Frankenpine is a string band that nods to tradition without bowing to it. Bluegrass, country and folk provide the foundation of the band’s sound, but Frankenpine’s original music draws on a wide range of influences, including blues, gypsy jazz, rock and old-time. The result is a set of songs with propulsive rhythms and virtuosic solos, tight arrangements and soaring vocal harmonies. The fiddle climbs, the guitars churn. The banjo rolls and the bass digs in.
Formed trio in 2007, Frankenpine has since grown into a sextet including three lead singers, acoustic and resonator guitars, mandolin, bass, fiddle, harmonica, banjo, accordion, percussion and whatever else is within reach. The band has appeared on WNYC, WKCR (Columbia University’s radio station) and North Country Public Radio and performs regularly around New York City. Frankenpine recently completed a year-long residency at the Lakeside Lounge, in the East Village, and released its debut full-length album, The Crooked Mountain, in December of 2010.
Its songs span a range of topics: murderous outlaws, intrepid reporters, local dives and new starts. The sound is varied and vivid. “Texas Outlaw” runs on whipsaw vocal harmonies and fiddle lines. “Blackwell Island” shuffles, swings and lurks all at once. In “Cold Water” a clarion voice floats above of a pair of chiming mandolins. “Convict Grade” scurries on a rabbit-kick rhythm. And “Baltimore” is a try-again smile at the end of a long, rough night.
Often the songs are written collectively—someone comes up with a chord progression, someone else with a bridge or words, someone else with lyrics. That spirit of collaboration is key to Frankenpine’s playing, too. On stage, a guitar solo lifts off from a banjo break and circles back around to slip beneath a fiddle line, the bass driving them all ever forward. With four regular singers—two girls, two guys—the band’s words, stories pulled from personal trials and long-gone history, rise above that near-mad scramble of playing. Frankenpine works because, among the licks, fills and turnarounds, there’s space for a good yarn.
"With Frankenpine, the music takes centerstage over anyone’s ego which is an awfully nice thing to see. What they play is the future of bluegrass, not the past." ~Lucid Culture
"The Brooklyn collective play warm bluegrass inspired by rock, country and blues, and they'll make you think you're up in the hills of Southern Appalachia instead of in a club in Williamsburg." ~Alana Harper, WNYC
"This is not just another band that shows some promise; they look the part and are true seasoned musicians ...Occasionally the whole band will join in to reach a crescendo, and this is where Frankenpine really rocks out." ~Wyatt Marshall, Rock NYC
"One of Brooklyn Country’s most beloved acts... putting together one of the most powerful and pioneering line-ups in the Brooklyn bluegrass tradition." ~Jeph Duarte, Brooklyncountry.com
"Like a bluegrass Grammy waiting to happen... experimenting with old vibes made new." ~Kim Smith Dedam, Press Republican
Kim Chase - Vocals, Guitar, Percussion, mandolin, and Kazoo
Matthew Chase - Banjo
Liz Bisbee - Vocals, and fiddle
Ned P. Rauch - Guitar, mandolin, and Vocals, resonator guitar
Colin DeHond - and Vocals, Electric and Upright Bass
Four Limbs, 2007, http://thecrookedmountain.com/album/four-limbs
The Crooked Mountain, 2010, http://thecrookedmountain.com/album/the-crooked-mountain
Magical Bluegrass Goodness in the City
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Frankenpine played Lakeside Lounge in the East Village Thursday and the Brooklyn-based six-piece tre...Frankenpine played Lakeside Lounge in the East Village Thursday and the Brooklyn-based six-piece treated a packed bar to a magical hour of bluegrass goodness. Frankenpine—thoughtfully named for the not-so-subtly disguised cell towers posing as pine trees that have taken root in our green spaces around the country—are a rising folk and bluegrass band that blend traditional Adirondack folk and bluegrass with urban sensibilities to remarkable effect. Watching them last night, my second time seeing them, I was amazed by their commanding presence and incredible sound that they projected so effectively throughout the small bar. This is not just another band that shows some promise; they look the part and are true seasoned musicians who have created convincing and complex compositions that will whisk you away up into the hills, where you’ll probably find a full moon, a campfire, a bottle of moonshine, and these guys and gals waiting to play for you long into the night.
