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Cirque Du Soleil
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Patricia Barber
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Julius Curcio
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Rising Stars [Issue #8]
Grey De Lisle: Something Old, Something New
By Lynne Bronstein
The Graceful Ghost (CD Sugar Hill)

After several home-grown albums, one might think that Grey De Lisle would gladly go state-of-the-art to record her first Sugar Hill release, The Graceful Ghost. Instead, she’s created a look and sound as traditional as pre-Civil War era America. Everything from the faded golden tones of the album cover and CD label to acoustic instruments and analog equipment is defiantly “old-fashioned.”

“I do love all that stuff,” says De Lisle. “I collect old photographs. I have a lot of pictures of people I don’t even know. I want to rescue all those memories.”

To that end, De Lisle used a book of vintage photography by Julia Margaret Cameron to inspire her small recording crew: producer Marvin Etzioni (who also plays guitar and mandolin on the album), bassist Sheldon Gomberg, and Murry Hammond, who plays guitar, sings, and happens to be Grey’s husband as well as a member of the Old 97’s.

In fact, The Graceful Ghost ’s songs were inspired by the relationship between De Lisle and Hammond. After several years of friendship, they became involved when the Old 97’s came to LA to mix their first album. “We had a long-distance courtship because he still lived in Texas - and you know, Texans love Texas - they never want to leave!” So De Lisle developed a habit of calling Hammond in order to discuss songwriting ideas. The happy result was both a marriage and a collection of songs “that were very old-fashioned and tender and full of longing.”

The album was recorded in the living room of De Lisle’s home, in itself not an unusual recording practice. What was unusual was the use of a single microphone for both instruments and vocals. Inspired by old pictures of the Everly Brothers singing into a single mic (“That’s how they got those beautiful harmonies!”), De Lisle says she told her crew: “Let’s just set up a microphone and Murry you just strum your guitar behind my head.” Other so-old-they’re-radical touches included the use of De Lisle’s 1800s piano (“It’s terribly out of tune - if you tuned it, it would ruin the antiquity . . .”) a recording of a real train whistle from Nacogdoches, and an authentic Civil War love letter that De Lisle reads during “Tell Me True.” (Where did she find the text? “On the Internet!” she laughs).

Other songs include “Black Haired Boy,” a love song for Murry, “Katy Allen,” which deals with a shipwreck, and “The Maple Tree,” a sad tale of war and misunderstanding.

Old photos - the Civil War - a new husband - and even the steamboat on which the couple were married - which happened to be called The Graceful Ghost. What else inspires Grey De Lisle’s songs? She thanks her Pentecostal upbringing (“The music is just incredible”) but admits that songwriting is a mysterious process.

“It’s strange but sometimes I don’t know how I write songs . . . I think it’s like having a dream - and then you wake up and you wish you could get back to it. Sometimes I think it isn’t me writing - it’s just that the song won’t leave me alone.”

Like a ghost?

The Graceful Ghost
Sugar Hill

Something Old, Something New Grey De Lisle The Graceful Ghost

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