With the release of Pilgrims & Prodigals, the Annie Moses Band has come full circle. Pilgrims & Prodigals is the culmination of a dream that’s been in the making since its members first started performing together a decade ago. Originally envisioned as a concept project by Annie when she was just 17, Pilgrims & Prodigals is the band’s first commercial release, a self-produced collection of songs that explores the timeless theme of roaming and redemption. Titles like “Catcher in the Rye,” “Progress,” “Read Between the Lies,” “My Room” and “Blush” carry an encouraging message of hope amidst hopelessness, faith amidst despair, and joy amidst sorrow.
“Pilgrims & Prodigals is based on the idea that everyone in the world is going somewhere,” observes Alex, who for the first time shares lead vocalist duties with his sister Annie. “We’re all on a personal journey. We are all either someone who’s finding our way back home or we’re someone who’s running away from home. Every song on this album tells one of those two stories.”
Universally acclaimed by critics and audiences alike for their electrifying instrumental virtuosity and shimmering layered vocals, the Annie Moses Band soars to unprecedented new heights on Pilgrims & Prodigals. Eight songs on the album were written or co-written by members of the group. Five other tunes receive inventive re-imaginings that bring fresh new seasonings to familiar standards like “Poor Wayfaring Pilgrim” and “Girl of Constant Sorrow.” There are even two “pop cover songs” – “Love Song” (Elton John) and “I Got a Name” (Jim Croce) – that take on unexpected new life here. The album is a sophisticated, complex blending of classical, jazz, folk and even a frisson of Celtic thrown in for good measure, carrying listeners along on a musical fast track that never falters and never disappoints.
Reflecting on the band’s newfound musical maturity, Benjamin says, “You learn a great deal sonically with each album. And I think we’ve experienced an arrival sonically as artists with this album. It ultimately achieves everything that we wanted it to.”
One of the highlights of the collection is an all-instrumental arrangement of an old Irish jig called ‘The Blarney Pilgrim.’ Dressed up via Bill’s innovatively-stylized arrangement and featuring lightning-fast string work, ‘Blarney Pilgrim” shows why it’s a huge crowd pleaser whenever the band plays it live in concerts. Another highlight is Alex’s self-penned “The Road Well Traveled,” which he wrote after re-reading Robert Frost’s celebrated poem, “The Road Not Taken.” The arrangement features Alex on lead vocals and a terrific piano solo by Camille.
“Blush” is a song that sprang from an idea Benjamin suggested to his mother. Robin sat down to work on the lyrics and then added the melody with Bill. “Blush” is about remembering a time when things were not broken, when the expectation was not failure but success,” Benjamin says thoughtfully. “It’s about trying to return to that mindset where we expect the best, work for the best and believe in the best.”
Pilgrims & Prodigals will be marketed in partnership with television veteran, Tom Clynes and his team at Dream Journey Productions, the television production company behind the band’s highly-popular public television specials. The album is being packaged as a double-disc set, containing the 13-track CD plus a companion DVD. The hour-long DVD showcases the Annie Moses Band performing the entire album in concert, along with on-camera spoken introductions, warmly-shared memories of family background and heritage, and personal photographs. It offers a visual kaleidoscope of the band’s astonishing breadth and range. The concert was filmed in Nashville with seven cameras capturing the galvanizing musicianship of the Wolaver family onstage.
The concert shown in the DVD will air nationally as a special on public television in the fall of 2012. Television has been an extremely valuable marketing tool for the band in the past, and they believe the visual element will continue to be a key component in their success. “Video is very important to us, because what we do as the Annie Moses Band is so visual,” explains Annie. “When you listen to an album, you can’t tell who’s singing what line or what instrument they’re playing. You aren’t envisioning the musicians who are doing all those parts, or who’s playing which instrument. By including the live concert DVD with the album, people can actually see us performing and playing each song on the album.”
Pilgrims & Prodigals was recorded in Nashville with Alex serving as producer and engineer. (Michael Omartian joined Alex as producer on “Where Do We Go from Here” and “Read Between the Lies.”). Working in a relaxed atmosphere in their own home studio gave them the chance to experiment, stretching their boundaries musically and challenging themselves in ways they hadn’t tried before. With dad Bill devising innovative form-shifting arrangements and mother Robin contributing lyrics to several of their collaborations, the band was able to assume a strong presence in all aspects of the writing and recording process.
Says Alex, “I think that whenever you start a project, there’s a kind of surge that happens artistically and creatively, and I think we all definitely had that in creating this album.” Adds Annie, “Even though our band started 10 years ago, this really is our first release. I feel in some ways like it’s a springboard into the next place, into the next chapter of our life. And that’s very exciting!”