I’m watching more and more support acts. I don’t want to stand in the pub and arrive 10 minutes before the main attraction comes on and then need to head to the loo. Too old for that nonsense.
More importantly though, it gives me the opportunity to see someone that I don’t know often in a fairly intimate venue that I’m familiar with.
Lutalo opened for The Weather Station at their recent gig at an old church in North London, Union Chapel. With just a white Fender Strat for company, he performed a handful of songs from his recent EP. I knew nothing of him (I didn’t even realise he was performing until they announced it in bar/cafe).
Lutalo has a soft and gentle voice, reminding me of Evan Dando in his more tender moments. His voice has the same richness with the softening around the edges. With Evan, there’s always a suggestion that the blurriness is pharmaceutically smoothed but Lutalo is clearly absolutely in the moment and present. He described many of his songs as being composed and recorded in self imposed isolation in a friend’s cabin in Vermont. His writing is very much in the first person, inward looking and confessional. He uses unusual chord shapes which take his work beyond the more commonplace singer-songwriter genre.
A Guardian article from earlier this year suggests that Lutalo keeps good company. He’s related by marriage to Adrienne Lenker of Big Thief and he has moved out to Vermont with his wife to concentrate on his work. The application shows. The live show is stripped bare but his recordings have a fuller sound, using electronics and percussion to fill in the spaces but not to the exclusion of his own personality. Lutalo’s just 23 but confident enough to speak openly about his inspiration and intent at the Union Chapel, thousands of miles from home.
In a recent interview, Jones talked about his cousin, Lenker, in glowing terms having supported on tour earlier in the year:
Seeing how authentic and raw her music—her work with her linguistics, her words, is absolutely beautiful. And it’s been really inspiring, and has pushed me to be like, I can do better. I can always do better. I feel like she’s like a legend in our time, for sure.
Having been fortunate enough to have watched both Lenker and Lutalo up close this year, one can see a commonality in their approach, even to where their fingers go on the fretboard. They both have seem totally wrapped in the music they are making, especially when Lenker goes solo from her bandmates in Big Thief.
Here’s a Bandcamp link to the fruits of his labours in Vermont, the E.P. entitled Once Now, Then Again. As I mentioned earlier, it features a fuller sound – still one guy in a studio but more embellishments and atmospheres.
Here are some recents clip from the Paper Moon Youtube channel in Brooklyn. This is closer to the Lutalo that we experienced in London, a spare more open performance. You can see the leap across to some Big Thief’s more confessional moments isn’t too huge. If you’ve heard any of Lenker’s solo work, it will be instantly identifiable. I’ve come to love both Big Thief/Lenker’s work, having first written about her second solo album here.