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Starvation Under Orange Trees

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Reseña de álbum

The fiction of John Steinbeck might not seem the most amenable to musical adaptation, but there have been some notable attempts. In 1940, Woody Guthrie wrote and recorded "Tom Joad," a 17-verse song version of The Grapes of Wrath that earned praise from the novelist. Fifteen years later, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II used Sweet Thursday as the source for Pipe Dream, one of their less successful Broadway musicals. A half century after that, Jon Bernson, the creative force behind the Bay Area band Ray's Vast Basement, was asked by the Actors Theater of San Francisco to write and perform music to accompany a production of the play version of Of Mice and Men. Bernson fulfilled the assignment, but he also went beyond it, and Starvation Under Orange Trees, a title borrowed from a Steinbeck essay, is the result, its songs inspired by works such as East of Eden ("The Story of Lee") and Cannery Row ("Ocean Notes," "Palace Flophouse") as well. Musically, Bernson is closer to Guthrie than to Rodgers & Hammerstein, creating folkish arrangements that begin with acoustic guitar and add lots of other acoustic string instruments — mandolin, banjo, Dobro — plus the odd keyboard, reed, and more exotic folk accompaniment, such as washboard and musical saw. He also throws in field recordings and found sounds to give the tracks atmosphere. Over the top, he sings in a laid-back and gruff tenor, his phrasing often slurred and rarely emphasizing meaning over sheer sound. His lyrics tend to be more impressionistic than specific, retaining, perhaps, the intentions of the theater company that wanted a musical accompaniment and complement, but not to turn the play into a musical. Starvation Under Orange Trees can be enjoyed without reading a shelf full of Steinbeck books, and, in fact, a close familiarity with those books isn't that much help in appreciating it. But Bernson captures the mood of Steinbeck's writing, which seems to have been the idea.


Género: Rock

Años de actividad:

Ray's Vast Basement is a folk-rock-country band led by singer/songwriter Jon Bernson and based in San Francisco, CA. Bernson's writing for the group has been ambitious and highly conceptual. His idea for the band was drawn from his conception of a fictional town in northern California called Drakesville and a character named Ray McKelvey who runs a speakeasy in a cave called Ray's Vast Basement. Bernson wrote songs describing other characters and events in the town for the group's debut album, On...
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Starvation Under Orange Trees, Ray's Vast Basement
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