By Gina Tutko-Usalis
Take two musicians from NEPA, put them in a room together and what the FOLK? See That My Grave is Kept Clean, a debut folk album by Ed Randazzo and Bret Alexander is born.
Growing up in the Randazzo house, Ed was surrounded by music. Everything from Ozzy to Michael Jackson. “I just absorbed everything I heard and when it came time for me to start buying records, I bought music that provided me with a place where I could be free,” says Ed. Having played percussion in his high school orchestra, Ed laughingly says, “As an adult, I’m still banging on things. I’m not too sure it sounds good, but….!” When he started writing music, he reflected back on a teacher he had in high school who told him, “Always write about what know and you will never go wrong.”
So what inspires Ed… he tells me, “Honestly, it is my dual love with darkness and light. I do realize that you shouldn’t spend too much time with either, but I struggle with that balance. To me, the dark is much more appealing [ha].” Playing music for 17 years off and on… his stronger interest in music came back in 2000 when he began to really enjoy singing and it felt good. Ed went on to say, “The interest in music was always there. It just grew with me over time. Right now, I love singing. Ten years from now? Who knows. I have been guided and inspired by my sister Dawn. She too is a singer. Music will always be something we share.”
Ed is influenced by artists such as: Natalie Merchant, Lisa Gerrard, Brendan Perry, Jeff Buckley, Annie Lennox, Bill Withers, Ray Lamontagne and so forth. This album relays a feeling of great love and great loss that everyone can relate to but both Ed and Bret agree there was “great joy” in putting this together. They shared many laughs. The blending of voices from this duo was incredibly special on the timeless traditional folk song “Wayfaring Stranger” in which Ed tells me, “This song was our beginning.”
“See That My Grave is Kept Clean” is a classic blues song previously recorded in 1962 by Blind Lemon Jefferson and it the album’s namesake. Ed says, “There’s such fragility in the lyrics which is the common thread in all of the songs. This is the song that ties everything together. I would hope that my music allows people to feel something new that they haven’t felt before.”
“Grandma’s Hands” which is a love song recorded in 1971 by Bill Withers, almost didn’t make it on the album. “We had wrapped up recording in April 2009 and went our separate ways for a bit. This song was pulling at me from the beginning throughout the sessions, which told me that we weren’t done. I love Bill Withers and knew “Grandma’s Hands” had to be on this thing. So I called Bret up. It was the last piece to the puzzle for us,” said Ed.
This is another fantastic album under the belt of Bret Alexander who engineered, produced and recorded See That My Grave is Kept Clean at Saturation Acres in Dupont. Ed comments, “ I had this idea to put together a project of folk music. I knew Bret was the guy I wanted for it, so… I emailed him. We made a plan on paper, but then you start recording and the magic takes over. This unconscious momentum. Bret’s work is authentic and he knows his way around a song. We both showed up and worked. I brought my parts in, and Bret brought his. This was a true collaboration. We both are fans of the material, so you just feed off the energy in the room at the time and go for it. The flow was there and before we knew it, 10 tracks were finished. We were in the studio for nine months. The title, See That My Grave is Kept Clean came at the end of recording. There were some others in mind as we went along, but this one was staring me in the face the entire time. It just seemed to fit. We took our time, nothing was rushed. There was no pressure. Bret loves his work. Vanity is out the window. It’s all about the song and he’s with you 100%. He’s committed to his projects. The man makes things happen. I knew we were going to make something special – and we did! For me, making music is the ultimate therapy. I brought my demons to the studio and put them on this record. I don’t take having that outlet for granted”
The Randazzo/Alexander album is currently receiving air-play on PA radio stations:
SEE THAT MY GRAVE IS KEPT CLEAN – Track by Track breakdown:
01. WAYFARING STRANGER (Traditional) – Earliest know date: 1816
02. GRANDMA’S HANDS (Bill Withers) – 1971 single for Bill Withers. A love song.
03. DEVIL’S GONNA COME (Edward Randazzo) – A song about the struggle with temptation through the eyes of two young, naïve brothers.
04. THREE RAVENS (Edward Randazzo) – Death and three hungry birds are thick as thieves. Working together, Death gets his victim and those birds – a tasty meal.
05. GRAVEYARD BOOGIE (Edward Randazzo) – A song about belonging no matter who you are. Everyone deserves an invite to the party.
06. ONLY A MINER (Traditional) – Earliest date: 1927 Man is much more than his work.
07. HOUSE CARPENTER (Traditional) – Earliest know date: 1737 This woman doesn’t realize the value of what he has… until it’s too late!
08. THE UNQUIET GRAVE (Traditional) – The oldest tune here as it dates back to the 14th Century. This is a Celtic spin on this English ballad.
09. SEE THAT MY GRAVE IS KEPT CLEAN (Blind Lemon Jefferson) – Classic blues song recorded in 1962.
10. RING THEM BELLS (Edward Randazzo) – This was the first of four originals to be written and recorded. Ed is especially proud of this little tune.
See That My Grave is Kept Clean can be purchased locally at all locations of Joe Nardone’s Gallery of Sound and Wayne’s World of Music.
Bret Alexander links: