Ernest Troost is an Emmy-award-winning film and television composer and a recipient of the prestigious Kerrville New Folk award for his songwriting. His evocative style combines folk and Piedmont-blues-style guitar picking with timeless stories and colorful character portrayals drawn from the American past and present.
His three albums of original songs have been described as what would happen if the Carter Family, Robbie Robertson, and Alfred Hitchcock wrote songs together. They’ve been a hit with critics and fans alike: "Troost's style and subject matter recall Dylan, Dave Alvin, and (especially for his concentration on life's darker side) Richard Thompson--enviable company indeed. Such comparisons are not lightly made: Every song here is a keeper." (Tom Hyslop, Blues Revue Magazine) "Ernest, playing in his infectious Piedmont-blues style, has phenomenal guitar chops. His voice is uniquely his own, and free of affectation. His melodies are inventive and original, and his lyrics, though deep, are in a straightforward, everyday vernacular. His songs are filled with almost cinematically described characters, so vivid they linger long after the songs end. Humble on stage and off, Ernest is the whole package." (Steve Dulson, The Living Traditions Concert Series, President of Far-West Folk Alliance)
Ernest’s newest album, “Ernest Troost Live at McCabe’s,” recorded at the legendary California folk venue on January 8, 2011, captures an evening of Ernest’s songs that slowly builds from solo performance to full band. Seven new songs are premiered on this stunning stereo recording, about which Jackie Morris of THE BARD CHORD said, “Mixing traditional country blues and ragtime influences with spell-binding lyrics, Ernest Troost's new album, “ERNEST TROOST LIVE AT McCABE’S” takes the art of the story-song to new heights. I have to confess: I had heard of Ernest Troost, but I had never actually heard him play until Friday, July 15th, at the Camarillo Café. It might have been my first time, but it certainly will not be my last! His talent, both as a guitarist and a lyricist, is extraordinary, drawing easy comparisons to Bob Dylan, Chris Smither, Danny Schmidt and Steve Earle.”
Ernest Troost, vocals, guitars, mandolin
Additional guest performers, Nicole Gordon vocals and Mark "Pocket" Goldberg, upright bass.
All the Boats Are Gonna Rise,
Ernest Troost Live at McCabe's
Ernest Troost Live At McCabe's
[+ Show ]
Ernest Troost Live at McCabe's November 20, 2011 Ernest Troost is an award-winning Los Angeles s...Ernest Troost Live at McCabe's
November 20, 2011
Ernest Troost is an award-winning Los Angeles singer-songwriter and guitarist, whose new folk style is at the forefront of an American roots music renaissance.
The renowned folk star's new album, Ernest Troost Live at McCabe's, blends folk, ragtime and Piedmont blues styles into a sumptuous symphony of simplicity.
Ernest Troost is an Emmy-winning composer of more than 100 orchestral scores for Hollywood films and television, so the cinematic backdrop in his story songs comes from a unique perspective not shared by other folk musicians.
As a songwriter, Troost composes songs that resonate with the pure authenticity of traditional blues and folk, but with a great freshness and contemporary relevance for 21st century audiences.
"I just like writing acoustic music and, in fact, my style is very spare," says Troost. "My songs are all about simplifying and working with very little."
The well-shaped, polished musical gems created by Ernest Troost reflect the wisdom of one who knows what's vital in life but, more importantly, what should be left out. Less really can be more, and Troost's latest album proves it.
Ernest Troost Live at McCabe's is an album that showcases the lessons learned from a trek through the American musical landscape, which began in his youth.
After studying jazz guitar and classical music at the Berklee College of Music, Ernest Troost developed a desire to earn a living composing music, which led him to Hollywood.
Troost enjoyed tremendous success composing scores for TV and films, including the classic film Tremors, HBO's A Lesson Before Dying, and many Hallmark movies.
He also gained acclaim for composing, arranging and producing albums for legendary music superstar Judy Collins.
However, being the toast of Hollywood and a recognized commercial success did not tame Troost's inner creative restlessness.
After years of putting his personal songwriting on the back burner during his Hollywood career, Troost ventured out on his own musical adventure.
Now enjoying a second award-winning career as a folk music composer, recording artist and concert performer, Ernest Troost brings his hard-won perspective and talents to music fans who follow every musical note in his heart.
