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Erin McKeown


Country of origin:

U.S.

Type of music generally:

Alternative folk

Status:

Most recent release, Manifestra (2013)

See also:

Erin McKeown's site

The Ectophile's Guide entry for Voices on the Verge, a group project

Comparisons:

Ani DiFranco?

Covers/own material:

Own, occasional cover

General comments:

She's cool in a poet-with-crunchy-guitar way sort of like Ani DiFranco.

With Erin, the whole is definitely more than the sum of the parts. She's a really good musician (plays guitar and banjo, among other things), and a very clever songwriter. Not much of a voice, but it doesn't matter. Her music goes from swing to country to jazz to rock and back again, sometimes in the course of one song. She's also a very engaging performer. She's just so damned cute, you can't help but like her—but the music will be enough to get you there on its own. (meth@smoe.org)

if you have not seen her, you really really need to!! she's a brilliant musician who i think is on the brink of some serious success. amazing guitarist and ingenious songwriter. she has lately been heading in a more jazz/swing direction from her folk roots. Susan Werner calls her "post-modern swing." (Jess913@blackfoot.net)

Comments about live performance:

I have to say I was quite pleasantly surprised. Vocally she sounds a lot like Beth Orton, and her music is acoustic/electric thoughtful folk-pop. I picked up a copy of her tape, which I'm just listening to now. I'll definitely see her play again. (c. 1/99)
     I'd seen her once before and she was pretty good. Her first set was songs that really don't do all that much for me, but her second set was much, much better. I think she's got a long career ahead of her, and I hope she develops into the vast potential she's showing. She really is a good guitar player, too. (3/99)
     Last night Erin McKeown played the longest, and best set I've seen her do. She played both acoustic and electric guitar, and the sound was great. She told some really amusing stories in between songs, too, including one that has forever altered the way I will hear "Blackbirds". :} It's amazing how quickly she has gone from someone I wouldn't mind missing as an opening act to someone I will drive a number of miles to see. Her command of so many different musical styles and her exceptional ability on the guitar is truly scary for someone who just turned 23. She's not to be missed if she comes to your area. (11/00)
     if you get the chance to see Erin McKeown with her band, don't pass it up for ANY reason. She's great solo, but with the band...oh my god. They keep getting exponentially better every time we see them, and it's starting to get rather scary. (7/02)
     What a way to begin! Erin was also accompanied by Dave Chalfant and Lorne Entress, who have been her band on those occasions when she's been able to have one. She rocks in so many different ways...and it was great to see how many people were going apeshit over her too. Thinking about how Ani DiFranco was scheduled to come onstage to end the day, I thought to myself, "Erin's the little folksinger now". She just keeps getting better and better. Her new songs are all incredible. (7/02, meth@smoe.org)

I have heard "Blackbird" before and just sort of threw it away but now I want to go back and listen to everything...she's so much fun live and has a great stage prescence that you can't help but fall in love with her and her music. Definitely worth seeing! (RocketsTail@aol.com)

I just got back from a late night at Café du Nord where I caught Erin McKeown for the first time. Erin was great. She is very dynamic, subtley playful, and short. Her promotional material: "...a guitar style somewhere between Django and G. Love." I think Django is right on the money. If you can make any of these shows, you should. At a recent live Erin McKeown show (9-Jun-2K at Rose Street in Berkeley) Erin told the audience that she tours during her breaks from college. Someone in the audience asked her what she was majoring in and she reluctantly told us, early American music. Simultaneously, everyone in the room uttered "Ohhhhhhhhhh." Obviously a primary influence in her music. (6/00, drewh@bitwise.com)

Erin lived up to some of the raves she's gotten. (12/01, mcurry@io.com)

