If you ask singer-songwriter Sara Trunzo where she’s from, she could say, with equal authority, her native state of New Jersey, where she grew up just outside of New York City, or her adopted state of Tennessee, as she currently resides in the Bells Bend community of Nashville. But odds are she will say that home is Unity, Maine, where she attended college and has spent much of her adult life, and where she found her connection to the land, her calling to serve rural communities, and her authentic storyteller’s voice--all of which culminate in her stark, stunning new album, Dirigo Attitude, slated for release on May 3, 2019.
A follow-up to her debut EP, Thanks Birdie (2017), Trunzo’s Dirigo Attitude is her first full-length attempt and features eleven tracks that were recorded at the legendary Sound Emporium in Nashville. The album benefits from the mastery of Grammy-nominated producer Erick Jaskowiak and Americana heavyweights Darrell Scott, who lends his vocals to “Food and Medicine” (which garnered first place in the 2018 Maine Songwriters Association song competition), and Mary Gauthier, who is heard on “In the Bend of the Cumberland.”
Also contributing to the album are Rachael Moore (engineer), Eric Conn (mastering), Megan McCormick on lead guitar, Adam Ollendorff on pedal steel and baritone guitar, Jesse Wells on fiddle, Kai Welch on piano, organ, and wurlitzer, Britton Patrick Morgan on mandola and banjo, John Zavody on drums, and Jake McCarthy on bass. Angie Primm, Gale Mayes, and nearly 70 Unity, Maine community members provide background vocals, and Appalachian Hippie Poet, a.k.a. Bill Alexander, performs his poem “The Back Table.”
Sara Trunzo’s Maine-grown country songs are influenced by the decade she spent running a food bank farm, where she helped get local produce into the kitchens of her rural neighbors who were living in poverty. Her time in farm fields, on fishing boats, and at community meetings and food pantry warehouses in Maine adds wrinkles to the faces of the portraits she paints and compassionate realism to the stories of these individuals and the land and relationships that sustain them.
Trunzo delivers each song with nuance, both lyrically and melodically, and the credibility of someone who is intimately aware of the stories she tells. Imprinted on the timbre of her strong, plaintive voice are the hardships and resilience of the people she has lived among and served--and hopes that she continues to serve through her songs.
Her no-frills, no-nonsense lyrics cut to the bone of the struggles of rural people in the Northeast. Her album is a real and redemptive portrayal of adversity, whether it be economic, as with “Food and Medicine,” or with regard to harassment and personal safety, as with “Wishbone.” But it is also a celebration--of small, simple pleasures, hard work, supportive community, and fierce independence.
“Dirigo,” Maine’s state motto, is Latin for “I lead” or “I direct,” a fitting sentiment for this fine compilation of songs that serves as an empowering manifesto on self-sufficiency and perseverance. As Trunzo herself explains it, “If you’re splitting your firewood wearing hoop earrings, that’s Dirigo Attitude. If you’re somebody’s grammy and also a sternman on a lobster boat, that’s Dirigo Attitude. If you follow your heart away from a life of feeding people on the chance you might be of better use by telling their stories...I sure hope that’s Dirigo Attitude.”
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