How Cruel That Hunger Binds
What makes an artist a great collaborator? It’s a question you could pose to Boston-based Americana artist Dietrich Strause, who’s been touring the US and abroad recently with powerhouse bands and artists like Lake Street Dive, Anthony D’Amato, The Stray Birds, Sam Lee, Anais Mitchell, and Sarah Jarosz. To answer that question, you’ll need to listen to the music Dietrich creates on his own. The deep, thoughtful artistry, and the romanticism and charm found in his own music echoes to his collaborations, making him one of the most in-demand accompanists in New England. On his new album, How Cruel That Hunger Binds, Dietrich draws easily from many genres–shimmering indie roots, mid-century modern popular songwriting, golden-era Americana, and atomic age folk–but there’s a unified aesthetic behind this variety: Dietrich’s deep sense of listening. Be it listening to relationships around him to draw forth stories, listening to the struggles of his community to create parables, or listening to the musicians involved in this album to create a tightly interlocking musical whole. With his own hands on the wheel for this album, Dietrich Strause unlocks his potential as a skilled songwriter. Perhaps the real question behind this album is “what happens when one of the best artistic collaborators takes the space to create on his own terms?” The answer will surprise you.
Raised by Lutheran ministers in Pennsylvania, Dietrich Strause’s character combines a calm demeanor with a kind of Protestant self-determination that drives him to this day. His sound has expanded from his early days after moving to Boston, and Dietrich himself has continued to push the walls of his own songwriting. When recording How Cruel That Hunger Binds, producer Zachariah Hickman (Josh Ritter, Ray LaMontagne) urged Dietrich to drive himself musically further than ever before, giving the album depth and complexity while still remaining true to Dietrich's gentle but mischievous nature. In addition to guitar and his Frankie Avalon-esque vocals, Dietrich plays trumpet, piano, and euphonium on the album. Throughout, he is joined by Hickman (bass, vibes, bass clarinet, Omnichord, guitar, vocals), Dominic Billet (drums), Alec Spiegelman (woodwinds, nylon string guitar), Lyle Brewer (electric guitar), Amy Correia (vocals), Mark Erelli (vocals), and the album’s recording engineer Sam Kassirer (piano, organ).
Dietrich Strause's mordant lyricism and adventurous harmony place him firmly amongst the most talented hyperliterate songwriters of his generation. While the content of the songs is easily relatable, Strause is all about the turns of phrase. “Lying In Your Arms,” with its undeniable saddle-shoe and poodle-skirt quality, packs in lyrical gems like “In her arms it’s true, I now stray and think of you, of all we lost and all we lacked / of all the arrows and swords, of all the roses and thorns, and all the ribbons it’s worth just to get you back.” Following is the richly poetic “The Dove”– “Hush the sound of a rising sun / where days begin when days are done / where bluebells ring when morning comes.” It takes a keen ear to create music this insightful, and that’s the kind of listening that Dietrich Strause has been crafting for years.