While local singer-songwriter Kevin Finn estimates he has nearly 100 CDs of music in his personal archive -- live versions, 4-track demos, lost songs -- he's less interested in preserving his musical past than revisiting and reworking it. He recently began performing as Thirteenth Rune, and this week is releasing an album of new and old songs, "the stuff that gets either lost in the shuffle, or was necessary to be somehow reconfigured in some way."
Finn's latest retooling was mainly inspired by a gorgeous Martin 12-string acoustic guitar he purchased. "It was like four years I was looking at the damn thing," he jokes. A physically challenging instrument, it took Finn three months to get comfortable and relearn his old songs. Along the way, he found the guitar was "making me write in a different way -- making me write chords instead of notes."
"I'm always trying to change my niche a little bit; it's kinda like changing the furniture in your room," he says. "I just wanted to leave my usual sound behind."
Thirteenth Rune is mostly short sketches, each under two minutes long. It opens with the prelude "Lion's Lament," a droning acoustic-guitar melody awash in hiss and static. "Minotaur," another instrumental, is similarly lo-fi, but played on a clanking banjo.
Finn's bleak, impressionistic lyrics -- for which he's often compared to Mark Kozelek -- show up on the minor-key "Tarot," where he sings, "Oh Saint Lucy, give me a sign / My heart's on fire, and they've torn out my eye." In a departure for Finn, "Tarot" and "Blown Spirits" began as free-verse poetry, which he quickly set to music at Treelady Studios.
The album also includes a few recontextualized older songs. There's "Wilderness," from last year's Wilderness+3 single by the Kevin Finn Band (a group that "kinda dissipated of course, as it usually does with my work"). Accompanied by Shade's Brad Kiefer (bass), Greg Lagrosa (guitar) and Matt Miller (drums), "Wilderness" is a loping journey through a hallucinatory landscape, with reverb-drenched drums and spaghetti-western guitars. The album closer is a live version of "Beezus," with Miller and brother Sean Finn on synth, a song that showed up on 2004's Surface Tracks.
Finn's releasing Thirteenth Rune on his ghost dance recordings label, through Carrot Top distribution. He's also planning a vinyl compilation album, Folklore Vol. 2. Already complete, it features tracks from locals such as Anita Fix and Stephen Tribou, as well as the U.K.'s Man from the Woods and several others.
Thirteenth Rune, available at Paul's CDs and Desolation Row, comes out Wed., May 27. Finn celebrates with a release show that night at Club Café, opening solo for Roman Candle. For details, visit www.myspace.com/theinsectvoice.