Ernest Troost-Tremors of Songs and Other Piedmont Inspirations
[+ Show ]
Ernest Troost-Tremors of Songs and other Piedmont Inspirations Posted by Terry Roland on Janu...Ernest Troost-Tremors of Songs and other Piedmont Inspirations
Posted by Terry Roland on January 5, 2012 at 4:00pm
By Terry Roland
(originally appeared in FolkWorks)
Ernest Troost’s music is a perverse and diverse celebration of American folk music. It’s a vibrant festival of tragedy and comedy, a wind-blown crossroads of American culture where Piedmont blues meets modern literature in the darkest of themes.
Listening to his latest album, Live at McCabe’s (recently reviewed by Susie Glaze in FolkWorks) it’s not hard to imagine the Lovin’ Spoonful’s Sebastian front-porch harp-jamming with Steinbeck on mandolin while all of it is captured on canvas by Andrew Wyeth. With a voice reminiscent of Paul Simon, his characters and stories can be as dark as the prose of Cormac McCarthy or as inspiring as a Capra film as seen through the eyes of Woody Guthrie. He’s one of those rare songwriters who can gently seduce the listener into the pleasantries of his melodies while his subject matter subtly engages and disturbs with stories that tread closely to the dark-edge of the American dream revealing the nightmares of our hidden history. All of this is wrapped in the skill and craft of acoustic instrumentation with the seemingly magic intricacies of finger-flat-picking that sing of the long lonesome ragtime blues scattered through the musical highway walked by kindred spirits like Geoff Muldaur, Jerry Garcia and David Grissom.
All of this and more is covered in the interview that follows. It is a rare glimpse into the inner workings of a creative and imaginative writer and musician. Ernest Troost will be in concert at McCabe’s Guitar Store in Santa Monica on Friday, January 6 at 8:00pm to celebrate the release of his new CD, Live at McCabe’s.
TR: So, what’s new for your solo career?
ET: I’m getting to work promoting my new album. It was recorded live at McCabe’s in January of 2011. The official release date is January 17, 2012. I have another McCabe’s show coming up on January 6.
TR: You’ve been known for your career scoring films. How did you get into a career as a singer-songwriter?
ET: I had an epiphany. I had always found film scoring to be practical and fulfilling. I use a lot of acoustic instruments. I scored television shows with orchestral instruments. I won an Emmy and was nominated for four more. One Saturday I wandered into McCabe’s Guitar Store. It’s just a great place to be. I saw the music I’d been into before when I was younger. I picked up a music video on how to play the music of Blind Blake. It changed my direction. I always loved Piedmont blues but I’d never played it. Most of the teachers I had studied with looked down on open tunings so I never looked into it. The Blind Blake disc was all in open tuning.
TR: How did that change things for you?
ET: What it did was to place my songs in a vintage context. I loved the way Dylan took old blues and put literate lyrics to them. It was a new beginning. As a singer-songwriter, I keep in touch with the Piedmont style because it doesn’t date itself. When you make a song from it, it becomes timeless.
TR: Where do you get your inspirations for the themes in your songs?
ET: I do a lot of reading. But, I don’t read a book and then turn it into a story-song. I find books where I like the language. William Gay wrote a collection of short stories, I Hate To See The Evening Sun Go Down. Each story is the title of an old blues song. It’s written with really colorful, gothic language. William Gay led me to Cormac McCarthy and Blood Meridian. I fill my head with that kind of language. It’s poetic. That’s what I love about it. And it’s cinematic at the same time. I can draw on that taking the essence of the language for the narrative of the song.
TR: How do you write songs? Is there a process you use?
ET: I don’t know. For me writing songs is going into a dream state. I don’t visualize. Having worked on scoring so many movies and television shows, I do observe when the arc of the story is working right and when it isn’t. That helps me write better songs.
I know a film editor. When he edited movies the good performances would get better and the bad ones would get worse. It’s the same with lyrics. I play a new song many times. Sometimes I’ll get the bones of a song in a couple of days and then I’ll come back to it. It could take a month. Once the song feels done, I record it as a demo. It’s a funny thing. The song, Switchblade Heart, the chorus of that song was a dummy lyric. I just hummed the chorus and hung around for a while, but there was no way I was going to leave that in the song. Once I sketched out the character, Frankie, who is a gangster, there came this vivid contrast between the character and the chorus and the lyrics that emerged worked.
TR: Do you have an experience with personal foreshadows in songs?
