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Kristin Hersh


Country of origin:

U.S.

Type of music generally:

Beautiful and fierce acoustic traditional-folk- and alternative rock-flavoured folk/rock

Status:

Most recent album, Crooked (book + download, 2010)

See also:

Kristin Hersh's site

Wikipedia's entry on Kristin Hersh

4AD Records' page for Kristin Hersh.

The Ectophiles' Guide entry for Throwing Muses and 50 Foot Wave, Kristin Hersh's bands

Comparisons:

Somewhat similar to her Throwing Muses work, at least in lyrics and musical inventiveness even though it's not like the overall sound of her group work as it is stripped down and acoustic. Somewhat like Lois, though more emotive. (Neile)

Covers/own material:

Own, with occasional covers of traditional American folk songs

General comments:

Kristin Hersh is the founder of the excellent alternative rock band, Throwing Muses. She did one solo acoustic album, I think intending it to be a one-off, but it was popular and kept her touring for a while solo. Then as it became clear that Throwing Muses wasn't going to ever gain the monetary success it deserved, the group disbanded, giving Kristin Hersh another opportunity to focus on her solo acoustic work. This may not be her first love, but she is wonderful at it. While I love Throwing Muses, I find Kristin Hersh's solo work just as powerful and perhaps more evocative. (Neile)

let me tell you, she is brilliant. brilliant guitar work, too. angular guitar riffs, with circular intricate "female" orientated guitar progressions (Kristin's words not mine). self taught too. i think her influence in the alternative rock scene is SO highly underrated.
     i think the sensibilities from her earlier punk rock roots of Throwing Muses have help paved the way for bands like The Breeders, Letters to Cleo, Veruca Salt, Juliana Hatfield/Blake Babies, Liz Phair, Bettie Serveert, and of course her stepsister's group Belly. even the mainstream rockers like Alanis Morissette and all the Alanis wannabes owe a nod to Kristin and her songwriting. i even would go as far as to say Ani Difranco's sound and style is a result of her groundbreaking guitar work and music writing. Kristin was alternative rock way before that word was used as a catch phrase by MTV.
     listen to the complexity of House Tornado or the first Throwing Muses album (both guitar/songwriting and lyrics) then think of the era that it was released in. 1988 and 1986. think of what type of music that was being played on the radio. people like Madonna and Cyndi Lauper. the new romantics. new wave. that sort (nothing against them, i happened to be a big Cyndi fan, but she was groundbreaking in a totally different way).
     Kristin Hersh really pushed the boundaries of rock, punk, and pop way before her time. she is someone who certainly should be listed as a goddess. and i am not alone in thinking that—consistently she is listed as one of the most influential and underrated artists out there, from the mainstream mags to the more underground zines. she is cited as an influential artist by musicians like Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth, Kurt Cobain (Nirvana, and Aimee Mann).
     i think one of the reasons that people don't give her the credit that she deserves is because her music isn't quite as hookfilled or as accessible as people are used to. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

Kristin Hersh's stuff is perhaps demanding, but well worth the time to get to know. (burka@jeffrey.net)

Kristin Hersh was a surprise obsession for me; I've found Hips and Makers and particularly Strange Angels to be the two CDs I can't put down.... Yeah yeah, Throwing Muses unplugged, and there's a certain monotony to both albums, but I find *way* more there, and I don't know exactly what it is, but I'm driving my family nuts with it. :) (rkonrad@ibm.net)

Comments about live performance:

In concert she was amazing. I'd never seen her live before, but I was blown away (almost literally) by what a powerful voice she has, very intense...she seemed to be channelling the songs rather than just performing them (it made me think of what I read in an interview once, that before she started taking lithium, the songs would come to her and demand that she write them, she was almost passive in the process). She did a lot of new songs, some old ones ('me and my charms' was the highlight of the night for me). (swiebe@callisto.uwinnipeg.ca)

Hearing Kristin Hersh was one of the most extraordinary concert experiences I've ever had. Kristin was just...astonishing. She is just so amazingly talented and extraordinarily cool. She played lots of songs from the cd she's working on, all of which were great. Kristin also did plenty of stuff from Hips and Makers, a couple of Throwing Muses songs (hearing "Serene" was no surprise, but I hadn't really been expecting to hear "Delicate Cutters"), and a Vic Chestnutt cover. In addition to all the great music she also told the *best* stories, and was a lot more chatty in this format than she tended to be during Throwing Muses shows. I thought her performances were absolutely great! (circa 1995)
     It was yet another truly excellent Kristin Hersh show, with the majority of the audience being pretty much mesmerized by every song. It was definitely worth the overly painful trip there, and the much quicker trip back. (10/99, mcurry@io.com)

