"This whole album feels like an embrace."- 9/11/04, INDIE-MUSIC.COM, Jennifer Layton "Sharp hooks and arrangements and a good feel for C&W roots - and, hey, even downtown NYC jazz hipster Marc Ribot (not one known to suffer fools - or folkies - gladly) appears on her Crack It Open (Bang Zoom)".
THE BOSTON PHOENIX, Editors' Picks, 12/03
"When I cracked open Ina May Wool's new CD, Crack It Open, I was treated to a pleasant cross of Lisa Loeb/Syd Straw/Rickie Lee Jones...She's got a good thing going on with her audience."
THE VILLAGE VOICE, 11/03, Andrew Aber, Voice Choices
writes excellent songs and sings with passion."
THE BOSTON GLOBE, David Johnson
"One of my favorite unheralded New York singer/songwriters."
John Platt, WFUV
"Wool sings so close to the emotional waterfall that she compels undivided attention."
DIRTY LINEN, Mitch Ritter
"Ina May Wool takes us into deep dark caverns populated by off-balance elephants, dangerous bears and other perilous creatures of our own emotions. Her songs provide a steady beam of light to guide us. Her voice provides the power."
Marilyn Rea Beyer, Music Director, WUMB Radio
"If her next CD is called 'Songs About Sitting in the Waiting Area at H&R Block,' I'll buy it. She discovers the mystery and meaning in a loaf of bread and a jug of wine, small gestures, a layer of ice, and lying awake at night."
INDIE-MUSIC.COM, Jennifer Layton
"Ina May Wool has an elegant confidence on stage in any setting. Her well-crafted songs are as mature and intriguing as a lipsticked cognac glass."
TOM NEFF, Grassy Hill Concerts
"Ina May Wool isn't the cognac glass so much as she is the cognac: smooth, fiery and fun. She enraptures."
THE MARBLEHEAD REPORTER, Chad Konecky
"Ina May writes the kind of music that can carry you away. The songs are little fragments of poetic geography."
"Just when I expected another boring New York City singer-songwriter with the same ethereal voice and the same soft-spoken songs about the same old thing, along came Ina May Wool."
RAMBLES, Rachel Jagt
"Wool's writing and delivery immediately stand out for their combination of finely honed quality and assured stylistic range, encompassing elements of folk, rock, blues, country, jazz and soul."
THE SCOTSMAN, Sue Wilson, Edinburgh, Scotland
Click links below to view articles. (New browser window will open)
|The New York Times 10/16/05|
Hill CD review of Crack It Open
Sounds 3/30/04 CD review
|Ectophiles Guide, CD review
"Crack it Open"
|The Songs of 9/11. 9/8/2002|
|Daily Hampshire Gazette 6/2002|
|Rambles (online review), 6/2001|
|Community Newspapers, 5/2001|
|"Review" Music Direct, 2000|
|The Boston Globe 3/30/2000|
|Songwriter's Monthly 3/2000|
|Rhythm and News Magazine 6/99|
|Sound Bytes 5/99|
|The Herald (New Britain CT.) 4/30/99|
|The Herald (Glasgow Scotland) 3/26/99|
|The Scotsman (Scotland's national newspaper) 4/1/99|
|The South London Press 4/9/99|
|Acoustic Cafe (London) 4/99|
Moon Over 97th Street
By Jennifer Layton
Pay attention to what you say if you happen to be hanging out in New York and find yourself interacting with Ina May Wool. You could be in the grocery store asking her if she wants paper or plastic, and she'll probably write a song about it. And it will be lovely. If her next CD is called "Songs About Sitting in the Waiting Area at H&R Block," I'll buy it. She discovers the mystery and meaning in a loaf of bread and a jug of wine, small gestures, a layer of ice, and lying awake at night.
Most of the songs from this acoustic performer are sad, but they never fall into hopelessness or misery. My favorite track is the wistful, quiet title track, a moonlight prayer for someone to love. Her voice floats sweetly, loneliness in the notes. But she's not so desperate that she has lost her spirit or humor. "It wouldn't hurt if he had a little red sports car.... And please - a little personal dignity. Maybe he might know a few jokes." What adds romance to this song is knowing that her prayer has been answered - her husband, Daniel A. Weiss, produced this CD. (He is the associate conductor of the hit Broadway musical "Rent.")
Her songs celebrate life through all the dark times. The instruments include the mandolin, accordion, harmonica and violin, which often give the songs a fairy tale feel. Combined with the sweet sultriness of Wool's voice, they become rays of sunlight breaking through the sad stories, illuminating the hope behind situations like the falling-apart marriage in "J'ai Gagn*" and the reflections of "Down on Tenth Street." ("Tenth Street" shakes the listener with the memory of a crying woman "out on the street, getting into a taxi, tears running down through streaks of mascara." In the present, she has washed up on shore in a bar on Tenth Street to reflect. This song perfectly captures the evening.)
simple images and emotions are universal, and Wool is finding an
audience all over the world. Besides clubs in her own NYC back yard,
she's toured the U.K. and performed in festivals in Scotland. If you
can't catch up with her, just get this CD and let it cast a spell. This
one stayed with me for a long time.
Moon Over 97th Street
(Bang Zoom, 1999)
Just when I expected another boring New York City singer-songwriter with the same ethereal voice and the same soft-spoken songs about the same old thing, along came Ina May Wool. She has a bit of a growl to her voice, earnest and varied songs, and an almost country feel to her music.
"Down on Tenth Street" is a portrait song about a young woman who has thrown her life away on the streets of New York City. Wool puts an original spin on the concept of girl power in "J'ai Gagne (I Won)," which follows a woman through a life of relationships and decisions. The jubilation gives way to melancholy in "Janis," an ode to Janis Joplin that really captures the tortured existence that ended in tragedy.
"Hotwired & Hungry" is an ode to young love in the city, a beautiful song about foolishness and looking back on teenage lust, on that one person you'll never forget. Wool switches gears for "Don't Wanna Wait," very contemporary pop, upbeat and happy. Wool sings her own background vocals, adding several layers of expression.
Her voice turns gentle and fragile in "Leopard," accepting that two very different people can choose to lay aside differences and love each other: "And I am I am I as I can be / And you are you straight through / And the sum of the parts / Can be difficult some of the time." It is a beautiful song that begs for understanding. Wool has a slightly different perspective on relationships and why they continue in "January Thaw" -- she sings about arguments and making up with a smile in her voice.
The record closes with "Tenth Street Farewell," a jaunty instrumental interpretation of "Down on Tenth Street" that brings to mind a sidewalk caf* in Paris. The upbeat musical ending to the record leaves the listener with an impression of positive energy -- even though many of the songs on Moon Over 97th Street deal with melancholy themes and tragedy.
Moon Over 97th Street is a very strong folk-pop recording -- Wool's quirky observations and sweet voice should serve her well in the coming years.
[ by Rachel Jagt ]
(North Shore, Boston)
May 25, 2001
Wool steam ahead
By David Rattigan
May Wool says, the tale of rebellious youth is a true one. Her mother
had friends over, and asked her teenager to come down and play a song
on guitar. Mom, the artist B. (Beatrice) Wool, favored pop songs.
Instead, her daughter dutifully came downstairs and played a tune about
a girl who commits suicide because her mother won't let her date the
boy of her choice.
probably wanted me to play a happy song," Wool says, slipping into a
tiny. ironic smile. "Not a murder ballad."
Those were the days when Wool would take a song from a record she liked and rewrite it by changing the chords, the words and the melody. She'd play it for her guitar teacher. who'd look at her with a mixture of dubiousness, detachment and a hint of humor, and ask where it was from.
"It was on
Sometimes, it takes a while for a person to find her voice. For Ina May Wool, it took a move from Marblehead to New York City, and a move away from singing her own songs, and more than a few years before she achieved that aim. Her current success. while not precisely a rebirth, has put her in a place where she wants to be.
beginning of it," she says. "The beginning of the artistic path that I
want to follow."
Wool has a pretty, open face, and disarming charm. Her voice, which has drawn comparison to Shawn Colvin, can be sad and pleasant and passionate. Dirty Linen's Mitch Ritter writes, "Wool sings so close to the emotional waterfall that she compels undivided attention. Whether her nervy alto will go over the edge becomes the stuff of high drama. Wool's dedication to the song . ... . has resulted in a debut of such focused intimacy that it will stun listeners well into the coming millennium."
Songwriter's Monthly writes, "Ina May writes the kind of music that can carry you away."
on the North Shore most recently on May 13, opening for Richard
Thompson at a concert in Newburyport. She appears on Monday afternoon
at Club Passim in Cam-bridge, playing in the round with other emerging
artists as part of the weekend-long "Cutting Edge of the Campfire."
She's back at Club Passim. which is in Harvard Square, next week (June
2), opening for Garnet Rogers.
particular night, Wool is in Manhattan, at a Starbuck's on the Upper
West Side, not far from the apartment that Wool shares with husband
Daniel A. Weiss, the associate conductor and assistant musical director
for the Broadway play "Rent." This is a neighborhood well suited to
musicians. The walls in the old buildings are thick, and many of the
places are rent controlled. It is one of those New York neighborhoods
that has become more romantic as it has be-come more safe. "It was
still kind of rough when I moved in," she says.
also the home base for the creation of her CD, "Moon Over 97th Street,"
written and produced in conjunction with Weiss, which has won critics'
praise since its release in 1999. She and Weiss are working on another,
which may be completed by January 2002.
who is returning to perform in Massachusetts is a more mature,
developed artist than the one who gained re-gional fame and acclaim
during the 1970s, when New Eng-land had a vibrant acoustic scene. Back
then, promoter Dave McLaughlin recalls, she was one of the likely
candidates from the Boston music scene to go national, and there'd be
"excite-ment" when she'd come to gig at a town. He is exceedingly
pleased with her return.
music) caught the essence of who she is even for a lot of us who hadn't
seen her in 20 years," says McLaughlin, for-merly from Newburyport. "A
lot of talented people (from those years) gave up music, but she's
re-emerged, almost like a Phoenix."
Scotsman, Scotland's national newspaper, notes that "the secret of her
work's sophistication lies in a long and hard-working gestation period,
dating all the way back to Wool's childhood years when she used to sing
Broadway tunes from the back seat of the car on family outings." She
was playing out before she left elementary school; a note on an
envelope she kept chronicles the fact that a Boy Scout troop once paid
her for a performance: $10.
teenager, Wool's no-nonsense guitar teacher was named George Walkey. He
drove a red, sporty car and played in Lynn jazz combos. Once, he didn't
show up as scheduled to teach a neighborhood kid, and she asked. "Mr.
Walkey, where were you?" The reply: "Sometimes, if people don't
practice, I just kind of forget about them." When a pupil put in the
re-quired effort in practice, he'd give an assuring, "You done good."
parents may have started her on show tunes -- she sang with her sisters
and parents -- and their preference may have run to pop, but they had
broad musical tastes. They, and she, listened to Dinah Washington and
Ella Fitzgerald. and a lot of folk. They brought her to see Pete Seeger
in concert, and her dad predicted they'd some day see her on "Johnny
from a family collection depicts Wool at age 7, dressed in a pink full
skirt with a bow in back ("It's in black-and-white, but I remember the
dress"), arms outstretched. The photo is taken from behind Wool, who is
playing to an audience of family members who sit on folding chairs on
the lawn in the backyard of her Aunt Lilly's house. This was in the era
"after World War II and before Madonna," she says. She doesn't want to
lie about her age. but doesn't want to get into it, either. As Cyndi
Lauper once said, she's not a used car.
came to New York, people assumed I was younger," she says, "so I sort
of went with it."
time, Wool had played gigs in New England as a soloist and with her
band (a guitarist was Gloucester's David Brown, best known as a Billy
Joel sideman). The band did a few demos and got a little airplay.
People familiar with the scene from those days often tell her they're
certain she had a record back then, but there was never a deal. When
the hand broke up and the manager moved to New York City, Wool decided
to go too. "I wanted to learn more about music," she says. I'd worked a
lot, but I wanted to learn more and expand my horizons."
York, she found a scene that was different, but in ways enriching. "I'd
made my living with music, and could-n't do that around here," she
says. "In New England, you can play bars and colleges and it's cheaper
to live. Here, every time you'd play out it was a showcase. There
wasn't that kind of freewheeling atmosphere."
with the manager, took some lessons, sang on commercials, and did
backing vocals for other people's music. She and Dan met while
performing in a pickup gig at a party.
long time I was a background singer, and sang jin-gles. Eventually I
sang on a demo of another songwriter's song. It was a good song, and I
connected with it. He played it for a record executive from Belgium,
who said, "I'd like to sign her to a deal."
complication, however, was that Wool hadn't been writing, and if she
was going to record, she didn't want to record other people's music.