ET: Yes, I have. Not that it was my life. My first album, All The Boats Are Gonna Rise, I wrote that song after reading Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Are Watching God. I wrote the song about a flood that was in the book. I finished it a year before Katrina.
TR: Where do you think great songs come from?
ET: I don’t know exactly. Dreams and songs make sense. I have had occasions when a dream triggers a song, but mostly, I don’t remember dreams. I usually start with music and get myself into a place mentally, which allows the words and stories to come through. It’s like putting yourself into a trance. I heard one writer say if he knew where the good stories come from, he’d go there more often. It just takes being receptive to these things coming through. I’ve written songs that happen really quickly. But, I usually end up having to put on my editor’s hat after a week or so and go back and try to fix parts of the song.
TR: You talk about the language in your songs being from the books you read. Can you tell me a bit more about that?
ET: I get the words into my head, the language. I have a new tune called, Harlan County Boys. The sound of the film, Harlan County, evoked a certain mood. I thought I’d write something gritty but instead I wrote a multigenerational story about a grandmother and three generations of lost men in the mines. It’s not something I can really control. I can’t imagine outlining something like that. It would feel so limiting. I think it’s a childhood thing for me. When I was a really young kid, I used to play with little cars on the edge of the lawn and dirt where the trees make these really cool little roads. There was also a sandbox for my younger brother with clean sand. I wouldn’t get so dirty if I played there. But, I couldn’t build cool roads in that sandbox. Writing songs is no different. There are no limitations.
TR: What’s the difference between film scoring and writing songs?
ET: With scoring you’re given a story and you have to fit your music to scenes. I’ve been doing that for a long time. With songwriting there are certain challenges. A different part of my ability had to be developed. With songwriting I didn’t want to write-on-demand. Whatever comes through makes it fresh for me. So, having done songwriting makes it so when I go to do a film score I approach it in a new way.
TR: What makes songwriting unique for you?
ET: Songs can cover a lot of ground in their three and a half minutes. When I’m working on a song I have specific details I work from. Once the song and story is working, a little later, I can make the lyrics more universal. It sends ripples out into the world and has a wider impact. It’s about being universal. I try. That’s my life. I didn’t set out to do that, but once I saw it, it’s like being a prophet. I work as hard as I can to get the song to work and once it does and I’ve gone through all of the re-writing and eye-opening to see the connections, then I look at the relationships of the intended and unintended words in the song and nurture it so that it all becomes concentrated and seamless.
TR: Have you picked up any influences along the way?
ET: When I went to Texas in 2009 I was exposed to a bunch of writers who were writing, ‘Texas style.’ It was a lean, economical style. They leave space. You don’t say too much, which contrasts with Dylan and Paul Simon. I tried to do that. Some of the influences for that style are Kevin Welch, Eric Taylor, Lyle Lovett and Nanci Griffith. Also, Darrell Scott and Julie Miller. Her stuff really knocks me out. Another one is Bo Ramsey. He’s an Iowa songwriter. He does rootsy blues that’s just slow and hypnotic.
TR: Well, thank you for the interview. I look forward to seeing you at McCabe’s.
[+ Show ]
Release Date: October 2009 Ernest Troost Kerrville New Folk Winner Ernest Troost's newest album, ...Release Date: October 2009
Ernest Troost Kerrville New Folk Winner Ernest Troost's newest album, the aptly titled Resurrection Blues is a brilliant new piece of songwriting art. Its thirteen Piedmont-blues influenced songs tell stories of passion, lost love and regret-filled lives at a cross-roads, looking for a modern-day answer to "how did things ever get this far?" and "when did the darkness fall?" Ernest Troost's existential questions run rampant in his first three songs; and then, the stories begin.
For those of you who aren't familiar with his work, aside from the new Kerrville win, Ernest Troost is an Emmy-winning and multiply Emmy-nominated composer of more than one hundred scores for films and television. His first album of songs, All the Boats Are Gonna Rise, was a return to his musical roots, inspired by one of those "defining moments" where an event or series of events can turn you onto a new path you didn't see coming. He writes: "I bought a Blind Blake instructional video and learned a bunch of his songs, which led to my writing my own songs in the Piedmont style. I had studied jazz guitar and classical guitar for years, but had never played guitar in the open tuning that Blake used. The alternate tunings I learned were a revelation and I now use lots of different tunings in my songwriting." Add this to solid composing chops and you've got something brand new that sounds old and is just flat good.
