Rising Stars [Issue
Grey De Lisle:
Something Old, Something New By
The Graceful Ghost
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,
shes 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 dont even know. I want to rescue all those
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 Greys husband as well as a
member of the Old 97s.
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 97s 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 Lisles 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 (Thats how they got those
beautiful harmonies!), De Lisle says she told her crew: Lets
just set up a microphone and Murry you just strum your guitar behind my head.
Other so-old-theyre-radical touches included the use of De Lisles
1800s piano (Its 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
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 Lisles songs? She thanks her Pentecostal upbringing
(The music is just incredible) but admits that songwriting is a
Its strange but sometimes I dont know how I write songs .
. . I think its like having a dream - and then you wake up and you wish
you could get back to it. Sometimes I think it isnt me writing - its
just that the song wont leave me alone.
Like a ghost?
The Graceful Ghost