I saw Kristin Hersh on her Strange Angels tour. The performance involved Kristin and her guitar, with simple but effective back lighting, in an auditorium similar to a medium-sized movie theater; the audience was nicely respectful and appreciative. Kristin came out and launched right into "Gazebo Tree" with minimal introduction. While the set focused on material from Strange Angels, she also played a number of songs from Hips and Makers. After playing several songs in a row, she began talking a bit; over the course of the show, she told a number of humorous anecdotes, primarily about her family. She played an initial set of just under an hour, then came back for an "encore" that was really another half-hour mini set. She seemed to have a little trouble with her voice on the high notes toward the end of the show, but it didn't detract in any way from the effectiveness of the performance.
     It was a real pleasure to experience Kristin communicating with her songs live. I highly recommend any fan of her music to see her when she visits your area. (Greg.Jumper@Eng.Sun.COM)

I'd seen her before, so I knew what to expect, and that's what I got: drop dead hilarious between-song patter followed by songs performed in a trance with frightening intensity. Seriously, the instant a song starts, her spirit seems to leave the stage. She stares fixedly at a point above the audience in the middle of the room, and her eyes go blank and completely glaze over. You can see her personality come and go with the songs. Her face is a mask, with no sign of emotion when she's singing, but with plenty of intensity and feeling in the singing and playing. When she stops, the sparkle returns to her eyes, a smile skips across her mouth, and she launches into some hilarious story. (circa 1995)
     It's always fun to see Kristin, though I thought this was on the low end of her concerts that I've seen. Her voice seemed really hoarse. I'm hoping that she was recovering from a cold and not a pack a day habit. It made her music sound grittier and more aggressive, but I like the pretty qualities of her voice that balance the edge. The venue was very very intimate, which made the sort of cold, distant nature of the show all the more surprising. It's not really fair to criticize an artist for not being personable every time you see them, but that's kind of what I'm doing here. She played well, but didn't seem really engaged. She spoke very little, and only gave us a few glimpses of that (justly) famous Kristin Hersh humour. Each song ended so sharply and perfunctorily that it made the whole show seem a bit too pat. And while I know she's been shaking up the set night after night, she carefully followed the night's set list, which added to the preconceived feeling of the evening. Not a bad show, but not as good as I've come to expect from her. (11/99, neal)

Kristin live was, of course, great. I really think her greatest strength as a performer is the authentic human warmth she projects from the stage. Her "thank-you"s seemed like the only sincere ones I've heard this side of Victoria Williams, and her between-song "banter" was not in the least manufactured: she's able to give the impression that she's having an intimate conversation with a few hundred of her closest friends. And she tells great little filler-stories. And every song was in that voice that turns the obtuse, intellectualized lyrics into tears and heartbeats. A very affecting show, Kristin's gave you the comforting feeling of crying on a friend's shoulder. (lissener@wwa.com)

When I was told David Narcizo is the drummer in her new band, I was actively excited. Keyboardist Ron Rust (who toured with the last Throwing Muses, didn't he?) and Belly guitarist Tom Gorman, now playing bass round out the band. Why they don't just bill themselves as Throwing Muses, I have no idea.
     They played for over an hour, and it was an amazing set, consisting of pretty much alternating new songs and old Throwing Muses/Kristin solo material. The full-band arrangement of "Gazebo Tree" was simply stunning: it had a lush bass backdrop, and was very trance-like and haunting. Yum.
     The new songs are all really good, too. They're a bit more atmospheric than Throwing Muses, but are no less ass-kicking for it. Tom Gorman, being first a guitar player, brings a lot of extra sounds out of the bass, which greatly enhance the mood. And David Narcizo is simply one of the best rock drummers ever.
     Kristin was obviously having a really good time—I haven't seen her that animated on stage with a band, ever. At one point she burst out laughing in the middle of a song and had to start over. :) She didn't talk much between songs, which was a shame since her stories are usually side-splittingly hilarious. Still, it was a great time. (4/99)
     As always she ruled. Before one of her solo shows I'm always not nearly as excited as I am when she's going to be with a band, then afterwards I end up wondering just what the hell I was thinking. This time was no exception. She did a good mix of stuff from Sky Motel, earlier solo "hits" like "Your Ghost" and "Gazebo Tree", and old Throwing Muses material including "Chains Changed" and "I Hate My Weight". Definitely worth the godawful trip there and back. (10/99, meth@smoe.org)

i finally had a chance to see Kristin Hersh perform live and she was fantastic. highly recommended to anyone who has the chance. (9/99, iflin@speakeasy.net)

Kristin Hersh was about exactly what I expected. Unfortunately, what that means is that I take one listen to her voice, think "barefoot West Virginian trailer park denizen with laryngitis," and the rest of it goes completely out the window. She can do some nice things with her guitar, but I don't expect her ever to win me over. (11/99, psfblair@ix.netcom.com)

Kristin was quirky as ever, but everything I expected. She has a knack for writing offbeat little songs and putting odd chords together with fluxing rhythms that keep you interested. She played one song about sunshine and about 7 about murder and death. Yummy. (11/99, mjmjminla@yahoo.com)

