Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Lauren Calve - Between The Creek and the Tracks

One of my favorite aspects of enjoying music is learning about 'hops' from one artist or band to another - an example of Six Degrees of Separation if you will. Musicians, producers, singers, opening acts, headliners, etc. - anything that might link me from one's music to another.

Another more recent aspect I enjoy about music and mentioned here on multiple occasions is Couch By Couchwest. CXCW has been a great way to learn about new music, and I've formed some new friendships as a result of it.

Both of these aspects have come into play with some new music from songwriter Lauren Calve (Facebook | Twitter). I first learned of Miss Shevaughn & Yuma Wray through CXCW. Through them, I met their drummer Ben Tufts, a current resident of Washington DC. I've since learned Ben joined Calve's band as her drummer.

Credit: Roxplosion Facebook page
 In November, Calve will release her debut album - a 4-song EP titled Between The Creek And The Tracks.

Lauren, a native Virginian, is now like Tufts a resident of  WDC. Though she has dabbled with music and singing for several years, she buckled down to truly begin composing her own songs in early 2013.

Calve, her band, and their producer set-up shop in a barn in Fairfax, VA. A conscious, collective decision was made to embrace and retain the authentic sounds of the recording 'studio' which leads to interesting sounds on this folksy, bluesy album.

With Tufts on drums, the rest of the band includes DC musicians:
  • Colin Thompson on guitar
  • Bobby Thompson on guitar
  • Michael Calve on bass
  • Jesse Hooper on keys 
Looking For The Water - The quartet of songs opens strong. Calve's confident vocals are backed by a single 4/4 percussive thump for the first 16 seconds - with an electric slide guitar, organ and bass joining them for the next four minutes. The song's lyrics are simple ... yet complex. They include some repeating couplets. A line may repeat - but the message is deep. As I've learned several times in life, you often have to tell someone 3 or 4 times before they get it.

Been in the desert for forty days
Tried and tempted along the way
Looking for the water to cleanse my soul
My soul, my soul

Heaven help me now 
Lend a ladder to climb on out
Heaven help me now 
Lend a ladder to climb on out

Sweep - The second song is the polar opposite of the opener. Calve's vocals and her guitar open this wonderfully rich song for about the first minute. Then Tuft's subtle drumming, resonator guitar, lap slide, and bass join in ascending order to complete the song. While the video below is a great representation of the song (and filmed in a very cool locale!), it doesn't reveal the fullness of the song as recorded on her EP.

I feel I can hear hints of old school Alanis Morissette in Calve's voice, and the song could fit nicely nestled amongst other songs on a Dixie Chicks album. And listen carefully - you'll hear the nuances of the barn ... err, studio such as subtle vocal echoes and noises of the night including chirping crickets, perhaps a frog or two, and other critters.

Hard - The third song is similar in style to Sweep. Of the four tracks, I think Hard may be my favorite - perhaps because of the recording style. Rather than over-produce the song with micro-edits, Hard has a rough edge to it befitting its title and lyrical content. Guitar squeaks on the steel strings that come naturally with chord changes were left intact. Heavy use of the resonator but subtle use of brushes on a snare provide a neat yet complex element to the song. Calve wrote the song as a nod to a family legacy of working in a Pittsburgh steel mill.

It’s so hard, it’s so hard
It’s so hard, sure is hard
Days gettin’ longer, years wearin’ thin
And that pounding hammer 
Echoes in my bones

Annie - The closer - another one-word title - demonstrates perhaps how Calve chose to invest more time and effort in composing her lyrics vs. frettin' over lengthy titles. Ha. In this case, the one-word title is a tribute to a famous Annie. No, not the Woody Allen movie - Annie Oakley.

Like the opener, it opens with power - a slide on the resonator and joined almost immediately by guitars and Tufts' attacks on his snare and crash cymbals. The song quickly settles into a quick-paced groove.

Wild Bill won’t know me
No one ever will
Blaspheme my name round town
I’ll put a hole through your heart

No man can hold a flame
To this five foot lady frame
No sharper shot have I found
With a six-pound forty-four-caliber round

A lot is packed into Lauren Calve's strong debut. I look forward to hearing more from her in releases to follow... and a future appearance during CXCW (fingers crossed).


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