Willie Carlisle release last month "Critterland" the title track of his upcoming album of the same name to be released January 26th, 2024 via Signature Sounds, produced by Darrell Scott. The title track is a galloping peek into the songwriter’s attempt at living in an intentional community in Arkansas.
“If we allow ourselves to sing together, there's a release of sadness, maybe even a communal one,” says folksinger Willi Carlisle. “And so for me personally, singing—like the literal act of thinking through suffering—is really freeing.” With his upcoming album, "Critterland", Carlisle invites his listeners to reckon with the inevitability of human suffering and grow in love, all through joining together in song, a notable theme that the world is ripe for a singalong with considering the animosity that seems to be growing.
For folksinger Willi Carlisle, singing is healing. On his upcoming album, "Critterland", Carlisle invites audiences to join him and as he has said, “If we allow ourselves to sing together, there's a release of sadness, maybe even a communal one. And so for me personally, singing, like the literal act of thinking through suffering, is really freeing,” he says.
Carlisle’s third album, "Critterland" takes up where his sophomore album, "Peculiar, Missouri" left off, with a wild romp through the backwaters of his mind and America, lingering in the odd corners of human nature to visit obscure oddballs, dark secrets, and complicated truths about the beauty and pain of life and love.
Produced by the GRAMMY Award-nominated Darrell Scott Sounds "Critterland" considers where we come from and where we are going. On the album, Willi takes on human suffering through stories about forbidden love, loss, generational trauma, addiction, and suicide, believing that by processing the traits and trauma we inherit, he can reach a deeper understanding of what it means to succeed and to exist.
Throughout "Critterland" runs Carlisle’s unease with the tension between love and the reality of an often painful world. He’s adamant that everyone should find and feel love. “I think at the heart of the record is the conflict between those two things, between doomed love and the possibility that that love creates,” he says. Carlisle wants not only to process pain, but to seek meaning in it. And as always, living in a world whose politics seek to divide and control, Carlisle comes back to one essential question: “How do we save love from hate?”
“At its simplest, it’s bucolic,” says Carlisle. “The power of love is the power of nature, the remedy of the granny-witch and the herbalist, the song of the sparrow and the pouch of the opossum.” But on the whole, the jubilant refrain and diligent verses add up to a greater message: “Love is a burden if it isn’t brave. it’s worth fighting for your fd-up family at the end of days,” he adds. The song’s final chorus echoes the sentiment loud and clear. “I want to be the kinda man that stands his ground and dies / Take my fiddle and my good hat and go out in style / You can bury me where I make my last stand / At the battle of critterland.”
Growing up in Kansas and Illinois, Carlisle was raised on folk and bluegrass music and his father’s stories about his time as a musician. Around age 18, he discovered the Harry Smith Anthology, a seminal compilation of folk music, which launched him on a mission to learn about as many parts of the genre as possible. When he moved to Arkansas, he fell in love with the folk music traditions he found flourishing there, incorporating them into his writing. "More or less, we were a family of intellectual aspirants that still loved all this old stuff from the
country," he has stated.
"And as soon as I got to college and had a measure of freedom it was like, you're buying a guitar, we're gonna learn everything," Willi has commented. Willi Carlisle not only a folksinger, theatre-artist, and writer, but also a multi-instrumentalist, skilled on banjo, fiddle, guitar, accordion, bones, and harmonica. Carlisle started the last leg of his U.S. tour on October 17th in San Luis Obispo, California, before heading out on a European tour with stops in the UK, Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands.
Willi Carlisld creates both conventional and experimental works that blend living folklore with social and civic practice. Above all, Willi’s work seeks to cultivate and preserve traditional ways of knowing, inspire audiences to sing and dance, and to grow love and acceptance in rural and traditional communities.