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Top Albums & Top Gig - Pete Whalley - Get Ready to ROCK! Best of 2012
Top gig - BLAME SALLY , Falling somewhere between Fleetwood Mac, Sheryl Crow, and The Dixie Chicks, Blame Sally's songs, vocal harmonies, musical dexterity and sheer enthusiasm are enough to restore your faith in rock 'n' roll.
We don’t take on many new bands at the moment but we couldn’t resist working with this crew from San Francisco. They’ve just signed a six figure record deal with 9th Street Opus records, recognition of their magical sound, extraordinary songwriting and fanatical following all across America. They’ve already colonized mainland Europe and now they’re on their way to the UK for the first time with their potent mix of supreme musicality and vibrant stagecraft – oh, and they have a pretty powerful political edge too (watch the video of ‘If You Tell A Lie’). Great stuff.
“Don’t Blame Sally – buy them!.” Americana UK
“Share the Blame, this band are good” Maverick Magazine
“Female quartet Blame Sally are a refreshing bunch and not in a dreary teeny-bopper hyped way. This is a group of experienced, passionate and dedicated musicians making thoughtful and sometimes rather dashing music. The San Francisco-based band share vocal and instrumental duties and have become, over the past decade or more, a tight-knit and almost organically integrated band. I'm still not sure who Sally is - but Praise Sally would be more appropriate for this album.” Daily Telegraph
”Superb. Blame Sally are one of those artists that transcend the ordinary and make music that moves you” Music News
Listen once to Blame Sally’s new album, and you’ll immediately wonder, “where did these guys come from? Here are a few current theories floating around the misc blogospere.:
Some time in 1998, Joan Jett meets Annie Lennox at a Lower East Side bar, where they discover mutual infatuations with Pabst Blue Ribbon and Fleetwood Mac. After downing six beers and treating the crowd to a killer version of Crystal, the two drive to Vermont, get married, and ask The Edge to donate sperm for their first child. For nine months, Joan and Annie soothe their child in utero with a mix tape of Mavis Staples, early Beatles, and Lucinda Williams. That child is Blame Sally.
David Crosby, David Hidalgo, and Patty Griffin find themselves seated together on a flight to New York. During a storm, a freak surge of electricity scrambles their iPods, melts the hard drives, but magically disassembles and fuses the playlists. The surviving iPod is left behind in Patty’s front seat pocket, where it is found by Blame Sally band mates Monica Pasqual, Pam Delgado, Jeri Jones, and Renee Harcourt, moonlighting between gigs as United Airlines maintenance crew members. They briefly consider sending the iPod to Mutt Lange for Shania Twain’s comeback album, but quickly reconsider and keep the eerily melodic, hook-laden songs for themselves.
In 1999, in a little-known but epic logistical meltdown, the Lilith Fair and OzzFest are accidentally booked into the same Indiana venue on the same hot August night. While Paula Cole and Rob Zombie wrestle for control of the venue, fans—including the 4 members of Blame Sally—are blown away by unusual blend of black metal and estrogen-tinged folk. Monica, Renee, Pam and Jeri , waiting patiently for Sarah McLachlan’s autograph, are rocked to their musical cores by the sight and sound of the Indigo Girls and Missy Elliot jamming with Pantera. The rest is history.
Well, those are the theories. Maybe that’s all they are. Musical urban legends. Rock & roll tall tales. Maybe what really happened is 4 women practiced ‘til they were tighter than a gnat’s ass, quit their day jobs, and hit the road.
You listen. You decide.
If you sense a slight incongruity in the title of Blame Sally’s Speeding Ticket and a Valentine, rest assured that it’s as purposeful as the life it describes is random. The album lifts its name from a line in the bridge of the hard- charging leadoff single, “Living Without You,” which describes a day, or maybe entire existence, that’s “sweet and sour at the same time/mink and a porcupine/speeding ticket and a valentine.” Clearly, this is a band that knows its oxymorons.
