Thursday, August 18, 2005
Recently, several of the players in the Vancouver-based Po’ Girl—Diona Davies, Trish Klein and Allison Russell—have spent a lot of time in “Shaggy,” their 1985 Chevy van. Under a dashboard adorned with mementos from the road (such as dried corn), the odometer on Shaggy has added over 150,000 kilometers over the past year and a half. Davies estimates that she and her musical compatriots have spent no less than 10 months of the past year traveling around and performing.
It is not much of a surprise that a large amount of their eclectic folky music features lyrics and song titles about roads and travels. Heck, their latest release is even named Vagabond Lullabies.
“A lot of material is road songs,” Davies admits by phone from Victoria, British Columbia. “A lot of our inspiration comes from being on the road.”
One of the ladies’ best road songs appears on their strong 2003 self-titled debut. The downbeat acoustic “Wheels Are Taking Me Away” is a transcendent song that gets you thinking about where you are and where you want to go. On the new CD, there are a handful of travel numbers, including the jazz-meets-old-timey string song “Movin’ On,” and “Take the Long Way,” which features an organic rap by beatboxer/slam poet CR Avery about one of the very best drives in the world, the drive south along the Big Sur coast.
Davies also admits that recording Vagabond Lullabies was a bit rushed, in part because the multi-instrumentalist had to leave for a trip to Transylvania. Taking a month and a half off from her work with Po’ Girl, Davies traveled Eastern Europe with an ethnomusicologist searching for traditional Jewish and Gypsy music. She says the trip was a success; the two came back with over 30 CDs of music that they recorded.
Klein and Russell are part of an eclectic female music cartel. Klein is also a member of the Be Good Tanyas. And Russell was formerly a member of the Celtic folk band Fear of Drinking. The two formed Po’ Girl back in 2003. Their debut is a melting pot of Americana featuring takes on songs like Elizabeth Cotton’s “Gone in Pawn (Shake Sugaree)” and Lester Young’s “Abilene,” along with originals like “What Sad Old Song?,” a jazzy number about domestic violence and heroin addiction that eventually becomes immensely uplifting.
Despite the soaring vocals, part of the CD’s charm is that the music seems to come together almost by accident—a patter of drums here and a clarinet solo there. Davies, who was asked to join the band after the first album was released, says that becoming a member of the group was quite similar to the way the band creates their songs.
“Much like our music and the way we write together, it was organic process,” she says. “It naturally fell into place.”
This November, Davies says, Po’ Girl will start recording their third CD. Since the ladies do not plan on going into the studio until after a West Coast tour and a performance at a music festival in Switzerland, expect another batch of road songs about their latest round of travels.
Po’ Girl play Monterey Live, 414 Alvarado St., Monterey, Thursday at 8pm. $8/advance; $10/at the door. 646-1415.