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“She sings like an Angel and plays lap steel guitar like the Devil.”





In the late 90s and early 2000s, generic cialis medical the only women in my life free of complication or frustration were named Billie, cialis Ella, Sarah and Nancy.  Oh how lovely their voices were – exquisite, expressive, and, you know, available at the push of a button.  If only I could just as easily have turned on and off the voices of living women in my life…

As I began to exhaust the field of classic and contemporary female jazz singers towards the end of this period, I found a new love – female Americana singers (sorry, Ella!).  I had already explored the emerging Americana/Folk-Roots/Alt-Country scene in the mid to late 1990s, but didn’t really dig in until I moved to Chicago in 2001.  Of course, the exploration is endless and till this day I continue to stumble upon amazing singers and bands.  In fact, my latest discovery, Caroline Smith and The Good Night Sleeps, inspired this post.

There’s something enigmatic about female singers from the off-the-beaten path, whose expressiveness comes from the natural timbre of their voices.  They’re the anthesis of the sheen and superficial technical perfection of Celine Dion or Mariah Carey.  I suppose it’s not entirely surprising to find so many folk singers that could easily float in and out of the Jazz idiom given Americana’s steeped history in early Blues, Appalachian Country, Bluegrass, Gospel and Swing Jazz.

Here are just a handful…

Orphan Girl, Gillian Welch (from Revival, 1996).  I still distinctly remember the day I took a chance and blindly bought her debut album in 1997.  Rarely before had I sat so transfixed by a singer – it was literally mesmerizing.  After listening to the entire album on repeat a few times that rainy Saturday afternoon, I was overwhelmed by a sweeping sense of gratitude and pure joy – it almost made me want to like people!  (Apparently, my misanthropy started early in adulthood…).  Oh and by the way, don’t be misled by the “pure joy” reaction as it’s definitely not a joyful song.

Tying My Shoes, Caroline Smith & The Good Night Sleeps (from Backyard Tent Set, 2008).  Shades of Madeleine Peyroux with a hint of Billie Holliday.  I would gladly listen to her sing the phone book, er, the Contacts app on my iPhone.

Amen, Jolie Holland (from Escondida, 2004).  She may have the most versatile voice of the group, and could deftly sing jazz, folk, country, gospel and rock – as demonstrated in her genre-defying solo catalog.  (She’s also one of the founding members of The Be Good Tanyas, and her bandmate went on to found Po’ Girl.)

I Can’t Believe You’re In Love With Me, RobinElla (from Robinella and the CC String Band, 2000 – not the similarly-named album from 2003).  I already wrote about her.  One of my favorite singers in any genre.



In the late 90s and early 2000s, generic cialis medical the only women in my life free of complication or frustration were named Billie, cialis Ella, Sarah and Nancy.  Oh how lovely their voices were – exquisite, expressive, and, you know, available at the push of a button.  If only I could just as easily have turned on and off the voices of living women in my life…

As I began to exhaust the field of classic and contemporary female jazz singers towards the end of this period, I found a new love – female Americana singers (sorry, Ella!).  I had already explored the emerging Americana/Folk-Roots/Alt-Country scene in the mid to late 1990s, but didn’t really dig in until I moved to Chicago in 2001.  Of course, the exploration is endless and till this day I continue to stumble upon amazing singers and bands.  In fact, my latest discovery, Caroline Smith and The Good Night Sleeps, inspired this post.

There’s something enigmatic about female singers from the off-the-beaten path, whose expressiveness comes from the natural timbre of their voices.  They’re the anthesis of the sheen and superficial technical perfection of Celine Dion or Mariah Carey.  I suppose it’s not entirely surprising to find so many folk singers that could easily float in and out of the Jazz idiom given Americana’s steeped history in early Blues, Appalachian Country, Bluegrass, Gospel and Swing Jazz.

Here are just a handful…

Orphan Girl, Gillian Welch (from Revival, 1996).  I still distinctly remember the day I took a chance and blindly bought her debut album in 1997.  Rarely before had I sat so transfixed by a singer – it was literally mesmerizing.  After listening to the entire album on repeat a few times that rainy Saturday afternoon, I was overwhelmed by a sweeping sense of gratitude and pure joy – it almost made me want to like people!  (Apparently, my misanthropy started early in adulthood…).  Oh and by the way, don’t be misled by the “pure joy” reaction as it’s definitely not a joyful song.

Tying My Shoes, Caroline Smith & The Good Night Sleeps (from Backyard Tent Set, 2008).  Shades of Madeleine Peyroux with a hint of Billie Holliday.  I would gladly listen to her sing the phone book, er, the Contacts app on my iPhone.

Amen, Jolie Holland (from Escondida, 2004).  She may have the most versatile voice of the group, and could deftly sing jazz, folk, country, gospel and rock – as demonstrated in her genre-defying solo catalog.  (She’s also one of the founding members of The Be Good Tanyas, and her bandmate went on to found Po’ Girl.)

I Can’t Believe You’re In Love With Me, RobinElla (from Robinella and the CC String Band, 2000 – not the similarly-named album from 2003).  I already wrote about her.  One of my favorite singers in any genre.
[Quote from Village Voice]

A few months ago I decided to clear out my increasingly unwieldy music wish list on Amazon.  So the plan was to either buy it, sildenafil cialis delete it or move it to a new Maybe List, ask which resulted in cutting down the primary list from 135 to 29 albums.

Examples of music I deleted from the list include Hank Williams’ Unreleased Recordings box set (I bought the abridged version on vinyl instead), Tom Waits’ Bone Machine (I love the man, but I just can’t do it), Magnetic Fields’ The Wayward Bus (ok, really, I don’t need to have everything they ever released).

Music I moved to the Maybe List include Harper Simon’s self-titled album (yes, that’s Paul’s son; I like it, but need to listen a few more times), Lambchop’s Oh (Ohio) (I don’t know why I don’t just pull the trigger on this one), The Grand Archives’ self-titled album (founded by former member of Band of Horses).

Music I bought include Josh Rouse’s Nashville (it’s a shame his music isn’t more prominent), Fountains of Wayne’s Utopia Parkway (why not!), Elliott Smith’s Figure 8 (I have no excuse for letting this linger for so long), The Last Town Chorus’ Wire Waltz (see below).

I admit I’m a sucker for somber, melancholic music, and Megan Hickey of The Last Town Chorus serves it up on a cosmic-size palette of atmospheric lap-steel guitar and ethereal vocals.  The album’s elegiac quality is perfect for those lonely nights on the patio under the stars (without the noisy, upper-middle class trailer trash neighbors around).  There are echoes of Spiritualized’s spacey soundscape, but Hickey is mindful of the underlying folk-country essence.  Her voice reminds me of Belly’s Tanya Donelly, and her lap-steel guitar style reminds me of, well, no one – it’s utterly unique for that instrument (but perhaps similar to The Edge on electric guitar).

Wire Waltz, The Last Town Chorus (from Wire Waltz, 2006).

Modern Love, The Last Town Chorus (from Wire Waltz, 2006).  Yes, it is indeed a David Bowie cover, but completely re-invented.

Caroline, The Last Town Chorus (from Wire Waltz, 2006).

As a bonus: Feed The Tree, Belly (from Star, 1993).  God, I can’t believe this was 16 years ago.

Posted in Covers, Current Favorite.