News Column

Siskind's debut album sees new light 11 years after release [Roanoke Times (Roanoke, VA)]

November 9, 2013

YellowBrix

There are lots of reasons a good record never gets traction. Bad luck, band breakups, poor record label support and troubled performers are just a few.

Sarah Siskind's 2002 debut album, "Covered," suffered from Siskind's chronic sinusitis. Several ensuing surgeries prevented her from touring or promoting the indie-pop gem, which blended her pretty and haunting songs with production by Tucker Martine (The Decemberists, My Morning Jacket, Tift Merritt, Aoife O'Donovan) and guitar wizardry from Bill Frisell.

It's not rare for an album, even a good one, to fall through the cracks. But new life for such a record is rare indeed.

That's where Justin Vernon, the creative force behind the band Bon Iver, comes in. Vernon started a label called Chigliak, an imprint of his Jagjaguwar label, for just such records. Chigliak released "Covered" - a record that holds up strongly 10 years later - on July 16.

Siskind and her husband, Infamous Stringdusters bassist Travis Book, will perform songs from "Covered," and other tunes including Siskind originals that have appeared on the ABC TV show "Nashville," in a concert tonight at Kirk Avenue Music Hall.

Long before Vernon's label released "Covered," Bon Iver was already covering a Siskind tune, "Lovin's For Fools," that wasn't even on "Covered."

Bon Iver's version became a fan favorite at concerts and a bit of a YouTube sensation, with one version getting more than 250,000 views.

Vernon wasn't yet an indie-music star, and his band was not yet the 2012 Grammy winner for best new artist, when a friend of Siskind's sent her a link to his cover of "Lovin's For Fools." Siskind said that she reached out to him, and he invited her to one of his shows, where he brought her up to help him sing her song.

That version of the song, posted in 2008, has almost 67,000 hits. See it at youtu.be/5wC_kZNYMWg.

They talked, and she learned that he was a "huge fan" of "Covered," which he had discovered while studying records that Frisell had done.

"I sort of initiated the contact, and I'm sure glad I did, because he's sort of a brother to me now," Siskind said. "He and I share a lot of the same musical tastes and sort of outlook on life. And he's such a great guy and such a huge talent."

Not that Siskind had suffered in her career. After her surgeries, dietary changes and a move from Nashville, Tenn., with Book to the cleaner air of Nellysford, she has felt better, for the most part, and she never quit writing.

Alison Krauss recorded her song, "Simple Love," which received a Grammy nomination for best female vocal performance. Krauss also recorded Siskind's "Goodbye Is All We Have." And several songs she wrote while she was still living in Nashville have seen extended life on that town's TV namesake. "Nashville" has featured Siskind co-writes "The End of the Day," "Sun to Shadow" and "A Life That's Good."

Siskind's own voice was heard singing "Sun to Shadow" in the background of a scene between two of the show's stars this season. And the young sister duo The Stellas performed a cover of "A Life That's Good," then immediately blew up.

"Within 24 hours, it went to No. 2 on the iTunes country chart, which was really fun to watch," Siskind said. "I had never had a song do that."

Expect to hear that number live at Kirk Avenue, along with music from such Siskind albums as "Say It Louder," "Novel," "In The Mountains" and the holiday-themed "All Come Together Now."

Siskind still travels to Nashville to write with other Nashville acts, though that pace has slowed some since she gave birth to Ruby, her 9-month-old daughter with Book.

"Now that I don't live in Nashville, it's a treat to be able to go there and really dive in and really focus on writing," she said. "And then I get to leave and come back to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. It's a nice change to be able to do that."

Siskind, who was raised in a bluegrass-loving family that took her along for festivals and performances, said Ruby will be along when she and Book hit Kirk Avenue tonight.

"We've been lugging her around to gigs since she was 6 weeks old, so she's really used to it and she does great. So she'll be there in Roanoke. She'll be hanging out. She may make a little noise during the set. She gets excited sometimes when we sing."

Like mother, like daughter.

Sarah Siskind & Travis Book

When: 8 p.m. today

Where: Kirk Avenue Music Hall, Roanoke

Tickets: $12. kirkavenuemusic.com/buy, sarahsiskind.com

More info: Hear a podcast with Siskind, featuring streaming songs from "Covered," at blogs.roanoke.com/cutnscratch/?p=18221

At left: Sarah Siskind

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