Pop-and-hiss, acoustic guitar, and heartfelt vocals have the feel of a lost folk recording from the 1920s. Anyone who knows me will guess that I’m thrilled. Anyone who knows records will ask how I’m playing it on a turntable that can’t handle 78s.
The record is both as new as last Tuesday and an extreme rarity: the product of entrepreneurial thinking and adaptation to the pandemic.
What I have here is a one-of-a-kind lathe-cut single of a Lys Guillorn song that was written as a demo for her Winged Victory album but never released. It’s the result of niche label Leesta Vall adapting to the pandemic with record-at-home sessions. Leesta Vall’s product is making singles directly from live sessions, with each single individually made for the buyer. If ten people order Song A, the musician plays it ten times, with a personal introduction each time. If only one person orders a song, what hits vinyl is the one take of that song.
The result is a wonderful confluence of personalization and risk. Like a live show, the sound is what happens in the moment. This is my third LV single, and the first I’ve bought from an artist I’ve never seen play live. I’m frankly hoping it’ll break the curse that made something go wrong every time I make pre-pandemic plans to go to one of psychedelic alternative-folk artist Guillorn’s shows.
So in this case, I’m going about the fan-artist relationship backwards, but it was a rare chance to own a record like nothing else on earth. The way the pandemic forced everyone into a solo-acoustic life (or duo acoustic, in some lucky cases) has been a moment of both appreciation and frustration for me as a listener. Being able to choose a song where there is no recorded full-band studio version was a privilege. It lets me have something beautiful out of the pandemic that has no direct Before Times comparison for me. The song simply is on its own.
And it’s gorgeous in its simplicity. It’s an outside-time experience of a single voice with a feeling to share. In a moment when we’re simultaneously languishing at home and hurdling toward an uncertain future, listening to this one is a moment to be.