Photo by Jocelyn Carlson
For over two decades, West Virginia songwriter Michael John Iafrate has honed his craft as a songwriter and performer alongside his work as a member of some of West Virginia’s most creative independent music acts such as The Minus Tide, COBRA, and Killed At Camp. More recently, Iafrate has carefully developed his unique voice among regional songwriters, both solo and with a full band as M Iafrate & The Priesthood.
Iafrate’s soft-spoken contemplative song-explorations are often enriched by his training as a theologian—asking more questions than providing answers, commingling the worlds of flesh and spirit, and holding received images and traditions up to the light in respect, playfulness, and negation.
Whether performed solo or fleshed out by kindred musician-spirits, Iafrate’s songs reveal shifting shades of meaning and flexibility and offer the incense of devotion to such influences as Jason Molina, Will Oldham, Neil Young, classic R.E.M., Elliott Smith, Gillian Welch, Townes Van Zandt, and Elephant Micah. He has performed on stage alongside acts like Songs: Ohia, Magnolia Electric Co., Bonnie “Prince” Billy, The Anomoanon, Papa M, and Brightblack Morning Light.
Following M Iafrate & The Priesthood’s acclaimed 2005 full-length O Happy Marriage, Iafrate released the 2011 solo EP No Matter How Deep the Darkness, He Descends Deeper Still and a number of singles and other tracks as he prepares two new albums. M Iafrate & The Priesthood will celebrate Christian Burial with a release on May 26, 2017, followed soon after by the full-length Nonsubstantiation under Iafrate’s own name.
Each record presents Iafrate’s introspective “theo-folk” through thoughtful and dignified arrangements and will solidify Iafrate’s place, in the words of one of the state’s most seasoned music veterans, as “West Virginia’s most esteemed hyper theologian.”
Today, Ghettoblaster premieres two songs from the maxi-single for “Get Behind Me,” which will drop tomorrow via Modesty Songs on Bandcamp. In addition to offering “Get Behind Me,” the maxi-single also features four additional tracks; two of the bonus tracks are demos of “Get Behind Me” (a full band live demo and an early acoustic demo). Next is a lo-fi song called “To an Altar Boy,” spontaneously recorded at home with lyrics based on a poem by St. John Berchmans. The last bonus track is a cover of “Maneater” by Hall and Oates with revised lyrics by Iafrate. This is what he had to say about “Get Behind Me”:
“’Get Behind Me’ is an interesting song because I actually wrote the main guitar riff on a banjo, not long after I started playing old time clawhammer banjo. I decided to translate the riff to guitar and write a harmonizing guitar riff. It’s also probably one of the first songs where I really started to consciously write more theological lyrics and not try to hide it or anything. Of course, it’s something of a play on the line ‘Get behind me, Satan,’ from the gospels, but seemingly addressed to God: ‘O God, get behind me.’ The line ‘The corpus fell to the floor, you held the cross as a sword, and now you’re deaf to history’s irrelevant howl’ is probably the key line.
The song features the basic Priesthood lineup with Josh Taylor on organ and William Matheny on pedal steel. William plays pedal steel on a few songs on the record. It also features my daughter Hazel on backing vocals on the bridge.”
(Christian Burial full-length out May 26 on Modesty Songs (CD, iTunes, Amazon, Bandcamp)
Visit M Iafrate & The Priesthood here:
Modesty Songs: http://modestysongs.bandcamp.com
Catch them live here:
Fri. May 26, 2017 – Martins Ferry, OH – Holy Grounds w/ TBA
Sat. June 10, 2017 – Wheeling, WV – Towngate Theatre with Joshua Lee and Andrew Iafrate (album release show)
Sat. July 22, 2017 – Wheeling, WV – Later Alligator w/ Sean Decker, Dallas Campbell, more.
Fri. August 18, 2017 – Wheeling, WV – Artworks Around Town w/ Adam Remnant
Sun. September 24, 2017 – Barnesville, OH at Albert S George Youth Center w/ Chad Elliott)