“My goal is to craft song stories that illuminate extraordinary aspects of ordinary life,” says Kristen Grainger of Americana band True North. It’s her search for something special in the small moments that elevates her songs on Kristen Grainger & True North’s new album, Ghost Tattoo, coming June 19th. Working from a bedrock of bluegrass picking, folk singing, and Americana themes, the band’s new album has an ear for the times of triumph and heartbreak that define our lives.
With such wide ranging and difficult topics, the surprise in Kristen Grainger & True North’s album Ghost Tattoo is how easy Grainger makes it all sound. “Songwriting generally comes easily enough, I guess,” Grainger says. “I’m not sure what to compare it to — harder than learning to drive; easier than, say, kissing while standing up in a hammock. The songs I am happiest with come together fairly quickly. If I find I am struggling to make it work, or it feels forced or awkward, I set it aside.” As a powerhouse songwriter herself, Grainger certainly appreciates good songs from other songwriters. For Ghost Tattoo she handpicked some of her favorites, including The Secret Sisters’ “Mississippi,” Cahalen Morrison’s “Down in the Lonesome Draw,” Darrell Scott and Tim O’Brien’s “When No One’s Around,” and Peter Rowan’s “Lonesome LA Cowboy.”
With band members based across Oregon, and Kristen and her husband and co-bandleader Dan Wetzel (guitar, vocals, octave mandolin) based in the state capital in Salem, Grainger defines the group’s music as “Pacific Northwest Americana.” Rooted in American traditions, but with a more progressive perspective, the Northwest’s penchant for musical companionship has served the group well. Mandolinist and fiddler Martin Stevens and acoustic bassist Josh Adkins both joined Kristen Grainger & True North through their work as bluegrass stars in the Northwest, and even Wetzel wears his bluegrass bonafides on his sleeve, crafting the music for the song “Wishes & Dreams” from his take on the tune “Jerusalem Ridge.”
Today Glide is offering an exclusive premiere of “Keep The River On Your Right,” one of the standout tracks on the new album. Inspired by family hunting trips in Idaho, the song is a nostalgic bluegrass-infused journey into the memories that keep us going. Backed by some primo picking, Granger sings an ode to her family and those who have passed. With imagery of flowing rivers and the purity of nature, the lyrics feel like a sort of self-reflective cleanse as Granger writes about what it means to find your way home. The mandolin balanced with sharp guitar picking adds to the rustic, Pacific Northwest Americana vibe of the song.
Granger describes the inspiration behind the song:
“This is a song I originally wrote for Dan, his brother-in-law and his three cousins after Dan’s dad passed away. They used to meet up in a very remote part of Idaho every year for decades – through their youth and young adulthood – to hunt elk (not sure they ever got one, though!). The song title is a phrase that resonates with them, Dan’s dad’s backwoodsman advice for navigating the wilderness. I, no hunter, think of it as a song about finding your way home.”