Alt-Folk Collective Alright Alright Set To Release Debut Full-Length Album Tomorrow
Denver-based alt-folk collective Alright Alright - driven by the powerhouse husband-and-wife songwriting team of Seth and China Kent - is set to release its debut full-length album, Nearby, on October 5, 2018 via Hooves and Sugar Record Co. The seductively atmospheric record was produced by the duo with Eric Dawson Tate and Ben Wysocki, mixed by Eric Dawson Tate, and mastered by Alan Douches of West West Side Music.
From the strings-and-choir-driven wishing-well aspirations of "Be Kind" to the slow-building smoky-twangy revelations of "By the Bed" to the zeitgeist temperature-taking of "Luckiest Girl in America" to the harmonic bent-truth yearnings of "The Liar," Nearby deftly carries the listener through each gripping, successive chapter of the ever-growing, ever-evolving Alright Alright saga.
"Every song on Nearby is a combination of who produced it and who recorded it," observes China, who gifts the music they make with vocals, piano, keyboards, and string arrangements. "And the challenge," adds her partner Seth, who performs vocals and acoustic and electric guitar, "was in making it all into something cohesive." Nearby also serves as a companion piece to Alright Alright's 2016 Faraway EP, the titles of which China gleaned after reading Rebecca Solnit's insightful 2013 essay collection, The Faraway Nearby. Points out Seth, "Our songwriting has become more and more personal. Each song on Nearby was more directly, yet sometimes obtusely, about us. The writing mode we're now in fuses material about place with material about the personal."
Each Kent channels an impressive C.V. into Alright Alright's musical DNA. China attended Vanderbilt University and is a classically trained pianist, while Seth has spent time on record and on tour as a guitar tech with the super-successful Denver-bred alt-rockers The Fray ("Over My Head (Cable Car)," "How to Save a Life"). Together, the Kents have also helped compose the scores for a number of fine independent films including Brick, Blue State, The Brothers Bloom, and Jam. The sonic scope of these scores, well, underscore just how adept the married duo are when it comes to bringing such cinematic sensibilities into their own work.
Both China and Seth grew up in self-described "musically conservative" households before eventually finding common ground in their mutual love of U2's 1991 game-changing and genre-challenging Achtung Baby. "Hearing that album on endless repeat opened up the idea that you could make a simple song say something really powerful," Seth reports. Concurs China, "It was a total shift, especially for someone classically trained like me. I forced myself to listen to Achtung Baby over and over again because it sounded so dissonant to me, but I had to make my ears comply with what I was hearing."
There was a brief period of time the Kents contemplated throwing in the towel altogether as they raised their kids, but something inside just wouldn't give. "The creative pull was ultimately too strong," admits China. "It was an epiphany to realize this was what I have to bring to the world." Seth had his own creative epiphany following the end of a different outside gig. "Why go through the pain and agony of reinventing myself when I could do music with someone who I like?" he muses. "Musically speaking, we come from very different backgrounds, but we make it work."
Perhaps there's no better indication of Alright Alright being on the exact right path than the live audience response they've been getting to the recast version of "Luckiest Girl in America," a onetime Song of the Month entry from 2016 that has since taken up a rightful position on Nearby. "We put that song back in the setlist a few months ago, and that was the one that brought total silence to the room," marvels China. "People need that song right now. I mean, I could talk about America for so long. America is less a place and more an idea. We are right in the middle of this huge Venn diagram of what we believe about America, and what we think it should be." Seth agrees, then adds, "We're also saying to people that it's okay to have that emotion - it's okay to feel and care about this place we live in, and someone else doesn't get to choose that we don't."
Concludes China, "I feel like the music on Nearby is our way of reclaiming these ideals by saying, 'Nope - I live here too, and this is my way of doing things.' And that's the magic of music, isn't it? It's why I also love playing house shows and in small community listening rooms. We're all experiencing this musical moment together. We sing these songs that pierce the heart. I mean, there are many, many tears at our shows sometimes, but it's all part of this experience we have together that you can't get outside of music."
Sharing the musical magic in a live setting is in the cards, as the twosome plans to support the album with shows (see confirmed tour schedule below). Already they've enjoyed touring opportunities this year as varied as the Nowhere Else Festival over Memorial Day weekend, and in July, Seth, China, and their kids paddled the Colorado River for several days with the acclaimed Centennial Canoe Outfitters; each evening, the duo performed a combination of original songs, campfire songs, and beloved covers for the other river travelers.
Alright Alright Tour Schedule:
Oct. 5 - Fort Collins, CO - Magic Rat
Oct. 11 - Lincoln, NE - Zoo Bar (w/Andrea Von Kampen)
Oct. 13 - Denver, CO - Syntax
Oct. 18 - Trinidad, CO - Las Animas Grill
Oct. 19 - Taos, NM - Adobe Bar at Taos Inn
Oct. 20 - Albuquerque, NM - house concert
Oct. 21 - Santa Fe, NM - Duel Brewing
Oct. 26 - Topeka, KS - Last Minute Folk
Oct. 27 - Kansas City, MO - Californos
Oct. 28 - Hermann, MO - 1837 Bar
... more dates to be announced soon!
Photo credit: Matthew Greenlee