Acoustic guitar, banjo, bass, mandolin, resonator guitar, accordion, hand drum, fiddle, and, lest I forget, kazoo on one song, are artfully and playfully arranged across the band’s impressive set of originals. The only thing that seemed to be missing was a guy blowing on an empty jug or someone playing a washboard. Constant quick-picking banjo, guitar, and that great bluegrass bass groove drive the compositions, but these components willingly take a back seat when appropriate to allow the other parts of the band to take center stage and shine. The chemistry between band members is wonderful, with one member picking up a melody seamlessly where another left off. Occasionally the whole band will join in to reach a crescendo for dramatic effect, and this is where Frankenpine really rocks out.
The vocal arrangements are equally impressive. Front-woman Kimberly Chase sings with a haunting and sentimental wail and croon that is reminiscent of Alison Krauss. She is backed vocally by Liz Bisbee on fiddle for a few songs, but occasionally by Ned Rauch on resonator guitar. Rauch will also take lead vocals on some songs, as will the multi-talented Andy Mullen who plays percussion, accordion, fiddle, and harmonica. The lyrical content is poetic and sometimes borders on a darker side, as in the song “Never Lie to my Guns,” when Rauch menacingly sings, “Lie to the preacher/Lie to the Judge/But Never Lie to my Guns.” My kind of bluegrass tough guy.
Frankenpine have so far released an EP titled “Four Limbs,” but the group was pleased to announce that they finished recording their first full-length, “The Crooked Mountain,” this week and it should be released soon. Expect to hear more from this talented group. They are currently in the middle of a yearlong residency at Lakeside (Ave B and 10th), playing the first Thursday of every month.
Concert Review: Frankenpine at Lakeside Lounge, NYC 10/14/09
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In case you don’t know what a frankenpine is, it’s a cellphone tower designed to look like a pine tr...In case you don’t know what a frankenpine is, it’s a cellphone tower designed to look like a pine tree. “There’s one on the Merritt Parkway, and it looks more like a mascara brush,” Frankenpine’s frontwoman Kim Chase scowled as she explained her band’s name to the impressively good crowd who came out to Lakeside to see them last Wednesday. Lakeside gets a ton of good bands, but not all of them pack the place on a weekday like this crew did. The careening six-piece bluegrass group ran through a gorgeously tuneful, diverse mix of originals and imaginatively arranged covers with lots of terse, inspiring solos, all of which they kept relatively brief. The chemistry between the band members was apparent from their first song, where banjo player Matthew Chase handed off his solo to the resonator player – who then fired off some intriguingly spiky mandolin voicings. Nobody steps all over anybody else, and it’s obvious that this crew has a lot of fun – with Frankenpine, the music takes centerstage over anyone’s ego which is an awfully nice thing to see. What they play is the future of bluegrass, not the past. Everybody brings something from another genre to the band – the resonator player knows his blues, the violinist has an effortless, classically-inflected gracefulness and the guitarist/mandolinist might have a background in theatre, considering the comedic style of his songs. There hasn’t been any bluegrass band in town this unpredictably fun since the Dixie Bee-Liners vamoosed for the woods of Virginia and started winning IBMAs.
