“If the Carter Family, Robbie Robertson and Alfred Hitchcock had written songs together, they might sound like this.”
That's singer-songwriter and Emmy-winning composer Ernest Troost’s self-introduction when he takes the stage, whether he’s playing for festival-goers at the prestigious Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas, where he was named New Folk Winner in 2009, or performing a live broadcast concert on KVMR 89.5 FM from the Nevada City radio station's Community Room this Sunday at 5 p.m., with Dakota Sid and Friends opening the festivities.
It’s a clever statement that hints at the spirit of his folk-blues tunes — and Troost himself. When audiences hear his Piedmont blues melodies and deftly detailed lyrics, they’re usually curious to learn more about him.
“Father, Father, I must confess
I been runnin’ with a crowd that thinks they know best
I seen ’em beat a song till it could not stand
It finally gave in and put some money in their hands”
Some say the "big dream" for many singer-songwriters is to have their work used in film or TV scores. Ironically, Troost did the reverse.
After studying jazz guitar and classical music at Berklee College of Music, he emerged with a pragmatic desire to “make my living composing music,” which led him to Hollywood, writing scores for TV and films, including the cult classic "Tremors", HBO’s "A Lesson Before Dying"and many Hallmark Hall of Fame specials.
He's earned quite the list of awards and accolades for his work, including four Emmy nominations plus a 1996 Emmy win for the music in "The Canterbury Ghost," a made-for-television adaption of the Oscar Wilde novella starring Patrick Stewart.
Not only that, he's also composed, arranged and produced two critically praised albums for, yup, Judy Collins.
Now that’s a resume on which many artists would happily rest their laurels, but commercial success didn’t still the nagging restlessness Troost felt inside.
A decade or so ago, he had "an epiphany" when he strolled into McCabe’s, Santa Monica’s legendary guitar shop and concert venue. “I walked in there and was overwhelmed with this feeling, this amazing vibration from the place, very warm and friendly.”
“I got the past in my pockets and the future’s in my shoes
Playin’ some of those old resurrection blues”
"Songwriting was something I had put in the trunk and sat on for 20 years because it was an impractical thing to do. But I said, ‘OK, the scariest thing I could do in my life is write a song and go up on stage and play it.’ I had not done it since high school. So I decided, ‘That’s what I’m going to do.’”
A month later, Troost did just that, returning to McCabe’s for an open mic night, where he played “All the Boats Are Gonna Rise."
“I thought I was going to have a heart attack onstage, I really did,” he says with a laugh. “But I got through it. And people went nuts for the song. Three or four open mic nights later, I played ‘Evangeline,’ and the pro soundman grabbed me and said, ‘that’s the best song I’ve heard at an open mic in the last ten years.’ Those people gave me the confidence to take time to focus on my songwriting.”
That "Evangeline" song later became a hit for singer Suzie Glaze.
Off he was, boning up on his Piedmonth blues guitar style and writing folk songs that more like stories or screenplays.
Maybe those Emmy nominations can take a pause, huh?
As word spread about Troost, other LA singer-songwriters started covering his songs, including Nicole Gordon.
“Ernest’s songs allow me to go into character and find new places within myself,” says Gordon.“It’s as if I get to bring to life a chapter from a 1920s whodunit mystery. His songs are thoughtful and timeless.”
“Why you gotta try when it’s black as a kettle and the moon is howlin’ for a toll
A cottonmouth breeze is a-windin’ through the thicket and it’s lookin’ ‘round for a soul”
Maybe that part of his lyrics are influenced by stories his father would read out loud when Troost was a boy --like Coldridge's "Rime Of The Ancient Mariner" and Poe's "Raven".
"I call my songwriting style cinematic folk--I try to create a vivid world of images and music that envelops the listener," Troost says.
In delicious contrast to the orchestral grandeur of his film compositions, the folk song work showcases Troost’s lyrical taste for earthy ramblers, gamblers and small-town dreamers, and often dark story songs.
Still, hope comes into play as well as in one of his closing numbers, “Lonesome Gospel Blues.”
“Playin’ these blues will steal your health
But if God made anything better, well, he kept it for himself”
And a guy with credentials like this is coming to KVMR's Community Room at 120 Bridge Street Nevada City this Sunday?
To play in an intimate concert setting that's broadcast over KVMR 89.5 FM and kvmr.org streaming?
And just to pile it on, Dakota Sid and Friends will open the broadcast and concert.
Dakota Sid -- a local legend of a songwriting talent himself with stints in both Nashville and Austin -- has gathered up son Travis Clifford, harmonica and music icon Homer Wills and stand-up bass player Patrick McClellan for the event.
A limited number of tickets are available at KVMR's office, 530/265-9073, and online kvmr.org/events
KNOW AND GO
WHO: Folk blues singer-songwriter Ernest Troost, with Dakota Sid Clifford and Friends opening
WHAT: Live concert and musical broadcast on KVMR 89.5 FM and kvmr.org streaming
WHEN: 5 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 10
WHERE: Miss Rumphius' Community Room, KVMR Building, 120 Bridge Street at Spring, downtown Nevada City.
TICKETS: $15 KVMR members, $18 general admission, available at KVMR Office and online at kvmr.org/events
INFO: 530/265-9073 or kvmr.org/events