In a recent London Times article about the surplus of non-country music talent in Nashville, the author recalled visiting a Music City rock club and happening upon a young female violinist backing up an unknown singer-songwriter on a weekday night. The violinist's compelling voice and stage presence, even in a side musician's role, proved to the author that Nashville was simply overflowing with artists on the verge.
That violinist, Mississippi-native Molly Thomas, has since moved to center stage, having now released a gripping full-length solo LP, Shoot The Sky. The album, mostly recorded in Thomas' Nashville home, features twelve tracks and Thomas herself on vocals, violin, guitar, cello, bass, piano, moog, Hammond organ, mandolin, assorted percussion and, on the oddly buoyant "Crack Cocaine," some wonderfully trashy drumming.
The album's title is a nod to an unnamed lover whose self-destructive nature also destroys those who love him - even those who wish they did not. "Another wasted dream, another wasted man, another wasted day with you," Thomas sings, resignedly, on "Blueprint," the album's haunting, reverb-laden opener. Thus the stage is set for this emotional, at times bitter, but ultimately triumphant album.
Thomas, who continues to be an in-demand live and session player, most recently for the likes of Todd Snider, Will Kimbrough, Matthew Ryan and Mindy Smith, gets some assistance from some of her peers on Shoot The Sky. Ryan, with whom Thomas has toured extensively, appears here as guitarist on the pleading title track and backing vocalist on the piano ballad "Sleep," while his "I Hear A Symphony" provides the record's lone cover. Houston-based artist Mando Saenz adds his voice to the album's slow-burn ballad of star-crossed love, "Bad Timing," which Seanz also co-wrote with Thomas.
Other collaborators include Rowland Stebbins, whose weathered backing vocals add a peculiar warmth to the lilting, late-night-flavored waltz, "My Side," and Brian Harrison, whose musicianship, co-writing and co-production on three tracks adds counterpoint and polish to Thomas' already strong vision. Harrison's credits include Lucinda Williams, and the closing track, "I'll Be Fine," highlights some of Thomas' favorable comparisons to that legendary artist. Another Harrison-assisted track, the blistering, radio-friendly "Wide of The Mark," allows Thomas to expose the so-called "plush life" and "gilded cage" of her self-destructive foil and to declare that, finally, she's having none of it.
To have self-produced the lion's share of Shoot The Sky demonstrates the confidence Thomas has built over her career, from her earlier days in the Mobile, AL-based college band Slow Moses, to her solo performances on the Nashville club circuit, to touring the U.S. behind top-shelf singer-songwriters. "I'm more comfortable with who I am now as an artist," she says.