Amy LaVere has announced the release of their third record, Stranger Me, due on July 19, 2011. Produced by Craig Silvey (Arcade Fire), Stranger Me is the follow up to the Jim Dickinson-produced Anchors & Anvils. Always texturally rich and often employing dissonance and off-kilter instrumentation, Stranger Me is her most exploratory work to date. Alternately haunting and exuberantly defiant, it is a perfect backdrop for this collection of songs about frustration and feeling emotionally disconnected.
LaVere was originally planning on making this album with Dickinson. He had not been in good health for some time, and she felt that she might not have many more opportunities to record with him. "He was the one who really got me to believe in my own voice," says LaVere. When he passed in August 2009, in addition to grieving one of her greatest mentors and champions, she was back at square one in the recording process. One of her first thoughts, after she was ready to begin thinking about producers, was Silvey. They met in London through a mutual friend at the BBC, hit it off immediately and he volunteered to run sound for her performance on Later With Jools Holland. Like Dickinson before him, Silvey encouraged LaVere to follow her own muse, even when (especially when) it led her to more esoteric choices, like the one to cover Captain Beefheart's "Candle Mambo."
LaVere experienced other upheavals last year, beginning with the departure of her guitar player, Steve Selvidge, who left to join The Hold Steady. Even more devastating, she and her boyfriend/drummer Paul Taylor decided to call it quits after six years. After starting the recording process without him, it was evident that she missed his musical contributions, so she called him, and he eagerly agreed to play drums on the album. The process of recording became a healing experience as they redefined their relationship.
Along with Taylor, LaVere brought together a group of musicians that provided the right aesthetic for the album. Her first call was to Rick Steff (Lucinda Williams, Cat Power, Lucero) whose love for all things left of center appealed to her. He brought to the recording process a fertile imagination and a repository of odd instruments, including toy pianos, organ, Buddha boxes and the Theremin. Guitar player David Cousar, whose style Silvey describes as "beautifully eccentric," was her next call. Other musicians include Anchors And Anvils violinist Bob Furgo (Leonard Cohen), floutist/saxophone Clint Maegden (Preservation Hall Jazz Band), cellist Jonathan Kirkscey and violist Beth Luscombe (Memphis Symphony), trumpeter Nahshon Benford, saxophonist Jim Spake and bassist John Stubblefield (Lucero).
Amy LaVere was born in Louisiana and moved around as a GM brat ("Dad moved around to open factories"), and the family eventually settled near Detroit, at least everyone but her father, who continued to travel for work. The family structure eventually gave way. She and her sister rebelled, and one of the ways Amy did so was by joining a band at age 14. Rebellion is still a potent theme for her, and she continues to defy and test love's constraints in many of her songs.
Stranger Me is the next step in the exciting evolution of Amy LaVere. -- clearly more confident in her musical point of view, possessing more wisdom about what love is not and ready to embrace the ideal of the stranger, whatever its iteration.