There’s an immediately whimsical, transatlantic quality to Alex Sturbaum’s original tune, “Radish in Spring” that feels intuitive, like a long-forgotten melody on a medieval video game’s pause menu or the perfect backing track to a montage scene in a sepia-toned, independent film. The cheerily wonky descending chromaticism feels like a wry, knowing smile, teasing listeners’ ears for expecting the predictable.
A genderfluid musician, educator, composer, and multi-instrumentalist, Sturbaum is full of delightful turns such as this on their new release, Loomings, purposefully and pointedly queering a musical aesthetic that hearkens far back, beyond Appalachia, American shores, and across the sea. The title, a serendipitous reference in a pandemic that has forced many a backyard gardener to embrace homegrown brassicas of all varieties, is a reference to Sturbaum’s partner, Rae, whose pet name is “Radish.”
“I had to include ‘Radish in Spring’ [on Loomings];” Sturbaum explains via email, “Not just because I love playing the tune, but to honor the person whose love and support has been integral to my journey as a musician and as a person.”
Knowing, sensing this tender tribute allows listeners to untangle even more of the song’s subtly captivating themes — including that prerequisite spiciness we all know, love, and expect from a crisp, icy cold, earthy radish. Sturbaum’s Irish-style button accordion combined with fiddle supplied by Brian Lindsay and bass by Loomings producer Alicia Healey are together a textbook less-is-more approach to instrumental tune-crafting. And, whether metaphorically or literally, they’re a reminder of the beautiful simplicity of a just-after frost, freshly-tended garden bed full of bright, new, homegrown radishes in spring.
Photo credit: Brian Lindsay