Moses Sumney Live From Blackalachia album review by Mimi Kenny for Northern Transmissions

TUMTUM/Secretly Distribution

8.6

Moses Sumney

Live From Blackalachia

“If there’s no pain is there any progress?” Moses Sumney rhetorically asks this in the final stretch of his new live album, Live From Blackalachia. The song is “Cut Me,” a track both musically jaunty and lyrically visceral that served as a proper introduction to Sumney’s most recent album, grae. Here, Sumney is about 15 minutes away from curtain call, and he’s asking the listener to ponder an uncomfortable potential truth.

In most cases, such a question would be easy to dismiss as Intro to Philosophy yammering, or the kind of thing that gets passed around as a “motivational” meme until all the jpegs have been sucked out of it. What makes it and other moments during Live From Blackalachia so affecting is how adamant Sumney is in posing them. Sumney’s music and his thoughts have clear antecedents, but the way he expresses them are uniquely his.

Recorded over two days in the North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains in the summer of 2020 and accompanied by a concert film, also directed by Sumney, Live From Blackalachia cements the greatness of both Sumney’s first two albums, Aromanticism and grae, and his skills as a live performer. It seems impossible to experience and not have your appreciation of Sumney grow even further.

Don’t let the recording date scare you: this album was made live, and outside, but not in front of an audience, save for perhaps the crickets heard chirping and giving tracks like “In Bloom (in the woods)” and “Cut Me” a real field-recording ambiance. But to hear/see Sumney perform with every fiber of his being is to witness someone who would give it his all whether in front of 20,000 or 20 spectators.

Live From Blackalachia culls from both albums, though understandably a bit more from the longer and more-recent grae. But Sumney and his band make things so cohesive, you might think he’s performing one studio album in full. The live setting also lets him expand these already active songs even more, like how the off-kilter percussion and jerky falsetto of “Conveyor” sounds like something that could fit on “In Rainbows.”

Sumney is an artist who refuses to be pigeonholed into a single genre, with “art rock,” “psychedelic soul,” and “indie folk” being a few potential tags. Live From Blackalachia makes it clearer than ever: Sumney doesn’t defy conventions; he transcends them. Another line, this one from perhaps his best song, “Virile,” says it best: “Too much is not enough”

Order Live From Blackalachia by Moses Sumney HERE