Ah, the paradox of documentation. We seek to record that which carries great importance to us, and yet that very process often interferes with actually doing important things and being completely present in the lived moment, thus diminishing rather than amplifying the richness of the experience. Or so it seems/is used as an excuse for not having written a blog post in forever okay I effed up I’m sorry.
Let me start with the news up front, if you haven’t heard yet: Shareef Ali & The Radical Folksonomy have recorded our debut release! It’s a six-song, 25-minute EP titled “The Once & Future Boyfriend”. All of it was recorded and mixed in June to get ready in time for our Pacific Northwest tour that happened from July 5-11. So yes, it’s true that about two or three dozen of our friends in Washington and Oregon already have it. It’s also been made available to about the same number of blogs/radio stations/etc., though I don’t know if being kept in a wastebasket or spam folder really qualifies as ‘having’ the record. (Jay kay bloggers et al! We love you! Review the record please!)
BUT, for the rest of you, the album is going to be released on Wednesday, September 1st at San Francisco’s Hotel Utah Saloon! I couldn’t be more excited for this show. A) of all, the Hotel Utah Monday night open mic has been my home for the past year; it’s the place where I’ve made nearly all of my meaningful musical connections in this scene, full of dear friends and artists whom I deeply admire and respect. B) of all, the bill for the evening is just terrific. Let me try to make this sound as non-boilerplate as possible. Opening up are Wolf & Crow, a minimalist neo-folk outfit led by my friend Zach. Zach’s songs are very beautiful and tender, and his voice has this exquisite balance of grace and roughness to it. This is a band who really knows what it means to ‘serve the song’, with deft light touches of color. My band and I will play second: the ‘main course’ of the evening, if you will. The rock and fuckin’ roll dessert of the evening is Mark Matos & Os Beaches, who are simply an absolute powerhouse of a four-piece. Mark starts with these simple, honest ballads a la Neil Young, which are perfectly supported by his band with solid, steady grooves. Then sometimes they take it way out improvisationally, and it gets really truly ecstatic, nearly religious (this coming from an atheist, as you know); but it never ever ever sounds wanky. That’s how you know it’s artful.
Okay, now let me blather on about the record for a little bit. Like I said, six songs, 25-minutes. Now maybe what I’m about to say is biased, but I’m feeling lately like this is the perfect length for an album. There’s just no room for filler, and let me tell you that even a lot of great classics have filler. (The Bends? Does anybody really give a damn about that song “Bones”?) Plus I think of two of my all time favorites, Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On and John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. Both clock in at under half an hour, and yet are quite the complete musical experience.
Say, if you’re interested in hearing the actual music, instead of just reading my words about it, you can go to shareefali.bandcamp.com and make that happen for yourself. That’s also where the album will be digitally released the same day. Okay, back to it.
Simply put: this is the best recording I’ve ever done. Maybe the first that I’ll be proud to stand by for the rest of my life (that’s a bit hard to tell at this moment, obviously). But these are the best songs I’ve ever written, played by the best band I’ve ever had, and recorded in the best way possible. Which was remarkable in its simplicity, actually. We tracked all the instruments except acoustic guitar live, over the course of about four hours. I went back for another three hour session to do the acoustic, then Jay and I recorded vocals over the course of another three hours. Mixing was done in two evenings. All told, probably twenty hours were spent on the production of the album. It’s just a very good document of what we really sound like at our best. I couldn’t be more proud of it.
Gosh, there’s so much more to tell about the past eight months, about how I’ve played more shows this year than at any other point in my life, about how incredible and fun the tour was, about how this might turn out to be the best year of my life. But I can’t right now. I’ve got to go back to work, and I want to work on a song before my lunch break ends.
Thank you to all who have helped this happen for me.