The baked sweet potato latke recipe featured on eating/sf today is an intriguing, original twist on a popular food that seems to have roots in a ridiculously large number of cultures. According to Wikipedia, latkes, or other direct cultural equivalents, (a.k.a. potato pancakes; a.k.a. boxty; a.k.a. rarakor; a.k.a. draniki) are common to Irish, Polish, Ukranian, Russian, Yiddish, Austrian, German, Czech, Korean, Russian, Indian, Swedish, and Hungarian cuisines. In my mind, that makes ‘latke’ almost synonymous with ‘diversity.’ Accordingly, today’s pairing is an album by a band that draws from a range of traditions nearly as diverse: Sincerely, Severely by Gainsville, Florida’s Morningbell. Indeed, it is hard to decide if Sincerely, Severely is most astonishing because of the breadth of its range or because of the success Morningbell achieves in tackling so many diverse influences/components: Tom Waits, Al Green-esque R&B, Curtis Mayfield-esque soul, Jane’s Addiction, Radiohead, African drum rhythms, Brazillian folk, and even hints of Cajun brass bands. This is an album that has to be heard to be believed.
Morningbell take their name from the popular Radiohead song “Morningbell” that appears on both Kid A and Amnesiac. They began as a project by brothers Travis and Eric Atria, who had been playing music together most of their lives. Later, Stacie, Eric’s wife, joined the band before they recruited drummer Chris Hillman to round out the group. Sincerely, Severely is their fourth album. The second track on the album, “Marching Off to War,” begins with a jangly guitar riff, backing harmonies that could have been lifted from a Beach Boys album, afrobeat rhythms, and a chorus sang by Travis offering up his very best Perry Farrell impression. So it is undeniably surprising when the next track on the album, “Hello, Dali,” features Travis’ falsetto in full 60’s R&B mode. A few songs later we have “Stay In the Garden,” featuring instrumentation oozing Tom Waits a la “Little Drop of Poison.” And then the title-track, “Sincerely, Severely,” is pure 70’s soul. This probably sounds chaotic, but to Morningbell’s credit the album amazingly sounds cohesive. And more importantly, they steer through these different terrains effortlessly, professionally. Released on December 1 of this year, you can pick up Sincerely, Severely at your favorite digital retailer of choice (let’s cross our fingers for a vinyl release).
Head back to eating/sf to check out the recipe for baked sweet potato latkes.