Daughter of Mennonite missionaries, Rachel Ries hails from the inspiring, vast expanses of South Dakota, by way of Zaire. Her formative years were filled with Congolese spirituals, Mennonite hymns and The Carpenters. Currently splitting her time between rural Vermont and New York City, she crafts sly and compassionate songs for the crooked hearted. With a clear voice and steady hand, she pulls the listener into her world of city grit, country dirt, and her open-eyed search for redemption and reason.
Returning from a years-long hiatus, Rachel is releasing her third long player, Ghost of a Gardener on Feb 18, 2014. Her voice at times echoes that of Regina Spektor or early Maria Muldaur and this new album is full of thoughtful and inventive arrangements. Fingerpicked melodicism pairs with sweeping strings & analog synths while a Merle Haggard-style drinking song struts with trumpets and close knit harmonies. The album, produced by Ries along with Secretly Canadian artist David Vandervelde, also includes Emmett Kelly (Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Cairo Gang), Gregory Alan Isakov, Evan Bivins (Cary Ann Hearst, Duncan Sheik), members of Brooklyn's Cuddle Magic, strings from RSVQ, and long-time bandmate Ariel Bolles.
Since 2008s Country EP, a split 45 with Anaïs Mitchell released on Righteous Babe Records, Ries ("reese") has recorded and toured extensively with Mitchell, supporting Bon Iver and others. She was granted a Chicago Arts award in 2010, worked in Chicago theatre, toured Europe and the States, learned how to repair Wurlitzers and (kind of) play the drums.
Rachel's first album, For You Only - recorded in South Haven with Andru Bemis - was released on Waterbug Records in August of 2005. For You Only is a charming and literary work given additional breadth with a laid-back smattering of banjo, fiddle, piano, accordion, pump organ and percussion. Judith Edelman for Acoustic Guitar magazine writes, "The album was recorded on vintage analog equipment, presumably to further capture a bygone sound. Some artists might need the boost in creating atmosphere, but Ries is well up to the task of invoking mood, memory, and nostalgia all on her own."
In 2007 Rachel put her heart into making her second album, Without a Bird. Warmly analog and carefully orchestral, Without a Bird showcases the artistry of some of Chicago's finest players: Kevin O'Donnell (Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire, Neko Case), Joel Paterson (Devil in a Woodpile, Kelly Hogan, Steve Dawson), Alison Chesley (Bob Mould, Verbow, Poi Dog Pondering) and Ariel Bolles (Bakelite 78). Without a Bird was recorded & mixed analog and is available on both CD & vinyl through Rachel's own label, SoDak Records.
In the winter of 2012, Rachel spent a month tucked away and writing in eastern Tennessee. The drafty lakeside house filled with instruments, she recorded the Laurel Lake EP a limited edition of 405; each one packaged in a sewn and hand-numbered fabric sleeve.
Foundry Hall (View)
422 Eagle St.
South Haven, MI 49090