Riverfront Times

Salt of the Earth Finds its Groove with New Live Record Unspoken 

click image PHOTO VIA SALT OF THE EARTH FACEBOOK
  • Photo via Salt of the Earth Facebook

While many bands use the recording studio as another instrument in their arsenal — spending countless hours crafting and honing and tinkering — there are plenty of groups who need the shared, communal experience of a live performance to make their songs shine.

For Salt of the Earth, a long-running folk quartet whose songs tend toward the spiritually ruminative and slice-of-life introspective, the stage has proven a more conducive environment from which to share its songs and stories. Its newest album, Unspoken, presents thirteen new original songs as recorded in concert at the Riverfront Cultural Society in New Haven, Missouri.

Lynne Reif, who plays guitar and, along with Mike Schrand, splits lead singing and songwriting duties, describes the venue as "one of our favorite places to play." Not unlike Maplewood's Focal Point — where Salt of the Earth recorded its last live set in 2012 — Reif calls the Society "a music listening room. People come there to listen. It's this old rustic space, with wooden chairs and wooden floors, and it has that earthy, down-home feel to it. The crowd couldn't have been more receptive."

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That friendly crowd and welcoming space had an uplifting influence, according to Reif. She says that while the band has no trouble communicating regardless of the setup, the back-and-forth between artist and audience has a palpable effect on the songs themselves.

"I think we relate to each other the same, which is this incredibly comfortable relationship we have at this stage of the game," she says of the band's interpersonal interactions. "[Studio recording] is a little more artificial, to be in different sections of a room and listening through headphones. That's the barrier — those pieces you have to have in place to record. In these last two live records, I feel that the songs get better. There's a groove that happens."

The groove asserts itself more in the good vibes and audible warmth with which the band performs. Reif and Schrand have been playing together since 2003 and this current lineup, with Jake Brookman on cello and Jim Hieger on guitar, congealed in 2005. Its vibe is resolutely mid-tempo and genteel, emphaszing the song's lyrics and letting the instrumentation — Brookman's cello especially — offer a resonant counterpoint.

Reif's songs often contain some emotional heft but carry the burden well; many of her offerings address a spiritual thirst or existential yearning while staying rooted in the here and now. "The whole time I've been writing, I've been moved typically by a moment in time, where I am present for something that I feel a strong reaction to, and it starts to form an image in my mind," she says. "They certainly have a spiritual sense to them in searching for the meaning in whatever the moment is. When it started, it was moments of hardship. As the years have gone on, it's been more the power of moments and relationships."

On the album, Reif's "Sine Nomine" is a standout that deals with the kind of clarity that comes with age and experience. "I was reflecting back on choices I've made all the way back to childhood," says Reif. "It was like I had a clear view that those choices that seemed weird, they were the absolutely the right choices for me." In the chorus she intones "so we pray," less as a traditional religious offering, Reif says, but as a reminder to unburden ourselves. "In the song there's soul-searching, and then there's trusting that things are unfolding the way they are supposed to."

Reif and Schrand trade songs back and forth throughout Unspoken, and they're different enough songwriters to give a mild sense of whiplash as they pass the mic. Schrand's songs are more up front with wry, often self-lacerating humor. As the disc progresses a few of his tracks — "Put It Down" and "Spot on a Hill" in particular — take a long, wizened view of middle age and the insight that it has brought.

"I used to say that his songs were like rambling ranch houses — they kept turning corners and I never knew what corner was coming up," Reif says of Schrand's songs. "Today, when I hear his songs, they are in some centralized location within him."

That the two songwriters have found their concerns at a point of convergence may not be surprising for a band nearing its fifteenth year together. And on Unspoken, the without-a-net aspect of live recording serves to underline the wordless communication between these musicians.

"We're older, and I don't know if we're wiser, but we have more life experience," Reif says. "What you're hearing is more reflection than struggle. It's contemplative — we're on the other side on a lot of these paths that we've walked."

 

Salt of the Earth Record Release
8 p.m. Saturday, October 29. The Gaslight, 4916 Shaw Avenue. Free. 314-496-0628.

 

Boone County Recorder

Events on July 18 celebrate the 260th anniversary of Mary Draper Ingles’ daring escape

When Lynne Reif wrote a song about Mary Draper Ingles, she didn’t know it was going to propel her to a long and close personal friendship with one of Ingles’ descendants and many visits to the area where Ingles escaped from the Shawnee in 1755.

Reif’s song, “Mary’s Hope,” recounts Ingles’ true adventures and a journey of courage and strength that took her 800 miles from Big Bone Lick State Historic Site to her home in Virginia.

To mark the 260th anniversary of her journey, on Saturday, July 18, Friends of Big Bone are hosting a day of programs at the park, and a home concert featuring Reif’s band Salt of the Earth.

