The Family Tree: The Roots

The Family Tree: The Roots

When the prolific Ben Cooper isn’t recording with the bands Electric President, Iron Orchestra, or Mother’s Basement, he creates worlds under the name Radical Face; the first Radical Face album, Ghosts, came in 2007. The 2011 release The Family Tree: The Roots starts a trilogy of conceptual albums about a fictional family, the Northcotes. Following the clan through two generations during the 1800s, these songs sometimes play like a study in ethnomusicology (“Family Portrait”) and at other times recall contemporary indie folk (“Black Eyes”). “Names” sounds like an Alan Lomax field recording, as Cooper picks a vintage acoustic guitar and sings in a hobo style that sounds like it’s coming from an old wooden radio. Throughout The Family Tree, Cooper challenged himself to only use instruments that would have been available to the Northcotes in their time: guitar, banjo, piano, strings and percussion. By inventing this family, their lineage, and their folk music, Cooper’s also creating a new public domain of old-timey standards. Bonus tracks include two versions of “All Is Well.”

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