Pieta Brown and her band had a very productive four and a half days at Justin Vernon’s April Base Studios recording her 2014 album Paradise Outlaw. They recorded 20 songs with the intention of making the album a double. Plans changed and she picked 14 songs for the single album we got.
Those remaining six songs find new life on the self-released EP titled Drifters. In the liner notes, Brown explains, “These outtakes — these drifters — [were] all held aside for one reason or another.” But they wouldn’t stay on the cutting room floor, because she added three of them to her live setlist. “After many sweet inquiries at shows from fans about the songs ‘Goin’ Up The Country,’ ‘Drifter’ and ‘Just Slip Away’ I decided to go back and listen to the outtakes.”
The collection of songs carries the same step-up-to-the-mic live-in-studio magic that Paradise Outlaw had. Although we don’t know where these songs would have fallen in the tracklist, the inclusion of the remix of the instrumental “Little Swainson” by Vernon and engineer BJ Burton adds some additional attention to the fact that Vernon participated, and in my mind, the outtake and the original would have made nice bookends to the album.
The standout track on the EP is the call-and-response boogie “Goin’ Up The Country.” The song takes a front porch vibe with Brown’s very talented family on backing vocals, reminding me of another talented music family — the Carters. However, I can see how the song might have gotten cut, since it doesn’t fit with the more staid and atmospheric Paradise Outlaw.
Although Pieta Brown thinks that the songs on Drifters have “many rough edges,” they provide a picture of what a double album might have been like. She offers these songs as an experiment, launching her own “underground” label imprint, Lustre Records. I’m looking forward to more collections of songs from her archives — Drifters is a great start!
This article was originally published in Little Village 190.