I saw Erin McKeown last night in Santa Monica. First time seeing her full show and I enjoyed the heck out of it. Reminded me of Leslie Feist and Sarah Harmer.
     Erin's got some nice guitar chops. Not flashy, but solid. However, she was running one of her guitars through various effects and a volume pedal into the soundboard and either she or the sound guy had the bass eq pumped up big time. Every time she hit the low strings, the subs in front of the stage kicked so hard that I could feel the punch throughout my body and in the walls. The bass was so physical, I thought I was at a rock concert and it obscured whatever intricate work she was doing in the upper registers on the guitar. Her other guitar, a semi-hollow body electric, was plugged into a little amp which was mic-ed and that didn't present any low-end problems. (1/03)
     I also saw Erin McKeown again this month, and came away a bit disappointed. She was only with a drummer this time, and the lack of other backing players made for a less energetic show, I thought. Her set with the full band last year was THE best concert of the year for me, and her previous solo shows had a certain intimate intensity, but this one fell well short of both experiences. Part of the problem, I think, was the audience, which didn't seem to be giving enough energy for her to feed back on. There wasn't even an encore set because the final applause petered out too quickly. Ah well. (5/04, Paul2k@aol.com)

i'm also a huge, devoted, besotted fan.
     i'll admit, before the show i wasn't so sure about Sing You Sinners based on the samples. `cou cou' was a bit painful, and the rest didn't do a lot for me—i'm not usually fond of cover albums. i absolutely adore her other three major releases, having bought `grand' at the first concert when it was new, then gone back to `distillation', and having finally bought `we will become like birds' a few months ago and immediately fallen head over heels for it as always. but after the show i immediately bought my copy of SYS as well—it is fabulous! she really makes the songs intensely her own—no real surprise there.
     and her new drummer is amazing. (3/07, damon)

Recommended first album:

Distillation

Recordings:


Monday Morning Cold

Release info:

1999—TVP Records (PO Box 344, Providence RI 02901)—TVP2504CD

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

For fans

Group members:

Erin McKeown—vocals, guitars, acoustic guitar

Guest artists:

Alex Auritt—drums
Brent Shields—upright bass
Meghan Toohey—electric guitar

Comments:

I don't think it fairly compares at all, really—it's very early and unpolished. I have a cassette copy of this and I hardly ever listened to it. It's in the "better live than in the studio" category. (meth@smoe.org)

This album is subtitled Demos and Live Material 97-99 on the back, so people should know what they're getting. It's not a bad album, just a bit rough. There are some good songs, and Erin's unique sensibility is already quite developed. It's an interesting look at the early stages of a unique artist. (JoAnn Whetsell)


Distillation

Release info:

2000—TVP Records (PO Box 344, Providence, RI 02901)—TVP2509 (on CD; limited vinyl reissue 2004)

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Erin McKeown—vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, sampler, upright piano, washboard, all other instruments not credited to others

Guest artists:

Beth Amsel—background vocals, stunning oohs, aahs and wails
Dave Chalfant (The Nields)—shaken stick, electric bass, sampler, upright bass, tambourine, electric guitar, dobro, acoustic guitar, loops
Ben Demerath—background vocals, yodeling, humming
Lorne Entress—drums
Dave Hower—drums
Ed McKeon—background vocals
Katryna Nields (The Nields and duo with sister Nerissa)—whispers, stunning oohs, aahs and wails

Produced by:

Dave Chalfant

Comments:

Years from now, when connoisseurs of fine, non-genre-specific music steeped in the various traditions of Americana look back on where it all began for Erin McKeown, they will put on this album and smile. This young woman has a stellar career ahead of her. From the whimsical "Queen of Quiet" into the driving, funky-bass-laden "Blackbirds" and on, Erin leads us through cowboy tunes to brooding singer/songwriter goodness, with stops at swing and jazz along the way. Dave Chalfant's production perfectly enhances the songs, so a listen through headphones is always a rewarding experience. I have no idea where I would file this album in a record store sorted by genre. I guess I'd just be forced to label a new bin "Brilliant" and display it prominently there. (meth@smoe.org)

it is an amazing collection of songs, a true work of art. unlike any cd you have yet heard. and of course produced by mr. dave chalfant, and with harmonies by such lovely and talented people as ms. katryna nields and ms. beth amsel. (Jess913@blackfoot.net)

If anyone hasn't been lucky enough to pick up a copy of her new album, Distillation at one of her recent shows, make a point of getting it. Outstanding stuff, and she isn't to be missed live. (cmont@rci.rutgers.edu)