Kristen Hersh started out her opening set with a harsh version of "A Loon", a song that describes a psychotic episode in a store. The fiercely percussive strumming and slightly hoarse vocalizing that melted into delicate, spiky picking set up the format for the evening's show. Hersh has developed into a force that carry a show with just a guitar, her gritty Appalachia-by-way-of Patti Smith voice, and her humorous storytelling. Hersh mostly performed pieces from her first 3 solo albums and 2 tunes from her tenure in Throwing Muses—"Soap and Water", and "Delicate Cutters"._ Only "Echo" was played from her new rocking cd, Sky Motel, which is just as well, since she couldn't really do the songs justice without a full band. (11/99, ethereal_lad@livejournal.com)

Oh my. Now that was an interesting show. So I figured Kristin would be doing the basic 20-30 minute in-store kinda thing. This was almost a concert. The set lasted most of an hour and was just wonderful. I'm not sure if the expanded set was in response to the huge crowd that showed up (I'd guess around a hundred), the feed back from the audience, or what. I'm ecstatic to have heard "Gazebo Tree" live, as it's probably my favorite Kristin Hersh song.
     Kristin told several funny stories, including one about being on Spanish TV. As part of the story, she discussed the fact that when she plays live, she needs to find something static, usually an exit sign, at which to stare. This allows her to concentrate and not be distracted by the audience.
     At the Spanish TV gig, there was nothing inanimate in the studio on which to fixate, she ended up choosing an audience member. She then proceeded to say how badly she felt for him, since he spent 30 minutes being screamed at. Anyone who's seen Kristin live will understand what I mean—her eyes bug out, her mouth opens wide, and she *screams*. I actually find it disturbing. (3/01, burka@jeffrey.net)

At the Borders show in Metairie, LA, it turns out that I was her static object to stare at. It was actually really awesome to stare right into her eyes and have her staring right into mine. Her eyes are gorgeous; they didn't glaze over while she was playing, she was looking right at me. It was very extraordinary. And I almost died when she played "Gazebo tree" and "Heaven", I just about almost died. It's definitely an experience to hear Kristin sing "bless my baby eyes don't you know Jesus died?" while staring you right in the eyes. Mmm. (4/01, John.Drummond)

She's currently touring her show The Shady Circle, which is a collection of Appalachian folk ballads—if you've heard her album Murder, Misery and Then Goodnight, it's the same idea. (Between songs: "This one's great because it has poisoning, stabbing, AND drowning!" (paraphrased)
      The show was amazing. Most of the songs were ones she hadn't previously recorded, and they were wonderful—transfixing, even. After her set she played an encore—songs I remember were "Sno Cat", "Pearl", "Tuesday Night". The last two were the best—"Pearl" works amazingly well even without a full band, and "Tuesday Night" is one of my favorite of her solo songs. Everyone there was incredibly friendly, too. (12/08, lotterose @ gmail . com)

Recommended first album:

Hips and Makers is the general consensus.

Hips and Makers is ostensibly my favourite; but the albums are all so different, it's difficult to compare them. (ectophil@netlink.co.nz)

Recordings:


Hips and Makers

Release info:

1994—Sire/Reprise (U.S.)—9 45413-2 (released on 4AD in the U.K.)

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

High

Group members:

Kristin Hersh—guitar, vocals, piano, bells

Guest artists:

Jane Scarpantoni—cello
Michael Stipe (R.E.M.)—additional vocal, "Your Ghost"

Produced by:

Lenny Kaye and Kristin Hersh

Comments:

i think it's an excellent album. i'm not sure how to describe it coherently but i find just the sound of kristin hersh's guitar playing to be incredibly compelling—in a lot of ways, the sound of her guitar affects me the same way that tori amos's piano playing does: it's spellbinding. i'd especially recommend it for those who like early throwing muses since hips and makers is sorta an acoustic analog to some of that early material. (woj@smoe.org)

To my surprise, Kristin Hersh's first solo album showed little musical continuity from her work with the Throwing Muses. The music is simpler, mostly acoustic, nearly eliminating the electric quirkiness which strongly marked the Throwing Muses. She put the focus on the songs, and the songs stood on their own, both musically and lyrically. The music was generally acoustic guitar, piano, a wonderful cello, and occasional bells, backing her effective (if nondescript, in my opinion) vocals. While no melodies caught my ear, I thoroughly enjoyed the music, even the two instrumentals, and I am not a fan of instrumentals at all. The album is a treat to just listen to. Lyrically, she hangs around the subject of handling the loose ends of love. While she sketches the situations and emotions rather than carve them in detail, her overall meaning is clear, even if many of the references and specifics are not (at least to a probably clueless me :) ). Her lyrics are full of wonderful phrases [My favorite: "This hairdo is truly evil."] with some striking metaphor and imagery liberally sprinkled in. (dbx@aa.net)

This came out the same day as Under The Pink and has lasted just as long for me. I love the shape of the album, how it starts quietly with "Your Ghost" and works up to a crescendo with "Loon" and then finds a sort of middle ground. This really showcases Kristin Hersh's songwriting abilities in a way that Throwing Muses' crunchy style hid a bit for me. I found this haunting. (Neile)

