The Low Anthem began in 2006 as a collaboration between Ben Knox Miller, a folk musician, poet, and painter from NY’s Hudson River Valley and Jeff Prystowsky, jazz bassist and baseball scholar from Jersey. The place was Providence, RI, a post-industrial city reborn as a college town and artistic hotbed. Attending Brown Uiversity, the two bonded as DJs on WBRU’s freeform graveyard shift in rural Connecticut where their mutual interests in Americana, baseball, and morally agnostic narrative necessitated the formation of The Low Anthem.
They began collaborating with classical composer Jocie Adams at Brown University in November 2007. Later that year The Low Anthem released their first full-length recording, a twelve song, self-titled LP. It was recorded by Grammy-nominated producer John Paul Gauthier whose ears were a perfect fit for the band’s sound. He turned Miller and Prystowsky onto Tom Waits and Neil Young, two introductions that would seriously alter the direction of the sound. The LP is a dozen stories, subtle and artful in their telling, but ultimately naïve according to its authors. However, it’s eclectic instrumentation (saxophones, tabla drums, cellos, and organs combined with more traditional folk instruments) foreshadowed the developments to come.
The band’s sound has undergone significant evolution since that self-titled record. A year-long collaboration with Virginia bluesman Dan Lefkowitz and a new batch of songs revealed The Low Anthem’s closeted love of raw minimalist rock. The seeds of this edgy rock sound can be heard on their award winning 2007 EP “What the Crow Brings,” a release that helped them achieve a new level of visibility, and with over 100 shows in 2007 a devoted fan-base began to emerge, helped over the next 2 years by support slots for the likes of Bon Iver and Elvis Perkins.
Late last year The Low Anthem began recording “Oh My God, Charlie Darwin,” their most artistically accomplished record to date. It’s a thematic 12 song work, which illuminates the bands ability to create something that is both delicate and hugely evocative. The album was co-produced with and engineered by Jesse Lauter in the cold, bare stillness of a Block Island winter. The abandoned tourist destination was a haven of peace and quiet. The only sounds were the rush of sea wind against the panes of the cabin and the crackling hum of the woodstove. Ten sleepless days and nights. Hundreds of live takes. Many bottles of bourbon. These were the record’s principle ingredients.