Local Scene: Jay Hitt's new album; Code Orange Kids win Pittsburgh Rock Music Awards
Jay Hitt's new album "combines his rich storytelling with delicate fingerpicking and pure, buttery vocals."
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Jay Hitt's new folk 'Wilderness'
• Jay Hitt has new a song, "Love Letter," that begins with, "If I wrote you a love letter, oh, what would I say?"
He goes on to sing, in a warm folk voice not unlike Jim Croce's, about her beautiful hands and lips and heart. Ultimately, there's no irony to it at all. It's just the kind of tender, old-fashioned love song you don't hear much anymore.
There's a lot more of that to be had on the Pittsburgh singer-songwriter's new album, "Greetings From the Wilderness." It combines his rich storytelling with delicate fingerpicking and pure, buttery vocals.
Mr. Hitt is a veteran performer you might have seen at a folk or arts festival, heard on "The Saturday Light Brigade" or watched on the show "His Place" on Christian Television. In 2003, he won the New Folk Competition at the New Jersey Folk Festival at Rutgers University and has twice been named Best Acoustic Musician in the City Paper. In 2007, he did a 10-month stint in the CLO Cabaret Theater production of "Always, Patsy Cline."
In the past, he's recorded at his brother Tom's studio in Erie. This time he worked in Montrose, N.Y,, with the production team of Lisa Jane Lipkin and Richard Martinez, having met her at a music conference.
"It was a new and wonderful experience for me to work in an unfamiliar studio with players I only knew by reputation," he says. "Lisa and I conferred regularly and I feel that she helped bring out some of the drive in my music and that was exactly what I was looking for."
While it's all folk or folk-rock that flows along easy, he points to the different landscapes in which they are set.
"While my music does come from traditional folk roots, I've always had songs on my records that have edged toward rock, along with some things that might be said to be a bit jazzy, and now and then something totally different like with a rockabilly or ragtime sound. On this record, the same thing occurs except everything has been taken up a notch.
"We tended to exaggerate the style differences, for example using dulcimer, played by Bill Ruyle, and accordion on 'Come to Me.' 'Like You Used To' has keyboardist David Keyes playing a real barroom style juxtaposed with upright bass, played by Dave Richards, to help bring across the irony in the lyrics."
The backing vocals of Ms. Lipkin, who has several albums of her own, "helps shift the harmonic palette in some interesting ways," he says.
Lyrically, it's not all love letters, sweetness and light. There's an underlying theme in songs such as "Irresistible" and "Some People Never Learn" and "Like You Used To" of middle-age romance on the rocks.
"Writer's write about what we see, although it isn't always in our own lives," he says. "Some of those difficult situations might be something that have touched my life, though not necessarily my own story. The title track is a metaphor where the wilderness is an emotional place of turmoil and struggle, but a place where if you stay there long enough and essentially 'stay' with the painful emotions that you can come out again with fresh perspective, learning and maybe even a dose of wisdom."
He performs a release show, backed by percussionist Eric George, bassist Dave Pellow and Ms. Lipkin on vocals, at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts at 7:30 tonight. Tickets are $15 at www.calliopehouse.org.
Code Orange conquers
• Hard-traveling punk band Code Orange Kids were the big winners at the 3rd Annual Pittsburgh Rock Music Awards Friday at Mr. Smalls.
The band, which is terrorizing the Southern states, took four honors, including Punk Band and Video of the Year.
Other winners in the event presented by Asperity Music included Paradox Please (Best Alternative Rock Band), Dazzletine (Best Indie-Rock Band), Gutrench (Best Hardcore Band), Motorpsychos (Best Metal Band) and Children of October (Album of the Year).
For the full list, see the Pop Noise blog.
First Published February 14, 2013 12:00 am