Heart Hunters’ Drew de Man founded his first band, No River City, in 2001 and spent the next several years making records, touring the country and sharing bills with artists such as Iron & Wine, Calexico and Alejandro Escovedo. After a decade away from the spotlight, his new project Heart Hunters—a duo with his wife, singer/songwriter Brianna Blackbird—builds on the moody indie/alt-country sounds de Man explored with No River City, updating them for a new era with debut LP American Eclipse (out 7/20). The record’s alternately haunting and wistful folk songs find De Man and Blackbird engaging in potent social and spiritual commentary, clinging to silver linings while wrestling with an increasingly turbulent country. But while the subject matter is often heavy, the duo’s hook-laden melodicism offers all the balance the record needs
Produced by Peter Case (T-Bone Burnett, John Hiatt, Mike Campbell), American Eclipse puts Heart Hunters’ gorgeously wounded harmonies front-and-center. Sonically, the record ranges from sparse acoustic ruminations to lush, complex Americana anthems, some tracks—“The Good Fight” and “Cristo” come to mind—drawing not just from the country-music tradition, but also Celtic and Eastern influences, taking cues from songs like The Beatles’ “Within You Without You” and Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.”
Born of the American zeitgeist, as well as the personal experiences of Blackbird and de Man, American Eclipse is simultaneously a deeply personal and overtly political album.
She and de Man met while studying music therapy in Portland, Ore, and they soon began writing and recording together, releasing a couple EPs and their first full-length in 2015 (under the moniker Pretend Sweethearts). The duo played cafes, bars, and clubs on the West Coast, also bringing their music to homeless shelters, youth detention centers, prisons and rehab facilities along the way. Their wanderlust—and desire to find affordable housing—led them deep into South America, to a mountain village in Bolivia. While there, Blackbird and de Man had their son while immersing themselves in songwriting and Andean culture. Living beyond U.S. borders proved an enlightening experience for the couple, imbuing their eventual return Stateside with a new sense of purpose that is entwined throughout the songs of American Eclipse.
Having grown up in Georgia, the soundtrack to de Man’s childhood was comprised largely of country, blues, bluegrass and Southern rock, but he was also eventually inspired by a pair of odd bedfellows—the Grateful Dead and punk rock. De Man’s father—a poet with a penchant for quoting ancient mystical texts around the campfire—was also a big influence. At age 10, Drew’s mother gave him his first guitar, and he hasn’t stopped playing since.
Blackbird was raised in Oregon and spent many a rainy day getting lost in Celtic-folk cassettes. The daughter of a music teacher, she was raised on folk, classic rock and Beethoven, sang in several choirs and studied voice, piano and guitar. She went on to major in performance and social activism at Naropa College in Boulder, Colo., before moving to Brooklyn, where started writing songs. Two years ago, she added upright bass to her repertoire after learning some fundamentals from Joe Stevens of Coyote Grace.
Glide is proud to premiere “A Thousand Lifetimes” (below) from Heart Hunters a smooth sailing effort that combines the achingly beautiful vocals of a young Emmy Lou Harris. The duo combines musical gallop of melancholy 70’s folk pairing them nicely into often overlooked singer-songwriter duos that summon earnest echoes from the past vs kitschy flourishes from the pop spectrum.