She signed the deal, and went to work. Several years later, she
completed the recording, but, when the relationship with the Belgian
interest broke down, wound up buying back the CD and releasing it
independent-ly. In the
five to six years prior to that, however, she was creating.
started collaborating with people. and it turned out collaborating with
my husband is what worked out the best," says Wool, who was co-writing
with him before 1996. when "Rent" made its debut and went quickly to
Broadway. Dan (the Daniel A. is a professional name; there are a couple
of Dan Weisses in the music world) has been with the play from the
start. and its success provided the couple with some financial
stability. It also left Wool with some free time to spend at open mikes.
only co-wrote and played on the CD, but also produced it. He is pleased
with the sound. "I think it's great," he says. "And her best music is
yet to come. The next one will be even better."
point before this, in earlier days of their marriage when Ina May was
basically singing other artists' music, Dan made a discovery. He is
more nocturnal than she is. One night when she was asleep he was
rooting around in some old tapes and found some of her old work.
really surprised," says Dan. "I'd heard a couple of her more recent
songs, which I liked, but they were very dif-ferent from the older
stuff I found. The new songs were trendy, but the old stuff seemed very
heartfelt, more from the inside. I definitely liked the older stuff
better. It seemed like very honest writing."
that the old songs may eventually see the light of day, but there were
no older tunes on "Moon Over 97th Street."
time we got to the point where we were writing together, we felt we
were doing better work," says Dan, who nonetheless expects some old
stuff to end up on a future CD.
"I listened to some of those tapes recently," she says, sound-ing like someone who just looked up their high school year-book photo. "It was kind of painful. The singing was not so great. although there was a lot of energy, a lot of good spirit."
the old days, her band frequently played spots like The Paradise in
Boston, Club Passim, The Grog in Newburyport, the Old Port Tavern in
Portland. To promote the CD, and this phase of her life, she's planning
to do more gigs in New Eng-land and elsewhere in the Northeast.
the recent gig in Newburyport, "was like being in my old stomping
grounds," she says. "People were whooping and hollering. I think
Richard (Thomspson) really enjoyed it They were asking him to play
"Freebird." He made a joke out of it."
Reflecting on where her own career might take her, she notes that
Thompson has had a stellar career without benefit of a hit record; he's
still managed to create a body of work that is much admired.
97th Street" has gotten airplay among stations that play acoustic work,
with several cuts selected. None has been what she'd consider a "hit."
considers the future for awhile, and says, "I always wanted to be an
artist. I'd rather be an artist than be a star."
Moon over 97th Street, on BangZoom Records, is sold at Newbury Comics and over the Internet. Check out inamaywool.com.
Crowded with brides/crowded with grooms
I was a witness for my friend/and when we walked out again
his back/she caught my eye
She raised her arms up to the sky
No, this one would not slip away
He didn't hear these words she said
said j'ai gagne, j'ai gagne, oh IIIIIII
Jai gagne, j'ai gagne
I won I won I won I won I won
Hotter than August/shorter than June
They were living large in love and war
Look at the good times roll out the door
C'est la vie/the old folks say
But as I watched her hair turn gray
She laughed/she cried/she drank champagne
She hung on through that hurricane
She said j'ai gagne....
there a moral to this song?
Yeah whether things go right or wrong
Do what you must/oh just feel free
Go ahead, claim victory
Broken bottles/sweet bitter nights
Other women on the phone/where's her prize?
He's never home
But as we changed the locks that day
I wondered if she'd be ok
Until she told me what her mother said
You lose one man -- you find ten
She said j'ai gagne...
is based on the experiences of one of Wool's friends, who got married
at City Hall in New York and actually spoke those words and made the
arms-up gesture to Wool behind the groom's back as they left the
ceremony. The friend's marriage soured, but the woman maintained her
optimistic resilience throughout.
bit of advice, also an old French expression (un perdu, dix retrouve),
is advice the friend once gave Ina May after one of her own failed
"People come up and tell me, "I just went through a divorce. I listen to your song all the time," Wool says. In one case, after a gig in New Jersey, a woman told her of a friend in Georgia who'd lost her husband to Internet sex. "She couldn't listen to the radio because it made her cry," Wool says. "So she'd go into her car and listen to my CD. That people can listen to this and feel better makes me feel really good."
Today, low-cost digital technology makes it possible for individual
artists to become their own labels. These two recordings are
outstanding examples of what is right with the digital revolution.
Dave Carter of Portland, Ore., and Ina May Wool of New York City are unconventional enough that neither might have landed a major label deal. Carter leaps across acoustic genres with a laconic drawl and poetic lyrics. The song, "Don't Tread on Me" rocks, rhymes, and yips its way into the listener's attention, while Carter displays his romatic side on "Annie's Lover." In an age full of echoes, Carter and Tracy Grammer sound distinctive and real. Former Marblehead resident Ina May Wool's "Moon Over 97th Street" is a fully produced, pop-sounding CD showcasing Wool's breathy vocals and edgy, urban lyrics. The wistful title song pleads for true love in a modern way: "I need a guy with an attitude." Wool sounds a bit like Shawn Colvin, writes excellent songs, and sings with passion. These artists may sign label deals (Carter and Grammer have a new album, "Tanglewood Tree," on Massachusetts-based Signature Sounds), but that won't diminish the energy and charm of the independent efforts that got them there. Wool is at Club Passim on Monday and Wednesday. - DAVID W. JOHNSON
Ina May writes the kind of music that can carry you away. The songs are
little fragments of poetic geography. Her voice resonates magically
through the air luring you ever closer with it's appeal. There's
nothing to fear, follow the sound of her voice and enjoy. Scrumptious.
RHYTHM AND NEWS MAGAZINE
by Lisa Fairbanks
With a crystal-clear voice and worldly story telling abilities, Ina May Wool brings all this to the table on her debut CD, "Moon Over 97th Street". One of the most complete and enjoyable releases I've reviewed in a while, "Moon" is well-crafted folk mixed neatly with strong pop sensibilities.
Touches of up-beat Celtic instrumentation lace the fun "J'ai Gagné (I won)". Other standouts include "Down on Tenth Street" and (my favorite) the country-influenced "Janis".
stranger to live performances, Wool has shared bills all over the
world. A recent May appearance at One Station Plaza in Peekskill
paved the way for her June 29th gig at the Living Room (84
Stanton St., New York, 212-533-7235). For more information, visit her
website at www.inamaywool.com.
by Bob MacKenzie
Moon Over 97th Street
I try very hard to provide balanced reviews, reviews which point out the positive but also suggest areas where improvement may be possible. For a couple of reasons, it may not be possible to write such a review of Ina May Wool's new release. For one thing, "Moon Over 97th Street" is just too good. For another, her work defies classification, so it is difficult to find models against which to compare it. This is a very impressive debut album by an artist who is sure to stand the test of time.
Ina May Wool seems a study in contrasts. For me, her old-fashioned name conjures up a woman of my grandmother's generation, but her promotional package features a photo of a very beautiful young woman looking very Leona Boyd, her charisma shining through even in black and white. Her music is like that too: never quite what one expects yet always beautiful and expressive.
If comparisons were possible, I would compare this release to French popular music of the Forties and Fifties, especially the songs of Edith Piaf. These songs are theatre, stories told to music. Yet this is clearly American music.
Wool's lyrics and the emotion evident in her vocal expression bring these songs to life. Wool not only sings but feels her lyrics. As much as singing, this is powerful acting, story telling at its best.
