CD Review: ‘Aura Vista Motel’ by Vaudeville Etiquette

By Danielle Boise

Seattle-based band, Vaudeville Etiquette follows up their 2014 debut album, Debutants & Dealers with the release of their sophomore album, Aura Vista Motel, which was released on May 6.  And believe me, I’ve listen to this album dozen upon dozen times and there is not one track on the album that disappoints. The entire collaboration is a brilliant follow up and to an already stunning debut that they made back in 2014. I can only imagine where Vaudeville Etiquette will go from here.  The 11-track album is engaging as it takes us on a beautiful journey into the land of psych-folk that blends beautifully with bluegrass roots with seamless harmonies, and the chemistry between Bradley Laina and Tayler Lynn is palpable and utterly transfixing to listen to.

Aura Vista Motel starts of strong and bold, like a really great cup of coffee and really kicks you into gear with “Crosseyed Crazy.” The steel guitar plays a significant part in the creation of this album, giving it the foundation from which the whole album uses as the building blocks for a masterful creation.

With poignant lyrics like, “Will I ever get it right?”  from the song “Aura Vista,” is truly reflective in nature by showing us the deep and painful, yet beautiful nature of a “shipwrecked soul.” “Damn Lovely” starts out with a raw sensuality that slowly builds into a blistering fire, leaving the listener to feel as if you’re unspooling from the inside out. I will say that “Bridges” has a Springsteen vibe to it that is just fun to listen to as a stand-alone song.

“Room 417” truly isn’t a song, but more a transition from the beginning of a relationship that brings us to the “Tipping Point,” which is filled with fiery passion. It’s bold, demanding with so much hurt and pain, along with all the chemistry that fuels all those opposing emotions is laid out raw right before the listener to consumer wholeheartedly with “we can get along, if we just don’t talk.” I think anyone who has ever been in a relationship, can understand and completely get those feels of when they reach the tipping point in their own relationship and all you want is for the other person to be quiet in order to get along.

When listening to “Set it on Fire,” I had this odd sense of feeling dismal mixed with a vision of an old carnival ride that encases the underlying tone of the song for me, it’s like you can feel the end in the distance coming closer to the horizon. Almost in one sense hunting it down and in another avoiding it at all costs.

I love the lyrics on this album, they are so utterly exposed and vulnerable on the inner workings of relationships. Of how in one sense we bind ourselves tightly to another only to see it unravel before our eyes. Vaudeville Etiquette puts all these feelings together eloquently in a way that transpires to the heart of the nature of relationships, like “let’s dance with the devil ‘til it breaks our hearts” in “Helpless Heart” the lyrics are both poignant and bittersweet in the ways of the heart and the strife of love. “You were such a restless soul, easy to the touch, but hard to hold.” Is another perfect example of the craftsmanship that went into creating this honest album.

“Empty Hands” is filled with a beautiful sadness that underlines the entire song, “learn how to hold our cold and empty hands.” “Til The Wheels Unwind” has a bit of a country kick to it as the song carries the burden of the distance that builds inside relationships with unreasoning sensibilities while becoming immobile to your lover’s needs.

Aura Vista Motel ends on a bittersweet note with “Leaving Song” which is absolutely gut wrenching by shatters the listener into a million pieces with so much truth and honesty, “my love covered in rapture from the pale blue doves. I’ve got no choice but to leave you ‘til the work is done.”

What I find the most intriguing thing about this album is that there are so many layers and levels to it. It’s all from where the listener is in their life to how the music will fill their soul up. For me with each new spin I hear something new, and get a greater appreciation of the masterpiece that I truly feel that Aura Vista Motel is. This is definitely an album you will want to listen to more than once. So go out and buy a copy on CD, download it from iTunes or wait until they press it to vinyl (and they will be doing that shortly), but regardless of how you listen to it, just listen to it. It’s so worth the spin, so give it a twirl.

CD Review: ‘The Number 8’ by Annalisa Tornfelt

Annalisa Tornfelt is best known for being the lead singer and fiddle player for the Portland, Ore. based Black Prairie. With a large portion of Black Prairie on tour in their sister group, The Decemberists; Annalisa is releasing her first full length solo album, The Number 8. You can read more about the process of recording the album and her musical career in the recent TAM interview.

When an album can evoke a feeling in the listener, the artist has achieved something important: a connection. When that same album can transport the listener to a specific place and time, then the artist has created a unique and important collection of music. The Number 8 is just such a rarity.

