Music Monday: Rhiannon Giddens’s At the Purchaser’s Option

I saw Giddens perform for the first time on Thanksgiving, 2017. Zoe knew Rhiannon from over a decade ago when they were roommates at the Swannanoa Gathering. (Zoe’s also is friends with another member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops…Zoe is the main source of entertainment world glamour in my life!) Giddens was mostly playing from her new album, Freedom Highway (highly recommended; see this review which is interesting). “At the Purchaser’s Option” was inspired by an add she found during research:

I’d write more but I have to work on a Zoe video! I will note that back in the day, Giddens did a cover of a Zoe song, the American Wake:

(The Irish accent is perhaps not ideal.)

Zoe released a fully produced version on her second studio album, Roadside Saints:

You can find a number of live versions:

But also, there was another recorder version on the album, “As Soon As I’m On Top Of Things”. I believe that was the version Giddens was working off of.

Interestingly, I’ve been hewing out Zoe’s dad’s attic where there was way too many boxes of our stuff (it is much reduced now!) and I found an interesting piece of American Wake history from 2003. (Zoe, Margaret, and Claire, you probably want to stop reading now!)

In 2003, Zoe was raising money to help fund her first “real” studio album, Travelling Moon. This was well before Kickstarter, natch. Zoe’s Aunt Margaret, being a good aunt, sent out a fundraising letter to friends and family. It was a very nice letter. Alas, one of Margaret’s circle was not a very nice person or even a nice person. Instead of just ignoring it, he wrote back a really stupid screed. I found it in an box in that attic! Before I give the silliness, note that in the letter, Margaret wrote:

“American Wake” tells the story of a wake given for a young Irishman  emigrating to American with no expectation of returning again to his home.

It’s clear, right? The song is also clear. But we get the following:

Hard to believe that in America things are so bad…No work to be found or bread to be had? [Ed: that’s a line from the song describing…Ireland which is why the narrator is going to America]

It’s not aboutyoung artists. [Ed: Margaret wrote about supporting young artists.] It’s about Zoe Mulford. [Ed: You know, Margaret’s niece.] Too negative! Not my cup of tea. [Ed: Well obviously the too negative just isn’t true, but it’s fine for someone not to like Zoe’s music, but why write this nasty little note?]

No doubt she’s talented and has a beautiful voice and an engaging style, but content is too dark [Ed: if you don’t understand it even a little], negative, and left wing for me! [Ed: Zoe, while pretty far left, put no leftist content in either album] She reminds me of Dori Previn in the 60’s [Ed: dude, you didn’t listen to more that 15 seconds of anything Zoe recorded.], also very talented and creative, but you don’t hear about her anymore. [Ed: Unlike you, she has a Wikipedia page and a career that continued until at least 2008]

There’s this feminist attitude of victimhood. [Ed: Ok, we get it. You don’t like Zoe because she’s female.]

Why aren’t the feminist proclaiming outrage about the Muslim treatment of women.

That last classic bit of standard right wing bullshit randomly inserted just cracked me up.

People are weird!