The First Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir Album in 14 Years
Proceeds From the Sales Will Go To Help Bassist Vlad Sobolewski Battle MS
The Good News: Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir release their first collection of music since 2008’s Ten Thousand. Titled Everything Was a Long Time Ago, it will be available only as a download on https://agnosticmgc.bandcamp.com
The Bad News: None of these songs are new. The band hasn’t reformed. Instead, these tracks are rarities and outtakes recorded between 2004 and 2010.
The Sad News: The whole reason for the new release is to benefit Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir bass player Vladimir Sobolewski who is living with the effects multiple sclerosis (MS).
Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir made its mark in the underground roots scene in the early oughts of this difficult century with their irreverent and skewed, yet disarmingly authentic, take on early blues and country. The band built a cult following in North America and Europe, largely by word of mouth. Their audience ran the gamut from folkies to blues stalwarts to punks to metalheads who were drawn to the intensity of their performances. The cult remains and late-comers still catch wind of their music through the positive side of the internet.
Bassist Vlad Sobolewski was instrumental in the band’s formation and was a prime motivator in pushing the band to keep doing gigs and get out of town after its inaugural show (that happened on a week’s notice with little rehearsal). Henceforth, the band extended its reach beyond its hometown of Calgary via three CDs and number of tours in Canada, UK, and Ireland between 2001 to 2010. (There was also a brief reunion for a European tour in 2013.)
When MS hits hard, it causes deterioration of the body’s nerves, resulting in numbness, deterioration of muscles, pain, and fatigue. Sobolewski was diagnosed with MS in late 2009. The disease progressed to the point where he could no longer play bass. Earning a living has also been difficult for him. The profits from the recording will go to help Sobolewski sustain himself at this difficult juncture.
Regardless of this circumstance, Everything Was a Long Time Ago highlights the power of the Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir’s messed-up, post-modern, not-at-all-ironic tributes to the spirit of the original blues. The collection of unreleased tracks has some hi-fi and plenty of ragged lo-fi pulled together from demos, studio outtakes, and performances. The recordings were almost entirely done live-off-the-floor and, in a sense, this is the here-to-fore unreleased surrogate live album capturing the intensity of their concerts. AMGC was not so cheeky as to dub in phony cheering and applause, as much more famous artists would do to make themselves look good. That lo-fi end of the spectrum may eventually paint AMGC in a similar light to future generations as the scratchy, preserved 78 rpm recordings that inspired the band. Behold:
Several four-track demos of songs that were the forebears to Fighting and Onions own a rawness and fury over and above what was on the official 2005 release. Though sometimes instruments and backing vocals disappear in the mix, just like at a show in a club with a broken sound system, the lasting impression is the power of what was just put on display, rather than the technical incumbrance. Incidentally, Sobolewski recorded these.
Studio outtakes from the Ten Thousand sessions display a hypnotic moodiness that was the countervailing strength to the band’s rugged rowdiness.
Two tracks broad cast live on AMGC’s hometown campus radio station (CJSW) provide evidence that some radio engineers actually got what AMGC were laying down and didn’t sterilize the mix.
Lastly, an unheard, raw, heartfelt, and fierce demo called “Across That Line” is the last piece of music the band members collaborated on before their demise. It has been preserved as a diamond in the rough to let the listener imagine what might have been in an alternate universe.