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The National Trust

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Neo-soul combo the National Trust are the brainchild of guitarist and composer Neil Rosario, who first surfaced in 1990 with the noise rock trio Dolomite. The original lineup dissolved in 1992 after issuing just one single, "Tarantula," but Rosario and bassist Doug DeMers soon reunited, adding vocalist/drummer Rian Murphy and guitarist John Whitney to advance a more blues-rock-inspired sound on successive recordings, including the EP Gift Horse/Acetate and the full-length Easter Someday. After Dolomite disbanded in the summer of 1995, Rosario accepted a bartending gig at the noted Chicago club the Empty Bottle while serving a brief stint with Red Red Meat, going on tour and contributing to the band's penultimate album, Bunny Gets Paid. In 1996, he formed a new outfit, Fifteen Couples, with bassist (and fellow Red Red Meat alum) Matt Fields, guitarist Andy Cunningham, and drummer Kim Ambriz. Drawing influences from classic pop and even bubblegum, the group played only a handful of live dates, but despite logging considerable studio time failed to issue any recordings before Fields and Ambriz exited in early 1999. Rosario and Cunningham then recruited DeMers and singer/guitarist Mark Henning, and rechristened themselves the National Trust. The single "Make It Happen" appeared on Thrill Jockey that summer and the band continued honing more material with engineer Brian Deck at the Chicago studio Clava. The sessions halted in April 2000 when Rosario traveled to Las Vegas to tend to his ailing father, who'd suffered a heart attack; the senior Rosario passed away two months later, and when Neil returned to Chicago, he did not resume his interest in making music until the following January, his return to the studio funded by winnings from his Vegas stay. Now inspired by vintage Philly soul and the neo-R&B sound currently in vogue thanks to artists like D'Angelo and Macy Gray, Rosario's ambitions turned far more grandiose, and he and Deck spent a reported 500 hours in the studio fine-tuning the National Trust's debut LP, with some songs now boasting close to three-dozen vocal tracks as well as lavish brass and string arrangements. The completed album, Dekkagar, finally appeared on Thrill Jockey in April 2002. Kings and Queens, an even more elaborate production, followed in January 2006. ~ Jason Ankeny

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