Hey—this is pretty good! Talented voice, great guitar, interesting lyrics. (Greg Dunn)

this solo album is a wonderful, acoustic collection of song prose that makes for rainy afternoon, lazing on the couch with the cats music. (groovy@his.com)

Caught a glimpse of the first track 'Your Ghost' and bought the album as soon as possible. I was not disappointed. Viciously stark and empty arrangements with great passion. I find it very hard to listen to Throwing Muses now! Hips & Makers is one of my favourite albums of recent years. (martin@mandab.co.uk)

I enjoyed this album a great deal more than I would have expected to from some of the things said (in praise of it I might add) on the Ecto mailing list. The songs are inventive and thought provoking and her voice is clear and firm. In some cases I preferred the alternate versions on the Strings EP but all in all this is a terrific record. I'm grateful for the chance to get into this music as I would not have thought of it for myself. (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

I actually had the Strings EP first and was simply blown away by the arrangements. I figured the straight acoustic versions could never compare, but I was wrong. The Hips and Makers versions are even more powerful. I think Hips & Makers is brilliant, and it's definitely on my Top 10 of all time. (stuart@sph.emory.edu)

This is the quirky, inscrutable side of Kristin Hersh. (stevev@hexadecimal.uoregon.edu)

kristin's flat pan voice works perfectly with her acoustic guitar (and michael stipe's slightly less flat pan voice). (contzen@sfu.ca)

One of my favorite albums of all time. The sparse production suits her so well. It is just like she was born to do this. Nothing much to say—it is just perfect. (onealien@mo.himolde.no)

After 7 listenings, I still only find Hips and Makers pleasant, sorry. One song, "Beestung", makes me want to sing "The girl with kaleidoscope eyeeesssss..", it is SO "Lucy In The Sky..." in its circular path. (zzkwhite@ktwu.wuacc.edu)


Strings (EP)

Release info:

1994—4AD—BAD 4006 CD

Availability:

U.K., though there is a U.S. version

Ecto priority:

Recommended if you like Hips and Makers

Group members:

Kristin Hersh

Guest artists:

Wilf Gibson—violin
Perry Montague-Mason—violin
Gavyn Wright—violin
Robert Smisson—viola
Martin McCarrick—cello
Billy McGee—double bass

Comments:

i picked up kristin's strings ep this past weekend. as the name implies, it is renditions of a few songs from hips and makers with string accompaniment instead of the guitar. it's quite pretty. the songs are "a loon," "sundrops," "me and my charms" and "velvet days." (woj@smoe.org)

and the reason kristin hersh's ep Strings is longer available in the U.S. is because sire/warner combined it with the "Your Ghost" single, both of which were released in the U.K. separately into one longer ep here. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

This doesn't contain anything not on the UK EP plus the single,but nevertheless, a nice addition to the collection. And I do like the music quite a lot. (uli@zoodle.robin.de)

If you haven't picked up Strings, you should definitely snag it. It's got 5 songs from Hips and Makers in dramatically different orchestrated versions, a couple songs not on either solo disc, and a cover of Led Zeppelin's "When The Levee Breaks". A wonderful little disc. (neal)


The Holy Single

Release info:

1995—Throwing Music/Rykodisc, Shetland Park, 27 Congress Street, Salem, MA 01970, U.S.A.—RCD5-1049

Availability:

Wide in U.S.

Ecto priority:

Recommended for Kristin Hersh fans

Group members:

Kristin Hersh

Produced by:

Kristin Hersh

Comments:

The 4 songs are Big Star's "Jesus Christ," "Amazing Grace," "Sinkhole," and the Carter Family's "Can the Circle Be Unbroken." Everything is acoustic and most of the songs sound vaguely country. "Amazing Grace" is really no different from the Throwing Muses' version, except it is just Kristin and an acoustic guitar. Over all, it isn't nearly as bad as some of the reviews I've seen led me to believe, but a big disappointment in comparison to Hips and Makers and the "Your Ghost" and Strings EPs.(stuart@sph.emory.edu)

I'm a huge fan of hers. say no more :) (onealien@mo.himolde.no)


Strange Angels

Release info:

1998—Throwing Music/Rykodisc, Shetland Park, 27 Congress Street, Salem, MA 01970, U.S.A.—RCD 10429

Availability:

Wide in U.S.

