Release Date: October 2009

By Susie Glaze

Ernest_Troost.jpg2009 Kerrville New Folk Winner Ernest Troost's newest album, the aptly titled Resurrection Blues is a brilliant new piece of songwriting art. Its thirteen Piedmont-blues influenced songs tell stories of passion, lost love and regret-filled lives at a cross-roads, looking for a modern-day answer to "how did things ever get this far?" and "when did the darkness fall?" Ernest Troost's existential questions run rampant in his first three songs; and then, the stories begin.

For those of you who aren't familiar with his work, aside from the new Kerrville win, Ernest Troost is an Emmy-winning and multiply Emmy-nominated composer of more than one hundred scores for films and television. His first album of songs, All the Boats Are Gonna Rise, was a return to his musical roots, inspired by one of those "defining moments" where an event or series of events can turn you onto a new path you didn't see coming. He writes: "I bought a Blind Blake instructional video and learned a bunch of his songs, which led to my writing my own songs in the Piedmont style. I had studied jazz guitar and classical guitar for years, but had never played guitar in the open tuning that Blake used. The alternate tunings I learned were a revelation and I now use lots of different tunings in my songwriting." Add this to solid composing chops and you've got something brand new that sounds old and is just flat good.

Some background: Piedmont blues is a true melting pot of sounds, developed along the East Coast and typically refers to a greater geographical area than the Piedmont plateau, from about Richmond, Virginia, to Atlanta, Georgia. Piedmont blues musicians come from this area, as well as Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and northern Florida, eastern Tennessee, Kentucky, and Alabama - later the Northeastern cities like Boston, Newark, NJ, or New York. It's noted for characteristics like alternating bass played with the thumb (some say it's like playing piano on guitar) and, because the black community in the Piedmont region was more integrated into the white community than, say, the Delta region in Mississippi (producing Delta Blues with slides and simpler melodies), it was influenced by a variety of popular music of the day such as Ragtime, Tin-Pan Alley and other popular music forms in its harmony and rhythm. Ernest captures the feel of the Piedmont style engagingly and gently, with an honest poetry that is both accessible and profound.

Ernest likes to call his new work "cinematic folk" (perfect for keeping with his film and TV work), and that's a great description, in that he writes such vivid character studies with fable-like, morality-tale qualities. Indeed, his songs are like entire films in miniature, like looking at a painting that tells a story in one image (or several) on one canvas. From Ernest again: "Stories are what fascinate me...I sometimes think of myself more as a filmmaker than a songwriter...I love to weave words and music together and create cinematic images in the mind of the listener."

And images do fly: Just listen to the story of Switchblade Heart, where Frankie, a killer who "kept his enemies close and his edges sharp" falls for "a girl from Tennessee." Then on one fateful night she jumps in front of Frankie as the boys come after him and there is "the cough of a pistol and her mournful cry." Or enjoy the whimsical Big-time Blues where criminals find their just deserts, or the tale of the man who couldn't get over a long-ago transgression in Sad Dog Blues. Ernest captures the grand Tin-Pan Alley influence with a new classic My Baby Loves Me replete with clarinet and an infectious swing:

I'm under her spell, but this ain't no voodoo

My baby loves me like no other lover do!

This is a broad and colorful canvas of Americana. But his theme I think here is in the title cut, Resurrection Blues where Ernest asks something we can all understand:

What happened and how did I get here?

Sittin' in the dark, watchin' for a sign

My thoughts can hardly keep up with my restless mind

I've seen my future and my world has come undone

My gears are broken and my springs have sprung...

I got criminal blood coursing through my veins

I got addictive tendencies circlin' my brain

Waitin' like a pack of wolves