In 1996, Tracy Bonham’s debut album The Burdens of Being Upright put the young Berklee School of Music student on mainstream map with a hit single, “Mother Mother,” and launched a recording career that has never waned. For her latest recording, Bonham chose to record entirely new renditions of each song on her debut, featuring lead vocals by seven female artists including Tanya Donelly of Belly, Rachel Yamagata and New Pornagraphers’ Kathryn Calder
“I wanted to revamp and refurbish the songs and put them to a modern template,” Bonham said. “To make it a creative endeavor, not just a commercial one.”
She enlisted an old friend, John Wlaysewski of the band Late Cambrian, to produce. “I dissected her songs from her first album and tried to get her to open up to what they were in their essence, beyond how they existed in a certain time period,” Wlaysewski said.
Instead of the aggressive grunge production of the 1996 release, the new album, titled Modern Burdens, features more experimental, stripped-down, often slower versions of the songs, including “Mother Mother.” Placing the compositions in a more contemporary sonic landscape aligned with another goal of Bonham’s for the project: Re-contextualizing the lyrics for the Trump Era. “Many of the songs on Burdens are about this horrible, misogynist guy,” Bonham said. “So I just replaced his face with another.”
At the time of the original release, the male-dominated music industry had room for very few strong female artists such as Bonham. So for the re-release, she decided to ask female performers she respected, both from her generation and younger artists, to contribute vocals to the new recordings. “I felt this was one way we could make sense of what had happened and create a community that could send a message of solidarity and strength,” Bonham said. “The response was immediate.”
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