Nearly three years in the making, a new album from Indy’s own Blueprintmusic anchors a concerted effort to take the band’s game to the next level.
“To me, the real focus is using it as a tool to improve our live show and have a total package to give to people,” says Kate Lamont, vocalist and lyricist for the genre-busting acoustic ensemble. “We feel a real passion and drive to do more than we’ve done before.”
The campaign officially kicks off Friday, Sept. 7, when Blueprintmusic stages an album release show at American Cabaret Theatre for its third independent disc, Slow Pace Quickening.
Building on the sound established by 2003’s Ghosts and Eskimos, the new album showcases Lamont’s world-class voice and Doug Sauter’s innovative guitar and banjo compositions, with support from Matt Koher on mandolin and fiddle, Joshua Strodtman on percussion and guitar, and Grover Parido on double bass and cello — the band’s unlikely secret ingredient. Current live shows feature a six-person lineup with Fred Withrow or Ryan Deasy on bass, while Strodtman picks a dobro to fill the role played on recordings by multi-instrumentalist friend Jason Mowery.
As the instrumentation suggests, the players are adept at standard bluegrass and mountain music, but they also paint surreal soundscapes with touches of European chamber music and the drones and exotic scales of Asia and Africa. While some songs have standard folk and country structures, others evoke the flowing, improvisational quality of Eastern music, with Lamont’s unpredictable vocal lines leading the instruments in parallel pursuit of extended melodic phrases.
The songs typically begin with Sauter, who started writing with Lamont more than a decade ago while studying composition and music engineering at Ball State University. He can play banjo with the old-timey clawhammer stroke as well as the rapid-fire Scruggs picking style. His guitar parts reference everything from Delta blues to the progressive-acoustic flash of Michael Hedges.
Early work on the album took place as the happily wedded Lamont and Strodtman were expecting their first child, now a 2-year-old boy. The opening song, “Quickening,” conveys a mother-to-be’s sense of wonder, doubt and expectation as the child stirs within. The idea became an organizing principle for the album, which speaks to the accelerating pace of life as we age, and which also holds the band’s hopes for a career breakthrough.
“I started looking at the whole concept as a metaphor for our lives at this time,” says Lamont, a veteran of local acts including Mab Lab and the Undefeatable Beats. “I don’t want to say I’ve paid my dues, because I don’t think that’s a good attitude to have in life, but I feel like I’m prepared now.”
Serving as a sort of centerpiece for the 15-song collection is “The Blues Was Written Down Here,” written in the voice of a New Orleans native whose already-limited prospects were pretty much erased by Hurricane Katrina.
“Is this not the land of the free?” the song asks. “My country, my culture failed to educate me.”
Although her poetic lyrics are sometimes overshadowed by her soulful voice and stage presence, Lamont thinks she’s taking a step forward with the new songs.
“I feel like I’ve figured out how to communicate better,” she says. “I love writing lyrics that frame a story and bring out ideas that people can grasp.”
On the operational side, Blueprintmusic has incorporated as a business, launched a new Web site and begun taking two- or three-day jaunts around the Midwest, hoping to establish a presence from Madison, Wis., to Nashville, Tenn. The band is seeking a new manager to replace one recently lost, but for now they’re using whatever contacts and technology they can to book shows, promote the record and otherwise advance their cause.
“We’re doing it on our own and assuming we have to do that for a while,” Sauter says. “If we don’t succeed or at least enjoy doing it, then it’s our own fault.”