One of my favourite albums of the year. (gordodo@optonline.net)


Grand

Release info:

2003—Nettwerk Productions—0 6700 30307 2 4

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Erin McKeown—guitars, acoustic guitars, electric guitar, parlor guitar, organ, piano, bass, Casio keyboard, sampler, B3 organ, drums, keyboard, samples, parlor piano, accordion, beats, singing, shouting, humming

Guest artists:

George Javori—drums, tambourine, marching drum, newspapers, bells, shaker
Dave Chalfant (The Nields)—bass, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, banjo, baritone guitar, electric slide guitar, sampled bass notes, percussion, loops, humming
Brian Jones—drums, tambourine, 2 kits, percussion
Brad Mason—trumpet, flugelhorn
Michael Raskin—tenor sax
Mark Tragesser—baritone sax

Produced by:

Dave Chalfant

Comments:

I've been eagerly anticipating this one for a long time, made longer by the fact that just when Erin was finishing up recording, some new songs came to her that she just had to put on the CD, so that pushed everything back a couple months. Wouldn't you know it, two of those latecomers are the best tracks on the disc: the album-opening "Slung-Lo" and the best single song released so far this year, "Cosmopolitans."
     Once again, Dave Chalfant (formerly of The Nields) is the producer, and he knows just what to do to make Erin's music shine. Like Distillation, there is a variety of styles represented on the album, from Tin Pan Alley-like ditties to power pop to all-out rockers. And of course there's a Judy Garland cover ("Lucky Day"). Judy shows up all over the album, as a matter of fact: she's mentioned by name in "Cinematic", and while she's not named in the dark, groovy "Cosmopolitans" I knew instantly that the song is about her ("advice, agents, and taped late night whiskey/tiny cups for a tiny lady/opera heels are swiftly growing indecent/and a lady in descent/falling forward towards the cosmopolitans and ladies/looking for pills in draperies").
     It was clear from the first listen that this disc is going to be in my top 3 for the year, easily. It kicks every imaginable kind of ass, and was every bit worth the wait. (meth@smoe.org)

One of my top of the year. (raven@igc.org)

I know she has her fans here, she's one of the people I've been meaning to check out for some time, now. But...well, it's pleasant enough, I guess, but there's nothing here that really grabs me. I've listened to it several times hoping that something will leap out at me but, apart from the Go-Go-esque "Cinematic," I can't think of it as anything other than...pleasant. (adamk@zoom.co.uk)

Erin has such a unique sensibility and such varied influences, and they're all on display here on Grand. While not all of it is for everyone, there's probably something here for everyone. From the power pop to straight folk to old-fashioned blues and swing. While not all of it works for me, what does I enjoy a lot. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Miss McKeown is such a joy! This is another brilliant release from her. (wdalberty@charter.net)


We Will Become Like Birds

Release info:

2005—Nettwerk—0 6700 30418 2 9

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Erin McKeown—vocals, all guitars, bass on "Air", synthesizer on "We Are More", Wurlitzer on "The Golden Dream"

Guest artists:

Matt Chamberlain—drums
Sebastian Steinberg—bass
Steve Moore—piano, Wurlitzer, beautiful little sounds
David Berger—drums on "You Were Right About Everything" and "Bells and Bombs"
Juana Molina—vocals on "The Golden Dream", inimitable electronic self on "Air" and "We Are More"
Peter Mulvey—vocals on "Delicate December"
Tucker Martine—drums on "Life on the Moon", all tambourines

Produced by:

Tucker Martine and Erin McKeown

Comments:

I am officially obsessed with We Will Become Like Birds. I think it has already achieved Desert Island Disc status. (meth@smoe.org)

This is far and away my favorite of Erin's albums. It has all the things I like about her music and, to put it bluntly, none of the things that annoy me. (JoAnn Whetsell)


Sing You Sinners

Release info:

2006—Nettwerk—0 6700 30564 2 7

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Erin McKeown—guitar, banjo, vocals

Guest artists:

Sam Kassirer—piano, Wurlitzer, organ, clapping
Todd Sickafoose—upright bass
Allison Miller—drums
Dave Harris—trombone and horn arrangements
Mark Chenevert—clarinet
Eric Bloom—trumpet

