New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Tag: molly venter

Two Red Mollies Play Their Own Individualistic Americana at Pete’s

There’s going to be a rare Red Molly reunion of sorts this Nov 14 at 8:30 PM at Pete’s Candy Store when brilliantly incisive dobro player Abbie Gardner – who has a Tuesday night residency there this month – opens a twinbill with her old Red Molly bandmate, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Carolann Solebello.

Obviously, Red Molly have been back in action for awhile, with Molly Venter in Solebello’s place. The Pete’s show is a chance to hear two longtime friends and distinctive Americana artists in an intimate setting, doing their own material and very possibly working up new stuff.

The last time this blog caught up with Solebello, she was playing a fantastic twinbill at the American Folk Art Museum on a Friday night last spring with brooding New England gothic songsmith Nathaniel Bellows. With the first soaring notes of the bittersweet, opening country ballad, Brooklyn in the Rain, her strong, clear, insistent vocals were a potent reminder why she’d gotten the Red Molly gig to begin with. That, and her purist, similarly eclectic guitar chops. The fluidity of Solebello’s fretwork, whether with her chords or fingerpicking, should be the rule rather than the exception, but in what’s left of the singer-songwriter demimonde, it seldom is.

She told a funny story about her experiences as a struggling Brooklyn-born-and-raised songwriter dating an Upper West Side yuppie with season tickets to the opera, and then followed with a bouncy, pouncing, defiant, bluegrass-tinged post-breakup narrative. Like many of her songs, it was equal parts urban and bucolic, traditional and in the here and now: clearly, the dude was a fish out of water in her Lower East Side Americana scene.

That defiant quality is a consistent trait: she doesn’t feel at home in the role of victim. She added a gentle touch of vintage Judy Collins-style vibrato to a swaying, pensively catchy number after that, then brought the lights down for a fond reminiscence of her grandmother. The rest of her tantalizingly brief set was much the same, acerbic major/minor chord changes and often surprising dynamic shifts in support of vivid narratives that transcend the usual lovelorn coffeehouse girl stereotype. There will no doubt be plenty of those at the Pete’s show, times two, and maybe a duet or two.

And the ongoing Friday night series at the Folk Art Museum continues on Nov 17 at 5:30 PM with low-key, plainspoken, populist folk-pop songwriter Jeremy Aaron.

Everybody’s Favorite Americana Harmony Trio, Red Molly, Make a Triumphant Return to City Winery

Is there another Americana band with as individualistic and spine-tingling a blend of voices as Red Molly? Actually yes – Bobtown, who played the Brooklyn Americana Festival on Saturday. More about them later.

Red Molly’s first New York show in two years last night at City Winery was epic. The harmony trio of dobro player Abbie Gardner, guitarists Molly Venter and Laurie MacAllister really give you a lot of bang for your buck. In two long sets, bolstered by bassist Craig Akin and Roosevelt Dime guitarist/percussionist Eben Pariser, they played a wickedly fun, dynamic mix of originals and a bunch of choice covers.

Each group member has a solo album in progress: MacAllister fretted about how the trio would be able to “shoehorn the songs into a Red Molly show,” but everything worked seamlessly. As usual, the women took turns on lead vocals, often in the same number. Venter took centerstage on one of the best of the new songs, Cold Black Water, a portrait of an indomitable single mother making a new start on the rugged Oregon coast, rising from an enigmatic, quiet suspense on the verse to a ferociously anthemic payoff on the chorus. Another standout was a hauntingly muted ballad by Gardner, told from the point of view of a war veteran’s wife who’s watching her wounded warrior trying to keep himself together.

And the voices were sublime. Gardner has jazz bloodlines and Venter is a connoisseur of Texas Americana, with blue notes peeking out from every secret corner. MacAllister contrasts with a disarmingly direct delivery. And while there was plenty of the usual banter between the group and what seemed to be a sold-out crowd, MacAllister came across as the ringleader in this merry band. Introducing a rousing number inspired by a gig in Alaska that wound up with a dude in the crowd throwing a taxidermied fox onto the stage, she related how, for a woman in a state with a gender imbalance, “The odds were good, but the goods were odd.”