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Kristin Hersh

Produced by:

Kristin Hersh with Joe Henry and Steve Rizzo

Comments:

I highly recommend Strange Angels. It's really amazing, especially "like you" and "gazebo tree." Her voice is just really powerful and her lyrics are really interesting. Most of them are just her singing and playing guitar, and they're just really haunting. (rkb200@is5.nyu.edu)

I'd been waiting for this one for a long time, since Hips and Makers is one of my all-time favorites. I have to admit that I really was a bit disappointed at first. It just didn't pull me into it they way Hips and Makers did. But it started to grow on me and now have a full appreciation of Strange Angels—it's a lot more subtle than Hips and Makers, but beautiful nonetheless. I think anyone who loved her first will come to like the follow-up. (bye@humnet.ucla.edu)

I had a similar experience with Strange Angels—I was just a little disappointed at first that it wasn't another Hips and Makers. There's a little less variety within the songs on this one, and it's definitely much subtler and sounds more downhome. It's strong and beautiful, though, and continues to grow on me. Less compelling for me than Hips and Makers, but still strong and beautiful. (Neile)

I think it didn't grab me quite as much as Hips and Makers did on the first listen, but I have had it on almost constantly when I have been at home, and it consistently pulls my attention from whatever else I am doing. And I am drawn more and more into it. It isn't Hips and Makers II, but I wouldn't want that. It is a wonderful CD. Destined for heavy rotation. (Horter3)

smaller work, less possibility of major pop hit, but yet sweet and crazy as usual. (cyo@landoftheblind.com)

I know some people felt Kristin's album wasn't living up to Hips & Makers yet, but I found it better: I think the songs sound more...mature, I guess, and somehow more finished. Several, especially "Hope", have definite multi-repeat-button character for me. I can't get enough of the understated accompaniment in "Hope"—it's sort of like ghostly acoustic punctuation to the guitar and vocal work. I find myself reaching for this disc now whenever I'm having trouble deciding what to listen to.
     This album rates as the top of 1998 for me, both by number of times I played it and on sheer artistic merit, in my view. I can never say enough about Strange Angels. Kristin's delivery is an acquired taste for some, but comparison of Strange Angels with her other 1998 release, Murder, Misery, and then Goodnight, provides a powerful demonstration of the synergy between Kristin's own material and her presentation. Murder, Misery, and then Goodnight is quite good, but Strange Angels inhabits Kristin's special alternate musical dimension, which is where I'd rather be with her. (Greg.Jumper@Eng.Sun.COM)

Strange Angels is my first taste of Kristin Hersh's music, and, if I may say, I am not sure I am all that impressed with her.... *But*, indeed, the more I listen to the disc, the more I seem to notice other instruments playing besides the acoustic guitar. Maybe her music is just one of those things that you really need to "break into" to really be able to notice and appreciate all the nuances. Just a thought. (bill@wagill.com)

Brilliant. Utterly brilliant. I still remember my first post to ecto about this album. I'd listened to it once or twice and had sort of a "Yeah, whatever, I already own Hips and Makers" reaction to it. It was only after that that I realized that the arrangements/production of this were *completely* different. Where Hips and Makers was all guitar and cello, this was mostly guitar, piano, and cello. And that piano makes a HUGE difference. And of course, with Kristin's brilliant, quirky songwriting, Strange Angels quickly became one of my most-listened to releases of the year. Love it! Lousy liner notes, though I'm grateful for the (indecipherable) lyrics. Highly recommended if you liked her last solo effort. It's brilliant, in that frightening Kristin sort of 'on the edge of out-of-control' way—you know, lyrics which want to be as obtuse as Tori's, but just can't quite make it?
     I think Strange Angels is by far the best of the first three solo albums, and absolutely crucial to a collection. Mmm. Tasty. (burka@jeffrey.net)

I had high hopes for Strange Angels since it's basically Hips & Makers Part II. It has the same sparse sound, this time with a few more added instrumental flourishes than last. This is not a bad album at all. It just sounds very bland after the utter brilliance of Hips & Makers. (stuart@sph.emory.edu)

I'm not sure if it's better than Hips & Makers, but it's certainly not any less mind-boggling than its predecessor. I haven't thought of anything particularly intelligent to say about it yet, save that if you liked Hips & Makers you're definitely going to like this one, and Kristin Hersh is just seriously, seriously cool. :) (meth@smoe.org)

I listened to this for a while and while it did take time to grow on me after a few listens I was completely hooked, I came to like it a lot. Then it rotated out of the CD player for a while and now it's back in. And I still like it a lot. It's subtle and beautiful. And once it started I was usually very reluctant to stop listening until it had finished. It's such a wonderfully cohesive album that it's hard to imagine that she did it apparently without quite planning to. It's definitely my favorite of her solo albums, and falls into my "silly grin" category: when I put it on, I often end up listening to the whole thing with a silly grin on my face. There are very few albums that do that for me. (stevev@hexadecimal.uoregon.edu)

This album absolutely blew me away. Pure genius. (mcurry@io.com)

No idea why I love it, but I can't shake it or stop playing it. (rkonrad@ibm.net)


Murder, Misery and Then Goodnight

Release info:

1998—4AD—M1

Availability:

In the U.S. only available through online vendors

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for fans of Kristin Hersh and/or of traditional music

Group members:

Kristin Hersh

Guest artists:

Ryder James O'Connell—various backing vocals and piano tracks

Produced by:

Kristin Hersh

Comments:

