Our Indian Boy, 2012
Slow Dakota released his debut LP a few days after Christmas, 2012. The nine-song album was greatly inspired by a failed volunteering trip Sauerteig took to India a few months prior. While he was supposed to spend a month at the Ave Maria Orphanage School, in Tamil Nadu, Sauerteig departed after only 10 days - ill health being the primary reason. He returned to his parents' house in Indiana, wracked with guilt.
While in India, Sauerteig had kept a diary detailing his experiences and interactions. When back in the US, Sauerteig used this diary as the basis for many of his lyrics: in fact, each song on the album corresponds to a particular day he spent in India. (In many ways, this qualifies Our Indian Boy as a concept album). Lyrically, the album wrestles with guilt, responsibility, frustration, and grief - and songs like June 3 contain some of Slow Dakota's most visceral, painful imagery. South India's cultural landscape seeps plentifully into Sauerteig's writing; the orphans he met at Ave Maria, for example, reappear throughout the album. (Our Indian Boy's album cover features the face of one of these orphans, who Sauerteig photographed while in India: the cornfield below comes from Fremont, Indiana).
In terms of production, Sauerteig wrote, recorded, and produced the album in his parents' home. (You can hear his mother call out downstairs near the end of June 2). The album features stark instrumentation, relying mostly on amateur recordings of piano, ukulele, and drums. Sauerteig's voice is notably immature on the record - emotive, but nervous and full of mistakes. Sauerteig's sister contributed female vocals (as did a few other Fort Wayne-based vocalists). And for trumpet, Sauerteig reached out to a former teacher, and member of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, Akira Muratoni. The album was mixed and mastered at Fort Wayne's own Sweetwater Sound.
The album attracted almost no critical attention, and was only formally reviewed once - by Brooklyn's The Wild Honey Pie. The review praised the intentional crudeness of the recordings, and the "genius" of Sauerteig's rugged compositions. Indeed, the track June 4 has become one of Slow Dakota's most popular songs. You can download the entire album for free, here.