The four women who make up the Bay area- based group have some experience with improbable complexities and contradictions. Almost everything about their history is contrary to conventional wisdom. For one thing, they put their individual careers aside to start Blame Sally when they were in their late 30s and 40s—the age at which bands are traditionally supposed to break up and begin solo careers. For another, this is obviously an all-woman band—“girl groups” usually being the novel province of youthful upstarts, not mature singer/songwriters. Splitting the front person status among each of the four members goes against the agreed-upon maxim (agreed upon by everyone but the Beatles, anyway) that every group needs a single strong focal point. And didn’t they get the memo that women, in particular women in show biz, are supposed to be packing it in at this point, not making fresh introductions?
The members of Blame Sally don’t have to work too hard to find the depth in their songs: Having lived a little leaves no choice but to go deeper. In 2006 Harcourt was diagnosed with and successfully fought breast cancer and Pasqual’s longtime boyfriend was diagnosed with MS. Needless to say, these don’t really compare with flat tires on the tour van or other worst-case adversities common to bands starting up right out of college. But—not to get oxymoronic again—some of the personal setbacks helped prompt some of the career breakthroughs.
Harcourt’s illness “totally affected the band—but in a good way,” she says. “I got my diagnosis and then two weeks later Tom was diagnosed with MS, so that was a very rough summer for us. But we held together very tightly through all that. It’s still going on for Tom and Monica, unfortunately. But what happened for me personally… It sounds so trite, but you know what happens: You’re like, ‘Oh my God, I might die,’ and then you start looking at your life like, ‘Am I really doing what I really want to be doing?’ And the fact was, I’d been doing graphic design for decades and I was burnt out on it while the music was what was feeding me.
Speeding Ticket and a Valentine is Blame Sally’s latest release on Ninth Street Opus, a Berkeley-based label that’s also home to Americana favorites like Carrie Rodriguez and Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion. After a successful collaboration with Grammy Award-nominated producer Lee Townsend on 2009’s Night of 1000 Stars, Blame Sally opted to self produce this time, striving to capture the edginess of their live performances on the CD. Early buzz on the album has enabled them to land two-nights in late April 2011 at the legendary Great American Music Hall in San Francisco to kick-off the release.
Dealing with issues common to women? Definitely. Just for women? Hardly. It’s true that, in the Bay area, the group has a large lesbian following, and there are gay as well as straight women within the band. “It’s an amazing blessing for us to have a really strong women’s following at our home base. But that may have prejudiced some people who have never heard what we’re doing. When we go on tour, there are often more men than women at our shows. I think for everybody in the band, to be defined as ‘women’s music’ feels wrong, it feels inaccurate and limiting.” Blame Sally got started in 2000 when Pasqual was putting together musicians to play at a kickoff concert for one of her solo projects. She and Harcourt had known each other since mutually participating in a songwriting competition years before. For this supposedly singular promotional show, Pasqual also enlisted two of the most sought-after side musicians on the scene, her old friends and bandmates Jeri Jones and Pamela Delgado. It was the one-off gig that’s lasted 11 years—and counting.
“We were fed up and disillusioned with the music scene,” says Harcourt, “so when we started playing together, we were like, ‘Let’s just do this for fun, with no expectations of achieving any type of quote-unquote “success”.’ Of course that meant it became the most successful project that any of us have had.”
Call Blame Sally queens among non-accommodationists, then… even if you’re unlikely to soon hear an album any more warm, inviting, heartfelt, or, yes, downright musically accommodating than Speeding Ticket and a Valentine—the kind of Blame everyone will want to spread around.
Pam Delgado: Percussion, guitar, vocals
Renee Harcourt: Guitar, bass, banjo, harmonica, vocals
Jeri Jones: Guitar, bass, dobro, mandoline, vocals
Monica Pasqual: piano, keys, accordion, melodica, vocals