Wool's lyrics are tightly written and poetic, yet mostly they manage to maintain a colloquial, conversational feel that gives the sense of a story being told casually. These are lyrics that can easily stand on their own as poems.
It seems impossible to choose a "best" song from this release. If pressed, I might choose Wool's sensitive tribute to Janis Joplin, followed closely by "Dark Star" or "Don't Wanna Wait" followed by whichever song I had heard most recently.
Anyone who enjoys owning the recordings a star made before becoming a star will not be disappointed by owning this very classy release.
That's about as balanced as I can get in this case. Ina May Wool is just too good.
interested in learning more about Ina May Wool can check out her home
on the internet.
Folk & World Music
#82 - June/July ë99
INA MAY WOOL
Moon Over 97th Street
Bang Zoom 101 (1999)
From the romantic accordion swirling around a caressed acoustic guitar on the opening ìElephant Learning to Dance,î clear through to the faux scratchy surface noise that continues after the closing instrumental, ìTenth Street Farewell,î lending it the feel of a vintage vinyl LP, Moon Over 97th Street plays like a scrupulously conceived fin de siecle classic. Wool and her production partner, Daniel Weiss, have cabled together urban strands of anxiety, torpor, ambition, exhiliration, rapture slaking into rutted despair, and malaise. What emerges is a song cycle seen through eyes viewing the post-modern world, and struggling to see it through the eyes of her significant other. ìDevil You Donítî carries the refrain ìI canít compete/with your idea of meî and that theme artfully recurs throughout this exploration of how couples can be ìPlaying both ends/Against the middle/But there is no middle/When the center wonít hold.î
so close to the emotional waterfall that she compels undivided
attention. Whether her nervy alto will go over the edge becomes
the stuff of high drama. Woolís dedication to the song, as
manifest in her years working on her craft at Jack Hardyís
weekly songwriting circles in Greenwich Village, coupled with
Weissí studio expertise and musical skills, has resulted in a
debut of such focused intimacy that it will stun listeners well into
the coming millennium.
-- Mitch Ritter (Concord, CA)
Ina May Wool isnít a beginner, though this is her first solo venture. She began singing as a kid back home in Marblehead, Mass. Now sheís a dyed-in-the-you-know-what New Yorker, and she delivers music that contains a world of experience. Wool has a strong, beautiful, evocative voice. Not a classic ìfolkî voice, (but what is a classic ìfolkî voice?), itís not surprising to hear that aside from her solo singer-songwriter career, Wool has done some commercial work, some stage work and a touch of rock and roll. Just as good as her engaging voice are the songs she and husband Daniel Weiss have co-written. Whether sheís singing about wasted lives (ìDown On Tenth Streetî), transforming love (ìElephant Learning to Danceî), the kind of anger that fuels passion (ìJanuary Thawî) or the odd celebration of a spent relationship (ìJíai Gagneî), Wool threads the needle, stitches the details and embroiders a fine portrait of life at its most complex. Produced with a full band, this is the kind of album that is indistinguishable from the hits of lucky folks like Sheryl Crow, whose only distinction is to have a few hundred thousand in promotional bucks behind them. This is a fine album from an artist who deserves to be noticed.
Ed McKeon hosts a folk and roots program each Wednesday morning from 6-9 am on WWUH, 91.3FM.
PULL WOOL OVER YOUR EARS-Rob Adams awaits the arrival of a New York singer and her navel gazing-free lyrics. One spin-off of Celtic Connectionsí success which might be seen as negative is that, coming straight after new year and with its whoís who of artists, the big city folk festivals which follow can hardly avoid walking in its shadow. Look through the programmes for Aprilís Shoots & Roots weekend in Edinburgh and the Aberdeen Lemon Treeís Rootiní Aboot bash and youíll find a fair number of singers and groups whom habitual festival-goers will already have seen in January.
While both festivals have to concede that Celtic Connections beat them to, say, Beginish (and well worth seeing again this Irish group are, too), they can also say that Celtic Connections didnít have Ina May Wool.
This New York-based singer-songwriter may not mean much to Scottish audiences yet but, Shoots & Roots artistic director Dave Francis is convinced of Woolís ability to seduce his audience with her refreshingly navel gazing-free lyrics.
Woolís first CD, Moon Over 97th Street, would seem to bear Francis out. It is eminently playable. Juxtaposing the sophisticated balladry of the title track with the cajunish stomp of Jíai Gagne, a celebration for a friend ìwinningî a divorce, it covers a wide range of styles which Woolís voice unifies with big-time assurance. Although it didnít meet with her motherís approval as a career move, singing was all Wool ever wanted to so as she grew up in Marblehead Massachusetts. A precocious child, she would compose and sing operettas in the back seat of the car, driving her sisters nuts.
At the age of eight she wrote, directed, and sang the leading role in a school musical about Christopher Columbus (good early experience for the off-Broadway productions she starred in much later) and she played her first paying gig, to the local boy scout troop, at 12.
When she left school and told her mother she was going to be a singer, mom broke down in tears. She cried, ìOh God, no, not like Janis Joplin!í "I didnít get the connection at all. I didnít sound anything like Janis Joplin, but I read about her and listened to her records and grew sympathetic to her whole story".
Momís fears unwittingly turned into inspiration, as the song Janis on Woolís CD confirms, although the tribute is purely in the words; powerful though her voice can be, Wool still doesnít sound, nor does she try to sound, like Joplin.
Wool writes with her husband, guitarist and record producer Daniel Weiss, who will be accompanying her in Edinburgh and Aberdeen. ìSometimes the songs just pop out, other times weíll work for ages on the arrangement. The words are mostly true, a combination of observation and personal experiences, either my own or friendsí. I like to tell the audience a story.î
Wool plays the Pleasance Theatre, Edinburgh, on April 1 (7:30 pm), the
Pleasance Cabaret Bar, Edinburgh, on April 4 (3:30 pm), and the Lemon
Tree on April 5, (1pm).
SCOTLANDíS NATIONAL NEWSPAPER
PROFILE...INA MAY WOOL
Shoots from the hip
Thereís a distinctly rejuvenated look to this yearís Shoots & Roots, the event formerly known as the Edinburgh Folk Festival. The opening Easter weekend sees it newly re-housed in the Pleasance in Edinburgh, with the springtime emphasis, as envisaged, firmly on the ìShootsî half of its title. This spells good news for the younger generation of artists who are driving the current folk revival, and will also give a platform to the fusion-oriented sounds which have come to the fore during the Nineties.
Visiting acts such as the recently reshuffled Old Blind Dogs, the superb guitar/accordion duo of Ian Carr and Karen Tweed and Breton bass maestro Alain Genty, join a strong line-up of locally based talent, including saxophonist Dick Leeís latest exercise in eclecticism, the five-piece Bag OíCats, guitarist Tony McManus and top traditional tunesmiths, Keep It Up. Thereís also a late-night club, hosted by musician-in-residence Simon Thoumire, and plenty of semi-formal sessions to sit in on over a pint.
