In the early ‘90s Chris Daltry came to Rhode Island to play an indie rock festival with his band, Purple Ivy Shadows, and never left.
“My first visits to Providence revealed a lively DIY music scene that included not just the music I liked, but one that included like-minded people whose music may have differed, but made sense together because the people did,” he says. Though Purple Ivy Shadows disbanded in 2002, Daltry has remained a vital part of the city’s scene as the singer/guitarist of The ‘Mericans and owner, along with his wife Jennifer, of What Cheer? Records & Vintage.
Over three albums, The ‘Mericans have established themselves as the city’s preeminent Americana rockers, drawing comparisons to everyone from CCR to Wilco, but those first experiences in Providence and the influence its homegrown music had on him have never been too far from Daltry’s mind. As a way of honoring the scene that brought him here, The ‘Mericans have released the free to download A Tribute to Providence, a collection of 20 songs from the last 20 years of local music.
The album starts with Small Factory’s “For When You Cannot Land” which is fitting given the role they played in Daltry relocating his band all those years ago – he gives them a lot of the credit for convincing him that this was the place he wanted to make music. This track, along with Throwing Muses’ “Honeychain” and Miracle Legion’s “Country Boy” highlight Rhode Island’s contribution to the golden age of alternative rock. On the more contemporary side of things are covers of Roz Raskin and the Rice Cakes, Deer Tick, Death Vessel and The Low Anthem.
At the extreme ends of the spectrum are an eerily spaced out take on Allysen Callery’s “Winter Island,” and arguably the album’s rowdiest track, “Radio to Saturn vs. Hackamore Brick” originally by Thee Hydrogen Terrors. More than any other songs on the album, these two come closest to feeling like departures from any sort of established comfort zone.
Listening to the original recordings of all of these songs reveals a diverse, sometimes clashing collection of style and energy, but what Daltry believes unifies them all is that they’re great songs to start with. Making them all work together as the record fell on The ‘Mericans, and they aced it. On paper this is a zig-zagging tour through two decades of local music but the end product is surprisingly cohesive.
“To make a 20-song album be strong and make sense together is an achievement on its own. Usually stuff winds up getting cut to make for a more cohesive record, but all the songs we recorded for this album somehow managed to turn out well and make sense together. Michael Moore (The ‘Mericans guitarist) was recently telling me that he feels this is an incredible accomplishment. I feel the same way.”
As a love-letter to the good old days and a gateway to music younger audiences may have missed out on, A Tribute to Providence succeeds in its mission to celebrate the creative tradition that define our city’s scene. That scene may be radically different from what it was 20 years ago, but the infectious creativity that Daltry fell in love with in the first place remains as strong as ever.
“Providence is unique in that it gets a constant flow of new blood year after year from schools like RISD and Brown. These new faces bring new ideas here, and exciting stuff happens. We should all be very proud of what our music scene has become.”
Official Album Release Shows: Saturday, January 18 featuring The ‘Mericans playing A Tribute in its entirety Sunday, January 19 The ‘Mericans will be joined by bands featured on the album.