Just before the end of fall semester, my band (Rosin in the Aire) and I welcomed our newest creation into the world: our second CD! It was a long project, having started (with recording) in July 2014; with five band members (that work full time) and a busy recording studio engineer (UPS alum and accordionist for the band Pearl Django, David Lange), it was challenging to coordinate schedules. The title of the album is Good Times in the Homeland, named after the two original cuts on the CD (our banjo player Allan Walton’s “Good Times in C” and my song, “The Homeland”).
As an anthropologist, I recognize the power of music in the cultural, social, and political lives of human communities. Music can convey powerful messages, and provide an important venue for various types of expression. As a musician, I feel grounded as a cultural being in the music that I create. And I use music to tell important stories about experiences that might resonate with others. I wrote the song “The Homeland” telling my great grandmother’s story of immigration, from Italy to the USA in 1914, and then the extended connections between my life (and my family here) and those of my relatives in Italy. Most of my life I wondered what it was like for my great grandmother (who I grew up with as my grandmother, since my actual grandmother—her daughter—had died before I was born) being an immigrant in New York. She was of southern European origin and a decade after she arrived immigration from southern and eastern European (among other places) was significantly restricted, by the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924. She was never able to return to her natal Italy and to see her family (most heart-wrenching, for me, her mother) again; such extravagant travel was not possible, and I suppose after a while became harder and harder to imagine as immigrants in the USA tried more and more to leave the “old world” behind, due to strong American expectations of assimilation. I wrote the song with all of that in mind, and with the line “I can’t go back to the way it used to be” to have multiple layers of meaning. I also wrote this song before I went to Italy to meet my relatives there for the first time, imagining our “reuniting” as a sort of family healing of the rupture that had occurred. I sing the chorus once in Italian, and dedicate the song to all immigrants who miss their homelands.
There is a variety of songs on the CD, from bluegrass classics like “Blue Night” to the traditional Mexican “La Llorona” to John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery” to a rag, a waltz, and a jazz standard (“Sunny Side of the Street”). So, there is a track or two sure to please. It was a fun project, and so delightful to see/hear as a finished work.
More info: www.rosinintheaire.com