Finally Friday: Doug Seegers and Good Morning Bedlam
Americana music needs its wise, gray-haired masters, male and female, to keep the legacy alive, just as it needs its youth brigade stirring up novel ideas. That’s what this week’s pairing on Finally Friday reminds us. But in a curious twist, the elder has been on the scene only a few years longer than the youngsters. Because Doug Seegers didn’t get “discovered,” if that’s the right word, until just a few years ago. And the story, in case you haven’t heard it, is remarkable.
Seegers grew up on Long Island and took his interest in country music to Austin, TX, where he crossed paths for a time with Buddy Miller way back in the 1970s. But Seegers set that career aside and raised a family back in New York State. Decades go by, and things turn darker for Doug. He finds himself in Nashville with substance abuse issues and no fixed address, playing on the streets for tips. People hearing Doug’s fibrous blue voice and insightful original country songs could tell he had something special, but no A&R human in Music City figured this out. It took a documentary TV crew from Sweden.
The show was “Jill’s Veranda” which featured singer and songwriter Jill Johnson and guest artists. When she aired the footage of Doug Seegers, then 62, playing his song “Going Down To The River,” Sweden went nuts for the guy. He took his first plane ride ever over there to test his other material and it went over. Concord Records picked up on this vibration and released a debut album, which was hailed as one of the finest roots recordings of the year, and not just because it had Buddy Miller and Emmylou Harris on it as guests. Seegers songs are penetrating, picturesque and deeply country, but with little surprises that challenge conventions. He sounds like he knows things not of this world, and it’s no surprise he released an album of Hank Williams songs in 2017.
Most recently, Seegers issued A Story I Got To Tell in 2019. We’re not yet if he’s got new music coming soon. But his session on Friday will give us a chance to find out what he’s up to.
Good Morning Bedlam comes from Minneapolis, MN with what they’ve called “furious folk.” This acoustic trio can bring a gentle newgrass lift in the vein of Nickel Creek or they can swing in hard gypsy style or punk out a bit on stage, reminiscent of the early Avett Brothers. As I surfed through the singles the group released in 2021, it was a real ride, stylistically speaking. But that’s what the band has made its mission, according to frontman Isaak Gill Elker in the band’s bio: “We want to surprise our audience from song to song. Rather than creating our music to fit a genre, we allow it to be an outpouring of our own stories and unique sound.” Besides Isaak, the group includes his wife Victoria on bass and Sophia Mae on violin. All three sing, and that’s one of their strongest suits, after their sheer sense of adventure.
GMB had the sour luck to launch their concerted road life just before the pandemic, but they made the most of it, playing 200 shows in 2019 and winning the John Hartford Memorial Festival Band Competition in the process. They’ll be releasing their album Lulu in early February followed by a string of midwest dates.