It’s a sound that has earned The Cherry Blossoms—self-described as “Middle Tennessee’s finest anarchic post neo-skiffle collective specializing in kazoo-exotica”—an international following in the experimental folk underground. In fact, the band is in the midst of a European tour that includes stops at the prestigious Instal Festival in Glasgow and the (K-RAA-K)3 Festival in Brussels.
The Blossoms—a malleable assemblage that for this tour includes Peggy Snow (guitar, spoons, kalimba, kazoo), John Allingham (guitar, harmonica), Chuck Hatcher (guitar), Chris Davis (drums, sometimes played with violin bows), Scene art writer David Maddox (clarinet) and Taylor Martin—released a limited-pressing, self-titled vinyl LP last year that delightfully captures their ragtag charm, what Allingham aptly calls “a front-porchy thing.” With its lo-fi production, ramshackle vibe and often ecstatic singing, The Cherry Blossoms sounds like a recently unearthed field recording from the Blessed Realm of Valinor. (Doug Mosurock at online indie mag Dusted picked it as one of the top 10 albums of 2007, describing their music is “Appalachian-tinged folk pop hymn bong rips.”)
Throughout the record, Allingham’s ragged, half-recited/half-sung vocals contrast nicely with Snow’s ethereal soprano, which has an enchanting, Glenda the Good Witch quaver. At times, as on “Rockin’ Rocket Ship,” Snow lets loose a delirious high-pitched trill that suggests what a unicorn whinny would sound like. (Snow is first and foremost a painter, particularly of soon-to-be-destroyed historic buildings, and one of her lovely, richly detailed paintings of a train depot in Fly, Tenn., graces the album’s cover.)
The Glasgow festival appearance and ensuing tour are largely the result of Davis’ reputation and efforts in the experimental underground. A tireless booker of many of Nashville’s more unusual music events, Davis is also the cohesive force that keeps the Blossoms’ rambling jalopy on the road. “Chris is part of this whole underground network,” Allingham says. “He was the key to the door. I don’t know if we’d even still have a group if it wasn’t for Chris.” Davis was already in Europe drumming for MV & EE With the Golden Road, Matt Valentine and Erika Elder’s psych-folk collective on Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace label.
At the Instal Festival on Sunday, The Cherry Blossoms were part of the “Golden Cherry Ball,” a closing-night hoedown that featured the Blossoms and MV & EE sharing the stage, swapping songs, frolicking and sitting about. Other shows are scheduled for Lisbon, Amsterdam and what Allingham describes as an “anarchist squat place in Geneva.” There were plans for a Spain show with psych-folk mainstay Josephine Foster, though scheduling conflicts put the kibosh on it. (The Cherry Blossoms also released a CD collaboration with Foster last year.) The band is scheduled to perform on BBC Radio Scotland’s Global Gathering, and to be featured in a Belgian magazine. According to Snow, much of the trip is being funded by public arts councils. Governments that actually support the arts—imagine that.
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