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Songs We Love: Kyle Craft, 'Lady Of The Ark'

Kyle Craft
Andrew Toups
Courtesy of the artist
Kyle Craft

<em>Dolls Of Highland</em> (Sub Pop 2016)
/ Courtesy of the artist
Courtesy of the artist
Dolls Of Highland (Sub Pop 2016)

A self-described transient, Kyle Craft finally settled down in Portland, Oregon in 2015 after a three-year courtship with the Rose City. Touring through town led to frequent visits, couch surfing, and now full-time residency; and by all accounts, he's fully embraced his new home. That's where he recorded his debut album, Dolls Of The Highland, working with Brandon Summers and Benjamin Weikel of The Helio Sequence on the mixing process, and caught the eye of the legendary Seattle-based label Sub Pop. You can't get much more Northwest than that without a guest appearance from a Decemberist.

But even though he's enjoying the comfortable confines of his new city, Craft will always be indelibly tied to his native Louisiana.

"There's something really mystical about the South," says Craft. "All those rivers, all those deep woods. It's really another world." And that world's hold on Craft is never more apparent than on "Lady Of The Ark," a song that swoons and bulges with early rock and gospel influences he says are deeply rooted in his childhood. Raised in a small town on the Mississippi River, Craft was exposed to the region's gumbo of roots music at a young age.

"I loved sneaking into the choir-practice hall to play the piano during church service as a kid," Craft recalls. "Church bored me to death, so to be alone in this dark, back room with what seemed like a magic wooden box of noise was really special. I'd just push one key at a time, lightly so they couldn't hear it. Then church service would end and the preacher or someone would click the light on and shoo me out."

Like many artists from the South, Craft has a conflicted relationship with the region's cultural duality, a topic he tackles on "Lady Of The Ark." Shrouded in guitars and organ, he caustically wails, "Swing low, low sweet heathen / Swing for the wretch and the rock and roll kid," a line he says he wrote in response to the "shame, shame thing that 'church folk' tend to do so often," and which doesn't sit well with Craft. "Roam this earth repeat it / All this sin until this wicked world makes sense in time," he defiantly growls near the song's end. Craft's roaming days may be done for now, but "Lady Of The Ark" shows his music as wild-eyed and restless.

Dolls Of The Highland is out on April 29 on Sub Pop.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jerad Walker