Among this yearís overseas guests is a young American singer-songwriter, Ina May Wool, who has been winning rave reviews for her debut album, Moon Over 97th Street, as well as numerous songwriting accolades back on her native shores. In a world which is heavily overpopulated with Joni Mitchell or Joan Baez wannabes, Woolís writing and delivery immediately stand out for their combination of finely honed quality and assured stylistic range, encompassing elements of folk, rock, country, jazz and soul.
The secret of her workís sophistication lies in a long and hardworking gestation period, dating all the way back to Woolís childhood years when she used to sing Broadway tunes from the back seat of the car on family outings. She began performing solo while in her teens , going on to form her own band before moving to New York to pursue a more systematic musical education, both by studying music theory and guitar and by acquiring a wealth of jobbing experience -- singing backing vocals, advertising jingles and soundtracks.
ìWhen I was playing in my band, I was writing the songs, but was very reliant on the others for arrangements and so on. I didnít have any concept of things like where the bar lines were or how to put anything together, and I very much wanted to be a real musician who could play with all sorts of different people,î she explains.
ìHaving gone off and done that for a while, the last few years Iíve been kind of rediscovering my voice as a solo performer, and I feel itís much stronger for the process Iíve gone through. I didnít have any clear sense during that time of what I was looking for or aiming at, which made it hard, but whatever it is, I do feel Iím getting closer to it -- itís sort of like chipping away at marble; the shape is starting to come through.î
on the folk influence which is undeniably present in her work, Wool says
she was initially drawn to the use of traditional songs as a form of teenage rebellion. ìMy mom used to ask me to come out and sing for their friends when we had a party, so Iíd pick up the guitar and sing about someone killing herself because her parents wouldnít let her see the boy she wanted to, ì she says.
to how important a part that side of the music plays for me now,
itís kind of hard to comment on because it al l goes into the
stew together, all the different things I like listening
to. They just have a lot of resonance, those old songs -- which
is why theyíre still here.î
South London Press
Friday April 9th,1999
Moon Over 97th Street
by Susan Cane
Acoustic Cafe, London
9th, April 1999
Over the past few years the Internet has led me to a lot more music than I'd ever guessed it would or could do. Tonight was the perfect example of this, because without the Internet there's no way I'd have been at the Acoustic Cafe...
A couple of months before the show I had never even heard of Ina May Wool, let alone listened to any of her music. Then I happened to read a couple of her postings to an e-mail music discussion group - and of all things I was intrigued by her name!
So out of curiosity, a few days later I had a look at her website. There I foundout that she was based in New York, and what I read - about comparisons to people like Emmylou Harris, Carly Simon and Bonnie Raitt, about being described as "a contemporary Jane Austen" and about her connection with Jack Hardy's Fast Folk organisation - convinced me that I ought to hear the music for myself.
Usually when I buy a CD without having heard any of the artist's music, it's because it's been recommended to me by a friend or I've read a review published somewhere (my computer isn't the best, for downloading samples). This time I just sensed that this was something I would like - and that I should get on and hear the music without waiting for somebody else to point me in that direction.
So I contacted Ina May to ask how I could get hold of a copy of her CD, MOON OVER 97TH STREET. She told me what I needed to know and also that she was going to be playing some dates in London. I said that I would try to get to one. It then occurred to me that perhaps I shouldn't have made that decision before finding out whether I liked the music - but I told myself that if I hated the CD, I could just stay at home!
Luckily, when the CD arrived, I really liked what I heard. A real mixture of styles and influences, from gentle vocals on the quiet ballads to spirited, 'rockier'tracks... some blues... some jazz... A variety of backing instruments too, from the simple guitars and keyboard on Hotwired & Hungry, to the fuller sound on J'ai Gagné, which includes drums, bass, accordion and violin.
I was already beginning to favour the Acoustic Cafe, when a friend announced that the Paradise Bar sounded "like a massage parlour". It was only a joke, but I went for the Acoustic Cafe anyway! The Paradise Bar might be a great place, for all I know, but I didn't get to experience it for myself this time...
I'd never been to the Acoustic Cafe either, but its central location (just off Charing Cross Road) made me think that even somebody like me, who has no trouble getting lost a mile from home, ought to be able to find it without too much difficulty - and yes, the venue was very easy to find.
When I first arrived there I wondered how I'd gone so long without knowing of its existence, as I must have walked right past it at least a few times. Posters and flyers advertising forthcoming bands are stuck to its big glass windows. Inside, at the front, there are a few small tables and some chairs. A corridor leads past thebar to the wider, darker room where the musicians play. The low stage spans the back wall and that wall is covered with huge mirror panels, which also extend along parts of the side walls. The mirrors, along with a big glass sky light, stop the room from feeling quite so cramped and dark (as long as it's light outside, of course!).
Having found the venue and gone inside, it didn't take me long to realise that I was ridiculously early - even by my standards. It was ten or so minutes before 7pm and the place was completely empty, apart from a few members of staff who were gathered around the bar, chatting.
I asked one of them about paying and he said that nothing would be happening until about 9.15, so somebody would take my money later... and was I really planning to stay until then? I knew I was only going to hear one set, but I was looking forward to it and I didn't want to miss it.
I'd assumed that arriving soon after opening time was the only way to guarantee being able to get in. Hmm, I don't think it's that sort of place, after all! So I bought a Coke and went to sit in a quiet corner, to work out what I was going to do next...
A few minutes later the door opened and I looked up to see that Ina May Wool and her husband, Daniel A. Weiss, had arrived. I recognised them from the pictures inthe CD booklet and on her website, but the guitars and other equipment they were carrying were give aways too!
So when they went to the room at the back to do their sound check, I spent a couple of minutes plucking up the courage to go and introduce myself (something I'm terrible at doing, for some reason). It seems that even at the smallest venues it's not usually possible to get anywhere near a sound check, unless you stand with your ear pressed against a locked door or listen to muffled sounds coming from another room. So for whatever reason - perhaps because it's an aspect of live music that I don't often get the chance to see - I was really glad that I was there for those few minutes of testing.
Asked if there were any songs I particularly wanted to hear, my mind immediately went blank and I couldn't remember any of the titles. So I had to resort to describing my favourites: "the one about the divorce" (J'ai Gagné, which was already on the set list) and "the last but one track - the one before the instrumental" (January Thaw, not on the list, but later included in place of something else).
Soon the soundcheck was over and then there were a couple of hours to kill before the gig actually started. So the three of us ended up in a little cafe nearby, having a long chat. Wandering the streets of Soho later in the evening, I proved myself to be completely hopeless as a tour-guide. There's nothing surprising about that, though... Looking in the windows of all the music shops (I 'd never noticed quite how many of them there are), we passed Andy's Guitars. On display was a guitar labelled 'EX WILLIE NELSON'S COUSIN!', then added underneath, in pencil' MAYBE'. (A few days later I told this story to a colleague. He roared with laughter then stopped suddenly and asked "Who's Willie Nelson, anyway?")