Kim Chase brought a defiant, uneasy wail to the songs, from the mournful requiem Boatman to a propulsive, upbeat, slightly Southwestern gothic outlaw ballad inspired by the Clint Eastwood film The Outlaw Josey Wales. The banjo instrumental Wolf at the Door was as tense and climactic as the title implied; contrasting with that were two songs by the mandolinist, one a funny number called I Don’t Love You Because You’re Pretty. The covers included a gory Civil War era narrative about battlefield amputation and drinking (which go hand in hand), sung by the bassist (who also doubled impressively on harmonica, and also played the kazoo); a hypnotic fade up into a swaying, psychedelic version of John the Revelator; a starkly rustic St. James Infirmary, playing the gruesomeness of the lyrics for all they were worth, and Dolly Parton’s Memories of You, sung by Kim Chase with a heartfelt wail that matched the longing of the original while avoiding falling into the trap of trying to beat Dolly at her own style (you can’t, and this is the rare kind of band who know that). They closed their set with a soaring original, clanging and plinking with gusto over some tasty major-to-minor changes. If you’re sick of ossified bluegrass bands, i.e. where you’re afraid to take a hit of your beer because you might burp and someone in the band might glare at you, get to know Frankenpine. They wouldn’t mind if you danced. And you could. They’re at Spikehill on Nov 8 at 2 (two) PM and then at Fat Baby on 11/21 at 9.
Frankenpine debuts first long-play album today
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You can't chop down a Frankenpine and drag it home this holiday to fit in a tree stand. But the b...You can't chop down a Frankenpine and drag it home this holiday to fit in a tree stand.
But the band that snagged its name from wordplay for stealth telecommunication towers released its first album today.
It's a little like taking "boughs."
Called "The Crooked Mountain," the work features original music and lyrics of a five-part New York City ensemble whose sound draws largely from a rural and gritty heritage of strings.
The band was founded four years ago by singer, songwriter and guitarist Kim Chase and her banjo-playing musician and husband, Matthew Chase.
Liz Bisbee blends in her fiddle along with Saranac Lake transplants Ned P. Rauch on guitar/mandolin and Colin Dehond playing bass.
Saranac Lake music producer Jeff Oehler, who mixed tracks recorded over 10 days in Brooklyn at his Beehive Production studio, calls the new sound emerging from Frankenpine's rich collaboration "a little bit retro" with a gypsy-jazz core.
"Working with them was something I really thoroughly enjoyed. This is the first string-band Americana-fusion project that I've done," he said, "and the production approach was a little bit retro to emulate that old-time gypsy-jazz sound; it's very ensemble-oriented."
"They wanted a really organic, almost live-production quality. It is a unique, more vintage sound."
The rustic, gritty music is dark, he said, rolled out of muddy origins from boot prints on front-porch stoops.
"There was a component of working to go against the grain of the super-crisp, bright sound quality that's been predominant in coming out of Nashville over the last 15 years," Oehler said. "But Americana is a term for a genre growing into its own thing, progressively becoming darker, grittier with a deep full-bodied audio quality."
WALK THE BALANCE
Oehler credits the blend of musician-songwriters that comprises Frankenpine with a depth of collaboration that carries through in the sound.
"Three different people take the lead singer role, so I had to break everybody down individually and understand where they were coming from. Trying to walk that balance and give each an equally central voice is a difficult thing to do."
From their digs in New York City, the musicians talked about how they craft the music, melodies and lyrics together.
The lyrics to "La Fee Verte" were written in a café in Brooklyn where Kim and Matthew jotted down the goings-on around them.
Ned had already birthed the chord progression, not knowing then that when the two were laced together with strings, it would fit.
"I really don't know how it works," Ned said of their collaborative song writing.
"Sometimes an idea comes through my head into my hands like the shapes of sounds, and often that will lead somewhere. Then a week will go by and someone will say hey, I've got lyrics to that. Kim has this unnatural talent for conjuring melodies. She comes up with just beautiful melodic lines."
The "conjuring," Kim said, is a process of drawing from word-like sounds.
"When Ned came up with the instrumentation for 'La Fee Verte,' I listened to it and just had an instinct of what the melody could sound like over it. When we got back to practice, we tried it out."
In fitting lyrics, she said, it is really important that the internal sounds of the words fall into the music.
"And we're really about telling stories with our music," she said.
"Cold Water" is one Ned wrote with help from Kim about two longtime friends who died within a few years of each other.
"They never knew each other, but one was killed in an avalanche, another skiing across a lake in Maine, and they were both really moving people, instructive in the way they lived," Ned said.
