Josephine Foster - What Is It That Ever Was?

LP Edition of 400. Bandcamp.

Vinylization of a tour CDR, Josephine recorded at home around the time of A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing. Accompanying herself on guitar and piano, with some drum & vocal help from Brian Goodman, the album is a glorious once-lost-now-found piece of the fascinating musical puzzle that is the music of  Josephine Foster.

While Foster’s music is clearly consonant with the current trends in avant-völk music (here, especially, on her wild readings from the Tibetan Book of Dzyan), another large portion of her muse seems rooted in the parlor music tradition that predates recorded sound. At times, when she is playing piano and singing, you can almost imagine she’s channeling the spirit of a long-gone frontier maiden, belting out her soul’s truths on an old upright piano in a dusty living room. It feels like an improvised soundtrack to Michael Lesy’s Wisconsin Death Trip. 

But the work presented on this album is neither static nor easily categorized. Josephine follows her muse wherever it goes, and (like her) it is peripatetic as all get-out. From free rock slugfests, to tunes that float with the easy clarity of hymns, What is It That Ever Was offers peek into the private creative process of one of this generation’s great original voices.

Don’t be shy.

-Byron Coley, 2021