As someone who grew up traveling on I-90 throughout New York State, I can attest to driving countless hours on it in an array of less than ideal weather conditions.
And on Midwest folk singer Arlo Cristofaro’s debut single, “I-90,” he paints a frigid yet familiar picture with the opening line, “It’s snowin’ on I-90 / Couple kids headed East.” It’s something I could immediately relate to, and leads the listener into the emerging folk singer’s tale of travel. (and as many can relate to: I-90 is the biggest interstate in the country, spanning a whopping 13 states and 3,000 miles)
The marriage between Cristofaro’s natural, humanistic lyrics and Nick Drake-esque acoustic guitar stylings immediately reel you in. Because there’s distance implicit in the track, the rhythmic modulations and harmonic richness adds up to a reflection of how we all travel through familiar yet changing spaces, not knowing what might bring us to a deeper understanding of their influence on us.
But it’s not just the pristine acoustic guitar picking and storytelling charm that entices– it’s the smooth steel guitar and freewheelin’ percussive groove that props the debut single up further.
“I-90” is just the start of a string of singles before Cristofaro releases his debut album, On The Surface of The Creek, slated for a June 21st release date.
In the winter of 2020, Cristofaro joined forces with bassist and producer Pat Keen (Humbird, Wei Zhongle, Guerrilla Toss, Ian Sweet, Phil Cook), drummer JT Bates (Taylor Swift, Bon Iver, Bonny Light Horseman), and guitarist Dex Wolfe, to record in a small home studio just outside of Northfield, Minnesota.
“The space and process of recording feels so central to these songs,” explains Cristofaro. “The record is really centered around what it means to belong to a place, to be in relationship with each other and the land. He went on to say, “Getting the chance to collaborate with JT, Pat and Dex in the area that I grew up in was so special. I can hear the landscape in these songs; when we needed a break, we would go walk in the pasture.”
After spending the first half of his twenties repeatedly traversing the center of the continent, Cristofaro returned home, moved to a vegetable farm in a converted school bus, and began raising a flock of rambouillet sheep. On weekends, he would drive his pickup to The Driftless, where he spent his days fly fishing the Root River and its tributaries. “It was from this space that these songs emerged,” he says.
Throughout On The Surface of the Creek, the momentum of Cristofaro’s fingerpicking ebbs and flows, leading us through a lyrical landscape shaped by American folk and poetry traditions. As the listener crisscrosses and wanders alongside Cristofaro, each space holds its own unique tempo–clicking, droning, shifting in and out of focus.
“At its core, the record is really centered around what it means to belong to a place, to be in relationship with each other and the land. When it came time to record the songs, I knew that I wanted that theme to carry through in the process of recording,” he says.
“I-90” is a notable introduction to the Midwest folk troubadour that is Arlo Cristofaro, and fans and soon-to-be fans will have a lot to clamor for with the release of On The Surface of the Creek on June 21st. He’s yet another true blue folk music torchbearer of the 21st Century, and one just getting started at that.
June 16 – Private Show – Minneapolis, Minnesota
June 24 – Chapel Brewing– Northfield, Minnesota
July 14 – Dream Acres Farm – Spring Valley, Minnesota