A collection of traditional songs arranged by Kristin Hersh. In a way it doesn't seem like a departure at all for her. They're all pretty bleak but also funny and very catchy, and the songs are almost the perfect vehicle for Kristin Hersh's sensibilities. If you like either Kristin Hersh or traditional music, try this album. It's delightful. I didn't think I'd like this at first but it has really grown on me. (Neile)

I'm glad that I didn't let my original lukewarm impression keep me from enjoying the twisted murderous folk ballads and Kristin's hillbilly-true delivery. (jmgurley@drizzle.com)

Very, very sparse arrangements, mostly just Kristin and an acoustic guitar, though one of her children gets in on the act from time to time. Not everyone's cup of tea, to be sure, but worth hearing if you like her work. A worthwhile addition to the collection if you like love songs that always end in murder.... (burka@jeffrey.net)

A collection of songs from Kristin's youth that certain seems to go a long way toward explaining the person she became, and a very cool album in its own right. (mcurry@io.com)


Works in Progress

Release info:

1998—Throwing Music

Availability:

By subscription from Throwing Music website only

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for fans of Kristin Hersh

Comments:

While visiting the Throwing Muses website I discovered that Kristin started an online distribution of her work. Here is how it works: you subscribe (online with a credit card) and you can download in MP3 format one song per month for the coming year. The price is $14.95, a bit expensive but this is Kristin we are talking about, I paid $10 for a single with *one* acoustic song on it! And the fact that she is receiving all the money is a big plus too. (Yves.Denneulin@imag.fr)

Entirely too cool. (burka@jeffrey.net)

#1: "No Hard Feelings:
A great Kristin Hersh tune, and if you dig her albums, hop on the bandwagon and show some support. I have a feeling it's going to be frustrating waiting for each new tune every month, but I'm quite pleased to have "No Hard Feelings" residing on my hard drive. That said, I'm also quite pleased that Kristin didn't include this song on Strange Angels. It's a great song, but I can't figure out anywhere it would have fit on what is one of my very favorite albums of the year. Mostly, but not entirely acoustic instrumentation, processed vocals (well, some of 'em), and typically odd lyrics. (burka@jeffrey.net)

Echo (single)

Release info:

1999—4AD (U.K.)—BAD 9007 CD

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for Kristin Hersh fans

Group members:

Kristin Hersh

Guest artists:

Carlo Nuccio—drums
David Narcizo—drums
Bernard Georges—bass

Produced by:

Kristin Hersh and Trina Shoemaker

Comments:

Includes "Echo", plus covers of Nirvana's "Pennyroyal Tea" and The Beatles' "Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me and My Monkey".

Kristin's cover of Nirvana's "Pennyroyal Tea" makes perfect sense to me, the crunchy guitars and her raw voice pretty much like the original. Not as different as Tori Amos' "Teen Spirit". The Beatles tune is cute and chirpy and a bit too silly. (k_hester_k@yahoo.co.nz)

I love her version of "Pennyroyal Tea" particularly. Wow. (Neile)


Sky Motel

Release info:

1999—4AD—CAD 9010CD

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Kristin Hersh

Guest artists:

Carlo Nuccio—live drums (3 songs), drum loop (1 song)
David Narcizo—drum loops (2 songs)
Trina's neck—backing vocals (1 song)

Produced by:

Kristin Hersh and Trina Shoemaker

Comments:

Kristin is, as always, unbelievably brilliant. Let me start off by saying that I'm someone who *loved* Strange Angels (and actually liked it more than Hips and Makers). And I also love Sky Motel! I'm really impressed with it. Seeing the new material performed live had made it seem as though it was going to be a Throwing Muses CD under a different name (not that that would have in any way been a bad thing), but instead it falls somewhere between Kristin's solo albums and a Muses album. It rocks more than the solo stuff, but isn't as intense as Throwing Muses.
     My favorite track at this point is probably "A Cleaner Light," but it's already proving to be one of those albums where different tracks seem to stand out every time I listen to it so I expect that will keep changing.
     Anyway, if you're a Kristin Hersh fan you really need to run out and buy this CD, assuming of course that you don't have it already. :) I can say with some certainty that this is going to make my top 10 list for 1999. I'm growing to love this album more and more, and I already loved it quite a bit the first time I listened! Kristin has once again managed to amaze me. (mcurry@io.com)

It's more immediately catchy than Strange Angels, which took a few listens to grow on me (but boy, did it grow). I think I'm going to like Sky Motel a lot too. (stevev@hexadecimal.uoregon.edu)

Yum, great album. The weird thing, as people have mentioned here before, is a Kristin Hersh release that sounds like a Throwing Muses one. I understand that the 'brand' "Kristin Hersh" sells lots more than Throwing Muses but that might have been a temporary quirk due to the convergence of ethereal female music press coverage and Michael Stipe and all that (Strange Angels didn't sell as much as Hips and Makers, did it?) or perhaps because more people like her acoustic music, but either way releasing a loud guitar Kristin album doesn't make sense. Unless she now feels she can openly 'own' her music or something, that does make sense. (k_hester_k@yahoo.co.nz)

I guess Sky Motel seems more like Strange Angels than Hips and Makers, if I had to draw any similarities between them, but with a good portion of Muses thrown in for good measure. (ectophil@netlink.co.nz)

Wow. I've been waiting for this for a long time, as a fairly recent (within the past two years) Kristin Hersh/Throwing Muses fan who was slightly disappointed with Strange Angels. After hearing a record that sounded like a collection of demos, outtakes, B-sides, and rarities, it was grrrreat to hear something that sounded like an album through and through. Unlike some of the people on this list, I don't think Sky Motel sounds much like the Throwing Muses (with the exception of "Cathedral Heat", which is the only song Kristin Hersh "wrote" in the style of the older Throwing Muses tunes)—the album sounds more song-based than most of her previous work, like she was trying to take what she learned from her two acoustic records and apply that to a band atmosphere. It also seems to be a much more balanced work, musically and lyrically—the production is painted in bright, colorful brushstrokes (as opposed to the meticulous shading of her previous recorded output), and there are ebullient-sounding tunes like "Echo" and "Spring" nestled with dark, glistening gems like "Faith" and "San Francisco". (tugboat@channel1.com)

It's not Throwing Muses, but it sure as heck sounds like it. :) Either way, I'm happy to listen. Kristin isn't quite on the same planet as the rest of us, and this is a fun glimpse into her weird and wacky world. (meth@smoe.org)

She's Kristin, which means that she's magic at writing the kind of songs that seem instantly memorable, and Sky Motel shows this even better than some of her others. This might be my favourite of her "solo" discs after Hips and Makers. There are so many wonderful songs on this one, particularly "Cathedral Heat". Yum. (Neile)

The Kristin is wonderful of course but can't be played while working. (Yves.Denneulin@imag.fr)

She continues to impress me more and more. Amazing album. (onealien@mo.himolde.no)


Sunny border blue

Release info:

2001—4AD—CAD 2102 CD

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Kristin Hersh—all instruments

Guest artists:

Steven Rizzo—"drunken drums" on 1 track

Produced by:

Kristin Hersh

Comments:

In short, Kristin's still as good as ever. Sunny Border Blue isn't any radical departure in style; it's similar to Sky Motel with its assortment of acoustic and electric guitar, piano, and other well-chosen backing instruments, but has its own unique flavor and a similar amount of variety between songs. Lately my favorite song has been "Summer Salt", but there are a lot of close seconds.
      If you're already a fan of Kristin Hersh, then Sunny Border Blue is another heaping helping of her elliptical and evocative lyrics and smoky voice. If you haven't acquired a taste for Kristin Hersh yet, start working on it—like some foreign cuisine, the flavors and textures are rich, salty, and strange, but after a while you find you crave it. (stevev@hexadecimal.uoregon.edu)

It is excellent! It's always nice to gain a whole new level of appreciation thanks to excellent production of good songs that I've already become very familiar with through live performances and the demos (I felt the same way about her last album as well). Definitely one to pick up! (cmont@rci.rutgers.edu)

Indeed it is excellent. I still prefer the folkiness of the two albums before Sky Motel, and think Strange Angels is, by far, her strongest solo album. But I like the new stuff too. And Cat Stevens' "Trouble" is one of my favorite songs (yes, not only do I have it on CD, I also have the Harold and Maude DVD), so having the Kristin Hersh version is a real treat. (burka@jeffrey.net)

I like it, I like it a lot, but I still prefer her very first solo album. That had, for me, a rawness about it, as well as several songs that leapt out and lodged themselves under my skin right away, while nothing else since has managed to come as close. Sunny Border Blue for me, is the best since Hips and Makers, with a couple of standout songs, but it still doesn't have that impact. I also shelled out for the "Limited" edition, which amounts to nothing more than a cardboard sleeve and a couple of interlocking cardboard inserts—a far cry from the limited Hips and Makers, which is really very, very special. Still, highly recommended, and it's hard to believe she plays all those instruments herself. (adamk@zoom.co.uk)

Wait, did I say Sky Motel was my favourite Kristin Hersh solo album after Hips and Makers? No, it has to be this one. "Spain" and "White Suckers" stick in my head almost as much as "A Loon". Kristin Hersh just seems to continue being her wonderful self, and this is a pretty great Kristin disc. Really, this is a brilliant album. (Neile)

One of my top 10 of 2001. ( mcurry@io.com)

She never stops to amaze me—and I'm if possible an even bigger fan after experiencing her wonderful self at the concert in Oslo early last year. Just can say that I highly awaits her next album. (onealien@mo.himolde.no)

Addictive & textured & complicated—like Kristin herself. (John.Drummond)


live at Noe Valley Ministry

Release info:

2001—Throwing Music

Availability:

At live shows; check Throwing Music for more information

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for fans

Group members:

Kristin Hersh—vocals, guitar

Comments:

This two-disc set disc set was recorded in April 1998, and does go a long way toward giving the listener a sense of what Kristin Hersh is like live. These solo live versions show just how much music can come from one extraordinary woman and her guitar. Highly recommended for all Kristin Hersh fans. (Neile)

The Grotto

Release info:

2003—4AD—CAD 2302 CD

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Kristin Hersh

Guest artists:

Howe Gelb
Andrew Bird

Produced by:

Kristin Hersh

Comments:

Her voice in my ear feels so comforting, guess I've been listening to her for so long she feels like home. I wonder how much one's enjoyment of music is amplified in those cases where you've spent so many years with someone's music—both the memories of how the different albums fit within your life, and the accrued knowledge of the artist's approach to songwriting and their instruments.
     Not many of The Grotto's songs are stuck in my brain for replay in my head. They are like footprints in wet sand which rise up and disappear as soon as you move on—though I recognise the turns in the melody when they come, but I won't remember them again until next I hear them. This'll change after more listening though.
     The songs don't have the tight pop structure that Kristin sometimes uses, they are of her meandering, convoluted type. The strings and piano are gorgeous and I wonder what would be left of some of the ghostly songs without these instruments giving them colour and shape. Has anyone heard them live, alone on a guitar?
     As usual I love her words, never wilfully obtuse but personal and metaphorical in the way that can be even more precise than something plain and direct. I know Kristin dislikes having a lyric sheet accompanying albums, but, grrr to the absence of lyrics this time. My favourites are "I won't waste your time with lies, and there's not much truth to tell" and "that's the way the cookie bounces, in spite of me." (k_hester_k@yahoo.co.nz)

I've just listened to Kristin Hersh's The Grotto for what must be the 10th time, and it doesn't really get any easier. I think I can summon up the strength to say that (yes, in my opinion) this is easily her worst album. At first, I was thrilled when I heard that she was getting back to basics, thinking "Great, another Hips and Makers"—which I still think is her best. But this...this tuneless, turgid plod just tries my patience. There are some beautiful arrangement—"Arnica Montana", for instance, has a really fragile, haunting feeling to it, thanks to the piano and cello accompaniment—but otherwise this is just one dull moan after another, and after a while they begin to sound familiar. Meanwhile—is it just me, or has something happened to her voice? It feels much more tentative, much more tremulous than before, lacking the passion of her past recordings. (adamk@zoom.co.uk)

I really love The Grotto. It seems like some of Kristin Hersh's best solo work. Really soulful. (Neile)

I'm still really liking The Grotto, too. Every time I listen to it a few more lyrical details come out. (stevev@hexadecimal.uoregon.edu)


Learn to Sing Like a Star

Release info:

2007—YepRoc Records—YEP 2142

Availability:

Wide in U.S.

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for Kristin Hersh fans

Group members:

Kristin Hersh—vocals, guitar

Guest artists:

David Narcizo—drums
Martin McCarrick (The McCarricks)—cello, string arrangement
Kimberlee McCarrick (The McCarricks)—violin, string arrangement

Produced by:

Kristin Hersh

Comments:

Out of all her solo work, this comes the closest to her Throwing Muses work. Powerful, edgy—"In Shock" in particular is a killer—and it has a sense of humor, often in titles, such as the instrumental "Christian Hearse" and the album title itself. Kristin's the last person on earth who should be teaching people how to sing like a star, but I'd take her singing any day over generic Pro Tools-ed pop star voices. Among my favorite rock albums of 2007. (lotterose @ gmail . com)

Also, thanks to those who reminded me that Kristin Hersh's Learn To Sing Like A Star came out this year, too. I loved this record, and gave it a lot of spins early in the year. The shows I saw on the release tour were great, too. (meth@smoe.org)

One of my favourite albums of 2007. ((Neile)


cats and mice

Release info:

2010—Kitten Charmer—KC 001

Availability:

Wide in U.S.

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for fans of Kristin Hersh and/or Americana

Group members:

Kristin Hersh—vocals, guitar

Comments:

Reminiscent of her 1998 album,Murder, Misery and Then Goodnight, this is a recording o a concert in San Francisco where Kristin Hersh played a mix of her own new tunes, traditional tunes, a few of her earlier songs, eg. "You Ghost" and two Throwing Muses songs. Kristin's damaged vocals suit the traditinoal form well. (Neile)

Crooked

Release info:

2010—book published by The Friday Project/HarperCollins; music by Cash Music/

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Kristin Hersh—all instruments

Produced by:

Kristin Hersh

Comments:

This is a gorgeously printed book, which contains art, lyrics, and instructions about how and where to download the accompanying album (which is also available in CD format on the Throwing Music site). The album is full of strong songs with wonderful movements characteristic of Kristin Hersh's work. It's both a rocking and haunting album, as exemplified by such terrific tunes as "sand" and "glass," and, well, pretty much everything on this album. It's a Kristin Hersh album—uncompromising but somehow welcoming to the listener. It's good, lively, charming, and evocative, and the lyrics are intriguing. Go listen. (Neile)

Further info:

Kristin Hersh's book, Rat Girl, was published by Penguin in 2010.

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