Weekender

Local musician Chris Strait juggling 3 upcoming projects, including debut solo album

State College area musician Chris Strait is in the process of unveiling a slew of new, original music from a variety of ensembles.
State College area musician Chris Strait is in the process of unveiling a slew of new, original music from a variety of ensembles. Photo provided

Local musician Chris Strait has always been prolific, but working on three projects at the same time is ambitious by any standard.

Strait is in the process of unveiling a slew of new, original music from a variety of ensembles.

“I have three different albums in the works right now,” Strait wrote in an email.

That’s a lot, but not surprising for anyone who knows Strait. We played together in Crooked Line a few years ago and the primary source of the band’s fire was Strait’s prolific output as well as his intense work ethic. It’s led him to his three current projects.

“Doug Forshey and I just finished up recording and mixing our second album, ‘Close to a Classic,’ ” Straight said. “The Crooked Line is in the midst of recording our second album, (and) I am also putting the finishing touches on my first solo album, ‘Crawling Out of My Skin.’ ”

Each album has notable spin, from ties to a Grammy Award-nominated album to a maiden voyage for Strait. To start, the album with Forshey has quite a bit of buzz, and it’s being recorded locally at Centre County mainstay Gene Gibson’s studio, Winterstream Music.

“Ten original tunes co-written by Doug and I,” Strait said. “We hope to release the album by early June. Doug and I were lucky enough to have one of the songs from our first album (‘Tied To The Tracks’) recorded by veteran bluegrass band Special Consensus on their Grammy nominated album ‘Rivers and Roads.’ ”

The Crooked Line’s second album is expected to be full of the energy and chemistry that characterizes the band, with local fiddle and mandolin ace Steve Buckalew and innovative banjoist Bob Baroner pushing the envelope.

“The Crooked Line is in the midst of recording for our second album, also with Gene,” Strait said, “which will include a few original tunes but also several fiddle tunes of Irish, Scottish, and early American descent. It’s still too soon to say when we’ll release the album at this point.”

Finally, Strait’s third project is perhaps the biggest musical labor of love of his lifetime, his first solo effort — the album “Crawling Out Of My Skin.”

“I’m particularly proud of this project, which includes eight original tunes and a Johnny Cash cover from the ‘(At) Folsom Prison’ album. They’re all new songs that have never really seen the light of day, and I’m loving how they’ve come together. I’m hoping to release the album in late April or early May,” he said.

Strait is smart. You can see it when interacting with him, you can hear it in the intricate and very poetic lyrics to his songs, and you can see it in the way he conducts himself. That’s why it’s not surprising that he leads with humility, and expresses gratitude for those around him.

“I’m incredibly lucky to be working with the people I’m working with,” Strait wrote. “The Crooked Line pushes me to be a more well-rounded musician, Doug pushes me to be a better songwriter, and Gene pushes me to be a better recording artist.”

For Strait, music is something that emanates from the core of his being, and it reaches its fullest expression in songwriting.

“Songwriting is how I turn negative emotions into something good. My ambition as a songwriter is to give validation to the people facing similar obstacles to the ones I talk about in my lyrics,” Strait said.

And it never gets old.

“Every time someone tells me they like that particular song or they can relate to it I hope it means they feel better about themselves or not as isolated when they find themselves in that situation,” Strait said. “That’s why I write songs. I feel like I have something important to say to normal people who feel like they’re losing it and no one cares. I hope my music will make them feel like they have a friend.”

Kevin Briggs is a musician, writer and teacher who performs at venues throughout central Pennsylvania. Contact him at KevinTBriggs@gmail.com.
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