Like our probable president, that lady with all the missing emails, Melanie Curran travels nowhere without her hot sauce. But not in her bag, swag: She carries it always, on her ankle.
That’s the tattoo version.
The real stuff, Louisiana Crystal, gets squirted on cereal and peanut-butter bagels, “which is maybe unacceptable,” the honky-tonk singer, in a red beret and denim everything, points out.
But she loves the condiment so much that she wrote a song about it, “Hot Sauce in Kitsap County,” which then became the title of her entire album, released on Sept. 30.
“It’s kind of an absurd name,” Curran said.
But absurdity is a creative state.
“I think if you’re too attached to, ‘I’m going to make a really good piece of art,’ if you put too much thought and too much into it, it kind of comes out as anxious music,” the performer explained. “You have to be willing to be weird and let go and see what happens. Sometimes, you just dribble something out or put it on the internet or make a song about it and it’s the thing people respond to the most because it has no pretense.”
Exhibit A was the Fourth of July float “2 Broke 4 Bainbridge,” which Curran threw together with her friend Claire Beaumont.
Thirty minutes before the downtown parade began, they pestered a Kiwanis Club old-timer to let them in.
“We didn’t have a float, we didn’t have a permit, we didn’t even have an idea,” Curran said. But they had bikinis and her alligator truck and its ramshackle contents, which had been squeezed between the Hillary Democrats and the Trump Republicans.
“I don’t know how people took it, but I think they were excited,” Curran said. “There’s just so much absurdity within our political system right now that to stick a truck with a girl in a bikini between those two things, I think was really refreshing.”
Exhibit B, the album, was coined mostly in bed.
Curran scribbled a list of song titles in a fit and then wrote the lyrics after, thinking, “I’m going to write these as fast as possible because I think my friend Dave can record me next week if I go to his house and he’s in between work building the barn at this certain time, but I have to have some songs and they have to be funny.”
The result is poignant, precious old-timey ditties about the Kingdome and Pike Place Market, mementos of home, where Curran’s from and where she’s been rambling.
For Bainbridge folks, she enshrines the 305 Park-and-Ride and Ray Peterson Bulldozing, now TILZ.
“My grandpa, his name is Walt Johnson, he restores cars, like old ones, you know, Lincoln Continentals and Model A Fords,” Curran explained. “I loved going by [the park-and-ride] and seeing the array of beautiful cars. I loved dreaming, ‘Oh, what if I took off in that RV or that Ford Falcon?’”
Peterson’s Topsoil, as Curran calls it, was where she deposited debris from her high school landscaping business.
“You’d pay 10 or 20 bucks and dump your soil and just watch it go back to the ground and then they’d twist it all around and mix it up and put it back in your truck and you’d have mulch,” the musician recalled. “It just seemed like this whole life cycle was existing there of people getting rid of stuff and it going back to the earth.”
The Kitsap songs were captured on a tape recorder in Curran’s parent’s living room, a mattress buttressed against the windows to hold in the sound.
Curran also laid tracks in Jefferson and King counties. She insists that each county’s vibe leaks into the recording.
Since Kitsap is home, it was fun, kind of warm, cozy. Holed up in a Chimacum attic belonging to her fiddler, Jefferson County, with all its farmland, was wooden and folksy. Suave Seattle required the studio treatment, like, “I’m gonna take some steps to be a songwriter and make some nice, polished recordings,” Curran explained.
Listen to “Hot Sauce in Kitsap County” at www.melaniecurran.bandcamp.com. Digital copies of the album are available for $7; hard copies for $11.