notes::Ida charms again with Lovers Prayers

The last time I saw Ida live was in Charlottesville, Va in the late nineties at a pretty packed downstairs cellar called Tokyo Rose. It was a night of beautiful harmonies and one heartfelt moment after another. The crowd at Tokyo Rose was always pretty lame, because a large pack of folks thought it was ideal to sit indian style at the front of the stage for every show. Some bands would make the people stand up, but Ida didn’t, and even all those jackasses on the floor couldn’t ruin the scene. Several albums since, and years later Ida make another return with seventh album Lovers Prayers on Polyvinyl on January 29th, 2008.

Ida, a New York City band known for their pastoral take on urban life, has moved to the woods. Now, it seems, the woods have moved into their music. Strange buzzing sounds, incandescent acoustic drones, dissonant tone clusters of unknown origin, the distant speak of birds, and unobstructed views of the night sky suffuse the gently strummed guitars, sparse piano notes, and poignant personal narratives of Daniel Littleton, Elizabeth Mitchell, and Karla Schickele.

Ida found an acoustically sublime haven in Levon Helm’s home studio, a perfectly aged, completely wooden (even the nails!) structure located in the Catskill Mountains near Woodstock, NY. Ida came to affectionately refer to it as “The Barn”. After recording a song with Ida, Helm personally invited them to play at the Midnight Ramble, a near mythical concert series he hosts at his home. The “Ramble’s” informal atmosphere seems shockingly incongruous with the high caliber of renowned musicians who wander in (often unadvertised and unannounced) and proceed to tear the roof off the place on any given Saturday night. Playing at the Rambles inspired Ida to go all the way into their new “super woods, super organic, slightly mystical” style by embracing a soulful looseness, and connecting with the simple, joyful experience of playing songs for a small crowd in a sympathetic, intimate, rural setting. On one night, Helm himself sat in for Ida’s drummer who was about to give birth to her first child.

*In addition to the Polyvinyl releases, Simple Machines put out three of Ida’s best albums during the nineties, and Tiger Style put out the majestic Will You Find Me back in 2000. Also, check out Daniel Littleton and Jenny Toomey’s Liquorice, which released an excellent record Listening Cap on 4ad/Simple Machines back in 1995. I remember seeing them play a great show at the Knitting Factory.

Lovers Prayers:1.Lovers Prayers
2.The Weight Of The Straw
3.The Love Below
4.Willow Tree
5.Worried Mind Blues
7.For Shame Of Doing Wrong
8.First Light
10.Surely Gone
11.The Killers 1964
12.See The Stars
13.First Take
14.Blue Clouds

Ida on video:
Late Blues

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