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)

TVD Sunday Hangover | YACHT at Rock n Roll (3/15)

REPEAT AFTER ME: “The world may end in my life-time, but my energy will go on.”

That was the beginning of the new-age mantra chanted by party-goers at last nights YACHT show at Rock n Roll hotel. YACHT, who consist of a dude (Jona Bechtolt formerly of the Blow) and a badass chick (Claire L. Evans) are much more than just a musical duo, oh no, YACHT are a way of life!

The duo, aside from creating awesomely groovable tunes, seem to ponder the bigger picture, the meaning of life. Many of their lyrics are very liberally themed, challenging conventional beliefs about the afterlife (‘will we go to heaven, or will we go to hell? / it’s my understanding that neither are real’) and death (‘it’s not a place you go / it’s a place that comes to you). Probably not an album you wanna play for your grandma.

The band even sold a $5 booklet called ‘The Secret Teachings of the Mystery Lights’ detailing some of their far-out philosophies (which yes, I bought). (For more about the meaning of ‘Mystery Lights’ see BYT’s recent and very interesting interview and definitely check out YACHT's mission statement.

Don’t get me wrong though, this was not a sermon! Jona and Claire were also naturally hilarious, interacting with the audience to the perfect extent. A quick Q&A with the audience led to discussions about urban planning, the sleeping habits of cats (aka my new bands name) and the strange noises that come from JTT’s (Jonathon Taylor Thomas… duh.) elf-like face. Some funny cats, those two!

Despite all of that fun dissident ish, it is still the music that was clearly the highlight of the night. Think Talking Heads meets B-52’s with all of the eccentricities included (two of my all time favorite bands…. Claire definitely delivered on the Kate Pierson-esque vocals). YACHT, who are on DFA Records and will soon be touring with LCD Soundsystem, first caught my attention with their tremendously dancey tracks like “I’m in Love with a Ripper” and “Don’t Fight the Darkness”. I can honestly say the only time I stopped gettin my boogie on last night was to down my Amstel.

BOTTOM LINE: YACHT = fucking awesome.

SIDE-NOTE: I also had the pleasure of swinging by the very new and not-yet-open U Street Music Hall last night and was BLOWN AWAY. This spot is gonna be very hot, and the official opening, Wednesday night with Belgium DJ Duo Aeroplane should be out of this world. Get your tix now.

YACHT - I'm In Love With A Ripper (Mp3)
YACHT - Don't Fight The Darkness (Mp3)

TVD Live Tease | Lightfoot, Friday (3/19) at The Rock and Roll Hotel w/ The Junior League Band

We here at TVD have been chronicling of the ascent of our pal Jess (aka Lightfoot) over the the past number of months, and the narrative takes a giant leap forward this Friday night with the debut of her full band as openers for The Junior League Band at The Rock and Roll Hotel.

We were able to corner her for a sec for a bit of a Q&A leading up to Friday’s show:

We hear you have a big full band debut coming up?
You heard right! I have finally nailed down my official Lightfoot line up. I have a very talented, kind hearted, handsome group of boys playing with me. They have really brought my songs to life, and they keep me smiling.

Ha, was being a handsome a prerequisite for getting into Lightfoot?
No! But it certainly didn’t hurt ;)

So, who are these good looking guys?
The Lightfoot line up is…… (in ABC order so they don’t think I am playing favorites!)

Ian Graham - Bass, hats and well fitting pants (of Deville)
Sean Madden - Auxiliary, beards and sushi
Lex Paulson - Wurlitzer, Vox, scarves and poetry (of Child Ballads)
Erik Sleight - Lead Guitar, dork glasses and an occasional moustache (of Mittenfields)
Drew Thiemann - Drums, funk and wit (of These United States)

You seem to have a lot of blog coverage (from HipsterWifeHunting to ReadySetDC to Brightest Young Things) / Lightfoot websites (vimeo, facebook, tumblr, myspace, twitter, etc.) but I can’t seem to find much music online, are you in the process of recording?
Funny you ask that, recording has been sort of this Everest like task for me. Putting my music to tape is intimidating and although I enjoy the process of recording, it seems so final. My music has been organically developing for a few months now. I have a very particular sound I want for my first EP and now that I have an official band by my side I think the timing is finally right. I didn’t want to rush into recording while my project was still in the birthing stages. I am a completely different musician now then I was, say three months ago. And the same goes for my song writing.

What type of musician were you three months ago versus now?
Ha! I wasn’t one at all! Well, maybe I was. I’ve really only been playing guitar for a few months now. Actually learning how to play has been a total game changer for my song writing process. Look at my hands! They’re super gnarly, I show off my calluses and blisters with pride. It’s also killing my social life though, because ever since I bought my first guitar all I want to do is stay in and practice!

What type of guitar did you buy?
I have a small bodied Larivee. It once belonged to a local musician who I adore (who shall remain nameless for now); I bought it at Atomic. I love it. I take it on dates. I shower with it. I cuddle with it at night.

What else do you play?
Auto-harp, recorder, some piano, ukulele, glockenspiel, tambourine, flute, saxophone, kazoo, lap drum, finger snaps, and hand claps. Oh and harmonica! And bells. And the egg shaker. And spoons!

So you have plans to record then?
Of course! I am putting out an EP this summer, followed by a tour. I am also wrapping up a very simple, basement recording style demo to be released March 19th. Doing it myself just to flush out some songs that have been eating at my heart for a while now. I am only doing 150 pressings and each one is being hand silk screened/crafted by a local artist, so it will double as a limited edition piece of art. I’m pretty excited to see how it turns out!

Where can we buy this demo?
You can buy it in person at my show on March 19th with The Junior League Band at Rock and Roll Hotel. After that they will be sold on-line and at shows until they are all gone!

And just for fun, what’s on your record player right now?
Oh! This amazing classical piece, “Light Over Water” by John Adams. I just started taking ballet lessons (please hold your Lightfoot, Lightfeet jokes) and I would love to do some sort of routine to this album.

If you're on Facebook, RSVP for Lightfoot's full band debut right here.

PHOTOS: Joel Didriksen

TVD's Record Store Day 2010 Label Showcase | The Vanguard Records Giveaway

( it me or is this one of the finest giveaways we've ever offered? Well, - it's not me.)

In celebration of our
60th Anniversary, and Record Store Day on April 17th, we at Vanguard Records are proud to present an exclusive vinyl re-issue of five seminal Vanguard Titles: Joan Baez ‘Joan Baez’, Mississippi John Hurt ‘Today’, John Fahey ‘The Yellow Princess’, Doc Watson ‘Doc Watson’, and Buddy Guy ‘A Man and the Blues’. Each title will be re-issued with original vinyl artwork.

One reader of The Vinyl District will be awarded a Vanguard Records 60th Anniversary Package of all five of the LPs in our exclusive TVD/Record Store Day Giveaway.

The rules are simple: in the comments section of this post, let us know what Vanguard Records or these individual artists have meant to you over the years. Suitably inspire the kind folks at TVD (who'll be choosing the winner) and the collection of all five LPs will be yours.

Remember to leave TVD your contact email address and they'll choose one winner for all five of the LPs on Monday, March 22. The complete set will mail to the winner during the week of Record Store Day.

“At the time of its release, Joan Baez’s debut album was something of a revelation… presenting a brace of traditional songs with an urgency and sincerity that makes the listener feel as though they were being sung for the first time” —All Music

“'Today' is Mississippi John Hurt’s first and finest studio release since his “rediscovery” on his Avalon farm by folklorist Tom Hoskins in 1963… Hurt himself never could explain his guitar playing, as he used to say, “I just make it sound like I think it out to.” Regardless, that sound along with a mellow and heartfelt voice, wizened here by decades, combine to make ‘Today’ an unforgettable whole. A truly essential album of the folk revival, unrivaled in its beauty and warmth.” —All Music

“If one were looking to own only one album by this unique guitarist, “The Yellow Princess” could be the one. The recording is among the best of his many releases; at the proper volume, the effect is as if one had taken up residency inside the sound hole of a giant acoustic guitar. The program of pieces if marvelously emotional and varied…” —All Music

“Watson’s arrival on the folk scene of the ‘60s was a major event in American music due mostly to his appearance at the 1963 Newport Folk Festival and the release of this self-titled album the following year. Not only did it revolutionize folk guitar picking, but it set the standard for the rest of his career with its mix of old-timey numbers, blues, gospel, and adapted fiddle tunes.”
—All Music

“The guitarist’s first album away from Chess - and to be truthful, it sounds as though it could have been cut at 2120 S. Michigan, with Guy’s deliciously understated guitar work and a tight combo anchored by three saxes and pianist Otis Spann laying down tough grooves on the vicious “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” I Can’t Quit the Blues,” and an exultant cover of Mercy Dee’s “One Room County Shack.” —All Music