Back at the Acoustic Cafe shortly before 9pm, people had started to arrive. Some of them sat or stood in the bar area, while some were in the other room looking as if they were waiting for something to happen. This was just a small crowd, but they looked like they were going to listen. One man had come to the Acoustic Cafe to see the duo after meeting them at the 12 Bar Club a few days earlier. On that occasion he'd had to leave before their late-night set eventually began, so this evening he was making another attempt to hear them play. I found myself a good place to stand and balanced my camera and other bits and pieces precariously on a stool.
Just before 9.30pm things finally got going. The stage itself was filled with all the equipment belonging to Hundred Dollar Funeral (the band who were going to be playing later in the evening), so microphones for Ina May Wool and Daniel A. Weiss had been arranged on the floor, just in front of the stage. In front of a sparse (but attentive, as far as I could tell!) crowd, they introduced themselves and began their ninth gig in nine days. Most of the songs were from MOON OVER 97TH STREET, with a couple of unfamiliar ones included too.
So though I knew most of the songs, this was the first time I'd heard live versions of any of them. Ina May Wool sang lead vocals and played acoustic guitar and Daniel A. Weiss (who usually plays in a Broadway show) sang backing vocals and played electric guitar. You Said, one of the new songs - new to me, anyway - was introduced as a song about "hanging about with sleazy musicians on the streets of New York, which is something I know a little bit about".
Janis is another song that I would have asked for, if I'd remembered. As it turned out I got to hear it anyway, so it didn't really matter. Ina May said that the song was inspired by a conversation she had with her mother. Around the time she finished school she had told her mother that she wanted to make her career in music and songwriting. Her mother burst into tears, she said, and was only able to utter two words: "Janis Joplin!" The closest I've ever come to Janis Joplin was seeing a big photograph of her displayed on the wall behind the stage, at Threadgill's in Austin, Texas - but somehow the song makes me feel that I know the person a little bit better:
"Little eyes and hair gone crazyJust before Dark Star there was a call for the drummer from Hundred Dollar Funeral to come and fix the snare, which was making some interesting noises of its own. That sorted, the set continued without the extra percussion.
It was groovy -- beautiful
Her light was bright but hazy
Purple hazy if you will
But the fog it does obscure things
And it's some things you just need
Keep on getting wounded
Eventually you bleed"
January Thaw is possibly my favourite track from MOON OVER 97TH STREET and I was especially glad to hear it live. Probably the saddest song on the CD and also the saddest one of the night - partly because of the lyrics and partly because of the 'subdued' way it's sung. It's one of those songs that I love without really being able to explain why.
A song about divorce wouldn't usually strike me as the best way to end a set (I always prefer it when the last song I hear is a happy one, rather than a sad one!), but J'ai Gagné is probably the happiest divorce song you're ever likely to hear. With lyrics like:
"But as we changed the locks that dayYou just know that the subject of the song (a friend who comes from France, we were told) will manage, somehow!
I wondered if she'd be OK
Until she told me what her mother said
You lose one man -- you find ten"
OK, so this wasn't the Albert Hall - but given the choice I'd always pick a little place like this rather than a huge theatre or concert hall. I don't suppose anybody playing the Albert Hall is ever likely to be so friendly or ask me which songs I want to hear, either...
I think it was after 11pm before the Acoustic Cafe became really full. By the time I left, somewhere around midnight, Hundred Dollar Funeral had just finished their second set and the place was jam-packed with people who looked like they were only just starting their night out.
As for Hundred Dollar Funeral themselves (a British trio consisting of a lead singer/guitarist in his late teens, a bass player who appeared to be maybe in his fifties and a drummer who was somewhere in-between), their sort of music isn't really my sort of music - so I'm not the best person to reflect on what I heard! Their brand of rock/blues seemed to be going down very well with the rest of the crowd, though.
So was it worth the journey to London and the overnight stay, to hear one 45-minute set? Definitely. Of course I would have liked to hear more than that, but maybe I'll get that chance another time. With any luck this string of sets in small venues, plus a couple of radio appearances, will have created a bit of UK interest in Ina May Wool's music. (Oh, and nobody ever did ask me for any money...)
Set list: Down On Tenth Street, You Said, Janis, Taxi Driver, Elephant Learning To Dance, Dark Star, January Thaw, Devil You Don't, J'ai Gagné (I Won)
Ina May Wool, "When Tears Come Down" 6/02
By Larry Parnass in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, Northampton, Massachusetts
This five-song EP, which
Ina May Wool is selling only at her shows, contains a song called
"Boxcutters and Knives." If that first tool doesn't set you to thinking
about the terrorist attacks in New York, Wool's home base, other early
lines in the somber song will: "Hatred and flight instruction/A chance
to die for something/I heard it on the news/This is what they used."
For a singer/songwriter,
even one as adventurous and resourceful as Wool, it's a difficult
subject. She sets these lyrics against a moody background that stops
and starts, conveying both numbness and shock. It's an affecting song
that probes and yet remains ambiguous, either because too much has been
said about what happened or not enough can, especially in a song.
Listeners understandably look for what such a song will say - and on
this score, Wool isn't very specific.
She's true to her music, though. Wool, who has visited Northampton before, is gaining recognition as an original voice in her brand of atmospheric and artfully rendered folk. Suzanne Vega included Wool's song about Sept. 11 on the CD "Vigil," a project that features Christine Lavin, Jack Hardy, Vega and other members of the New York Songwriters' Exchange.
From anger to grief to healing: The songs of 9/11
Sunday, September 08, 2002
JAY LUSTIG, Star-Ledger Staff
The Greenwich Village
Songwriter's Exchange is a group of New York-based singer-songwriters
who meet every Monday night to give each other feedback on new songs.
For obvious reasons, there was no meeting on Sept. 17, 2001.
Some members did gather near Ground Zero, though, at the house of group leader Jack Hardy, whose brother Jeff died in the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center. "We drank and listened to music and talked about Jeff, and it was very emotional," says Suzanne Vega, a member of the Exchange. "There was still the smell in the air."
On Sept. 24, there was an actual meeting, and some members shared songs they had already written about 9/11. "I was shocked, because I had assumed that people would need more time," says Vega. Among the songs she heard that night were Tim Robinson's comforting "For Your Heart," and Ina May Wool's "Boxcutters and Knives," which detailed the instruments of terror in a chillingly plainspoken manner: "Boxcutters and knives/Hatred and flight instruction/A chance to die for something/I heard it on the news/This is what they used."
