In the span of a few months, the singer/songwriter well known around Asheville for her work as part of the popular Barrel House Mamas band split with her husband (Pierce Edens, another popular Asheville musician), broke up with the Mamas and suffered the loss of a dear friend to suicide.
“There was a great deal of pain involved with the marriage, and losing my friend who committed suicide, and with the Barrel House Mamas,where I felt very betrayed,” Kramer recalled earlier this week. “There were some really dark times, whiskey for breakfast.”
Three years later, after retreating into songwriting, moving to Portland and more than a little soul searching, Kramer is back with her first solo album, Break & Bloom, an intensely personal work that chronicles her ups and downs. There are liberal references to the pain, the alcohol, the mountains of Western North Carolina and the eventual peace she found on the other side.
“I can look back now and be gratefully knowing that I can be dealt really craptacular blows and get back up,” Kramer said. “The songs were a vehicle for that,” she said, as was the entire process of taking the lead in writing and producing her record.
It all comes to fruition tonight as Kramer holds her local CD release party at the White Horse in Black Mountain. It’s a homecoming that’s sure to have more than a little emotional tinge. Her parents are coming in for the show, as is Edens. She’ll be playing with a newly formed (and as yet unnamed) trio with Pace Conner and Mike Evers, musicians she met through her guitar-playing dad in Georgia. Conner and Evers play there with a band called Marshgrass Bluegrass, and Kramer said she can’t wait to get on stage with them.
For Kramer, tracks like Georgia and Morning Dove are prime examples of the direction her work has taken.
“Georgia hits on the gravity of what I was experiencing lyrically while still being upbeat,” she said, while Morning Dove, a song she performed with the Mamas, arrives in updated form. The tune was an ode to her friend Matty who died. Kramer, who had stopped performing the song, said she rewrote it on the anniversary of his death and made it a last-minute addition to the album.
“It is the least polished and a completely live take,” she said. “I wanted to do it for the gesture of it, to memorialize my relationship with this amazing human being.”
Kramer, who lives in a north Portland home that floats in the Columbia River, said she still feels a strong pull to return to Asheville.
“It feels awesome to be back. Musically, this is where I grew up. I moved here in 1999 at 19 and this is the place I first fell in love and where I feel i became a songwriter. The experience musically really shaped who I am,” she said. “It’s special (to do the CD release) here.”