N.B. To celebrate What in the Natural World, Jake’s s/t debut will be on sale for $15 LP/$10 CD/$5 MP3/$23 LP+CD+MP3 until the new record releases on March 31. Listen at the bottom of this page.
Fussell has a deep respect and affinity for the Southern folk vernacular, though he also maintains his childlike awe for it. [What in the Natural World] marks a move into more existential questions … vignettes of Southern life, with an open-hearted groove that would please scholars and little kids alike—Fussell’s burly, winking voice is made for storytelling.
– Laura Snapes, NPR Music
A singular combination of pedigree, experience, education, and talent.
– The Oxford American
It’s difficult to imagine another contemporary interpreter delivering a tale of desperation and sadness with such tenderness, warmth, and grace. The room he leaves for the song to breathe allows it to flourish into its own fully-formed, nuanced world – one as familiar today as during the time of its origin. Here, Fussell taps into those roots and in turn carries the pathos across an entire century, creating something wholly his own. No small feat and just one of the many exhibits that display a truth as absolute as the suffering in this song: Jake Xerxes Fussell is a national treasure.
– Chad Depasquale, Aquarium Drunkard
Jake Xerxes Fussell is set to release his second full-length album, What in the Natural World, on March 31st. After presenting debut single, “Have You Ever Seen Peaches Growing on a Sweet Potato Vine,” via NPR Music’s Songs We Love, the Durham, North Carolina singer and guitarist now shares “Furniture Man,” a desperate tale of poverty and imminent homelessness, as relevant and heartrending now as it was when first recorded in the 1920s. Aquarium Drunkard has the premiere.
Jake provides some context and history:
I learned “Furniture Man” from hearing the 1930 recording by Lil’ McClintock, who apparently was a street singer from South Carolina. I’ve been playing the song for years now, but I’ve always changed up the arrangement in little ways to keep it going. Some of the guitar playing I’m doing on this recording is based on some little treble riffs I learned in Mexico — nothing too advanced but they help the narrative roll along. But anyway, long before I’d heard McClintock’s recording I was already partially familiar with the story because I knew a version of “Cocaine Blues” that this guy Doug Booth from Dothan, Alabama, used to sing which included a verse about the furniture man and how he was “a devil without any horns.” I always loved that imagery. There are a lot of variants of the “furniture man” character out there in different folksongs. Country preachers even recorded sermons about the furniture man. The furniture man, the rent man, whatever you want to call him. The guy who’s always there to collect a debt of some kind, whether you really owe him or not. Devil without any horns. It was a big topic for a while there, and in many ways, it still is.
Disenfranchisement! Dispossession! Despair! How apropos.
Fussell’s What in the Natural World feels several shades darker, and unsettlingly funnier, than his William Tyler-produced debut, and you need only look around at our current national predicament for clues as to why. Since his debut release, Jake has played around the country, dueting with Tyler, touring with Mt. Moriah, Nathan Bowles, and Daniel Bachman, and this month and next, opening for Wilco … and the territory he’s traversed, for many of our fellow citizens, doesn’t brook much hope.
Recorded by Jason Meagher (Steve Gunn, Michael Chapman) in Orange Co., New York, and by Nick Petersen (Mt. Moriah) in Orange Co., North Carolina, What in the Natural World features contributions from three notable Nathans—Bowles (Steve Gunn), Salsburg (Joan Shelley, Alan Lomax Archive), and Golub (Mountain Goats)—as well as Joan Shelley and Casey Toll (Mt. Moriah).
Jake Xerxes Fussell Tour Dates:
Feb 8 – The Cave, Chapel Hill (full band feat. Nathan Bowles)
Feb 22 – The Hideout, Chicago w/James Elkington
Feb 23 – Chicago Theater, Chicago w/Wilco
Feb 24 – Clovene (Nathan Salsburg’s place), Louisville, KY
March 21 & 22 – Beacon Theatre, New York w/Wilco
Is that the Furniture Man’s truck rolling round the bend in Roger Brown’s “A Seasonal Change,” which graces the back cover?
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