Posts Tagged ‘Hurray for the Riff Raff’

Bedouine, Waxahatchee, Hurray for the Riff

It feels like ages ago that Bedouine, Waxahatchee and Hurray for the Riff Raff toured together on a sort of indie triple bill (it was actually 2018). While the three acts make dramatically different music, they complemented each other well on this tour and share some influences as well — as evidenced by this belated cover of Big Star’s classic “Thirteen” (which is often more readily recognized by its opening lyric, “Can I walk you home from school?”) that found its origins during the tour, when Bedouine , Waxahatchee Katie Crutchfield and Riff Raff singer Alynda Segarra would sing it together onstage.

Big Star, of course, is arguably the greatest power-pop group of all time. Led by singer-songwriter Alex Chilton, they released just three albums in the early ‘70s, which were barely noticed at the time but their legend grew over the years — they were covered and feted by the Replacements, the Bangles, R.E.M., Teenage Fanclub and many more — until the group reformed in 1993.

Bedouine explains how their cover came together. “This all started in 2018 when I opened a three-bill tour for co-headliners Waxahatchee and Hurray for the Riff Raff,” she wrote. “We threw the idea around of doing a song together but weren’t sure what. I was backstage in Columbia, Missouri, when I realized it was the anniversary of Big Star’s ‘93 reunion show that had also taken place in Columbia.

I was fiddling around with the song in my dressing room when Katie and Alynda walked in. Suddenly I remembered there were 3 verses to split up. We played it as an homage that night and every night after. After the tour wrapped up, I think it was Kevin Morby that insisted we track and share it. Down the road, Katie wrote me that she would be in LA so I tracked the guitar and she came by to visit and put down her part. Down the road some more Alynda put down her part from New Orleans and sent it over the ether. Now we finally get to share it.

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Last year, Hurray for the Riff Raff released the much-buzzed-about track “Pa’lante,” a rousing reckoning with Latin identity, as well as lyricist Alynda Segarra’s own past. The song, one of our favorite tracks of 2017, It is stirring, multilayered and emotionally heavy to say the least. The band released an eight-minute short film about a working-class Puerto Rican family, with a spliced-up version of “Pa’lante” providing a sweeping soundtrack. The phrase “Pa’lante” translates roughly to “step forward” in Puerto Rican slang, and, with the wreckage of hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico as a visual backdrop, it feels more like a call to arms than anything else.

Alongside a collage of other Puerto Rican faces, the video stitches together a story of the island nation’s struggle in the wake of Hurricane Maria. The video, directed by Kristian Mercado Figueroa (aka Kris Merc), is both a story and a call for help at once: Segarra pleads with viewers to help Puerto Rico “step forward.

“Pa’lante” is available on the Hurray for the Riff Raff album ‘The Navigator’

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Alynda Lee Segarra’s fifth album as Hurray For The Riff Raff was a dramatic departure, as she jettisoned much of the rootsy sound of her previous records and wrote an ambitious concept album with sci-fi trappings and real-world implications. “Rican Beach” confronts the gentrification of immigrant neighborhoods in New York City and the displacement of settlers to the furthest outskirts of the boroughs. The song itself is a throwback to ‘70s salsoul and Fania Records, proving that urban Latin music is just as Americana as country or bluegrass.

 

On her earlier albums, Alynda Segarra (aka Hurray For the Riff Raff) explored the troubadour wanderings and raffish sounds of Americana. On the 29 year old’s visionary new work,  The Navigator she brings it all back home, re-connecting to her buried Puerto Rican roots. In the process, Segarra struck an original mix of roiling bomba rhythms and catchy New York rock. Drawing inspiration from Ziggy Stardust  , she conceived ‘The Navigator’ as a sci-fi tinged concept album, tracing the life of a character named Navita Milagros Negron through a metaphysical world. The lyrics present the story as a play, with allusions to the Latin political group of the ’70s, The Young Lords and verse from Puerto Rican poet Pedro Pietri. Segarra’s catchy songs connect the dots in the long lineage of Latin influences on popular music, from the street-corner harmonies of doo-wop to the romantic hits of the Brill Building to the Latin-rock of acts from Mink DeVille to The Ghetto Brothers. A song like “Living In The City”  sounds like something Lou Reed could have cut in the early ’70s, delivered with righteous fervor by Segarra’s resonant vibrato. Themes of gentrification and cultural appropriation anchor the story. Properly staged, ‘The Navigator’ could become a rock opera for our time.

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Another band making serious strides in broadening the appeal of their chosen genres. Puerto Rican frontwoman, Anynda Segarra, was thrust into her career when she ran away from home at 17 and started busking to survive on the streets while studying the works of Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Memphis Minnie and Woody Guthrie.

In her latest album release, she formed the character, Navita (Latin for Navigator), who she says, “[has grown] up in a city that’s like New York, who’s a street kid, like me when I was little, that has a special place in the history of her people.” Segarra spent her late teens jumping from train-to-train, moving from the South Bronx all the way down to New Orleans.

Released in May this year, The Navigator has arrived at a time in American history when it’s most needed. While Trump spruiks fear around the country and boasts about increasing security on the Mexico-US border, Segarra loudly protests in ‘Rican Beach’, “Now all the politicians, they just flap their mouths / they say we’ll build a wall to keep them out.”

She recently put on the second edition of Nosotros Festival at New York’s Lincoln Centre, an arts event for Latinx expression and protest. “I just had enough with the dehumanization of immigrant people. I felt like, ‘I can’t do this; I can’t hear this anymore,’” she said of organising the festival to Remezcla. “I spent so much of my life running from my Latinx identity.”

Now, she’s taught herself everything she can about her Puerto Rican history and her music combines elements of traditional American folk protest songs, while implanting roots to her heritage with Afro-Caribbean percussion and empowering storytelling that tackles displacement, diaspora and racism to attempt to push back against fear mongering. Segarra is no longer running.

Arguably the most overtly political act on the folk-rock scene right now, we suspected this new album from Alynda Lee Segarra and co would be a bit of a call to arms. Indeed, it is, and it delivers. “The Navigator” is the sixth full-length studio album by Hurray for the Riff Raff, released by ATO Records last March 2017. The album was produced by Paul Butler, a member of the band The Bees. This powerful album has musical diversity, consistent quality and gripping songwriting all while feeling effortless,

“The question of identity is touched upon throughout the songs here (national, political, gender), but in terms of musical identity, Hurray for the Riff Raff know exactly who they are.

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Creators of one of 2017s most acclaimed albums The Navigator, NYC outfit Hurray For the Riff Raff bring their genre blending Americana to the U.K in October.  
Led by NYC born Puerto Rican songwriter Alynda Segarra, a move from New Orleans back to her hometown provided the inspiration for the LP. 
Recipient of exceptional praise with a full five stars from The Observer, critics were united in praise with plaudits including 9/10 from Uncut, 8.1 from Pitchfork and four star write ups from Q, Mojo and The Skinny. 
Beautifully arranged by Michael Kiwanuka producer Paul Butler, “The Navigator” defies categorisation, drawing from cult favourite Rodriguez, Lou Reed, doo-wop, Motown and traditional Afro-Caribbean and Puerto Rican music. An inspired modern take on Americana, don’t miss the chance to see one of this year’s finest albums live at close quarters.

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Recorded on the Conan show, The heart of Hurray for The Riff Raff is Alynda Lee Segarra a Bronx born Puerto Rican and a veteran of the New York Punk Scene, this is a roots album recorded in New Orleans including some local musicians with excellent songs and superb musicianship through out with echoes of Guthrie, Seeger and The Stanley Brothers,