Nittany Lion Cams on PennLive.com
In the following weeks and months, the 9/11 songs kept coming. Outside Manhattan, too, songs flowed, first in a trickle, then in a stream.
From pop superstars to virtually unknown local acts, songwriters of all kinds felt compelled to record some kind of response to 9/11. Surely no single event in history has inspired so many songs in such a brief span of time. And these songs have looked at 9/11 from every conceivable angle.
Some expressed the numbing
effect of shock. Others screamed in anger. Some attempted to make sense
of 9/11, or struggled to transcend it. Some have taken on the noble
task of honoring heroes and victims.
One of the first songs
that was widely heard was Paul McCartney's "Freedom," a rallying cry he
wrote specifically for the "Concert For New York City" benefit that
took place at Madison Square Garden in October. "I will fight for the
right to live in freedom," he vowed, in the song's chorus.
"It was mainly to give 'em
somewhere to put their emotions, after Sept. 11," he told the
Star-Ledger in April. "That was what appealed to me, the idea that
people could join me in emoting about that event. So it had to be
quick, it had to be simple, it had to be very learnable."
Other early songs included
Alan Jackson's homespun "Where Were You (When the World Stopped
Turning" (which asked questions like, "Did you burst out in pride for
the red, white and blue/And the heroes who died just doing what they
do?"), and Neil Young's "Let's Roll." Just two months after he
performed John Lennon's plea for peace, "Imagine" on the Sept. 21
"Tribute To Heroes" telethon," Young took a different stance: "No one
has the answer, but one thing is true, you've got to turn on evil when
it's coming after you," he sang.
More belligerence was to
come from country star Toby Keith, who blustered, in his hit single
"Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)," 'You'll be
sorry that you messed with/The U.S. of A./'Cause we'll put a boot in
your a--/It's the American way." And the Staten Island-based rap group
Wu-Tang Clan made the attack seem like a personal affront in their
song, "Rules." "Who the f--- knocked our buildings down?/Who the man
behind the World Trade massacres -- step up now," rapped Wu-Tang member
Ghostface Killah. "Where the four planes at, huh, is you insane, b----?
Fly that s--- over my hood and get blown to bits!"
In the 9/11-inspired songs
of his July album, "The Rising," Bruce Springsteen expressed anguish
over the unimaginable losses that day brought, and urged listeners to
hang onto their faith. Twelve of the 15 songs were written after 9/11,
and even though some don't refer to 9/11 directly, "the stories all
happen in a post-Sept. 11 context," Springsteen told the Associated
Press. "If you were writing at that point, it's in everything in some
The heavily (and
deservedly) hyped "The Rising" has been one of the year's most
talked-about albums, and a No. 1 hit. But most 9/11 songs have been put
out by small record companies, with little fanfare.
Vega assembled a CD of the
Songwriter's Exchange's 9/11 songs, titled "Vigil," for the New
York-based Conscious Records label. It includes "For Your Heart,"
"Boxcutters and Knives," her own "It Hit Home" and other tracks, and is
raising money for the Jeff Hardy Memorial Fund. "Working on the
project," she says, "made me feel like at least this is a small
contribution, or a small way of creating some kind of order with what
seemed like complete chaos. In a sense, helping to clean up the
Alice Leon of South
Brunswick, whose band, the Alice Project, contributed a song, "11," to
the indie benefit compilation, "Jersey Jams, Jersey Cares," describes
her feelings in a similar way.
"I wasn't there, and I couldn't physically do anything other than stand in line and try to give blood -- and we were turned away (trying to do that)," she says. "So what do I do? I'm a musician, and I figured that if people could relate to what I was feeling, and I could touch other people in the same way, there was some solace in that. Also, I don't have a lot of money, but possibly our contribution could help raise money for people who were devastated."
Kelvin Holly, best known
as Little Richard's guitar player, and his wife, singer-songwriter
Tonya S. Holly, co-produced a 9/11-themed compilation, "One Voice,"
featuring musicians who are based, as they are, in Muscle Shoals, Ala.
It was a conceptualized as a single disc, but grew into a two-CD,
One song, "This Day,"
featured more than 1,000 singers, and had to be recorded in a stadium:
Braley Municipal Stadium at the University of North Alabama in
Florence. Another song, "Children of September," had 25 guitar players.
"It's been a year in the
making," says Tonya Holly of the album, which was released on Tuesday,
and will raise money for two 9/11 charities. "Everybody needed to say
something and do something, and this was the only thing they knew how
to do. All of a sudden, so many songs were coming to us from
As we approach the first
anniversary of 9/11, some songs that challenge prevailing attitudes are
starting to emerge. On Aug. 20, the Olympia, Wash.-based rock trio
Sleater Kinney released an album, "One Beat," that lashed out with
lines like "The president hides/While working men rush in/To give their
lives" and "The good old boys are back on top again/And if we let them
lead us blindly/The past becomes the future once again."
Steve Earle's album
"Jerusalem," due out Sept. 24, will include a song, "John Walker's
Blues," that was written from the imagined point of view of John Walker
Lindh, the American youth who joined the Taliban. While it doesn't
glorify him, it's not totally unsympathetic, either, portraying him as
someone who was searching for a better way of life, and made some bad
"I don't condone what he did," Earle said in the album's notes, which appear on his Web site, www.steveearle.com. "Still, he's a 20-year-old kid. My son Justin is almost exactly Walker's age. Would I be upset if he suddenly turned up fighting for the Islamic Jihad? Sure, absolutely. Fundamentalism, as practiced by the Taliban, is the enemy of real thought, and religion too. But there are circumstances."
Much has been written, and
much will continue to be written, about how 9/11 changed every aspect
of our lives. But in many ways, the world of pop music looks the same.
There is still room for opposing viewpoints. And there is still plenty
It was a great summer for
escapist pop: Nelly's "Hot In Herre," the Irv Gotti/Ja Rule/Ashanti
collaboration "Down 4 U," Sheryl Crow's "Soak Up the Sun." And while a
few segments of MTV's Aug. 29 Video Music Awards -- Springsteen's "The
Rising," Crow's "Safe and Sound," a Rudolph Giuliani speech --
acknowledged 9/11, for the most part, the show was the same parade of
huge egos, short dresses and shallow production numbers it has always
Think back to the solemn,
soulful Sept. 21 "Tribute To Heroes" telethon. For a moment, there was
unity, and dignity, and a sense of purpose in the pop world. It didn't
last. It couldn't last.
Yet we will always have the songs that were written in response to 9/11. And when we hear them, they will help us -- maybe, force us -- to remember.
For information on the "Vigil," "Jersey Jams, Jersey Cares" and "One Voice" CDs, go to the Web sites, www.vigilcd.org , www.jerseyjamsfund.org. and www.blueroomrecords.com.
