The debut album by Nashville native and occasional Brooklyn resident Luke Roberts is an intimate and immediate experience. Songs about running, stumbling, falling, crashing, crying, spitting, fighting, sleeping, dancing, healing, bruising, the butterfly, crawling, creeping, building, flying, fording, gargling, just starting out, homecoming, claiming, calling, bridges, tunnels, planets, and the sun and money. Essentially they are just gifts for Luke’s loved ones. Luke says it best: “They are poems that I didn’t feel comfortable not reciting before I go.”
Big Bells and Dime Songs was recorded by Kyle Spence (Harvey Milk) in his Ronniejone$ound Studio in Athens, Georgia. This was Luke’s first trip to a studio. Kyle also played drums and some bass on the record. They had never met prior to the recording of this record. Luke got his name and number from a fellow cook and Harvey Milk member. (Thrill Jockey got Luke’s music from another cook.)
Luke on Kyle:
“I didn’t have to tell him how to play he just knew. It felt very lucky.”
Kyle on Luke:
“Luke Roberts is the type of guy who'll get on a Greyhound bus with a forty dollar acoustic guitar and travel 800 miles to go and record an album with somebody he's never met. And he likes Arby's. Sometimes you get a chance to work with someone that can really open your mind and cause you to reconsider what's truly important. Luke Roberts is one of those people and I can't say what I'd think about Arby's right now if I hadn't made this record with him."
The cover photo is a freight train pulling out of a carbon mill at a place called Devil’s Peak, in Utah. Trains and Luke go way back.
“I'm from East Nashville. My dad tried to move us up to the mountains where he was from in West North Carolina, but abandoned us out there in this cabin when my mom was pregnant with her third child and so the church we were members of in Nashville came out and brought us back. There was a lot of singing and dancing at the church. My mom took me to contra dances and square dances too. I wanted to be a dancer. My mom enrolled me in a saxophone class.
"I roamed around East Nashville with hard kids, always in the creeks and on the train tracks. We were always out there in these little jungles by the train tracks. Trains would go by and I fell in love with them. They would sometimes stop in front of us and I started to dare myself to get on them. We would sometimes walk 15 miles on the train tracks to go to the Rivergate Skating Rink. Between the track and the creeks you could get anywhere. When I was twelve me and a boy named John Roberts ran away. We slept in Shelby Park, stole peanut butter crackers and Dr. Pepper from an Exxon, and when we got to the train tracks, where we'd built a fort, there was a train stopped in front of us and we decided to get on. There weren't any boxcars, we were just kind of hanging off in between on these big metal things. It took off and it didn't stop for hours and hours till the sun went down. I had started to fall asleep and woke up as we were going over this high bridge and I was just hanging there on this big bumpy dangerous train.” - Luke Roberts
John Coltrane famously said “It all has to do with it.” There could be no better example of life experience enriching art form than Luke Roberts. The songs on Big Bells and Dime Songs simple structure belie the complex tales and render the listener unprepared for the complex emotions they elicit.
"When I think about this album, I don't really think about how quickly we did it or how much fun it was or how satisfied we were with the way it turned out... I think about how much Luke likes Arby's."
"Sometimes you get a chance to work with someone that can really open your mind and cause you to reconsider what's truly important. Luke Roberts is one of those people and I can't say what I'd think about Arby's right now if I hadn't made this record with him."
"At one point during the recording of the album I asked Luke why none of his songs had any changes. He said "Man, I know. Every time I try to add a second part in one of them I think 'man, that's cheesy' and I take it back out." I agreed with him and then he suggested that we go to Arby's." - Kyle Spence (Harvey Milk)
The music made by Luke Roberts is wide in scope and spare in structure. It is as universal as it is personal – if you have
to label it, the right stamp to put on it might be “redemptive blues”.The ability to to lay bare not only the toughest of emotions but the search for answers in such a deceptively simple and relatable voice, makes Luke Roberts an utterly unique and compelling artist....more