Janet Batch unveils her second album, 'You Be The Wolf'
With her twangy voice and songs of working-class life, you might think that Janet Batch hails from the Blue Ridge Mountains or the hollers of Kentucky. But the Ithaca-based singer-songwriter actually grew up on a dairy farm in the small town of Litchfield, N.Y., just southeast of Utica.
Batch’s second album, “You Be The Wolf,” comes out Oct. 29; she’ll play a CD release show on Nov. 4 at Abilene Bar and Lounge in Rochester.
The new album is a marked improvement – sonically, musically, and vocally – from her debut, 2017’s “A Good Woman is Hard to Find.”
“I think my lyric writing is better, my musicianship is growing, and it’s more well-rounded than before,” agreed Batch in a recent interview, adding that the record “tackles all sorts of themes, and has all these different styles” ranging from country stompers and waltzes to the occasional atmospheric Mazzy Star-ish vibe to “a lot of story songs.”
Recorded in two sessions in Nov. 2019 and Feb 2020 at Sunwood Recording in Trumansburg, N.Y., the new album showcases Batch’s band, the Four-Bangers – drummer-keyboardist (and Sunwood owner) Chris Ploss, guitarist Sid Green, and bassist Mike Brando – with guest contributions from guitarist Jason Shegogue and fiddler Sam Schmidt.
“My first album was tracked to a click and pretty much pieced together, but the new one was tracked live and has a different vibe,” she said. “We had a lot more options with the instrumentation.”
A landscape gardener by day, Batch similarly mines the fertile terrain of upstate New York for lyrical inspiration. In between recording sessions, she came up with “Sara Anne,” a tale inspired by Sara Anne Wood, the 12-year-old girl who disappeared in 1993 and has never been found.
“She lived just a few miles away from me and was just a couple of years younger, but I didn’t know her personally,” Batch said. “Writing that song was just a crazy journey of my own adolescence, and how her disappearance had just woven itself through my entire life, and how in college I would think about her. And how unsettling it is that she has not been found.”
Likewise, “Lovetta” was named after a childhood neighbor who tried to commit suicide in the mid-1980s. “I didn’t understand it at all as a kid, so I just made up a story about it – it’s not real, though there are some factual details in it,” she said.
It’s that ability to draw from those real-life details to create poignant narratives that has helped Batch’s songwriting continue to evolve.
“Everybody’s got, even in their own histories or family, stories that with just a little bit of sparkle could be a great song,” Batch noted. “Just add a little bit of glitter and you’ve got it.”
Learn more at www.janetbatch.com.
Janet Batch and the Four-Bangers will play a CD release show at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 4 at Abilene Bar and Lounge, 153 Liberty Pole Way, Rochester. Tickets are $7 in advance via https://abilene.showare.com/; $12 day of show.