Laura Cortese Trio with Lyndsey Battle and Cory Goldman
The first moments of Laura Cortese's Into the Dark are quiet: a fiddle drones, a cello purrs--and then Cortese begins to sing. There is nothing timid about her. Even in her most delicate moments, she projects power and poise. There is a sense, in that first number, that she might snap those fiddle strings or punch a hole in the bass drum. In the end, restraint reigns, but not before Cortese has laid the groundwork for an album that is as bold as it is elegant.
The songs on Into the Dark are the vivid imaginings of an artist schooled in the lyrical rituals of folk music. Cortese doesn't shy away from dark subjects or rely solely on her own experiences. On "Brown Wrinkled Dress," she writes from the point of view of a woman who discovers her husband's infidelity; on "Village Green" she sings in the voice of a servant who yearns for something more. Both songs echo traditional themes--"Brown Wrinkled Dress" is a murder ballad in the most classic sense--but others have an undeniably modern cadence. You can hear pop in Cortese's deftly-written hooks and rock 'n' roll in the syncopated pulse that propels even her gentlest melodies. Her cover of Laura Veirs's "Life is Good Blues" perhaps captures this spirit best: when Cortese sings the line "Life is good when the band is smokin' hot," it's easy to believe her.
Cortese grew up in San Francisco and moved to Boston to study violin at Berklee College of Music. She has since immersed herself in the city's vibrant indie music scene and enjoyed a busy sideman career, which has included appearances with Band of Horses at Carnegie Hall, Pete Seeger at Newport Folk Festival, and Patterson Hood and Michael Franti for Seeger's ninetieth birthday celebration at Madison Square Garden. She performs frequently with Jocie Adams of the Low Anthem and can be heard on Adams's upcoming album.
Despite her rock n' roll proclivities, Cortese's own music is driven not by drums or bass but by strings. On Into the Dark she is joined by Brittany Haas, of neo-stringband Crooked Still, on five-string fiddle; groundbreaking Scottish fiddler Hanneke Cassel; cellist Valerie Thompson, of Irish-American band Long Time Courting; fiddler Mariel Vandersteel of the genre-bending Blue Moose and the Unbuttoned Zippers; and cellist Natalie Haas, musical partner of legendary Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser. The record is a clear outgrowth of Cortese's two most recent musical endeavors. The first was a trilogy of EPs released in 2010: Two Amps, One Microphone, a duet with guitarist and singer Jefferson Hamer; Simple Heart, a collaboration with five other female vocalists; and Acoustic Project, which provided the germ for the fiddle-based arrangements on Into the Dark. Cortese followed this series with a songwriting project that spawned a 7" vinyl and digital release, Pine, and a band called The Poison Oaks. Pine featured collaborations with six different indie musicians, including Sam Amidon and Aoife O'Donovan, and experimented with a rich palette of noises, from organ to saxophone to dulcimer. Into the Dark employs drums, trumpet, and clarinet, as well as velvety vocal arrangements like those on Simple Heart.
Arcata Playhouse (View)
1251 9th Street
Arcata , CA 95521
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