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Elizabeth Schaefer


Country of origin:

U.S.

Type of music generally:

Definitely beautiful and fierce. Her style is very eclectic, ranging from rock to jazz and everywhere in between. (eperkins@surfbest.net)

Status:

Most recent release, Shaefer's Best (so far...) (compilation, c. 2000); most recent release of new material, Moodswing (1998)

See also:

Elizabeth Schaefer's site

uvulittle Records' page for Elizabeth Schaefer

Comparisons:

The most direct comparison I can think of, particularly for her later work, is Mary Lydia Ryan, on guitar instead of piano, with a more classically trained voice. She sometimes uses more high-pitched, sometimes girlish vocals, at times sounding almost exactly like Leah Andreone (just in her singing, not at all in the style of the music...) and other times venturing into strange territory somewhere between Emily Bezar and a less extreme version of the Cranes' Alison Shaw (again, just in vocal quality). (eperkins@surfbest.net)

Covers/own material:

Own

General comments:

She plays guitar, but the really spectacular thing about her is her voice, as well as her songwriting. She is prone to frequent comparisons to Kate Bush, which I can't comment on since I'm not too familiar with Kate's work, though I suspect the comparison is more apt than usual because Elizabeth is one of those singers with a wide range who can change her voice to fit any occasion—going from beautiful, whispery sounds to all-out shrieking. Her singing has definitely matured since her first album, so that her later albums feature more toned-down—but never straightforward—vocals. I was instantly obsessed with all of her albums, which hadn't happened in a long time. (eperkins@surfbest.net)

Recommended first album:

Start at the beginning and play them straight through. But, if you must start with one, I'd have to recommend Moodswing. Though if you have a fondness for high female vocals going all over the map, This Theater Was Razed may be a better first choice. (eperkins@surfbest.net)

Recordings:


This Theater Was Razed

Release info:

c. 1994—Wrecked Moviehouse Records

Availability:

See website for availability.

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Elizabeth Schaefer—voice, acoustic guitar

Guest artists:

Farzi Behroozi—violin
Dan Damman—electric guitar
Jeffrey Perkins—bass, bongos
Tad Getman—percussion, tap dancing
Isaac Schulze—electric guitar
Jon Skuldt—bass
Andy Ewen—electric guitar
Brian Lammers—drums
Anna Vogel—harmony
Derek McBride—bass
Troy Cooldhand—voice
Paul Grimstad—electric guitar
Viva—voice
Brian Bentley—drums
Mary Driscoll—flute
Jennifer Schaefer and Rhiannon Kubricka—gossiping usherettes
Shad Williams—electric guitar
Bradley Fish—acoustic guitar, dondo, gungru, footshaker, small conga, guiro

Comments:

This is an incredible first album, showing promise from the very beginning. She is incredibly hard to pin down. One minute she's singing in such a sweet, little-girly voice that I'm remarking to myself how amazing it is that she doesn't annoy me, and the next minute she's shrieking and howling. Then before you can get too used to that, she's gone into some jazzy crooning. And her lyrics are all over the place, too—switching back and forth between mocking renditions of clichéd lyrics to true originals. This album also contains a version of one of her most beautiful songs—"Black Glasses"—with Elizabeth at times accompanied only on violin. This is one of those songs that never fails to affect me, and this version seems rough in some places but in some ways still manages to be my favorite version (except when I'm listening to Moodswing, which it also appears on...). (eperkins@surfbest.net)

The Spirit of Spotty

as The Elizabeth Schaefer Band

Release info:

1996

Availability:

See website for availability

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for anyone who likes her other work

Group members:

Elizabeth Schaefer—vocals, acoustic guitar
Jeffrey Perkins—bass, percussion, synthesizers
Brian Bentley—drums, percussion
Andy Ewen—electric guitar

Guest artists:

Mary Driscoll—flute
Bill Blumfumgagne—electric violin
Stephanie Rearick—trumpet, keyboards
Hanah Jon Taylor—saxophone
Les Lokey—vocal harmony
Geoff Brady—marimba
Bradley Fish—acoustic guitar, percussion, laughter
Isaac Schultz—electric guitar

Produced by:

Jeffrey Perkins and Elizabeth Schaefer

Comments:

Apparently her least favorite album, a lot of people would be lucky to have this be their worst album. That said, I wouldn't recommend people start with this album, but if you like her other albums, I'd definitely recommend this one. I've listened to this fewer times than any of her other albums, and there aren't too many tracks that stand out on this one—except maybe "Leprosarium," which showcases the diversity of her songwriting, and "Valentine's Day," which shows up in a much-changed version on Moodswing. And her later albums are a bit of a relief after this one, since she removes a lot of the shrillness that comes into her voice. These types of vocals worked well on her first album, but it's nice to see her move into different territory on At the Heart of What's Obvious. Her band is more up-front on this album, which makes sense given that this is the one album that is credited as "The Elizabeth Schaefer Band." It also seems like some of the songs here are trying to be a bit more mainstream, which would normally be a bad thing but isn't here. It might even make this album a little more accessible, but note that I said they are "trying" to be more mainstream—it's obvious from this album that she could never be even close to mainstream. (eperkins@surfbest.net)

At the Heart of What's Obvious

Release info:

1997—Wrecked Moviehouse Records

Availability:

See website for availability

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Elizabeth Schaefer—vocals, acoustic guitar

Guest artists:

Brian Bentley—drums, congas
Jeffrey Perkins—bass, keyboards
Dean Welch—electric guitar
Jeff Eckels—acoustic bass, trombone, tuba
Stephanie Rearick—trumpet
Dan Zemmelman—keyboards
Mary Driscoll—flute
Hanah Jon Taylor—saxophone
Bill Blumfumgagne—violin

Produced by:

Jeffrey Perkins and Elizabeth Schaefer

Comments:

Wow. Her first two albums were great, but she really comes into her own here. There is a real shift between The Spirit of Spotty and this album, with a huge change in vocal style. This change is apparent in "Brother In the Smokehouse," which also appeared on This Theater Was Razed. I like both styles, but this one displays more musical maturity. She has reined in her higher vocals, so that they show off just as much range but also more control. This is the first place that the Mary Lydia Ryan comparison comes through for me. I think there is more variety in musical styles here as well, and this album may appeal to more listeners than the earlier ones. Favorite tracks include "Fly Me To London " and "It Could Have Been Castles." (eperkins@surfbest.net)

Moodswing

Release info:

1998—Wrecked Moviehouse Records

Availability:

See website for availability

Ecto priority:

Highly, highly recommended

Group members:

Elizabeth Schaefer

Guest artists:

Scott Dikkers—MC
Brian Bentley—drums
Trish Schaefer, Jennifer Pimlott, Matt Pimlott, Peter Senn—harmony singers
Jeff Perkins—bass
Rock Erickson—harmonica
Daniel Pereira—cello
Jon Vriesacker—violin
John Driscoll—Drums
Steve Roseblum—bass
Dan Zemelman—piano
Dean Welch—electric guitar
Ryan Porter—opera singers

Produced by:

Peter Senn and Elizabeth Schaefer

Comments:

She just keeps getting better. The vocals are outstanding; she swoops up and down the scale with the same level of control she began displaying on At the Heart of What's Obvious. There is a jazzy, cabaret-ish feel to many of these songs. Standout tracks include "Storm Before Sweden," "Message from a Lady," "Windstorm," and the beautiful, powerful-yet-understated "Black Glasses," updated from its appearance on This Theater Was Razed. But really, this is a great album from start to finish and is probably the best one to start with. I only wish this album were longer—at 35 minutes, I'm always disappointed when it ends. (eperkins@surfbest.net)


Thanks to Emily Perkins for work on this entry.

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Entry last updated 2011-03-04 22:11:31.
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