By Julijana Capone
CALGARY — “I think I might just stay here awhile,” sings roots troubadour Scott Nolan on the title track of his latest album, Silverhill.
So named after the town of Silverhill, Alabama—also the location of the Frog Pond at Blue Moon Farm, an outdoor venue and house concert series modeled after Levon Helm’s Midnight Rambles—it’s a fitting verse for a place that Nolan first fell in love with while touring with Americana singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier.
“It’s just a beautiful, wonderful thing,” says Nolan of the Frog Pond. “It reminds me of the whole point and origins of music. It’s family-friendly and community-driven.”
That initial experience inspired Nolan to return to Alabama in 2014 to record an album, concluding a year of strange musical pilgrimages for the artist, among them a performance at Folsom State Prison in California.
Enlisting the help of Americana supergroup Willie Sugarcapps—a band that was born at a Frog Pond gig—the album was recorded at the studio of Sugarcapps member Anthony Crawford on a two-house porch in a neighbouring town of Silverhill.
“In the South, I find there can be a lazy groove,” says Nolan. “The air is different. I could sing day and night, because the air felt syrupy somehow.”
The resulting tracks are in part a document of Nolan’s time in Alabama, rife with rustic touches, like the sounds of someone sweeping the porch after a session, and a live feel that evokes the spirit of those communal Southern jams.
“They had no demos to prepare from…We would record each song one to three times,” recalls Nolan. “I’d say 80 per cent or more were first takes…There was no editing and cleaning or fixing…It was more like a photographer’s philosophy: hope for that moment and capture it.”
Indeed, there was a lot to draw inspiration from during the recording process: the down-homey vibe, the area, the music…the moonshine.
As Nolan says, he was turned onto what they call “apple pie moonshine,” gifted to him while recording.
“It was from a woman from a neighbouring farm, whose recipe was like 104 years old,” he says. “It was very organic homemade liquor… It affected the record…I was affected by a whole bunch of different things besides the moonshine. There was just a lot of history.”
Silverhill is out now via Transistor 66. Scott Nolan’s Silverhill album release party happens at The Park Theatre (Winnipeg) on Dec. 12.Manitoba, MB, Park Theatre, Scott Nolan, Silverhill