Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Vanguard Records First (Double) Date with The Living Sisters and Daphne Willis

The Living Sisters may be the most experienced “new” group you’ve ever heard. Los Angeles-based singer/songwriters Inara George (The Bird and the Bee), Becky Stark (Lavender Diamond) and Eleni Mandell have cumulatively spent decades writing, recording and singing around the world with their respective groups. Now, after years of seed-planting, the accomplished trio has finally recorded their Vanguard debut album 'Love to Live' as the Living Sisters.

Produced by the songwriters themselves with co-production by Sheldon Gomberg, the self-titled debut nods to classic country harmony groups like The Louvin Brothers and the Delmore Brothers, but also showcases the singeres’ roots in gospel, soul and doo-wop. Connecting and anchoring these disparate styles are the trio’s harmonies themselves, which, depending on the track, can be subtly suggestive, childishly playful or earnestly heartfelt.

To record the album, each member began writing songs individually, bringing their tracks to group later on to collaborate on harmonies. After much trial and error, the trio recorded each track simultaneously using one collective microphone, adding minor vocals afterwards, and yet ensuring each song retains a raw, immediate quality.

In the little more than three years since she grabbed her acoustic guitar and took the stage for the first time, Chicago-based singer/songwriter Daphne Willis has grown from a feisty neophyte into a self-assured, marvelously expressive artist with a bracingly seductive sound. The 22-year-old’s Vanguard debut album, 'What to Sa'y documents Willis’ voyage of self-discovery, while also standing as a captivating introduction to a remarkably fresh voice with a distinctive point of view—one that both reflects and scrutinizes the social patterns of her generation.

The album interweaves relationship songs, interior dialogues and pieces inspired by the need for catharsis—her own and, by extension, that of her listeners. These dozen songs also reveal a young woman in firm possession of a supple, hyper-melodic style, writing with a sophistication that belies her age. Because of the silky, disarming ease of her songs, Willis has been described as a female Jack Johnson, but below the surface this introspective yet life-embracing young artist brings a cutting-edge liveliness to the confessional singer/songwriter tradition that recalls the music of Rickie Lee Jones at the same age. Like Jones three decades earlier, Willis is turning the conventional notion of the young woman with an acoustic guitar on its ear.

There’s another aspect of this undertaking that Willis finds especially gratifying. “My favorite part of the whole thing is the interaction,” she says. “I’ve met so many people with the same kind of ideals and interests. I love it that people are connecting through my music. Speaking philosophically, life is short, and I’m just trying to get people to calm down and enjoy these moments together.”

Daphne’s album ‘What to Say’ is available on iTunes and Amazon.

Daphne Willis - What to Say (Mp3)

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