprisoning those tales inside a gewgaw called a “Kindle,” some gifted musicians said, “Hey. Maybe we can help kindle your stories to life”? What if they then discovered that a cello, a bass, and a pedal steel guitar can give us both the high winds, falling branches and crowning trees of a wildfire and the scream of the chainsaw cutting a way through it? What if a mere guitar and kalimba can convey the otherwise inexpressibly huge feelings of a young man in love as he carries a canoe, solo, for his lady through a cricket-song night? What if a lumbering bass solo and lumbering black bear turned out to be first cousins in the dark cave entered through the human ear?What if a plaintively bowed saw can become the love an old woman feels for that same bear, and the three together—woman, bear, saw—could audibly explore one of the bardic “thin places” in which mortals come in contact with the deathless, and loss isn’t loss after all?
What if one of the great story technologies of the 21st century remains the human ear, the unadorned imagination, the heartbeat, and the marriage of live telling to live music?
- David James Duncan September 2012
Notes & Praise
The Rick Bass and Stellarondo album includes three pieces of short fiction and one essay, all read by Bass and scored by Stellarondo with instrumentation including pedal steel, cello, banjo, double bass, musical saw, various guitars and found objects. Rick and the band recorded the album live, sitting in a circle at Type Foundry in Portland, Oregon in April 2012 with engineers Adam Selzer (M. Ward, Laura Gibson, The Decemberists) and John Askew (Richmond Fontaine, The Dodos, Portlandia).
"Stellarondo's music is utterly unique: a cutting-edge blend of orchestral folk and rock with splashes of bluegrass and country. When the band hooks up with an expert storyteller, Rick Bass, the performance is mesmerizing. You hear one story in the music and one in the narration that, somehow, weave together to form something wonderful and new." - Cherie Newman, Montana Public Radio
"Rick Bass and Stellarondo mesmerized the audience from the first note to the last vibrations of the weeping saw. Start with the haunting voice and lyrics of Caroline Keys, throw in an astonishingly versatile and talented band, and then mix that up with the poetic story-telling of Rick Bass, and I can confidently say that I've never tasted such a beautiful ensemble of art. It's a magic recipe." - Brian Schott, founding editor, Whitefish Review