Gretchen Seichrist stuns with new ‘lonesome’ album | WBEZ
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Jim DeRogatis

Gretchen Seichrist stuns with new 'Iamlonesomekid' album

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“How come nobody falls to their knees in worship?” Gretchen Seichrist wonders at the end of “Hot Feet,” one of 10 stunning tracks on the debut album with her new group Thelonesomekid. And she’s justified in asking.

Speaking as someone who resided there for a year or two at two different times, Minneapolis is a place where living can be almost too easy—an odd thing to say about somewhere that sub-zero temperatures make you feel as if you’re on the surface of the moon for several months a year, but true nonetheless, in the sense that the small but supportive artistic community and the chill pace of life in general can be so seductive that a lot of creative people do great work without ever summoning the energy to leave home, barely making noise as far away as Madison or Milwaukee, much less Chicago.

In the case of a voice as powerful as Seichrist’s, that’s a damn shame. True, I slept on writing about her prolific outpouring as Patches and Gretchen (six D.I.Y. albums!), despite enthusiastic notices from hometown cheerleaders I respect and her collaboration with my old pal and former bandmate Devin Hill. The fact is, I liked but never really loved those discs. Iamlonesomekid, the debut by her new band/multi-media project, is a different story.

Recorded in Water Valley, Mississippi with producers Bronson Tew and Matt Patton (Drive-By-Truckers) and bandmates Christopher Thompson, Jules Daud, Dave Pederson, and Danny Viper, the album finds the singer, songwriter, painter, and performance artist reenergized and recommitting to her unique and alternately seductive and angry merger of art-punk, blues, folk, scatting jazz, and spoken-word poetry. Think of Patti Smith at her most Dylanesque crossed with a less pretentious Karen O or Amanda Palmer and possessed of the pop smarts of Aimee Mann, who happens to be her half-sister. And you’re still only partly there.

Gretchen Seichrist.

Seichrist is a smart student/pilferer of rock history: You’ve gotta love the way the Sonic Youth maelstroms of guitar noise yield to the Stooges-like one-note piano in “Funnels” and “The Heartfelt News.” She can also imagine Elvis Presley as a blonde while convincingly delivering a torch song (albeit one more twisted than Bertolt Brecht) in “My Bed,” or veerx close to pure pop perfection in a ditty such as “Baby Me,” which only reveals it layers of strange confessions on repeated listens.

“She knows where she’s going,” the aforementioned Hill said of Seichrist in a profile by Chris Roberts for MPR back in 2010. “You just have to hold on.” Well, with Iamlonesomekid, she’s gotten there, and it’s a place I can’t stop visiting, on album and on the enchanting series of films/videos she’s made for each song. Now if only she’d hop in the van and head out of the Twin Cities on tour.

Thelonesomekid, Iamlonesomekid (www.thelonesomekid.com)

Rating on the 4-star scale: 4 stars.

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