Great Lake Swimmers & Clem Snide
Great Lake Swimmers
Doubt, followed by discovery. Demos that ended up as finished tracks. New beginnings, rear-view reflections, and ruminations on the fluidity of time: Uncertain Country captures these feelings and so much more.
This celebration, 11-songs long, follows a prolonged period of collective anxiety. Though recorded in different locales—and with a variety of musicians—a theme of questioning runs throughout. Even before the world turned upside down, singer-songwriter Tony Dekker felt mired in uncertainty: from the climate crisis and the ever-changing political landscape to deep shifts within the music industry. The “uncertain country” Dekker chose as the album’s theme is not a specific place. Rather, it’s a territory we, as humans, inhabit in the 21st century — a world that, more often than not, is confusing, unfamiliar and unsettling.
The long journey from there to here started more than three years ago, when Dekker took a 10-day trip to one of his favorite places: the north shore of Lake Superior. A pair of friends and collaborators: Adam CK Vollick (who filmed the experience) and Joe Lapinski (who co-produced Uncertain Country) joined him. On this immersive trip, the songwriter soaked in the beauty of the landscapes and learned the stories of the people who have inhabited them since time immemorial.
The last ten years have been a rollercoaster of deep despair and amazing opportunities that somehow present themselves at the last possible second,” says Eef Barzelay. “During that time, the band bottomed out, I lost my house, and I had to declare bankruptcy. The only way to survive was to try to transcend myself, to find some kind of deeper, spiritual relationship with life. Once I committed to that, all these little miracles started happening.”
Forever Just Beyond, Barzelay’s stunning new album under the Clem Snide moniker, may just be the most miraculous of them all. Produced by Scott Avett, the record is a work of exquisite beauty and profound questioning, a reckoning with faith and reality that rushes headlong into the unknown and the unknowable. The songs here grapple with hope and depression, identity and perception, God and the afterlife, humanizing thorny existential issues and delivering them with the intimate, understated air of a late-night conversation between old friends. Avett’s production is similarly warm and inviting, and the careful, spacious arrangement of gentle guitars and spare percussion carves a wide path for Barzelay’s insightful lyrics and idiosyncratic delivery.
“I look up to Eef with total respect and admiration...”
— SCOTT AVETT
“I look up to Eef with total respect and admiration,” says Avett, “and I hope to survive like he survives: with total love for the new and the unknown. Eef’s a crooner and an indie darling by sound and a mystic sage by depth. That’s not common, but it’s beautiful.”
Named for a William S. Borroughs character, Clem Snide first emerged from Boston as a three-piece in the early 1990’s, and the group would go on to become a cult and critical favorite, picking up high profile fans from Bon Iver to Ben Folds over the course of three decades and more than a dozen studio albums. NPR highlighted the Israeli-born Barzelay as “the most underrated songwriter in the business today, with a sneakily firm grasp on poignancy and humor,” while Rolling Stone hailed his songwriting as “soulful and incisive,” and The New Yorker praised his music’s “soothing melodies and candid wit.”
Barzelay currently resides in Nashville, TN.