Trail Mix | Spitzer Space Telescope

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Years of music collecting – records, tapes, compact discs, digital devices and external hard drives – has a way of cramping one’s space.

From the smallest efficiency apartment to a spacious family home, the music collector – perhaps you, or someone you love – is well familiar with the real estate that shelves or albums and teetering stacks of discs or tapes can occupy.

Enter, then, the brand new concept album from Spitzer Space Telescope, the recording name of singer/songwriter Dan MacDonald. Colonies In The Wild Frontier is unlike any recording project previous. Every song, each representing different periods in the American folk tradition, is presented via at least two videos and connections to voluminous amounts of supplementary material like lyrics, sheet music, and folk art.

Available as a downloadable app, Colonies In The Wild Frontier represents a wild departure from the record business norm. With copious amounts of material available directly to the listener, this exploration of folk music is a clarion call for future artists who want to collaborate with other artists, and not record labels, to create music.

I recently chatted with Dan MacDonald about the new record, star gazing, and the videos he made for the record.

BRO – You spend a lot of time space gazing? Got a favorite constellation?

DM – I don’t do much star gazing, but on a clear night I’ll definitely check out the sky. Meteors and shooting stars are cool, but I’m not so into constellations, personally.

BRO  – Some of your favorite old time artists?

DM – I love Roscoe Holcomb, Howie Mitchell, Tommy Jarrell, Elizabeth Laprelle, The Downhill Strugglers, and more, but I also love versions of old time songs that Joan Baez, Paul Clayton, John Jacob Niles, and other artists did. What was really cool about making this album an app is that I was able to link the listener directly to the artists that inspired me, which has never been possible before. Nobody has to read the liner notes or search around online. Videos of these artists are integrated right into the album.

BRO – Speaking of those videos, what was the inspiration behind that?

DM – I got the idea to make an album of all videos from my years of song hunting on Youtube. I realized how much more vivid a song can be when you can watch footage of the artist performing it. So, each video of my album is essentially an homage to a killer video I’ve found online. I really did my best to make each one subtly educational about folk music traditions.

BRO – We are featuring “Corn Holler” on this month’s Trail Mix. As a native of Southwest Virginia, can I tell you that I appreciate the correct spelling?

DM – Glad to hear that.

BRO – You get to add an old time fiddle tune to a space capsule shot into space, in the hopes an alien culture will hear it. What’s your pick?

DM – Those aliens are going to crank up the Bruce Molsky and Rushad Eggleston version of “Chinquapin Hunting” and wish that hadn’t wasted so much time on those damned crop circles.

Colonies In The Wild Frontier” is available via Apple’s App Store and on Google Play. For more information on Dan MacDonald, the new record, and when you can catch Spitzer Space Telescope on stage, point your browser here.

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