Tracy Bonham‘s 1996 debut album went Gold, was nominated for two Grammys, and featured the last song by a solo female artist–“Mother Mother“–to top the alternative charts until 2013. So when the 20th anniversary of the album started to appear on the horizon, Bonham decided to mark the occasion with something more than a re-release. “I wanted to revamp and refurbish the songs and put them to a modern template,” Bonham said. “To make it a creative endeavor, not just a commercial one.”
To that end, the singer-songwriter with 8 full-length albums and EPs to her name enlisted John Wlaysewski of the band Late Cambrian to produce. The two knew each other from gigging together. “I dissected her songs from her first album and tried to get her to open up to what they were in their essence, beyond how they existed in a certain time period,” Wlaysewski said. “We wanted to think about these songs as if they were new,” Bonham added.
Instead of the aggressive grunge production of the 1996 release, the new album–titled Modern Burdens–features more experimental, stripped down, often slower versions of the songs, including “Mother Mother.”
Placing the compositions in a more contemporary sonic landscape aligned with another goal of Bonham?s for the project: Re-contextualizing the lyrics for the Trump Era. “Many of the songs on Burdens are about this horrible, misogynist guy,” Bonham said. “So I just replaced his face with another.”
As she and Wlaysewski began pre-production before last fall’s election, Bonham said, “I realized the lyrics had a lot to do with what was going on. I remember watching one of the debates, and the things Trump was saying was so ludicrous. I had been thinking about how to make these songs current and the lyrics relevant.”
At the time of the original release, the male-dominated music industry had room for very few strong female artists such as Bonham. So for the re-release, she decided to ask female performers she respected, both from her generation and younger artists, to contribute vocals to the new recordings. “I felt this was one way we could make sense of what had happened and create a community that could send a message of solidarity and strength,” Bonham said. “The response was immediate.”
These performers include Tanya Donelly of Belly, the Breeders, and Throwing Muses, Kathryn Calder of the New Pornographers, Rachel Yamagata, Kay Hanley of Letters To Cleo, Australian pop songstress, Angie Hart, Nicole Atkins and Sadie Dupuis of the band Speedy Ortiz.
The influence Bonham’s breakthrough LP had exerted on the younger artists’ development inspired their participation. “It was special for me to be able to take part in a project that was so tied into my memories of being a young musician,” said Kathryn Calder. Just 13 when the original Burdens was released, she said that at the time, “I related to her independence, I loved her singing, and I was inspired by her musicianship.”
Tanya Donelly is one of the contemporaries of Bonham’s who joined the project, singing on what was the second single on original Burdens, “Sharks Can’t Sleep.” “I think she’s a great lyricist and singer–I love the swoops, the restingness, the softness and the hardness of Tracy’s voice,” she said.
In keeping with the album’s themes and its creative process, Modern Burdens will be self-released on International Day of the Girl, October 11 via Schoolkids Records (Bettie Serveet, The Veldt). A release party will be held October 17 at The Cutting Room in New York City, Special guests to be announced, Showtime 9:30 and tickets available via the link below.
More Info: https://www.tracybonham.com
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