Some background: Piedmont blues is a true melting pot of sounds, developed along the East Coast and typically refers to a greater geographical area than the Piedmont plateau, from about Richmond, Virginia, to Atlanta, Georgia. Piedmont blues musicians come from this area, as well as Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and northern Florida, eastern Tennessee, Kentucky, and Alabama - later the Northeastern cities like Boston, Newark, NJ, or New York. It's noted for characteristics like alternating bass played with the thumb (some say it's like playing piano on guitar) and, because the black community in the Piedmont region was more integrated into the white community than, say, the Delta region in Mississippi (producing Delta Blues with slides and simpler melodies), it was influenced by a variety of popular music of the day such as Ragtime, Tin-Pan Alley and other popular music forms in its harmony and rhythm. Ernest captures the feel of the Piedmont style engagingly and gently, with an honest poetry that is both accessible and profound.
Ernest likes to call his new work "cinematic folk" (perfect for keeping with his film and TV work), and that's a great description, in that he writes such vivid character studies with fable-like, morality-tale qualities. Indeed, his songs are like entire films in miniature, like looking at a painting that tells a story in one image (or several) on one canvas. From Ernest again: "Stories are what fascinate me...I sometimes think of myself more as a filmmaker than a songwriter...I love to weave words and music together and create cinematic images in the mind of the listener."
And images do fly: Just listen to the story of Switchblade Heart, where Frankie, a killer who "kept his enemies close and his edges sharp" falls for "a girl from Tennessee." Then on one fateful night she jumps in front of Frankie as the boys come after him and there is "the cough of a pistol and her mournful cry." Or enjoy the whimsical Big-time Blues where criminals find their just deserts, or the tale of the man who couldn't get over a long-ago transgression in Sad Dog Blues. Ernest captures the grand Tin-Pan Alley influence with a new classic My Baby Loves Me replete with clarinet and an infectious swing:
I'm under her spell, but this ain't no voodoo
My baby loves me like no other lover do!
This is a broad and colorful canvas of Americana. But his theme I think here is in the title cut, Resurrection Blues where Ernest asks something we can all understand:
What happened and how did I get here?
Sittin' in the dark, watchin' for a sign
My thoughts can hardly keep up with my restless mind
I've seen my future and my world has come undone
My gears are broken and my springs have sprung...
I got criminal blood coursing through my veins
I got addictive tendencies circlin' my brain
Waitin' like a pack of wolves ‘til I let down my guard
I'm doing my best, but I'm breathin' hard...
As a writer and artist, Ernest flatly acknowledges lost youth and asks where did it go? In Hellbound:
If love once passed this way, all the trails are cold...
All that's left is old pale traces of tears...
Or in Dark Days:
There are pieces of me in here
There are bits I left back there
There's a home I cannot embrace
From beneath this shroud....
He embraces darkness and its reflection in his own soul and in the tragic tales of others' lives, at the same time he suspects there are answers around the next bend. You'll find yourself chuckling at the rueful humor while you weep for the days gone by - the endless human condition. "It's the dark characters that interest me," he says about his songs. Indeed, Ernest himself is the first dark character on this album, followed by the man with the "black Armani jacket" or Frankie, or the boy who vows to leave his town through a treacherous black water "if it's the last thing I do." The album has a narrative arc that works as a story line to unite the whole album, like the journey that it is.
Then, lo and behold, his questions yield a great answer, and with the answer comes flat out redemption! One last sad story, It Don't Hurt, tells of a ruined childhood which he flees. He "met a girl in Richmond, so tender and true," but he tries to leave her as well. Then, she "unpacked my suitcase" and "said, after a while, it don't hurt." That's the savior story that turns everything around and you can just feel the sun coming up over the mountain. Love is fulfilled in Doubtin' Blues - hey: a blues song about being happy!
When black's the only color I see/And my mind keeps playing tricks on me
Darlin', all because of you/I can put aside these doubtin' blues.
The final song caps the resurrection with appropriate spiritual praise, The Lonesome Gospel Blues. He runs down to the river, through the valley and joins the choir:
Sing out like a choir of angels
We're gonna chase these blues away.
