The Red River is the fourth solo offering from Portland, Maine’s Micah Blue Smaldone and the first to be released on Chicago label Immune.
Ears ringing from a once thriving New England punk scene, Micah withdrew at some point and emerged a few years later on the street corners of Portland, plucking frantic Ragtime and pre-war ditties on a resonator guitar. With the encouragement of Maine’s supernal super-group Cerberus Shoal, Micah released his first solo recording Some Sweet Day in the spring of 2003. Magnet Magazine wrote of this: “Micah Smaldone should, by the sound of it, be dead. Seemingly held over from the era of vaudeville and ragtime...when he yodels his Dustbowl-beggar blues about outlaws, in-laws and old-fashioned hurtin’, you can’t help but wonder where all the good music has gone.”
The years to follow found Micah touring often, alone or with dear friends Cerberus Shoal, Death Vessel, and Harris Newman. In 2005 he released a sophomore album Hither and Thither. Lurking in grim allegory, this album weaves with a longer thread of influence than it’s predecessor, merging a common spirit of urgency from throughout the century-or-so of recorded music, from Skip James, to Leadbelly, to Bob Dylan, to Will Oldham. Bollard Magazine wrote - “If ever a collection of songs captured the palpable sense of unease felt in these days of terror levels and loved ones fighting a needless war, it is Hither and Thither.”
Since 2005 Micah has been touring constantly, often in Europe. In October of 2006, Micah and tourmate Harris Newman played a wonderful show at La Ferme du Biereau in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium. Held in an ancient cattle barn with echoing vaulted ceilings, the evening bloomed in song. Fortunately, the tape was rolling, and in early 2007 Micah released an EP of four songs recorded that night.
The Red River was mostly written upon returning from an 11 week, 50 show Euro tour in the winter of 2007, particularly around heavy experiences in the Balkan and Baltic countries. This album confronts the malevolence we’ve come to accept in our nature perhaps more out of cynicism than of true understanding. It tells hard tales gently, and in the end offers faith in our capacity for goodness.
Here’s what Micah has to say about it:
“Rather than construct a thick frame of reference for this new album, I’d prefer to describe simply where I’ve come from in the past few years, and then let this music speak for itself. My first solo effort, 2003’s Some Sweet Day, was collection of Ragtime and Country-Blues, a fervently authentic homage to great influences – John Jackson, Blind Blake, Robert Wilkins, etc., who all helped me through some tough times. 2005’s Hither and Thither was much more internal, an urgent telling of germination in a harsh climate. This new one reaches a little further both into the past and the future. The title is borrowed from “Red River Blues”, an old chestnut that goes “which way, which way do that blood red river run? From my back window home to the rising sun.” I suppose this is the big theme of the album – “Never fight evil as if it were something that arose totally outside of yourself.” It is simple faith in the goodness of people, the depth of love, and the infinite wisdom of nature, which allows for this path to be cut with patience, humility, and an eagerness to share. So let this album be a little way-mark, and never a hitching post. “
The album also features accompaniment by many fine Portland players and singers, including the members of Fire on Fire, a group Micah also plays with. Micah toured the States this fall with Death Vessel and recently recorded a session for WFMU. He will return to Europe in early 2009.
The CD version of The Red River comes packaged in a mini-LP style gatefold package with an 8 page booklet. The LP version is limited to 500 copies and includes a free MP3 download coupon.