Add Date: March 28
Where are you from?
Dangermuffin isn’t asking about your hometown, or the results of your Ancestry.com genetic test. They’re looking even further back, to the roots of the tree of knowledge—before Christianity, before Hinduism, before human spirituality became “organized.” Where are we really from?
“I’ll take you way back to before the flood,” sings Dan Lotti on the title track of the band’s bold new concept album, Heritage. Through eight poignant songs, we meet the seeker of truth, honoring the universe that produced his or her existence.
Water and the ocean serve as repeated metaphors for family and for the spirit. It’s a fitting analogy from a songwriter who moved to the mountains and then wrote an album inspired by the sea. But even the craggy peaks and hollows of Appalachia—the oldest mountains on our planet—were once the ocean floor. Lotti draws upon this universality, finding mutual symbols of religious traditions across the world—the sun, the sea, a rose—and drawing them as archetypes to serve Heritage’s storyline of healing through spiritual awareness.
In that pursuit, the band—Lotti (guitar, vocals), Mike Sivilli (guitar, vocals), Steven Sandifer (upright bass, percussion, vocals) and new member Markus Helander (drums) of Finland— offers its most cohesive collection yet. What began as an intent to record an acoustic album morphed into a masterfully produced opus with deep layers of melody from Sivilli’s fleckless fingerpicking guitar, vocal harmonies and even occasional horns. Vocals were recorded at the
Unitarian Church in Charleston, a National Historic Landmark where congregations have sought truth with open hearts and minds since its founding in 1772.
Although the band still plants their flag nearby in Folly Beach, S.C., Lotti’s move to western North Carolina brought peaceful solitude and time to explore the universal faiths and shamanic traditions that steer Heritage. What eternal truths recognized by our ancient family were submerged by the trauma of the prehistoric flood? With this album, Dangermuffin looks to the wisdom of ancestors whose worldview was defined by the currents of the ocean and the seasons of the mountains. That knowledge has long been suppressed by religious and societal constructs designed to control, but it’s still there for those who seek it, like a forbidden fruit waiting to unveil the mysteries of the Earth, both physical and spiritual.
As Heritage progresses, “The Sea and the Rose,” demonstrates how wisdom—represented by the rose—transcends the chaos of the raging sea, before “Ol’ Fidel,” takes aim at a patriarchal despot who has forgotten to regard nature’s ebb and flow. “Methuselah’s Song”—referencing the oldest man in the Bible—signals the death of the patriarchy, before “One Last Swim” returns us to mother ocean.
That final song bears particular importance to the band because of its connection to their late brother, Kirk Horn. Dangermuffin befriended Horn, a percussionist, in Columbus, Ohio over a decade of performances while touring through the region. When Horn fell terminally ill with cancer, he moved to a place he had never been—Folly Beach—to experience the joy and deep connection to the ocean that his friends describe in their music. Lotti wrote “One Last Swim” in a fit of inspiration before realizing that the words were for and about his friend. Horn visited the band in the studio and performs on the track. He passed on only a week later.
“To have a song mean something for somebody is the epitome of the best possible thing you want as an artist,” describes Lotti. “I want this album to help as many people as it can.”
We all have a personal geography in our lives, but heritage isn’t a place on the map. It’s getting to the shared roots of humanity, and following that all the way out to the branches where the fruit—the muffin, sweet and simple—begs to be plucked and consumed. But don’t take a bite without an open heart.
Is Heritage roots music? Is this the forbidden fruit of a once-jamband seeking enlightenment?
Dangermuffin’s tree is strong and solid, and Heritage is its tap root, ready to heal all who swing from its branches.
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