Portland’s veteran indie roots-rocker, Jon Koonce, hits Waterfront’s main stage with a new 10-piece band with horns, original new material, a Memphis soul groove, and a new release, The Lost Cause, on vinyl and CD.
“It’s been said, ‘If you’re not about the truth, you’re not qualified to play any kind of music,’” writes Koonce on the back of his new record. “It has been called, ‘Three chords and the truth.’ I first heard it at the age of 5, howling from a booming North Carolina jukebox on a coastal boardwalk. A wild truth. The only truth. A murderous concoction of pain and elation on a vinyl record. Three minutes then gone. I thought lost. Like as it came to pass, the man who sang it. He died broke and obscure.
“Still, 59 years later, it is burned in my mind. A sound too pure to be played the same way twice. Those recordings were musical accidents. You know who they are or were, or maybe you don’t. This music a gift from God.”
Koonce reflects upon his past and present in the music industry on the record’s sleeve, “This is release 13 for me.” Starting back around 1980, he led the gritty rockers Johnny and the Distractions through that decade and has steadfastly played his guitar over the years, through thick and thin; through stints in Nashville, a mid-career revival as a solo singer songwriter, tours of the US and Europe with the likes of Joe Ely, Nanci Griffith, Tracey Grammer, Craig Carothers.
The Lost Cause was laid down on half-inch, reel-to-reel tape at an eight-track studio, Fremont Recording, finding freedom in the lack of technology. Joined by local musicians, “No player heard any of the songs before coming to the studio,” Koonce told Vortex magazine recently. “Soon as they quickly learned a tune, I said, ‘Roll tape.’”
You can catch the live version of Koonce & the Lost Cause, July 4 on the Blues (north main) Stage at 2 pm.