Six shots of single malt Americana: Tara Stonecipher's way with words
Recovery, Tara Stonecipher and the Tall Grass’s, first album out at last
Tara Stonecipher, a Eugene, Orgeon singer song writer with a glorious voice, has always followed her own path. Over the past decade she has tantalized and irritated by posting her songs on YouTube and MySpace and then taking them down because the something about the early girl and guitar at home in front of the computer recordings dissatisfied her. But even in the early days, despite the distance from the lo-fi microphone, she could clearly get close to an audience.
Two bands have coalesced around Stonecipher’s talent. The first, though it enjoyed some critical recognition locally, split as the members pursued jobs and study. This left the singer song writer and collaborator Gregg Vollstedt (electric/steel,vocals) on the prowl for a new constellation. Eventually, they connected with Gracin Dorsey (cello), Kevin Davison (bass), and Willis Ransom (drums, washboard).
After several live performances, the band finally booked studio time in 2011. After the recording, months would pass before Recovery’s release, but the music is now out there and will hopefully win the recognition it deserves. In this debut EP, artistic maturity and professional mixing allows the singer and cello to glow like a glass of whisky in candle light while the rest of the musicians provide the dark. Pretty much all of Stonecipher’s performances linger on as fine single malt should. (And that could literally happen if you lived in Oregon and could catch the band at a music pub like the Axe & Fiddle).
Stonecipher has penned nearly 30 songs. But the album is short, in total a bare six songs lasting less than 30 minutes. The instrumental arrangements and performance all have the single purpose of backing up Stonecipher to maximize an artistic statement that the band and singer manifestly stand behind together. Here are my favorites:
1) January (2011)
A solo bass intro at the beginning sounds like a familiar cowboy blues lick, but suddenly the cello joins in. All of this before the curtain rises for Stonecipher to step out to sing about our loyal friend, depression, you know, the darkest kind that makes just getting out of bed to take pee in the morning a long journey. The style of the song is not exactly jazz or country. Guess this is why the term Americana had to be invented. Her delivery is light and flawless, just the way we want our melancholy treated.
2) I Don’t
This is a mischievous tune that will likely be an instant favorite. There is a lot of easy genius in this composition about a relationship after the plug has finally been pulled but the water refuses to run straight out (it’s just a soft scrap of soap over the drain hole). The lyrics are put together out of the most everyday vocabulary, but in their simplicity Stonecipher’s ironic humor gets a bit wicked. Would be interesting to hear other musicians cover this song because it is classic.
3) Who Are We
From the very beginning Stonecipher grabs the listener and takes them on a jaunt into uncertainty (where were you to begin with?). It’s like you’re feeling your way through water with your toes touching the unseen bottom. One thing to love is her ability to handle the refrain and somehow make it mean something different each time. How the heck does she do that?
It would have been nice to have The End, Hey Carolina (about her guitar), Could I Take You Home, Lessons, or No. 29 on this debut EP, but it leaves the band with good reason to book more studio time. Shelling out 8 bucks for this CD is a steal.