The free park events include a walking tour and presentation about the “Salt of Life” by park interpreter Ossana Wolff at 10 a.m., and a chance to meet Mary Draper Ingles’ descendants, including Patty Hons, who is also the author of the childrens’ book “Mary Draper Ingles: A True Story of Courage and Family.”

The day will include many chances to learn about Ingles’ story with Matt Langford, who sculpted the statue of Ingles at the Boone County Public Library’s main branch; Eleanor Lahr, author of “Angels Along the River: Retracing the Escape Route of Mary Draper Ingles”; and James Alexander Thom, author of “Follow the River.” Their books will be available for purchase and autographs.

Reservations, made with a $20 donation, are required for the outdoor picnic 7 p.m. concert. More information is available at www.friendsofbigbone.org. The event is a fundraiser for Friends of Big Bone to support ongoing renovations at the park’s visitor center.

THe Gateway- St. Louis Public Radio Podcast

Playing this summer: Salt of the Earth

Aug 4, 2011

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 4, 2011 - PROFILE: The phrase, Salt of the Earth, has its roots in the Bible and, these days, is used as an idiom to refer to people who have a basic, fundamental goodness. It's also the name of a St. Louis area band that performs its own original music with a distinctive, fundamental appeal. The members of Salt of the Earth -- Lynne Reif, Mike Schrand, Jim Heiger and Jake Brookman -- have a definite focus on acoustic-based music that is primarily composed by Reif, but with musical contributions to the finished sound by everyone in the group.

Both Reif and Schrand worked together for several years in Belle Starr with well-known St. Louis musician and songwriter Kip Loui. After Loui's band, Belle Starr, broke up, Reif decided she had enough original material to start her own band and asked Schrand to join on bass and vocals. The addition of guitarist Doug Carson completed the original trio version of Salt of the Earth. The band expanded to become a quartet with the addition of cellist Brookman in 2005. Heiger replaced Carson on guitar in 2006, and the group has had the same lineup ever since.

Over the years, Salt of the Earth has recorded three CDs: "Against the Muse" in 2005, "These New Days" in 2007 and "So Sing To Me" in 2009. The group is planning to record a live CD later this year. But you don't have to wait until that comes out. You can catch the band live this Saturday, Aug. 6 at the Kirkwood Farmers Market Tunes At Ten concert from 10 a.m. to noon. Check out Lynne Reif's answers to some questions about herself and Salt of the Earth - and find out more info about the Tunes At ten series.

HOME: St. Louis (Richmond Heights)

AGE: 44. I've been singing professionally for about 18 years -- oh my God!

INSTRUMENTS: I play acoustic guitar, harmonica, foot tambo (tambourine) - not the official name but what I like to call it - as well as cajon (Peruvian box drum) and occasional mandolin.

HOBBIES: Writing songs, swimming, hiking, yoga, coaching girls basketball, cooking (and eating :-), photography, being with good friends, enjoying simple pleasures and impersonating strange animal calls.

LAST CONCERT ATTENDED: Hmmm. it's been awhile, but it was probably Shawn Colvin at the Sheldon. Nope, it was Girlyman in Mascoutah in a little chapel/concert hall.

LATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Salt Of The Earth winning the Webster Groves Art and Air Idol Competition!

WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO: There is an incredible chemistry in this band - a genuine appreciation and respect for each other, and a love of creating and playing original music and having fun in the process. We are good friends and we each contribute our own personal touch to every song, so the end product is truly a group expression that morphs and gels a little bit more each time we play together. I think the good energy comes through when we perform, and allows us to connect and have a blast with audiences wherever we go. It truly is a labor of love...

QUOTE: "He [or she] who hears music feels his solitude peopled at once" - Robert Browning

(I put in the "or she" part which is probably illegal somehow!)

Check out Salt of the Earth on Facebook for more info and the band's upcoming schedule.

The Patch

Meet Art & Air Idol Winner Salt of the Earth

The local band will take the stage Saturday at the Art & Air festival.

 

Meet Art & Air Idol Winner Salt of the Earth

Meet Salt of the Earth, the winner of this year's . The band will play Saturday at the on the main stage from 1:45 - 2:30 p.m. 

Genre: Roots-pop.

Members:

  • Lynne Reif - Guitar, Harmonica, Cajon, Vocals;
  • Mike Schrand - Bass, Baritone Guitar, Vocals;
  • Jake Brookman - Cello;
  • Jim Hieger - Guitar, Banjo.

Years Playing Together: 8

Number of Albums: 3

Where you can get them: Music Folk, CDBaby.com and iTunes.

What makes Salt of the Earth work?

Jim Heiger: "I think it's great because we all have so many different things, different genres of music that we all bring together."

Schrand: "Yeah, we've always been about playing songs that we like. I mean, we play almost entirely originals. It's always been about finding the original song that really speaks and putting our own pieces to it."

