Local folk musician David Boone is best known for his solo work, but his new album, A Tale of Gold, is an ambitious collaborative project with dozens of local musicians and artists. His CD release show at the Wilma Theatre will feature 17 musicians, a dance performance and photography exhibit by Joshua Meier
One thing David Boone will never be accused of is lacking conviction. The prolific local folk musician has a tendency to map out elaborate and rich personal projects, and then tackle them with a dogged determination that’s bordering on obsessive. Case in point: Two years ago he set out to make an album about his troubled childhood, and to help get him in the appropriately somber mindset he plastered a Seeley Lake cabin with stark photos that reminded him of his youth.
“I’m going to take pictures of all the places I’ve experienced emotional heartache growing up…and I’m going to hang them all over this barn wall, and while I sing I’m going to let them wreck me again,” Boone told the Indy shortly before the recording. He didn’t leave until 10 songs were recorded right there in that room—just Boone, his guitar, a microphone and a young lifetime littered with unresolved baggage. As grueling as the process was, the result was great. Hard Enough to Bend wasn’t just dark, it was relentlessly haunting.
So how’s a musician to follow such an engrossing and intensely solo project?
Boone wanted to go big. And since nothing he tackles is done in measured steps, he decided big should include, basically, every artist—musical or otherwise—he’s ever played with, been inspired by or simply heard of in the last couple years. He enlisted his favorite photographer, a trusted co-producer, a core group of musicians and an extended network of guest artists. He spent 11 months writing and recording, inviting his army of collaborators to swoop in to lay down the necessary tracks, and then spent more time fiddling with rough cuts, tinkering endlessly to turn his intimate sound into a lush and layered 16-track opus.
“The recording was a very grueling, neurotic process because it was only [co-producer and multi-instrumentalist] Max [Allyn] and myself in a room, doing everything,” says Boone in a recent interview. “When you’re going in there just with a lot in your head, and without a live band, you can really get lost in trying to work it all out and record it. It’s almost like a psych ward being in the studio. Some nights I wouldn’t sleep and just listen to rough mixes over and over and over again.”
But even when A Tale of Gold was finally done, Boone wasn’t content—he then went about organizing a monstrous CD release concert for Saturday, Oct. 6, at the Wilma Theatre, that will feature 17 musicians (most of whom appear on the album), a modern dance performance by Anya Cloud, two opening acts (Tom Allyn and Tom Catmull and the Clerics) and a photography exhibit by Joshua Meier (he did the album artwork). In addition, with this being Missoula and Boone being Boone, he’s also arranged for at least eight sponsors to help cover costs so that all of the ticket proceeds will benefit Mountain Home, a local charity for young homeless mothers. It’s a veritable David Booneapalooza, and an unrivaled concert for a local solo artist.
“I told myself, ‘I’m just going to see if this takes a life of its own,’” Boone says of the concert. “I started it that way, only hoping that it would bring a lot of people together, help a lot of people, and showcase a lot of people who I admire in the local arts scene…And every day I literally was thinking, This is impossible, this is not going to happen.”
But it is happening. At a recent Thursday night rehearsal Boone stood in the middle of an open garage on the Northside surrounded by eight other musicians comfortably crammed into their own corners. On one side of the room drummer Checkers Barker II and percussionist James Wasem sat behind their respective kits separated only by backup vocalist Sarah Condon. On the opposite side of the room Max Allyn, playing electric guitar, and the string section—Brandon Smith on cello, Beth Youngblood on violin—occupied a couch book-ended by a lava lamp and four empty Kettlehouse cans. Bassist Brandon Barker sat next to an empty bag from Taco del Mar and acoustic guitarist Jacob Kuntz was situated in front of an old weight machine. The group had been practicing for four hours, but Boone was still in the middle of it all coaching the string section through their cues—it was their first rehearsal—and clarifying when and how Allyn will take over lead guitar. It was late, but the room remained upbeat and, more importantly, the longer they practiced certain songs the better they came together.
“I wanted to do something where people were left with an experience, not just a concert,” Boone says of the Wilma show, which will also feature members of Broken Valley Roadshow, a horn section, organist Matt Jones and noiseologist Burke Jam. “I like the no-strings-attached role with these guys. We’re all working basically for one night. There’s a good chance none of us will ever play [together] again. We’re cherishing it, or at least I am. This is a one-time thing, but I’m hoping it will plant a seed for more opportunities down the line.”
If there’s one drawback to the sheer size and scope of the concert, it’s that it threatens to overshadow Boone’s ambitious and impressive new album. A Tale of Gold is a marked departure from the stripped-down singer-songwriter fare typical of Boone’s recent work. The focus here is just as much on the production as the sentiment and lyrics, with every song seeming to work toward a dramatic build accompanied by strings, organ, ambient noise, or all of the above. It comes through best on the mounting sounds of “Above the Rain” and “I Won’t Leave You Alone,” as well as the Bruce Springsteen-type rocker “Pieces of Art.” Both conceptually and musically, A Tale of Gold is carefully crafted; it sounds more aimed for radio than a coffeehouse. It’s a change Boone embraces and a challenge he tackled, as always, head on.
“There were a lot of days I was just obsessing and bashing myself in the head over aspects of the album,” he says. “I mean, I spent nine days on the same song. I don’t know how productive that is, but I’ve always found you grow in places you don’t know by not giving up. I’m better when I keep working.”
David Boone and special guests will play a CD release show for A Tale of Gold at the Wilma Theatre Saturday, Oct. 6, at 7 PM. $12/$10 in advance, with proceeds benefiting Mountain Home.