The toast of Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti folk circles, Chris Bathgate will surely witness his sphere of influence expand come April 26th when his latest album, Salt Year, is released. With a style reminiscent of a stripped-down Richard Thompson or perhaps a stateside Glen Hansard, Bathgate has been charming audiences in The Great Lakes State for well over five years, leaving in his wake a string of critically-lauded records, both self-released and for the Quite Scientific label.
Salt Year was a hard-won victory, nearly four-years in the making, and punctuated with endless delays as Bathgate struggled not to simply make his next album, but rather, the right album. MOKB jumped at the chance to premiere the record’s lead single, No Silver. I could try to frame No Silver, but I think you need to hear it from the horse’s mouth:
[I] wrote this song…after a dinner of homemade biscuits. Flour, butter, and milk were the only things I had left in the house to eat. I had gotten home with the gas light on, driving without insurance (which means your license gets taken away in MI if you get caught), dead broke, not knowing how I was going to get the gas to get to work in the morning. I was getting paid that Friday, and every cent of it was going to my studio bill. It was the first of many moments of total financial collapse during “the salt year.” I think I sang it out of joyful fear, I was gonna make my studio bill, but nothing else. At the time that was enough.
I used to get this fear when I ran out of money, as if my heart would stop, as if I was coming closer to death. I got over this fear real quick, I didn’t have a choice. This past CMJ (2010), I had enough money to make it there, but not enough to make it back. I went, and lasted until the Monday after (I had a post-CMJ show at The Delancey, a free one). I put my last 4 bucks on a metrocard, and went to Central Park. There, I played fiddle tunes (on mandolin) for 8 hours straight, and made 128 bucks in quarters, nickels, and dimes. My left hand was wretched that night, and the following morning when I drove home. I had 2 bucks left when I got back to Michigan…after gas and tolls. This is typically how close to the edge I have to operate as a musician. I eat biscuits, and people all over the world send me nice messages, explaining how much they love my music. When I was recording this song, that hopeless excited feeling came back. I dumped a few cracked cymbals on the floor of Jim Roll’s studio and started smashing away a kick drum, and a washboard. I wanted No Silver to sound broke, broken and exhilarated.
Mission accomplished, Chris. Clearly, this is the work of a confident and hyper-talented artist with a voice of authenticity and the heart of a wounded lion. Salt Year fires on all cylinders and is, without a doubt, the first great folk record of 2011.