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It’s been a busy year for local folkster Tomás Pagán Motta. The Mount Vernon Square-based singer/songwriter shed his established pseudonym, the Petticoat Tearoom, secured a slot at D.C.’s Kingman Island Bluegrass and Folk Festival, and recorded his self-titled debut album via D.C. label 8 Gang Switch, which drops tomorrow. It’s now streaming on Hype Machine.
While on the surface, most of Motta’s material is all Appalachian influence—-stitched together by slinky pedal steel, simple acoustic guitar, and Motta’s haunting vocals—-the fluid and uber-emotional nature of his LP’s eight tracks owes to his Puerto Rican childhood.
“I think what [my time in Puerto Rico] may have done is make me associate music with love, freedom, and energy,” Motta says. “When I saw the bands perform in Puerto Rico, I was with family I loved on an island I deemed beautiful. The performers were energetic and emotional. I’ve absorbed so much at this point, so many different kinds of music and other art, I’m not really sure, musically, what came from which genre or style or instrument or culture.”
The album opens with the wistful acoustic strums of “Up and Away.” A sublime, slow-moving number, the track is gradually fleshed out by the eerie marriage of violin and pedal steel, before slipping into Motta’s clear, yearning vocals. He took inspiration for the second track—-the warm, twangy “I Don’t Care”—-from Spaghetti Western soundtracks. Later on the album, Motta adds more body on “It’s Tough Letting Go” by injecting some layered harmonies into his bare-bones arrangements before transitioning into the shaker-accented, earnest croons of “I Need a Woman.”
According to Motta’s Kickstarter, the singer spent all of his money on recording the album, so he’s actively raising funds to embark on a U.S. tour. So far, it looks like he’s off to a pretty solid start.
Motta plays the Rock and Roll Hotel Friday, March 13.