If Carleigh Nesbit learned one grand, unifying lesson in the year she took to create her debut album, Flower to the Bee, the lesson is this: Things don’t always sound the way you’d expect them to.
What we’ve been listening to
“Making Days Longer,” by RJD2 (from Since We Last Spoke)
“I’m Your Man” (Leonard Cohen cover), by Nick Cave (from I’m Your Man)
“Earth Intruders,” by Bjork (from Volta)
“Diamond Dancer,” by Bill Callahan (from Woke on a Whaleheart)
“Chanson Triste,” by Carla Bruni (from Quelqu’un M’a Dit)
“Chinese Rocks,” by Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers (from L.A.M.F.)
“Penny for a Thought,” by Saul Williams (from Amethyst Rock Star)
Take, for instance, the floorboard-rattling percussion that cuts through the center of Flower’s opening track, “Your City Skies”: Dense enough to suggest a live dance hall or an enormous set of toms, the scuff-toed thump of boots is actually the sound of Nesbit and producer Jeff Romano thwacking Nesbit’s collection of boots against different surfaces around Romano’s house, the site of his Greenwood Studio. Or the country vocals that Nesbit and Romano drew from Carl Anderson, an odd stroke of luck because, as Nesbit puts it, Anderson “doesn’t really have an accent.”
Then there were the fireworks.
“There was one night where Carl came in to do his vocal tracks [at Greenwood], and I guess Coran Capshaw lives near there and was setting off fireworks,” explains Nesbit. “We just heard what sounded like gunshots…Jeff went running up to see what it was, and I turned to Carl and was like, ‘Carl, if Jeff gets shot, where are we gonna hide?’”
Fittingly, Flower to the Bee doesn’t sound quite like anything you might expect from the precocious young musician, who honed her fingerpicking as a member of Pixy Led and recently began her senior year at Tandem Friends School. At their most elemental, Nesbit’s songs are sparsely decorated folk tunes that get a boost from her disarmingly mature voice, an integral part of the harmonies in Pixy Led but more charming on their own. But Nesbit also assembled a fantastic studio band for Flower that helped steer the album around plain old “folk” and right into the buzzing Blue Ridge feel of Virginia country music.
Just like honey: Carleigh Nesbit releases Flower to the Bee at Gravity Lounge on September 26.
Andy Thacker is here on mandolin, as is Ann Marie Calhoun, whose performance as part of Nesbit’s band for her September 26 CD release gig at Gravity Lounge is Calhoun’s first local gig since performing with Foo Fighters at the Grammy Awards. Charlie Bell of Jim Waive and the Young Divorcees—the “Pride of Orange County,” as Waive puts it, and our city’s finest guitar slinger—chimes in on pedal steel and dobro, and Devon Sproule, who helped Nesbit to make strides with her songwriting, throws in vocals on three songs, including the unavoidably catchy “Three Steps Out the Door.”
And Nesbit will likely tinker with her new tunes more during her CD release gig at Gravity: Split into two sets, the evening opens with a mini-performance by Nesbit, Anderson, Sons of Bill guitarist Sam Wilson and 6 Day Bender’s mustachioed madman Luke Nutting before Nesbit breaks out the concert band (minus Sproule and Bell). Come for the music, but don’t be surprised if you hear fireworks.
More than ATO can chew?
It’s become something of a tradition for locally spawned film production company ATO Pictures to preview its latest films in Newcomb Hall Theater. Last year, a few hundred people crammed into seats for a sneak preview of Joshua, an ATO flick that nabbed a $4 million distribution deal with Fox Searchlight, the risk-taking “specialty film” arm of Fox Filmed Entertainment. Most box office estimates put Joshua’s domestic gross at under $500,000, which might be enough to send some distribution companies packing.
Choke—the latest ATO Pictures feature film, adapted from Chuck Palahniuk’s novel of the same name—screened to a similarly large crowd last Tuesday at Newcomb. In Palahniuk’s book, a man pays for his ailing mother’s medical expenses by putting himself in a near-death experience and spinning his saviors’ sympathy into cash. Fox Searchlight must’ve felt a similar pull to play savior: Choke was purchased for $5 million during the Sundance Film Festival by the same distribution company that bankrolled Joshua.
In fact, the only film to grab a sweeter, greener deal was Hamlet 2, purchased by Focus Features for $10 million. So far, Hamlet 2 has reportedly made back almost half of its estimated $9 million budget. What sort of financial predictions can ATO Pictures make for Choke based on its fellow ’dance attendee?
“As [screenwriter] William Golden said, ‘The only thing I know about Hollywood is that nobody knows anything,’” paraphrased Temple Fennell, who develops films for ATO. The difference, Fennell pointed out in a phone interview, is that Choke comes stamped with a brand name: Palahniuk largely made his career when his novel Fight Club hit the silver screen.
Choke may be less difficult to swallow than Joshua, but it will hopefully feed more mouths—the film is ATO Pictures’ first nationwide release, according to Fennell, and will be released the same week as the Spielberg-produced action movie, Eagle Eye, starring Shia LaBeouf. In light of the film’s high profile, the crowd at the preview screening checked bags and cell phones at the doors to Newcomb Hall Theater before passing between security guards who wanded the pockets of each audience member.
As for the film itself, well, I’d rather not spoil your appetite—check out Choke on September 26.
Bringing it all back home
Local country musician Jim Waive is back at Blue Moon Diner every Wednesday night from 8pm to 10pm. Waive’s earliest gigs in town were at the diner—he performed with local songwriter/Mister Baby musician Megan Huddleston in a duo dubbed “Cracklin’ Fatbacks” and met future Young Divorcees members Charlie Bell and Anna Matijasic at the West Main Street greasy spoon.
So it’s a space where Waive feels comfortable, but the set length forces him to get a bit creative—two hours is more than ample time to play every original tune from the Young Divorcees’ two records, so Waive plays a good deal of covers. Last Wednesday was the first of what I’ll call “Wednesdays with Waive,” and our country aficionado filled the evening with a few tasty Bob Dylan tunes (“One Too Many Mornings” and, a personal favorite, “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts”) and the Roy Acuff-Fred Rose number “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” before topping the evening off with “Closing Time at the Blue Moon Diner.” Never heard that last tune? Be there next week.
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