The first song on The Number 8, “Scared You’re Gonna Leave,” is a short but upbeat piece with a distinctly country rhythm and theme. On it’s own, the song may not immediately transport the audience, but as it fades away and leads into “Afterlife,” something magical may happen. The listener might close their eyes and find themselves in a small bar, listening and watching Annalisa perform a solo show with her acoustic guitar.

The play order of the songs on The Number 8 is incredibly important because of the way it gently glides between country and folk. Songs like “One Heart at a Time” and “Tired of Saying Sorry” are reminiscent of the bygone era June Carter or Patsy Cline, and are spaced out and counterpointed with a folk dancing partner.

Examples of the Annalisa’s folk stylings can be found in songs like “June June Hot Air Balloon” and “Starlighting.” Finally, there are the quiet compositions like “Nothingness to Me” that are almost ethereal in their delicate sound.

The sensory transportation that is accomplished with The Number 8 can partially be credited to the fact that each song was performed and recorded at producer Mike Coykendall’s house in Portland in the span of one day. But, the fact that Annalisa has had some of these songs playing in her heart and head for the better part of 10 years is probably the single largest contributor to the album’s success as a whole.

The Number 8 is a rarity in today’s musical world. It is a quiet, pure and joyful collection of music and for fans of country, folk and acoustic music and cannot be recommended enough.

Find out more about Annalisa Tornfelt’s The Number 8 here.

For more Annalisa, check out Black Prairie as well.

Emmylou Harris opened for The Avett Brothers on night one of Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre two night residency

Emmylou Harris

Emmylou Harris

 

“When I started out, I was a solo folk singer who wanted to Joan Baez. I realized I couldn’t be Joan because she was already taken, so I had to find my own way.” – Emmylou Harris

This is what country is supposed to be like, in all its glory. With a bluegrass folk vibe, the Grammy winning artist, 13 and counting, Emmylou Harris shined as she opened for The Avett Brothers on their first night of a two night residency at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre on Friday July 24. It was truly the perfect musical pairing having these two acts share the same stage.

 

Emmylou Harris

Emmylou Harris

“What a beautiful evening it is, perfect weather – no rain.” Emmylou Harris exclaimed to the eagerly happy audience.

With the epitome of graciousness, Harris exclaimed in a generous tone “Rodney said he wrote it for me,” as she introduced her ever popular “Even Cowboys Gets The Blues.” There’s a touch of sadness and a heart ache to the edge of Harris’ voice that melds so wonderfully with the steel guitar, especially when she sang “Michelangelo,” “Prayer in Open D” and “Green Pastures.”

 

The Avett Brothers

The Avett Brothers

 

The Americana, folk loving Avett Brothers took the Verizon Wireless stage full of so much vigor for the 24-song set list. It’s hard to imagine that anyone person, more or less an entire band, could contain the levels of pure, unadulterated vitality and fun as they leaped across the stage while pouring their hearts out with each song.

The Avett Brothers started the night off with “Satan Pulls The Strings” followed by “Talk of Indolence,” “Die Die Die,” “Shame,” “Skin and Bones,” “Pretty Girl from Cedar Lane” and “Traveling Song.” By far on of the most touching and honest moments of the night was when they performed “Rejects in the Attic,” a bittersweet ode to former love and the strife to reclaim parts of one’s self that no longer exist.

The Avett Brothers continued with “Live and Die,” “Go to Sleep,” “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” (The Carter Family Cover), “Salvation Song,” “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise,” “Find My Love,” “ I Would Be Sad,” “Let Myself Live,” “Salina,” “Tania,” “Tin Man,” “Paul Newman vs. The Demons,” “Laundry Room,” “I Killed Sally’s Lover,” “Slight Figure of Speech” and ended the night with “Open-Ended Life.”

 

The Avett Brothers

The Avett Brothers

For me this was the perfect accompaniment of honoring the roots of country with Emmylou Harris, while providing the taste of Americana fused Folk with The Avett Brothers. It was truly a pleasure to see both acts share the stage and provide two sets of meaningful music that touched everyone, as fans slowed danced with their partners to children being introduced to something other than contemporary top forty. It was a pleasure to dance and sing along with an overflowing Amphitheatre of fans.

 

 Full Photo Gallery of The Avett Brothers

 

 

Full Photo Gallery of Emmylou Harris