The first time that FolkWorld learned about the band Old Salt was back in 2016, after they published their debut album "Up River Overseas." In 2017 they won the ‘European World of Bluegrass’ award. Today in 2020, Old Salt is still the Americana music band based out of Ghent (Belgium), with international members which have individually brought influences and heritage sounds from the USA, Belgium, Sweden, France and Scotland.
Their approach to folk music playing is not just as a monument to the past, but as a living and breathing reflection of modern times steeped in its historical and cultural context, informing both this present and the uncertain future.
In their own words: “We pull our influences from the streets of New Orleans up through Appalachia, to the folk revival of the North Eastern States, and jump the pond to the many sounds from Old Europe, where the band currently resides. We’ve come a long way since our prior album recorded in Sweden in 2015. This one, recorded in Belgium in 2018, serves as another landmark in our band’s evolution which brings more layers, complex arrangements and a full spectrum of sound”.
By naming this album ‘Commons’ they attempt to boil down what is most important to them as friends, and as band from different cultures; these ‘commons’ being the natural and cultural resources that all members of a society can draw from, fostered and served in common, for and by all the people.
Inspired by these cultural commons, they play both traditional music and write originals with themes that address the issues that are important to them today. Some songs are about personal and projected stories, telling the experience of moving into the unknown (Shades), that of confusion and commitment in love (Thin Ice); other songs are about the perpetual tragedy of people being forced to embark on perilous journeys leaving everything behind (Cherokee Trail), or about the disparity between ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ of our cruel economic systems which feed on the poor at the expense of empathy (Grow); songs that celebrate our conscious farmers (Farmers Anthem); and finally songs that simply pay their respect to the cultural commons of folk music.
Reading and writing these words today in July 2020, just four or five months after the Covid-19 pandemic exploded in Europe, it is inevitable to wonder: How will musicians reflect in their songs to come all the tragedies and the deep changes that are being experienced in so many places all over the world?
Old Salt line up: Dan Wall (USA); lead vocals, banjo, violin, blues harp), Lotte Remmen (Belgium); violin & vocals, Lara Rosseel (Belgium): double bass & vocals, Johannes Wannyn (Belgium); guitar & vocals, Anton Teljebäck (Sweden); five string viola, Toby Kuhn (France); cello, Dave Barfoot (Scotland); bodhran & percussion.
Photo Credits: (1)-(2) Old Salt (unknown/website).