Following is the SNAKEFARM bio from defunct Kneeling Elephant webpage:
Like preschooler on a field trip, superlative musical ideas are rarely content to wear nametags. What is Snakefarm? Acid-blues? Folk-funk? Troubadour Trip-hop? None - or all - of the above?
"I've been trying to figure out what exactly Snakefarm is since I first came up the idea," confesses chief instigator Anna Domino. Mating entrancing, minimalist grooves and Domino's cool vocal delivery with classic tales of tragedy, trains and this country's vast size and violent history. Snakefarm's debut "Songs From My Funeral," provides a refreshing perspective on the timeless nature of traditional American folksongs. The title may ring familiar - "Tom Dooley," "Frankie and Johnny," "St. James Infirmary" - but you've never heard them interpreted like this before.
Snakefarm was officially hatched at the intersection of New York City's Houston and Crosby Streets in the summer of 1995, but assorted essential seeds for the project were sown years earlier. Domino hooked up with Snakefarm co-conspirator Michel Delory, a Belgian guitarist and arranger who designed on as a member of her band (and eventually became her husband) nine years before. As early as 1984, on her second EP, "Rhythm," Anna was testing the waves for reinterpreting standards in this fashion, with her hypnotic reading of the Tennessee Ernie Ford hit, "Sixteen Tons."
Even as a young girl, Domino's direction seemed to inevitably point toward such a project. Born in Tokyo, and subsequently raised in Ann Arbor, MI, Florence, Italy and Ottawa, Canada, Anna was instilled with the mentality of a wandering minstrel. "When I was small, my family moved around a lot. You get used to that semi-nomadic existence, it informs a lot of the way you think." But no matter where her clan settled, music filled the house, in the form of gifted family friends and recordings of Leadbelly, Odetta, or Mahalia Jackson. Her fate was sealed.
As a solo artist, Anna Domino released four critically-lauded albums and two EP's for the Belgian label Les Disques du Crepuscule, between 1984 and 1990 (highlights of which were anthologized on 1996's "Favorite Songs from the Twilight Years"), linking up with Michel along the way. But that glorious New York summer afternoon that Snakefarm crept into her consciousness, Domino Knew she'd found a whole new musical window to leap through.
"I was waiting for the light, and said "We should take a bunch of those great old songs about murder and such, and start doing them with modern arrangements." The idea refused to sit still, and as soon as she returned home, Domino and Deloy set to work on the experiment. "Just to see what would happen." Though subtle percussion and loops had distinguished her earlier recording, in Snakefarm Anna wanted the beats to be more prominent, yielding percolating arrangements that could carry the narrative content of the words. It worked. "It was so much fun," confesses the singer. "The arrangement almost wrote themselves. What surprised me was how it didn't take any forcing at all."
The first round of demos consisted of tunes Anna pulled from the recesses of her memory. "Sometimes I'd recall a melody, but remember it wrong. Or remember how my grandfather sang it, which I thought was the way it was until I started listening to recording." She went to the library and began to pour over songbooks, immersing herself in the songs and their accompanying stories. As the breadth of the canon revealed itself, it became apparent that countless versions of every ditty existed, "and no two versions are the same." Thus, taking liberties for Snakefarm was merely a logical extension of that tradition.
The content also dictated new creative roles in the studio for Deloy and Domino. In the past, they'd begun with Anna writing and recording a musical sketch, them turning it over to Michel to embellish. "It just went back and forth with us handing cassettes through a slot." With Snakefarm, there was more room for experimentation, since the material consisted solely for covers. "Neither of us are worried about stepping on each other's toes. These aren't my songs, so Michel isn't worried about saying some part is particularly stupid. And his guitar parts aren't sacred, either. He can play something and I'll say "That' too tidy let me do it!" We just go into the studio and race for the instruments."
Although some of these compositions date back over a hundred years, Snakefarm aren't wringing their hands with concern about finding receptive audience today. "People may not know the titles, but they understand the idea. How large these songs loom in our lore." "Songs From My Funeral" isn't likely to fall on deaf ears. Not that the participants have ever let the market dictate the actions of their muse. "I'm not in the business of creating a form and making the music fit," says Anna. "Snakefarm just happened. Everything makes sense afterwards."
BLACK GIRL was first set down by a folk song collector in Kentucky, in 1917. Its verses tall us only that her husband died on a train and she ran away. Now, I caught, she's haunted by her nightmare night in the piney woods.
FRANKIE AND JOHNNY was a hit early in the 20th century, with hundreds of versions running loose around the country, followed by rumors of Frankie's retirement.
PRETTY HORSES was lullaby sung to the master's child by slave listening to the cries of her own baby left alone.
RISING SUN is a 18th century woman's lament of her fate in a New Orleans' bordello.
LAREDO and ST. JAMES both go back to a 16th century British street ballad (the Unfortunate Rake) about the dues of hard living. One ends up dying in the street, the other laid out in the morgue. Both songs feature a funeral.
BANKS FO OHIO tells the tale of a woman being seduced by the river's edge, killed and thrown in. Some of the many songs with this theme (Ornie Wise, the Lexington Murder) may describe an actual incident, but the popularity of the subject makes you wonder.
THIS TRAIN THAT I RIDE also comes titled 100, 500, 900 and more-all about being way too far from home, the first curse of the American dream.
JOHN HENRY's legend can be traced to the steel drivers of the Chesapeake and Ohio railroad in West Virginia in the 1870's. During the drilling of the Swannanoa tunnel, he fought the steam drill and won and it killed him.
TOM DOOLEY was hanged in Wilkes Co. NC on 5/1/1868 for the murder of Laura Foster. Though it was widely believed his other girl friend helped, she was later acquitted.