New York Times, October 16,2005
Directions-Folkies Go Upscale
By Thomas Staudter,
With the closing of the Bottom Line, the
guitar-strumming stalwarts of the singer-songwriter genre may have
thought they had lost their last reliable Manhattan showcase. But as if
calibrated to make the most of all the Bob Dylan news, this season
offers two new stages for folk, one of which is very far in spirit from
that dusty old nightclub.
With the closing of the Bottom Line, the guitar-strumming stalwarts of the singer-songwriter genre may have thought they had lost their last reliable Manhattan showcase. But as if calibrated to make the most of all the Bob Dylan news, this season offers two new stages for folk, one of which is very far in spirit from that dusty old nightclub.Carnegie Hall will initiate "City Folk Live at Zankel," and th`e Chelsea nightclub Satalla will feature "Under the Radar." Both series are developed with one of the genre's strongholds: WFUV (90.7 FM), Fordham University's public radio station. Ara Guzelimian, Carnegie Hall's artistic adviser, said that after Zankel Hall opened in 2003, he decided to broadened the scope of musical offerings. That included folk, which WFUV has supported since the late 1980's. Rita Houston, the station's music director, will be "picking all the artists from a fan's point of view," she said. The season of four concerts starts on Oct. 27 with Suzanne Vega, followed by Richard Shindell and Lucy Kaplansky on Nov. 18, Jane Siberry in March and Dan Bern in April. Ticket sales for "City Folk Live at Zankel" have been strong, Ms. Houston said, and she has already been asked to plan for a 2006-7 season. All of which comes as good news, Ms. Vega said: "It's hard for people without big record deals or large followings to find venues to play at, and Carnegie Hall has that reputation - the association gives a nice luster to the singer-songwriting name." The monthly "Under the Radar" series at Satalla, at 37 West 26th Street, began in September and continues on Nov. 8 with a triple bill featuring two finalists from this year's Mountain Stage NewSong Contest - Ina May Wool and the contest winner, KJ Denhert - and Terence Martin. The series is programmed by John Platt, host of "City Folk Sunday Breakfast." "Often a lot of these artists play at places outside of the city," Mr. Platt said, "but getting a date at a venue like Satalla can be akin to a seal of approval on their careers."
By Jennifer Layton
This is my month. So many of my favorite indies are coming out with new projects. For some of them, it's been way too long between albums. Ina May Wool is one of those indies. The title track from her 1999 release Moon Over 97th Street still makes its way onto my mix tapes. Now, I have Crack it Open, a CD that kicks open the door the first CD cracked open and pours light and color everywhere. Moon was quietly reflective. Crack it Open is joyous, spirited, occasionally playful, and absolutely perfect from first note to last. In case I'm not being clear, I love this CD.Wool's voice has always had a Rickie Lee Jones feel. Here, she sounds like Jones playing a festival on a playground, pausing every now and then for a spin on the carousel or a trip head-first down the slide. There are sad songs here, but Wool's never been one to wallow in the blues. Instead, "When Tears Come Down" takes lyrics about getting burned and sets them to twangy, gutsy, soulful music. I found myself singing along with her, reading along with the lyrics in the liner notes, matching her note for note with no problem (other than the fact that my voice is, in terms of quality, the polar opposite of hers). She maintains a lyrical style that I loved so much on her first album -- her ability to write a song about anything and make it interesting. When she finds herself trying to keep worry and anxiety out of her head, without much success, she writes a deliciously playful song called "Big Black Bear." There is a black bear in my brain
Tribes Hill CD Review
Ina May Wool
Crack it Open Reviewed by Mary Beth Kean
Ina May Wool's new CD "Crack It Open" offers a rich variety of insight, humor, and wisdom both lyrically and musically. It is sure to peak your curiosity and excite your imagination. In her liner notes, Ina may expresses amazement that, when selected, these songs actually had a theme running throughout. She says "All the songs are about rebirth and about surviving with joy intact." This message is clear, witty, inspiring, and emphasized by a wide variety of musical punctuations. Big Black Bear first got my attention. The string arrangement weaving in and out of Ina May's soft whispery voice added a sense of intrigue. I felt like I was listening to a campfire song or a bedtime story. Ina May describes a big black bear messin' up her cabin and pawing her garbage. Is she talking about giving power to things we have no control over ? She goes on humorously suggesting if she gives the bear chocolate candy it seems to calm him down. In Whatever I Had to Do the electric guitar juxtaposed against Ina May's words is as edgy as her message about walls. She sings, "I didn't build it all at once... started when I was small... I did it to survive... I can't take as long tearing it down". In Crack It Open the acoustic guitar and the vocal back up are more soothing as the lyrics explore what may happen as we go through the process of cracking open a bitter reality. "It's a nut, it's a seed with the milk that you need at the core". The mandolin and slide guitar drive the beat of the strong earthy rhythm of the song When Tears Come Down. In this song Ina May asks us what we gain from love. She suggests "You see the sky, you touch the ground... you have your path, your story... you know where to go". Drums again, like a heartbeat, are prominent on Frida, a song about how the artist Frida Kahlo coped with tragedy in her own life. She turns to the power and gift of the loving embrace of the universe. Here We Go reminded me that any creative process requires a plan "First get a car....", and the process can be wrought with obstacles. Ina May reminds us of state troopers and bass players. But she goes on to sing "Then have the time of your life... laughing so hard that you fall on the floor". In the background the Wurlitzer organ accompaniment sent me back to that first car and "the break up of the band". The Wurlitzer also lightens up the song and you can imagine laughing so hard you'll fall down. My favorite song Lucky is a tender and insightful love song. Guitar and piano carry the melody along as Ina May sweetly compares the joy of finding someone very special to the luck of finding magic beans that grow into a beanstalk, or finding a "twenty dollar bill on the road lucky". Lucky, like completely unexpected and without strings. "I got lucky when I found you."
March 30, 2004
I was expecting Country. Perhaps it was the fringed leather coat on the cover. But I'm pleasantly surprised. "Taxi" has sort of a down home country feel to it. But the other songs are different. Especially "Frida". Wool's voice is clear and strong but sweet too. The songs are well written and clever. "Dinosaurs" might be my favorite here. As a whole it's very homey and comfortable reminiscent of Lucinda Williams.
CD review "Crack It Open"
Ina May Wool has made a strong follow-up to her debut. She's got the knack for telling stories with her songs. "Taxi" tells of a struggling taxi driver in New York in an interesting way. "Frida" gives us the life story of Frida Kahlo in a compelling manner. "Big black Bear: tells how to confront fears in a humorous way. Musically it reminds me of Suzanne Vega's intricate folk-pop. The new version of "When Tears Come Down" is just gorgeous. It sounds more country this way and that suits it. "Lucky" is a lovely little song. It's a positive love song, but not an exuberant song, rather it's like a whisper low enough for lovers to hear if they listen closely. I think that shows a lot about Ina May Wool's gift for understatement. This album's a treasure.