Scottish-born and London-based, KT Tunstall has achieved a swell of success across the pond with emotional folk rock songwriting and a strong, sonorous delivery that rocketed her to the top of the charts. While this may the point where a lesser talent hits cruise control, Tunstall two years ago did the opposite, putting her musical pedal to the metal and roaring headlong out of the dreary, cloudy skies of England straight for the hot, dry deserts of Arizona.
The result of her sojourn was the critically-lauded album Invisible Empire//Crescent Moon. Tunstall is a gem of a songwriter, lyrically raw while poetically sublime. Her deft guitar melodies and her ethereal voice, with just a slight Scottish brogue popping up every so often, is one of the sweetest in this or any hemisphere.
Tonight and tomorrow, Tuntall brings her globe-trotting style to Napa for two nights of dusty, shimmering indie folk rock before she joins pianist and bandleader Jools Holland back in the United Kingdom. Check out the music video for her single “Feel It All” below and pop on over to City Winery to catch Tunstall before she skips town.
Born in the United States and raised in Paris by a French father and Chinese mother, Jessica Fichot is a multicultural chanteuse, singing in several languages and playing a worldly blend of pop, jazz and folk. Her latest album, “Dear Shanghai,” is a collection of 1940s Chinese jazz. Fichot and her band perform at the Cotati Accordion Festival, this Saturday, Aug 22 at 11:30am.
Now based in Los Angeles, Fichot spoke with City Sound Inertia about how she tunes into her musical heritage for an authentic, yet accessible, chanson sound.
City Sound Inertia: So Jessica, you grew up in Paris?
Jessica Fichot: “I was born in upstate New York, but I moved to France when I was two years old, all my memories of childhood are from France.”
CSI: What was your relationship to music like as a kid?
JF: “I played piano, but growing up, I didn’t really listen to music in French, it was considered lame to be listening to French music when I was a kid, so I listened to a lot of music from the United States; Tori Amos, Madonna.
It was only after I moved back to the United States and went to Berklee College of Music in Boston, that I re-discovered French music, because I wanted to so something different, try to find my identity. And of course France is very much a part of my identity.”
CSI: And how did you start playing the accordion?
JF: “After college, I moved to Los Angeles and I put a band together performing my own French songs. I sing mostly in French, recently a lot more in Chinese, and a lot of different languages. And when I put my band together I was looking for an accordion player, but I couldn’t find one, so I bought an accordion and just played the right hand. I just got more and more into it and, to be honest, I barely play the piano now.”
The heavenly harmonies emanating from the folk gospel duo MaMuse has steadily built a following around their spiritual and sonorous songs. They have appeared numerous times at folk fests like Kate Wolf and won best duet performance on “A Prairie Home Companion” in 2012. This year, the Chico-based Sarah Nutting and Karisha Longaker have released their most personal and ethereal album to date, Heart Nouveau. Featuring collaborations with songwriter Molly Hartwell and a deep percussive rhythm throughout, the new record is emotionally charged and resonant.
This week, MaMuse celebrates the new album with a performance in Sebastopol. Hartwell will be on hand to lend her voice, as will longtime friend and musician Mike Wofchuck. Lauren Brown opens the show on Saturday, July 11, at Subud Hall, 234 Hutchins Ave, Sebastopol. 7:30pm. $18-$20. Get tickets here.
From the first inhale of Trebuchet’s self-titled debut record, I’m hooked. The ukulele like lapping waves of a tropical shore; the surf lead guitar the birds lazily riding the swells. A breath—giving pause, the moment that will make or break the entire album. Sweet voices coalesce in harmonic bliss, one as strong as the next, none overshadowing another. The wave does not crash, it pushes onto the shore, allowing warm salt water to kiss my toes and leave me wanting more.
The six-song, vinyl-only release (it’s also available digitally) was christened with a show at San Francisco’s Bottom of the Hill last night, with friends and family accompanying on stage and in the audience. Whether by blood or by feeling, all four bands playing on the evening’s bill were related, and the feeling in the audience was that of an unexpected family reunion.
Survival Guide opened the show, who I unfortunately arrived too late to see. You Are Plural introduced a new twist to the duo of Wurlitzer and cello: drums. The percussion filled in some spaces, but since most songs were written without drums, it felt forced at times. But the harmonies and interesting time signatures kept the set flowing and piqued interest throughout the set. The New Trust brought a powerful rock sound to the stage next, Josh Staples’ thundering bass lines commanding attention from even the smoking crowd in the atrium.
I was lucky to see Trebuchet’s first-ever performance, at the Arlene Francis Center in Santa Rosa, last year. The band impressed the hell out of everyone that night, in part because three of the four members are known for intense, instrumental post rock in the band Not To Reason Why. This was as far from the expected as possible while still loosely relatable to the same genre.
Last night, Trebuchet sounded polished, like a beautiful piece of obsidian after hundreds of years in a river bed. That igneous black rock born of violent eruptions from the Earth’s core, sharpened and used as arrowheads and spear tips, left alone under running water matures into a polished, beautiful stone. I walk toward the sea, wading in up to my hips. The warmth and gentle swaying covers the impending danger of being too far from shore, too far from home. This is the best kind of escape.
Style: Relaxed, Americana instrumentation, four-part vocal harmonies, extremely musical songs, listenable without being boring, beautiful, interesting without being obscure
Comparisons: Sufjan Stevens, Decemberists, what other Portland bands wish they could sound like
Rating: 4.5/5 (Just because the record is only six songs!)
Trebuchet’s debut record is available at www.trebuchetmusic.com.