Blues Revue Magazine wrote correctly that "Troost's style and subject matter recall Dylan, Dave Alvin, and (especially for his concentration on life's darker side) Richard Thompson--enviable company indeed. Such comparisons are not lightly made: Every song here is a keeper." I also thought of Richard Thompson as a comparison: dark stories with a beat. Ernest's melodies can be spooky and complex, but always beautiful and beautifully rendered here, many with great instrumental sections separating the main melody. Ernest's high and light voice can be tender, angry, sad, bewildered and joyful, all in keeping with the story he's telling. His fine guitar work can be moody and mysterious, then raucous and joyful. I read another neat description of Ernest's writing: he's been described as what would happen if the Carter Family, Robbie Robertson, and Alfred Hitchcock wrote songs together. Sounds like something for everyone! For me, the melodies and harmonies linger in my head and the characters haunt my thoughts long after the songs are over.
Ernest is very nicely accompanied by Nicole Gordon and Lisa O'Kane on harmony vocals, and joined by Richard Greene on fiddle, Rick Smith on harmonica, Ed Tree on resonator guitar, Scott Higgins on percussion, Don Markese on clarinet and Shaun Cromwell on banjo. The bulk of the playing is done by Ernest himself on lead guitar, bass, mandolin and some percussion. This album, along with his noted awards, should take Ernest far. He deserves it - this work is remarkable and important and you are sure to hear more of Ernest Troost down the line.
Award-winning recording artist and critically-acclaimed Bluegrass powerhouse vocalist, Susie Glaze has been called by BLUEGRASS UNLIMITED "an important voice on the California Bluegrass scene." Her album "Blue Eyed Darlin'" was the winner of the Just Plain Folks 2006 Music Award for Best Roots Album and Folkworks Magazine's Pick for Best Bluegrass Album of 2005. "One of the most beautiful voices in bluegrass and folk music today." (Roz Larman of FolkScene). Susie's new release "Green Kentucky Blues" and additional recordings can be found at www.susieglaze.com.
Blues Revue Magazine
[+ Show ]
All the Boats Are Gonna Rise shows the keen storytelling skill of Ernest Troost. Pointedly less impr...All the Boats Are Gonna Rise shows the keen storytelling skill of Ernest Troost. Pointedly less impressionistic and lyrical than most blues, Troost's songs are rooted instead in character, situation, and narrative. Adeptly fingerpicked guitar backs his
clear, expressive singing. Troost's style and subject matter recall Dylan, Dave Alvin, and (especially for his concentration on life's darker side) Richard Thompson--enviable company indeed. Such comparisons are not lightly made: Every song here
is a keeper. Favorites include the murder ballad "Evangeline," with its haunted protagonist; the simple, John Hurt-like "This Field"; "Train to Kokomo," a series of sharply etched vignettes; and the appropriately named "Disturbing Blues," about
a mother who methodically dismembers her child as he learns to make and respond to music.
—Tom Hyslop, Blues Revue Magazine
[+ Show ]
Troost is known primarily as a film composer (cult giant-worm movie “Tremors” is one of his), so i... Troost is known primarily as a film composer (cult giant-worm movie “Tremors” is one of his),
so it comes as a surprise to find this album is just him, an acoustic guitar and harmonica and
that the music is hewn from the cloth of ragtime country blues. All the songs are composed
by him but cleave to the tried and trusted ingredients such as floods on the levee, knives in
the kitchen, cold cold ground and characters called John Henry that have inhabited the deltas
and fields of Bluesville since the turn of the last century. Troost's voice is warm and husky
and reminiscent of a younger John Martyn, on one song “She Might Have Been A Muse”
he sounds at times remarkably like Loudon Wainwright and to his credit the song could
have been penned by Loudon. The stand out song is “Travelin¹ Shoes,” a hymn to
California that would not be out of place in the Woody Guthrie songbook.
Freight Train Boogie
[+ Show ]
All The Boats Are Gonna Rise is truly a solo effort, just Troost alone on guitars, vocals, and harm...All The Boats Are Gonna Rise is truly a solo effort, just Troost alone on guitars, vocals,
and harmonica. The lead-in title track is ironic and prescient after the carnage in Louisiana
recently...a New Orleans anthem, wouldn't you think? There's a lot of Delta country blues
influence on this recording, and a lot of social commentary, as well. Imagine a bayou-bred
John Steinbeck taking up a fret board instead of a pen and you've pretty much got the picture.
—Don Grant, Freight Train Boogie