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Ithaca musician Janet Batch brings small-town songs to Abilene for CD release show 

click to enlarge Singer-songwriter plays the Rochester CD release show for her new album, "You Be the Wolf" on Nov. 4 at Abilene Bar & Lounge. - PHOTO BY KIRA FRITSKY-RANDOLPH
  • PHOTO BY KIRA FRITSKY-RANDOLPH
  • Singer-songwriter plays the Rochester CD release show for her new album, "You Be the Wolf" on Nov. 4 at Abilene Bar & Lounge.
With her twangy voice and songs of working-class life, you might think that Janet Batch hails from the Blue Ridge Mountains or the hollers of Kentucky. But the Ithaca-based singer-songwriter actually grew up on a dairy farm in the small town of Litchfield, just southeast of Utica.

A landscape gardener by day, Batch similarly mines the fertile terrain of upstate New York for lyrical inspiration. In between recording sessions, she came up with “Sara Anne,” a tale inspired by Sara Anne Wood, the 12-year-old girl who disappeared in 1993 and has never been found.

“She lived just a few miles away from me and was just a couple of years younger, but I didn’t know her personally,” Batch said. “Writing that song was just a crazy journey of my own adolescence, and how her disappearance had just woven itself through my entire life, and how in college I would think about her. And how unsettling it is that she has not been found.”

Likewise, “Lovetta” was named after a childhood neighbor who tried to commit suicide in the mid-1980s. “I didn’t understand it at all as a kid, so I just made up a story about it. It’s not real, though there are some factual details in it,” she said.

It’s that ability to draw from those real-life details to create poignant narratives that has helped Batch’s songwriting continue to evolve.

“Everybody’s got, even in their own histories or family, stories that with just a little bit of sparkle could be a great song,” Batch said. “Just add a little bit of glitter and you’ve got it.”

click to enlarge janetbatch_wolfcd.jpeg
Batch released her second album, “You Be the Wolf,” last week; she plays a CD release show on Nov. 4 at Abilene Bar & Lounge.

Stylstically, the new album is wide-ranging, including everything from country stompers and waltzes to atmospheric, Mazzy Star-esque ballads and plenty of story songs. “You Be the Wolf”is also a marked improvement — sonically, musically, and vocally — from her debut, 2017’s “A Good Woman Is Hard to Find.”

“I think my lyric writing is better, my musicianship is growing, and it’s more well-rounded than before,” Batch said.

Recorded in two sessions in Nov. 2019 and Feb 2020 at Sunwood Recording in Trumansburg, the new album showcases Batch’s band, the Four-Bangers — drummer-keyboardist and Sunwood owner Chris Ploss, guitarist Sid Green and bassist Mike Brando — with guest contributions from guitarist Jason Shegogue and fiddler Sam Schmidt.

Janet Batch and the Four-Bangers will play a CD release show at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 4, at Abilene Bar and Lounge, 153 Liberty Pole Way.  $7 advance, $12 day of show. 585-232-3230. abilene.showare.com; janetbatch.com.


Jim Catalano works for Ithaca's WITH-FM 90.1, a media partner of WXXI. Feedback on this article can be directed to dkushner@rochester-citynews.com.
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