New Yorker features Eamon and Jefferson

Eamon and Jefferson are featured in the 1/29/19 edition of the New Yorker online in a piece by Robert Sullivan titled “The Joy of a Musical Session.” Sullivan wrote:

An occupational hazard associated with writing is that you meet a lot of writers who talk about writing in a way that makes you want to get into plumbing. But, when I started regularly going to sessions, I met a number of musicians who talked about writing in a way that was inspiring, in part because they were good writers and in part because music and books are (in my mind, anyway) the same thing. I was thinking about this recently while listening to new albums by the two players who hosted many of the Brass Monkey sessions: Jefferson Hamer and Eamon O’Leary. For me, both albums highlight the collaborations among the artists who manage to work in what, before listening in on sessions, I might have thought of as a random backstage of the music world—vaguely related to concerts and CDs—but that I now see as a community. It’s a community that’s not so much behind the scenes as it is the landscape itself, the place where musicians nourish themselves by playing music in the company of people they admire, respect, and enjoy.


Alameda,” the title track on Hamer’s album, is a rock ballad with crispy guitar licks and geographic lyrics about a wandering worker, who is maybe the author, but maybe not. In the way that it talks about a long search for work, it reminds me of Woody Guthrie’s Columbia River song series, or maybe the old Stan Rogers song that, if I remember correctly, I’d heard Hamer sing in the bar. “I was born and I was raised / Where the valley meets the bay,” he sings. “All I own I carry around / Guadeloupe, San Jose.” “Moving Day,” another song on the CD, is now up there with Guy Clark’s “L.A. Freeway” as one of my favorite songs about moving—a wistful genre that I reviewed last winter, when we moved from the city, leaving behind, among other things, easy access to the session I regularly visited.

And then, sure enough, Hamer plays guitar on “All Souls,” O’Leary’s album, though the production of the record couldn’t be more different from that of his own. It’s produced by O’Leary and Benjamin Lazar Davis. Davis is a member of what I think of as the East Coast’s coolest avant-pop group, Cuddle Magic, and this past summer he released a solo CD that has a gorgeous synth openness, which seems to be continents away from traditional Irish reels (even though, when you think about what, say, Mícheál Ó Domhnaill was up to you come to see it isn’t). When I listen to the O’Leary song entitled “Our Old Dominion,” I want to describe it as an Ian Tyson-esque ballad about a man stranded on an island and then lost at sea, but it feels more like a chain of imagistic verses that take you through a dreamscape, like jumping from one rock to the next in a stream of keyboards and pedal steel. “Bywater,” named for the New Orleans neighborhood, features Bridget Kearney, of Lake Street Dive, and itself feels like a walk to look at the river: “It can rain and it can blow / The sky could crack for all I know / but sit you where the river flows, out to the gulf of Mexico.”
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