Today’s the day! The mysterious, furious, frighteningly curious, and largely beloved NYC artist Cannonball Statman has just released his latest album Hard to Break, available now on BandCamp and streaming services. He will begin his 7 week English and European tour for the album tonight at The Waiting Room in Stockton-on-Tees.
All of this is coinciding with his 30th birthday, which is also today — so tonight’s tour kick-off and album release show is additionally a celebration of his first 30 years on Earth and the many more to come. Cannonball will be joined on stage tonight by his friends France de Griessen and Chubaby, who will be performing sets of their own original songs as part of the celebration.
This album, which Salford City Radio’s Stephen Doyle described as an “instant classic” and the “album of the year by a mile”, is the first album Cannonball wrote and recorded in the 2020s; while he’d also released the double album Miracle on Neon Clown Avenue in 2022, that album was written and recorded entirely in the 2010s, and was in many ways an ode to the end of that era, with the main character Ace, the Interdimensional Diplomat, personifying the 2000s and 2010s as the 18 songs of the album saw him gradually disappearing from the face of the Earth, and “swallowed by the rivers of America”, never to return.
By contrast, Hard to Break is an album about coming back to life after a long hiatus, which is really what we’ve all been trying to do on Earth in the last few years. The release of this album can be understood as Cannonball’s way of celebrating and ushering in the beginning of a new and different time, and without having many expectations of what kinds of things will even go on in this decade, as it’s always impossible to predict.
The album generally takes a hopeful but realistic approach to any number of topics; “Ghosts!” is likely the bleakest point of the album, with its livid condemnations of fossil fuel industry, militarism, and US imperialism and little hope offered for any kind of positive change, while tracks like “Living on the Mercury Line” present a more optimistic outlook, particularly that one with its joyful and surprising combination of two lyrical themes rarely seen together in a song: romantic satisfaction and economic justice.
Cannonball wrote Hard to Break during the early years of the pandemic, and it was largely inspired by his painful but uplifting experiences of committing more fully to a path in his life that aligns with free will, solidarity, and struggle against the forces of cruelty and exploitation while healing and recovering parts of his personality that had been split off through extreme childhood trauma, contrasted with his recent experiences of being incarcerated and abused by a psychiatric facility in Mexico that locked him up for over 3 months without ever evaluating him or proving there was anything “wrong” with him, and lied to his family about what they were doing to him there.
All patients assigned male by this facility also had their heads forcibly shaved, and after Cannonball was released in early 2022, it took him about a year to regrow his hair to his preferred length, so his hair is uncharacteristically short in the photo on the album cover, which was taken by Melissa Greener in Oaxaca, shortly after he’d been released from the clinic.
The album was recorded in September 2022 during a trip to the UK less than a month after the release of Miracle on Neon Clown Avenue, and the credits feature many names that would be familiar to long-time fans. British classical tenor James Robinson, who had contributed vocals to Cannonball’s 2017 album Playing Dead, sang additional vocals on every song on the album, which also sees the Norwich based artist Gem, who had played drums on 3 previous Cannonball releases, on drums, keys, and additional vocals. The producer, Ben Turner, also produced 2 of Cannonball’s previous albums, and the mastering engineer Peter Fletcher was the one who mastered Miracle on Neon Clown Avenue.
New to Cannonball’s musical universe are Jojo Rita and Osmar of the Oaxacan experimental jazz duo Toque de Azafrán who contributed melodica and saxophone (respectively) to this album, and Argentinian artist Negrita Yani who played the accordion; these 3 musicians have come to be frequent guests in Cannonball’s live band when he performs in Latin America.
Two music videos were also released from the album: “Hard to Break” and “F Train Over Brooklyn”, which had been filmed on location in Brooklyn and were directed by local underground artists Dylan Mars Greenberg and Preston Spurlock, based on a screenplay Cannonball wrote about the FBI trying to assassinate him for using a coffee mug to resurrect the dead.The videos make use of many Brooklyn locations, taking the viewer on a trip through Gowanus, Red Hook, Prospect Park, the Jay Street-Metrotech and 15th Street-Prospect Park subway stations, the exterior of Barclays Center, and the block where Cannonball grew up.
The release parties for the videos were held at Millennium Film Workshop in Brooklyn. The first party featured live music from both directors Dylan Mars Greenberg and Preston Spurlock, and from Liz Kresch, who played the assassin in both videos, and designed the sets and props; the second one had musical performances from Joe O’Leary, who played the angry businessman in the “F Train Over Brooklyn” video, and Shane Dan Turner, who played the FBI agent in both. Beth Heuer, who played percussion and sang in Cannonball’s first band in 2002, plays a woman in the park in the “F Train Over Brooklyn” video.
Cannonball’s current 7 week tour for the album includes dates with John Peel favorite and long-time Cannonball Statman touring partner JD Meatyard, Leeds indie band Cowtown, and legendary New York artist Jason Trachtenburg, frontman of the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players. Jason and Cannonball will both perform at the London Antifolk Festival at Windmill Brixton in November as part of this tour.
More details on the tour for the album can be found in these posts on my blog:
22 Oct – 7 Nov English dates
13 & 14 Nov online & in Paris with France de Griessen
16 Nov – 7 Dec European dates with Jason Trachtenburg
8 & 9 Dec Swedish dates with Jonas Selander
See you soon!