Jerry David DeCicca is the frontman of beloved Columbus, Ohio folk-rock band The Black Swans. This is his debut solo album which features guest appearances by Will Oldham (Bonnie 'Prince' Billy), Kelley Deal (The Breeders), Spooner Oldham, and more.
The debut solo long player from Jerry David DeCicca, Understanding Land, comes after five critically-acclaimed full-length albums with The Black Swans. That band's final release, Occasion For Song, served as a musical eulogy for DeCicca’s late friend Noel Sayre, the Columbus, OH violinist who passed away in 2008 (and who DeCicca formed The Black Swans with).
These 10 songs were written in the Elephant & Castle neighborhood of London after a half year of touring and traveling the US, Spain, Portugal, and the UK. What began as demos soon turned into the actual album with contributions from double bassist Andy Hamill (Mark Murphy, Natacha Atlas, Tracey Thorn) who provided bass and some gypsy slides. DeCicca then sent tracks to pals Will Oldham (Bonnie 'Prince' Billy) and Kelley Deal (The Breeders) who both came back with sweet harmonies. The legendary Spooner Oldham (Muscle Shoals, Dylan, Neil Young) plays Wurlitzer on 3 songs. Everyone you hear recorded their parts in their homes (except Spooner who cheated and used a real studio-- The NuttHouse in Muscle Shoals, Alabama). Once tracks were gathered together, it was mixed in Austin, Texas by Grammy winner Stuart Sikes (Cat Power, Phosphorescent, Loretta Lynn, White Stripes).
DeCicca first met Will Oldham through his co-production of the late Larry Jon Wilson (Heartworn Highways, 1965 Records), Kelley Deal through two recent solo tours together, and Spooner Oldham from crashing the recording session and writing the liner the notes to Testifyin' a UK compilation that comprised new recordings by Dan Penn, Tony Joe White, Donnie Fritts and others.
Understanding Land mixes a slo-mo folk doom & gloom with sense of optimism. Opener, "Before the Storm" begins "Along the pillows and cradles/ Long after all the damage had been done", using both the new holes and the new hills created by the weather as metaphor for the plus and minuses of change. "29th of June" and "Colors in the Sky" continue the record into its Weather Trilogy. "Opportunity to Love", a duet with JDD’s partner Eve Searls, is a tender and encouraging step forward to allow more people into your life, like a folkier and more rustic "Don't Give Up". Where "Invisible Man" is about dealing with the ghost that is suicide, "I Want Nothing" is a rejection of the material world. "Bloom Again", the album's closer, is a song of re-birth that recalls the meteorological metaphors from earlier: "And I stood like a tree/ through winter's bitter schemes/ And waited my turn/ To bloom again".
DeCicca is also the producer of late-career albums by Larry Jon Wilson (Heartworn Highways, Monument Records, 1965 Records) and Ed Askew's For the World (Tin Angel Records). He lives in New Braunfels, Texas.