Brian Turner ‘American Undertow’ Album Preview

The album is a testament to the power of love, memory and friendship.

Album release date September 12, 2023 via Retrolegionmusic

This press release was provided to Vivascene by SJF Public Relations

NEW YORK – August 30, 2023 – After losing a lifelong collaborator, poet and musician Brian Turner wasn’t sure what his musical future held, until stumbling upon an old set of recordings featuring his friend, Brian Voight. He turned them into a full-fledged album, American Undertow (Sept. 12), a project billed as The Retro Legion. Taking influence from Wilco, The Refreshments and Mazzy Star, the album looks at love and loss through a wide range of lenses. It’s the second in a series of three poetry and album releases that Turner is releasing simultaneously over the next few months via Alice James Books, a journey through deep personal grief, of intimate love and loss, and finally, finding a resolve—and in some cases, even delight. “Gasoline Love” is out today. 

“I felt like if I tried hard enough, in a sense, I could continue to collaborate with him by completing the songs,” Turner says. “They were never fully realized before, without drums, bass, or vocals. Here was a way for me to share my friend’s phenomenal talent and art with others and keep Brian’s art and imagination alive in the world.”

Turner’s vocals have a conversational approach and hold an emotional honesty on what became a set of portraits, a narrative study of the emotional interior of a few people struggling in the middle of their lives, often alone, as they think back on the difficult and beautiful years gone by—with the album gradually gaining in brightness and sunlight near its end. American Undertow partners with The Goodbye World Poem, a collection that took nearly a decade to assemble. 

“American Undertow frays the seam between present and past, love and grief, and living and dying,” poet Diane Seuss says of the album. “The restless undertow of being on the American road and going nowhere, of soul kissing a ghost, a kiss that tastes like death, a death that feels like love.”

Clouds, the first musical release in the series, is a 27-minute-long experimental sound meditation that includes choirs recorded in Ireland, India, and America. It accompanies The Wild Delight of Wild Things, a love letter and conversation with Turner’s late wife, poet Ilyse Kusnetz, which also widens its lens to consider climate change on a global scale.

Little Birds Singing, the last musical piece, offers a slightly glossier approach. It’s infused with ’80s nostalgia, even as the album and its accompanying book, The Dead Peasant’s Handbook, delve into war and conflict, dreams and survival. Beginning with difficulty and hard times, song by song there’s a shift toward sweetness, delight and—ultimately, love. 

“For years I spoke at length about things I hardly knew anything about–war, love, loss. Life has a way of teaching us greater truths about the things we think we already know so well. And so, after losing those I love at the very core of my life, it was music that helped me to survive. And to my own astonishment–music and art have helped me to fall in love with the world once more.”

Turner’s poems and essays have been published in The New York TimesThe GuardianNational Geographic, and Harper’s, among other journals, and he was featured in the documentary Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience, which was nominated for an Academy Award. A Guggenheim Fellow, he’s received a USA Hillcrest Fellowship in Literature, the Amy Lowell Traveling Fellowship, the Poets’ Prize, and a Fellowship from the Lannan Foundation. He lives in Orlando with his dog, Dene, the world’s sweetest golden retriever.  

American Undertow Track Listing:

  1. Gasoline Love
  2. Broken-Down Lovers
  3. Monsoon
  4. Wayward Traveler
  5. Nichol’s Motel
  6. Monochrome
  7. 100,000 Miles High
  8. Slow 70s Groove
  9. Late Night Drive
  10. Love Love Love
  11. The Way It Is

Vivascene Staff

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