Years ago — before their raw, rowdy reboot of old-timey folk music landed them tours with Americana heavyweights like Levon Helm and the Alabama Shakes — Spirit Family Reunion played their earliest gigs on street corners, subway platforms and farmer’s market stands across New York City. The point was to avoid anything that could suck the life out of the music… including traditional stages. Without lighting cues or monitor mixes, Spirit Family Reunion built up an audience the simple way: by kicking up plenty of dust and bringing down the house.
For their newest album, Hands Together, the group headed to Coney Island during the off-season. There, within stumbling distance of the Cyclone roller coaster, they recorded 12 songs over the course of several months, mixing everything we’ve come to expect from the Newport Folk Festival show-stealers — including string-band twang, gospel harmonies and the countrified, half-crazed sweep of an old-school tent revival — with newer additions like tape-delay machines and portable electric organs.
On “It Does Not Bother Me,” the group rallies against the shortcomings and pet peeves that lurk in the background of every day, threatening to turn things sour. (Listen to the song below.)
“Whether you think the grievances are connected or not, we all seem to encounter these difficulties in life that we strive to overcome, one way or another,” says guitarist Nick Panken. “‘It Does Not Bother Me’ is a joyous and empowering song that is saying, ‘I might not be able to stop it, but I’m not gonna let it stop me.’ We recorded this in the old, weird neighborhood of Coney Island — a home to wanderers, outcasts, and joy seekers. On the top floor in an old building, we were surrounded by still roller coasters and silent rides that were taking their winter slumber. We are singing ‘It Does Not Bother Me’ because we want to remain alive and hopeful — with bouncing bass, a snappy banjo lick, and rolling drums. And we want to clap along.”
After hitting the road next month with the Felice Brothers, Spirit Family Reunion will release Hands Together on their own label in mid-April.