"I had nothing to my name, but my blood was liquid gold" - Priya Thomas
"In the liner notes to her stunningly uncrafty new album, singer-songwriter Priya Thomas writes of coming off the road, dusty and heavy and "smelling like a New Mexico hotel." Her stuff was still in boxes; the house in ramshackle shape. She set about renovation, but it wasn't just walls and fixtures that needed work. Priya Thomas is Blood Heron is an unguarded album of betrayal, cutting losses and creating things from scratch.
Opening track Your Guitar, My Undoing begins abruptly, its drawling strum putting Rickie Lee Jones in the dark dream-pop universe of Mazzie Star. Thomas, on her fourth album, is not one for plans: Come-and-go boys are fleeting, like storms. The memorable Had I Known, I Would Have Declined - jagged, ragged and Dylan-like - is an unsent letter to a past lover, with Thomas thinking clearly in hindsight. After the baptismal Dakota From the Hebrew, the angry Vigilante is strident, with monstrous guitar noises.
The Montreal-raised and Toronto-based multi-instrumentalist wrote the material for Blood Heron while on tour. Farewell Creek is southern-Gothic ukulele blues, while Wine, Moonshine, Sugar Beams has a Mojave drone. "To the end, to the end, to the end, row your boat" is a relentless chant from someone whose boat does not go merrily down streams.
Upon finishing the tour, Thomas unpacked her instruments and recorded on analog tape without much forethought. The sounds are at once grungy and graceful, with an omnichord's pretty tings, for example, heard amid tougher tones. Although there are a few folks involved, mostly it's Thomas, with co-producer Stephen Pitkin of Elliott Brood on drums on half the tracks.
She doesn't sound like him, but Thomas reminds me of the late Chris Whitley, a rough-cut roots rocker who didn't so much perform his music as exude it. It's raw stuff - all guts, bones and jugular veins - and it's something to hear it build from nothing."
- Brad Wheeler, The Globe and Mail, Disc of the Week
"Spitting out the lyrics the way Dylan spewed out "It's All Over Now Baby Blue," Thomas manages to come across as both seething and perfectly composed."
-John Sakamoto, The Toronto Star, Anti-Hit List
"...a potent and beautiful record. Songwriters of any stripe can only hope to release a record as strong as this.”
-Bill Adams, Ground Control Mag LA
"She can write uncompromising, half-broken songs as good as Tom Waits or anyone else....This is an extraordinary album."
(taken from the back cover of Blood Heron)
HOW I BECAME BLOOD HERON
things were still in boxes.
i had nothing to my name; but my blood was liquid gold. we got off the road and i was disoriented. i smelled like a new mexico motel, dusty and heavy, pining for something;
staring in the rearview mirror at some hard won border. i had a hard tan line across my legs, red and sun swollen, splitting me up; in a perfect half to be specific. then we got on a different road that
took us to a house without walls, without bathrooms; with its fiberglass guts all spilled and spotting the splitting floors. sure, there were gaps
in my reasoning - and long silences in the green van framed by epic swampland in which i never heard from people. after a while, people stop talking. or maybe there was just no point in talking. words
sometimes being pointless things. in the end, every word became a so stupid you couldn’t have scripted it... in the colorado stretch, where it started as palpable silence, and i wanted things i couldn't describe.
at first i thought i shouldn't tell anyone even if could say something. sometimes i couldn't even remember. i thought i could remember if i built a room out of orphaned instruments - maybe things people
couldn't find a home for....a drum on its ear like a beached whale; a red toy horn, a megaphone, some pots and pans, a steel bucket given by a well-meaning friend who wanted to see me make something out
of this; some red castanets, maybe a tambourine and my brother's first ukelele - now very well warped.... (everything was in boxes) Still, these prodigal castoffs, found objects made sounds.
loud enough to remember the red, yellow and green chinese sticks - loud enough to forget the stones hitting my window and midnight drive to the st. lawrence seaway locks. i would go in there and think about the gaps between the sound of the rocks and the driving. every day that was my world.
i hit record on the analog 1/2 inch and never thought once about why; and i had no plans. nothing was right. but by then it seemed to me that nothing would ever be right. i tried to say these dots just don't connect. things were strange as a koan and i forgot meaning i didn't care about fixing the warping neck, and i didn’t feel the splintering floor. there was no tuning, no timing; i wrote nothing down.
i just drew into it blindly, flew into the vapour.
staring at that tan line. i did. and did and did. trying to make some thing out of this absence.