Though the reach of the .357 String Band never went much outside the underground country/roots scene, its impact is still greatly felt and its music still celebrated if for no other reason than that magic has still never been similarly captured by subsequent projects.
But we still have those great .357 String Band albums to reflect back on, and just like all the great bands that have launched a specific new strain of music (Uncle Tupelo, for example), the .357 String Band sprouted its own trees and branches of new music that at least supplanted, if not surpassed the .357 String Band’s impact. Spending six years in the project as a banjo player and songwriter about six years ago, Joseph Huber has now launched a solo career, and already has a significant 3-album discography under his belt of critically-acclaimed titles.
Huber now readies his fourth release overall The Suffering Stage being self-released on April 21st, and has shared a new song “You Showed Me” (listen below) that already has folks buzzing. Featuring steel guitar, which is a new sound for Huber, the new song and new album promise to expand the songwriter’s already devout following.
“I’d say, whereas ‘Tongues of Fire’ and ‘The Hanging Road’ feel like sibling albums in my mind, with ‘The Suffering Stage’ I purposefully decided to avoid making the same album again at all costs,” says Huber. “For most of the tracks, I tried to delve into the poetry behind the songs first, which is opposite that I’ve often done. In the past I’ve worked musical hooks into filled-out songs, and here I have very lyrically-based songs that try to strike an emotional chord with their words–whether it be social or personal in its nature.”
“In addition to the album title itself, the titles of the songs really prepare a listener for the tone of the album before you even get a chance to listen,” Joseph continues. “‘Sons of the Wandering,’ ‘Diminished Things’ ‘Sea Of Night,’ ‘Souls Without Maps.’ These are mostly all their own individual musings into either the turbulent, divisive environment we currently forced to endure, or introspective glimpses into the waxing and waning of personal relationships. Having said that–I left some ripping fiddle tunes in there for folks to let loose for a minute or two.”
Listening to the first song “You Showed Me,” long-time Joseph Huber fans will immediately sense a difference in direction with approach, though the same underlying feeling of Huber still underpins the songs. With steel guitar and drums, it’s a new sound for Huber.
“I really wanted to experiment with letting other musicians in on the process this time around,” he says. “My full-time touring partners, Jason Loveall and Eston Bennett, lent their talents on fiddle and upright bass on a few tracks, as well as some of Milwaukee’s best players–Ryan Knudson on pedal steel; Andrew Koenig on electric guitar; and Dustin Dobernig on piano and organ. I’d been listening to a lot of old Jackson Browne; The Band; Van Morrison; etc, and just allowed myself a filled out the sound in contrast to the more minimalist folk production side of things I’d been doing. Naturally, that means there’s drums then too. I’m sure I’ll lose some folk die-hards in that department.”
It’s questionable how many listeners Joseph Huber will lose, and he very well might gain many more with the fleshed-out sound. He also explains the two-pronged meaning of the title of the new album.
“‘The Suffering Stage’ is a play on two ideas–the idiom of ‘Life is a Stage’ and the Buddhist assertion that ‘Life is Suffering.’ I’ve tried to weave these two ideas together into an image of every individual human being reaching out to others about their suffering like a lead in a play would reveal himself and his predicament, only to find no one listening, because everyone is already busy being the lead in their own play. Many people are becoming disconnected and merely concerned with making it through for themselves any way they can, with no thought of the combined effects of our efforts, nor compassion for those falling through the cracks of a new world purposefully designed to not need them. And yet–after all that–in the end, I’ve attempted to affirm life with this song also–to somehow see the beauty of it’s potential.”
You can hear the new song “You Showed Me” below, and pre-order The Suffering Stage.
2. Sons Of The Wandering
3. Diminished Things
4. The Suffering Stage
6. You Showed Me
7. Sea Of Night
8. Souls Without Maps
BONUS TRACKS (digital):
A Little Bit Like Walking Away
Better Than Before