Produced by:

Erin McKeown

Comments:

A brilliant take on obscure standards. (meth@smoe.org)

I love love LOVE this album. Erin McKeown takes obscure songs from the '30s through '50s (plus one original) and completely makes them her own. It's a rollicking good time. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Awesome. I hate the "standards" album phenomenon, but Erin of course makes it her own because it is and always has been who and what she is at a very deep level. (timjy@sbcglobal.net)


Lafayette

Release info:

2007—Signature Sounds Recordings—7 01237 20072 9

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Erin McKeown—guitar and throat

Guest artists:

Shane Endsley—trumpet and smile
Erik Lawrence—saxophone and outrageously good horn arrangements
Erik Deutsch—piano, electronics, delicious "oohs," and style
Todd Sickafoose—upright and electric bass plus simplicity
Allison Miller—drum kit, vocal flourishes, and raw energy

Produced by:

Erin McKeown

Comments:

wonderful live recording of an incredible show at Joe's Pub in NYC, which woj and I attended...does a great job capturing the experience of seeing one of the best live performers of our generation in concert (meth@smoe.org)

Love it, love it, love it. This live recording captures Erin's spirit, energy, and personality. Her studio recordings are sampled equally but so differently with the band treatments. There are also 2 new songs. Essential listening for fans. (JoAnn Whetsell)


Hundreds of Lions

Release info:

2009—Righteous Babe

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Comments:

Anybody who enjoys Grand and We Will Become Like Birds will like this too. And more likely love it. It's fantastic! (JoAnn Whetsell)

One of the best albums of the year. (meth@smoe.org, collectedsounds@gmail.com)


Manifestra

Release info:

2013—TVP Records—TVP252512

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Erin McKeown—guitars and throat

Guest artists:

Erik Deutsch—keys
Jeff Hill—bass
Marc Dalio—drums
Matt Douglas—horns
Joseph Brent—strings, string arrangements
Beth Meyers, Yoed Nir—strings
Polly Paulusma, Ryan Montbleau, Ana&iaum;s Mitchell, Sean Hayes, David Wax Museum—additional throats

Produced by:

Erin McKeown

Comments:

This has really grown on me. I think at first I found the songs too stylistically varied to hang together as an album. But it doesn't feel that way to me now, even though there is a lot of variety, from Monday Morning Cold-type spoken word to New Orleans jazz.
     Although often billed as a political album, there are also songs about love and family. But it is Erin's most political album to date, with a number of songs ("The Politican," "The Jailer," and "Baghdad to the Bayou" most obviously) consciously addressing social and environmental justice issues. I pre-ordered and got the bonus acoustic version of the album, which I also really like, so that's worth checking out if you can find it. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Further info:

Compilation work includes:
  • "Slung-Lo" on the Uptown Girls soundtrack (2003)
  • "At the Christmas Ball"* on Wonderland: A Winter Solstice Celebration (2003)
  • "The Taste of You" on Simply Being Loved (A Valentine Compilation) (2004)
  • "Born to Hum" on Gold in Them Hills: New Roots Classics (2004)
  • a remix of "Cosmopolitans"* appears on the Nip/Tuck soundtrack (2004)
  • "So Cruel"* on Even Better Than the Real Thing, Vol. 3 (2005)
  • "Sing You Sinners" on Indoor Picnic Music 2 (2006)
  • a live version of "You Were Right About Everything"* on Pickathon 2007 (2008)
  • "Slung-Lo" on Nettwerk: 25 Years of Music (2010)
*Track not available elsewhere.

Collaborations include:

  • "We Fell Down" with Jason Crigler on his album The Music of Jason Crigler (2008)
  • "Beautiful" with Patty Larkin on her album 25 (2010)
  • "Blackbirds" with Bonerama on Dear New Orleans (2010)
  • "Kick Out the Jams" with Wayne Kramer, Martin Perna, Bonerama, Nicole Atkins, Mike Mills on Dear New Orleans (2010)


Thanks to JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.

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Entry last updated 2013-06-09 20:29:19.
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