The best song of the night was When It’s All Wrong. Gardner’s dobro slid and slithered through every macabre passing tone in the scale as her voice channeled a bitterness and menace that Lana Del Rey and all the other wannabe noir pinups would die to have written.                   

The covers were choice, beginning with the famous Richard Thompson tune from which they take their name. Gardner drew lots of chuckles with a sly little dobro lick on the intro to Crazy, which Venter sang with a nuance that would have made Patsy Cline proud. The three-part harmonies, backed by just bass, on The Fever were a lot of fun, while the group’s most calmly rapturous moment was their a-capella take of their original May I Suggest. As long as Red Molly are still together and touring – something that didn’t seem likely a couple of years ago – maybe, despite the madmen in the White House, we are truly living in the best years of our lives. The darkest times sometimes produce the greatest art. Red Molly’s current tour continues on Oct 6 at at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley, CA; advance tix are $25.

Next month is a particularly good one at City Winery, Just for starters, Willie Nile – the world’s most obvious choice to sing Dylan – does that on the 10th at 8 PM: tix are expensive, $30, but this could be an awful lot of fun. And then there’s a killer twinbill on the 15th at 8 with blue-eyed soulstress and fiery guitarslinger Miss Tess followed by one of the great songwriters in noir Americana, Eilen Jewell, for $20.

And Gardner has a solo show at Pete’s on Oct 17 at 8:30 PM

Red Molly’s Light in the Sky – Their Best Album?

The three women of Red MollyAbbie Gardner, Laurie McAllister and Molly Venter – blend their voices magically throughout a mix of seemingly every style of of Americana roots music from the past century and before then. To call their latest album Light in the Sky their best does an injustice to their others: they’re all good. The first question that springs to mind about this band is, why aren’t they playing Madison Square Garden? While it’s not like they usually play small rooms – the big room at Rockwood Music Hall, where they are this Thursday the 17th at 7:30, is as small as they get, and that’s probably only because it’s a hometown show in the midst of a big tour – Red Molly would resonate with a worldwide audience. Sure, Light in the Sky was the #1 most added album by radio “folk dj’s” during the past month – but how many of those are there? A few hundred? A thousand? The Dixie Chicks had their run; it’s Red Molly’s turn.

As with their previous release, they’ve got a band behind them here – which doesn’t come in until after the dreamy, gorgeous, three part oldtimey harmonies of their version of Dear Someone. They follow that with the determined pulse of Walk Beside Me, a gospel/bluegrass blend with Gardner’s stinging dobro and McAllister’s bracing Appalachian violin. Come On In My Kitchen gets freshly and cleverly reinvented, with funky organ. If you’re convinced that Robert Johnson’s version is a classic that can’t be beat, you have to hear the way they play up Gardner’s “oh the wind howls” bridge into an organ solo – it might not exactly be delta blues, but it’s awfully fun.

A banjo tune, Do I Ever Cross Your Mind has a vintage Carter Family vibe with better production values and more of that sweet violin. They follow that with Oh My Michael, a stark, Celtic-flavored fisherman’s widow’s lament. The best song on the album is a darkly bristling, bluesy version of Buddy and Julie Miller’s Does My Ring Burn Your Finger. “Just wait here in the dark, my dearly departed,” McAllister sings with a wounded menace at the end.

Hello Goodbye isn’t the Beatles tune: it’s a jaunty, ragtime-flavored original, Gardner’s soaring dobro trading off with her dad Herb Gardner’s pre-Prohibition piano. With balmy muted trumpet, It’s Too Late to Call It a Night is an irresistibly charming, lushly slinky bourdoir swing tune; by contrast, Why Should I Cry has a resolute western swing edge. There’s also a couple of casual, swaying Americana-pop songs, Ghost and Hold It All; a couple of country gospel tunes, Your Long Journey and a brisk remake of Gillian Welch’s By the Mark; and a similarly upbeat version of Fever that’s closer to Elvis irrepressibility than Peggy Lee mist, just the trio harmonizing over fingersnaps and Craig Akin’s bass. As usual, Red Molly cover all the bases: there’s something for fans of pretty much every Americana style ever invented here.