Jenny Scheinman ‘Here on Earth’ presents songs that were composed for the film, ‘Kannapolis: A Moving Portrait,’ a collaboration with director Finn Taylor and commissioned by Aaron Greenwald at Duke Performances. The movie collects archival footage taken between 1936-42 by H. Lee Waters, a North Carolina photographer who traveled across the Piedmont, taking short movies of ordinary, small town folks living through the Great Depression.
When Scheinman first watched the raw footage, the faces onscreen felt like those from a bygone era, yet still oddly familiar. As much as America has changed from the previous century, the human condition at its core remains constant. Thus it inspired a collection of fiddle tunes that on first listen may seem rooted in the past, but ultimately reveal themselves to be definitively modern upon repeated listens.
Scheinman based her band for these recordings on a specific scene from the movie, where three musicians (fiddle, banjo and guitar) are playing at a dance party. To recreate this dynamic in the studio, she enlisted Danny Barnes (banjo, guitar, tuba), Robbie Fulks (guitar, banjo), Bill Frisell (guitar) and Robbie Gjersoe (resonator guitar), not just for their brilliant skills and deep-rooted understanding of fiddle music, but because they brought the barn-stomping, slightly unhinged energy she was trying to conjure.
‘Here on Earth’ captures this magic-in-a-bottle on songs like “Don’t Knock Out The Old Dog’s Teeth.” The rhythmic weave created here is nothing short of intoxicating, the perfect melody for gathering around a burn barrel and hollowing out your demons. There are also songs like ”Rowan,” which embodies the spirit of campfire music; an aura of community and unity. Of course, no Scheinman album would be complete without a few big signature melodies such as those found on “Annabelle And The Bird” and “Esme.”
‘Here on Earth’ is about the present and the past. It’s about daydreams and poetry and the rituals that keep people sane and human. It’s a collection of songs that are both deeply personal to Scheinman and a tribute to hundreds of ordinary people from another time who just happened to look at a camera and reveal a little of their humanity. Above all, it’s about the frenetic, joyful melody of being alive on this planet.