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Juju B. Solomon: Labor of love

Juju B. Solomon brings folk home

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To truly grasp Juju B. Solomon's songs, one must first understand the songwriter Benjamin Solomon and the cultural short-circuits that congeal in his contemplative sound – a sound that shadows the whimsical lurch of traditional folk music. His self-titled debut (New Street Records) is an intimate collection of jaunts that chronicle the experiences of an outsider by bearing witness to social and sexual interactions in India.

After spending time as a student in Rajasthan in northern India, Solomon took a job working for an American-based, home-textiles company that outsourced materials from India. He says he was asked to put pressure on the locals in order to step up production, which didn't work out so well. While in his presence, the reasons become clear; his articulate, soft-spoken manner – coupled with bouncing pigtails and rainbow-striped socks – isn't the countenance of an ogre for the global textile industry. He shrugs off his former job with a coy smile when he explains, "I was the nice guy. People came to me with their problems. I was asked to be the bully, but I didn't ever accept that role."

The experience resulted in a dose of culture shock for Solomon.

"India made me clean up my act," he adds. "If I didn't cut my hair and wear normal clothes, people stared more than they did already, which was a lot. I had to make myself look as unassuming as possible by Indian standards, which resulted in some disastrous haircuts and feeling very awkward."

This sense of expatriate alienation culminates in his song "The Only American in Coimbatore." Other songs, including "Dirty Young American Boy" and "South Delhi," juxtapose America's and India's youth culture. And "Punk As Fuck" is pure, teenaged catharsis told with self-effacing maturity.

Solomon is following in the footsteps of accomplished artists such as Cat Power, Smog and Bonnie "Prince" Billy, but he's still fleshing out his true character. "When I'm Juju B. Solomon, Benjamin is at home writing songs that are intensely personal to him, but onstage it's Juju B's responsibility to sing them," he explains. "That's what Chan Marshall [Cat Power] and Will Oldham [Bonnie 'Prince' Billy] do well; they create a psychic distinction between the self and the person singing. That degree of separation means you're not totally naked up there, saying 'this is my life laid out for all to see.'"

Even though, in a sense, it is.

Songwriters' songwriters: The rest of the best songwriters in Atlanta

Isia Cooper: Although Isia Cooper has been playing guitar for only two-and-a-half years, the grace of her slow croon and spacious strumming has enchanted a growing scene around her performances. Her debut CD, Sail the Skin (New Street Records) is due out in June. Her collaboration with Duet for Theremin and Lap Steel on www.myspace.com/isiacooper, called "For My Tea," is an arresting merger of her brittle songwriting and the avant-garde.

Chickens & Pigs: Chickens & Pigs (né Jeff Evans) is a cross between Hank Williams and Captain Kangaroo. His songs are driven by a high and lonesome sound that's filled with finger-picking, endearing mistakes and parables about food, animals and sometimes both. His fourth self-released CD-R, Home Is Where They Feed Me, is available at his shows.

Anna Kramer: Anna Kramer layers rock 'n' roll chops with a country swagger that's divided between sweet, solo numbers and rollicking band sets. Her sound draws from a lineage of art, country and rock troubadours, ranging from Holly Golightly to Keith Richards. Her sound is a timeless swathe of British strut and American melancholy.

Jude Stevens: Gringo Star guitarist Pete DeLorenzo channels his solo efforts into the voice of nebulous pseudonym Jude Stevens. The character was invented to merge his songs with a sense of personal spirituality. Jude Stevens' releases are lo-fi, psych-rock CD-Rs that DeLorenzo leaves in phone booths, park benches or other places where strangers will find them. His first 7-inch is available from Rob's House Records.


Music Issue 2007


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