"I've played in a lot of bands in my life, and this is the first band where there's no egos, which is really weird, so it's kind of nice 'cause we all get along and when it's time to craft a song we all put ourselves aside and just start the song. It's kind of what we're about."

Reif: "We kind of like to rehearse almost as much as we like to play. We find ourselves very amusing, so we crack up a lot. It's very fun."

What's next?

Rief: "A lot of shows, more new songs, hopefully a new recording. Maybe a live recording."

PRI Public Radio International

Salt Of The Earth: Bring It On Home
Salt Of The Earth: Golden tones and earthly delights.

Salt Of The Earth: These New Days

by Mike Pfeifer

Salt of the Earth have just released their sophmore album, These New Days, a supremely enjoyable collection of songs from the rootsy folk quartet.

From the land of Uncle Tupelo and The Bottlerockets, Salt of the Earth have mined their dues, with some members previously playing and singing in the roots-rock band Belle Star (1996-2002). Lead by vocalist and rhythm guitarist Lynne Reif, SOTE blend pop, folk and blues in an easy, organic way.

These New Days is the kind of fresh air any music listener will enjoy. But the key to the recipe is the combination of the musicians that form SOTE. Mike Schrand (the other former Belle Star member) is on bass, baritone guitar and vocals. Jake Brookman plays cello and Jim Hieger is on lead acoustic guitar and banjo.

Paint It Green kicks off the album with a bouncy, delightful car ride, ala Gordon Lightfoot's Carefree Highway. Reif sings "Easy days are waiting, right outside your vaulted door, winter's haze is fading, rub your eyes and take the tour."

Original songs range from the relaxing Tuscany, to the heartfelt and surging drive of For These 4, to the gutbucket harmonies of Up Back and Down. Angel Face is hypnotizing with it's somber, Stonesy tone and in-the-pocket musicianship. One can easily see these guys on the concert stage, or just as comfortably on the back porch.

Another treat you should check out is the internet only Slick and Greasy, at the band's myspace page. It's a rocker, in an acoustic Enter Sandman kind of way.

Mike Pfeifer is a freelance rock scribe who lives in the Twin Cities, and is one-half of the super rock group Savage Hogg

© Copyright 2007, PRI Salt Of The Earth: Bring It On Home
Salt Of The Earth: Golden tones and earthly delights.

Salt Of The Earth: These New Days

by Mike Pfeifer

Salt of the Earth have just released their sophmore album, These New Days, a supremely enjoyable collection of songs from the rootsy folk quartet.

From the land of Uncle Tupelo and The Bottlerockets, Salt of the Earth have mined their dues, with some members previously playing and singing in the roots-rock band Belle Star (1996-2002). Lead by vocalist and rhythm guitarist Lynne Reif, SOTE blend pop, folk and blues in an easy, organic way.

These New Days is the kind of fresh air any music listener will enjoy. But the key to the recipe is the combination of the musicians that form SOTE. Mike Schrand (the other former Belle Star member) is on bass, baritone guitar and vocals. Jake Brookman plays cello and Jim Hieger is on lead acoustic guitar and banjo.

Paint It Green kicks off the album with a bouncy, delightful car ride, ala Gordon Lightfoot's Carefree Highway. Reif sings "Easy days are waiting, right outside your vaulted door, winter's haze is fading, rub your eyes and take the tour."

Original songs range from the relaxing Tuscany, to the heartfelt and surging drive of For These 4, to the gutbucket harmonies of Up Back and Down. Angel Face is hypnotizing with it's somber, Stonesy tone and in-the-pocket musicianship. One can easily see these guys on the concert stage, or just as comfortably on the back porch.

Another treat you should check out is the internet only Slick and Greasy, at the band's myspace page. It's a rocker, in an acoustic Enter Sandman kind of way.

Mike Pfeifer is a freelance rock scribe who lives in the Twin Cities, and is one-half of the super rock group Savage Hogg

© Copyright 2007, PRI

Riverfront Times

Salt of the Earth 

8 p.m. Saturday, January 20. The Focal Point (2720 Sutton Avenue, Maplewood).

Bands that expend all of their energy living up (or down) to their name — i.e. Alien Sex Fiend, Genitorturers and Dread Zeppelin — are difficult to trust. But it's safe to trust that a new release from Salt of the Earth will be as reliable, unpretentious and virtuous as the band's name. Since 2003, singer and songwriter Lynne Reiff has been leading this acoustic ensemble through the kind of tuneful, graceful, proto-feminist Americana that goes down easy in coffee houses, even if SOTE is more at home in low-key restaurants and bars like Riddles or the Bottleworks. Their self-released new album, These New Days, stretches out just a bit by demurely flirting with proggy folk-rock via cello, flute and pastoral lyrics. The band's CD release party will offer fans of Joanna Newsom and Gillian Welch a chance to find some kindred spirits.