Jonah Tolchin’s Yep Roc debut album Clover Lane will be released this summer, and Tolchin will be back on the road, touring with Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin, Joseph Arthur, Christopher Paul Stelling, and other artists. This follows recent appearances with Tom Paxton, Chris Smither, Rickie Lee Jones, Deer Tick, Burton Cummings, and Tony Joe White. Tolchin has also appeared at SXSW Music Festival, Folk Alliance International, Newport Folk Festival, and Falcon Ridge Folk Festival.
The album, produced by Marvin Etzioni (Lone Justice) and engineered by Anderson East in Nashville, includes Chris Scruggs, Steve Berlin (Los Lobos), John McCauley (Deer Tick), Mickey Raphael (Willie Nelson), and more. It was mixed in Silverlake, California with Sheldon Gomberg (Charlie Musselwhite, Ben Harper) and mastered by Bernie Grundman. Previously, Tolchin independently released Criminal Man, recorded at Dirt Floor with Eric Lichter along with the help of musicians Ben Knox Miller of Low Anthem and Brown Bird’s MorganEve Swain and the late, great David Lamb. His album 5 Dollar EP, also produced by Etzioni, came out in 2013.
Clover Lane gets its name from an astonishing coincidence. Tolchin grew up in New Jersey on Clover Lane. As he tells it, “My parents bought the Clover Lane house in 1996. Fast forward to 2012. At the suggestion of a friend, record producer Marvin Etzioni came out to a show of mine in Los Angeles (Room 5). After an inspired conversation, a few weeks later Marvin and I were recording an album together in Nashville.” The pivotal phone call to Etzioni that night had come from Jonah’s friend, singer-songwriter Alex Wright. He and his wife Chris had met Marvin through their friend and neighbor in LA, Anna Serridge. When Jonah met Anna at the Wrights, he discovered, quite by chance, that she had lived in the very same house on Clover Lane and had sold it to Tolchin’s parents sixteen years earlier.
Tolchin says, “I am a believer in a deeper meaning behind life. This record is a passionate manifestation of the cosmos in perfect harmony. The house I grew up in on Clover Lane is the center of the spider’s web from which the interconnected strands have been woven into these songs and recordings.”
In his younger days, a self-described “rebellious child,” Tolchin ended up dropping out of his local public high school, running afoul of the law, and lapsing into depression. He spent a year being homeschooled on Clover Lane while honing his guitar skills. “I realized that I needed an outlet for this energy I had,” he says, looking back. “It was then that I found out that my dad had lived in Mississippi for a time. He introduced me to the blues. I really felt a connection with that way of expressing myself and dealing with these pent up feelings and problems that we all have.”
Tolchin’s interest in electric blues grew to encompass its acoustic predecessors, which in turn lead to him discover and embrace other traditional folk forms. From Guthrie’s talking blues to the unyielding pulse of old time stringband music, Tolchin absorbed it, attempted to play it, and in the process found his own voice as a songwriter and a singer. His style, illustrated so convincingly on his Yep Roc debut Clover Lane, bridges the gap between classic folk self-sufficiency and punk’s DIY defiance with a uniquely poetic, openhearted sensibility at its core.
Clover Lane is available on Yep Roc Records July 1, 2014.