The story behind More Strange News From Another Star, the latest release by local indie pop chameleon James Wallace, is about as unlikely as any you'll hear about a record this year. Conceptualized in China and recorded in Richmond, Virginia, Strange News was meant for release on cassette in Beijing last May through Tagteam Records. Tagteam disappeared off the face of the planet and the tape never came to fruition — until now. Wallace's orchestral folk-pop hymns are understated, yet distinctly charming in a way that recalls singer/songwriters like Paul Simon. Wallace's story-songs weave Southern folk and avant-pop with an Eastern influence that frequently reminds you of the Chinese connection that never quite happened. There's good reason why the bloggerati at We Own This Town declared Strange News as a contender for their Top 10 of 2010 list (if only it had been released). $7
I chatted with Wallace about the story behind the record — did you know he sometimes works as an interpreter for the Chinese ice cutters who make the ice sculptures at Opryland? It's true! — but whatever plague I caught during Road to Bonnaroo Monday has nearly destroyed my ability to string together a coherent series of thoughts. Here's the short version:
Last year, Wallace was supporting Americana singer/songwriter Abigail Washburn on a tour of Beijing. He reconnected with some of his buds in the Chinese indie rock scene and wound up agreeing to be part of a singles club style series of cassettes released by Tagteam Records. He and a band from Richmond, Va., banged out what we now know as More Strange News From Another Star in nine days and sent the final versions to the label head in Beijing for a May release. Days passed without a response. Eventually he caught word that the label had suddenly been shut down by its owner and that his tape wouldn't be released. Major bummer, right? A few months shy of a year later, he decided to release the damn thing on cassette on his own, which he'll be selling at The Basement tonight. When we last spoke he only had about 30 left, so you'll have to act fast if you want one.
The show starts at 9:30, with Wallace playing second in the lineup. If you drive a Volkswagen Vanagon (and why wouldn't you?), you can get in for free, if the door guy can see it from The Basement's deck. If you haven't heard the record, it's currently downloadable on Bandcamp: