Red Molly transcends electricity

Posted: Thursday, October 07, 2010

There's nothing like a power outage to focus a creative worker. I relearned this lesson firsthand during Tuesday's blackout.

I was home at the time, beginning to type this very column. I was fighting the many distractions that come with computer work - unanswered e-mails, breaking news updates and sales on winter gear. The lights had been flickering all morning as the wind and rain hammered down on us, so I wasn't surprised when the electricity gave out entirely.

I was unsure whether or not the outage was area-wide, but a call to the office confirmed that I shouldn't travel there in search of voltage.

Luckily, I had a pencil and paper handy and a stack of freshly split spruce begging to be burnt. I ignored my half-cycled washing machine, resisted the urge to organize the junk drawer (though I nearly had to in order to find a pencil sharpener) and sat down to write the old-fashioned way.

Abbie Gardner, Laurie MacAllister and Carolann Solebello don't need manufactured electricity to do what they do best - harmonize. The Red Molly members discovered their vocal compatibility at a campsite during an East Coast folk festival. That was six years ago, and since that first song they have brought their music to stages all over the country.

The buzz about these women has been everywhere; their music has been playing on radio stations locally and nationally, and I've been hearing rave reviews from friends in the Anchorage area, where concerts were performed over the weekend. The group will be in Juneau on Sunday to play a set in the folk-friendly Resurrection Lutheran Church, but not before first stopping in Sitka on Friday and in Ketchikan on Saturday.

Judging by their fourth and newest release, "James," I'd bet Red Molly is a fun group to see live. Anyone can create perfect vocal harmonies in a studio, but to witness the act right in front of your ears is truly special. I have loads of appreciation for anyone who puts in the hours of practice necessary to pull off three-part harmonies (and stay friends) in song after song, especially while taking turns singing the lead part as these three do.

"James" starts right off with such vocals in "The Last Call," featuring instruments in only the last half of the song. That's another thing: these ladies aren't just great singers. They also provide their own instrumental soundscape, complete with guitar, bass, banjo and Dobro on stage. "James" also features guest artists (all males, coincidently) on bass, percussion, fiddle, mandolin, piano and one vocal part.

"James" is a collection of songs, with two composed by Gardner. One of them, "Troubled Mind," is one of my favorites on the album. Its melodies are catchy, springing from the tune's minor base and accompanied by bluesy instrumentals. "Lookin' for Trouble" is my other top pick, which also features minor chords and a slow blues feel.

The album equally balances slow-paced tunes with quicker numbers, the quickest of which are "The End of the Line," "Troubled Mind," "Jezebel," "Tear My Stillhouse Down," "Poor Boy" and "Can't Let Go."

My official recommendation: go see this group in concert, at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Resurrection Lutheran Church. Even if the power goes out again, I'm sure it won't deter them from giving you an evening to remember.

Contact Libby Sterling at

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