"That song became really interesting in recording it. It's always been a two-mandolin song. But on the album, we were able to incorporate a cello, an accordion and a viola as well as a fiddle. Making sense of all that was largely the work of Jeff Oehler. He made sure it didn't sound like a swamp."
Interpreting each other is kind of like viewing modern art, Kim explained.
"And each person has their own interpretation."
Frankenpine stretches its signal on ‘The Crooked Mountain’
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Many aspects of Frankenpine live up to the duality of the band's name. Even though all its members l...Many aspects of Frankenpine live up to the duality of the band's name. Even though all its members live in New York City, they are still of the Adirondacks - specifically our neck of the woods.
They have a certain geographic foothold here. Their whole theme is inspired by Lake Placid artist Peter Seward, and they have two former Saranac Lakers in their ranks: Ned P. Rauch and Colin DeHond on resonator guitar and bass, respectively. The group has gigged here, too, at least four times.
But Frankenpine stands out as an anomaly in both the forests of the Adirondacks and the big city. It isn't a bluegrass band, thank you very much, but uses whatever acoustic styles nourish its crisp, unique sound. That "Don't pigeonhole us" call is clear on the band's first full-length album, "The Crooked Mountain," which should be available for purchase by this weekend at Ampersound in Saranac Lake, the Tri-Lakes' only remaining music store.
Frankenpine was formed in 2007 as a trio and the next year released a four-song EP, "Four Limbs." Members came, members went, and lead couple Kim and Matthew Chase had a baby this fall. Yet throughout the changes, the band has seriously honed and tightened its attack. Under the patient but exacting guidance of Saranac Lake's Jeff Oehler, Frankenpine painstakingly recorded and honed this new album as if they were established pros who played 200 shows a year rather than upstarts with day jobs, struggling to land a couple of gigs a month for minimal cash.
Attention has been limited but loving when given. Last year, Press-Republican Staff Writer Kim Smith Dedam called Frankenpine "a bluegrass Grammy waiting to happen." In September, Wyatt Marshall wrote on the Rock NYC blog, "This is not just another band that shows some promise; they look the part and are true seasoned musicians who have created convincing and complex compositions that will whisk you away up into the hills."
But with this album as a marketing tool, it may not be long before their website quotes bigger media than blogs and small northern newspapers.
Before I go any further, it's time for some disclosure: I'm friends with everyone in this band, especially Mr. Rauch. He worked with me here at the Enterprise from 2000 to 2002, and we did a radio show together from 2007 to 2008, where he introduced me to this band that he'd later join. If those ties automatically make you discount my review, so be it. But Ned doesn't think I'd blow smoke. We've had hundreds of conversations about what makes music good and bad, and we've been plenty critical of each other. So when he asked me for my opinion of "The Crooked Mountain," here's how I replied:
I've listened to the album all the way through, and it's pretty brilliant. You've got yourself a deeply high-quality product there. It has substantive and enjoyable lyrics, excellent individual playing (you and [fiddler] Liz [Bisbee] have some really noticeable solos) and tight band unity keeping the delightfully rattly blend in order. Colin's bass really is a huge plus for y'all. Not only does it anchor all the high-end tones, but he comes up with some really fine lines.
Plus, overall, Frankenpine continues to have its own sound. ... From a distance people might describe it as piney old-style music, but it's really a new deal - and a particularly good deal. I knew the first time I ever heard "Faceless Weaver" and "Rivers and Tides" [in 2008] that this band had its own style and that it worked.
But this album shows a lot of range, stretching that brand to its limits.
Although it has a bunch of slow songs, especially toward the end, they each sound different, and none of them drags. ... And Liz's voice makes the "Into My Own" a fantastic ending choice. You need something on a closing track that's soothing but still wakes you up a little, and that does it.
But my favorite song is one of yours - "Baltimore."
There are a million bands out there trying to get noticed, but yours has a good name; a distinct, generally appealing sound; well tested live dynamics; good songwriting; and now, a really good album. That's a lot. All it takes now is tons and tons of work - and luck.
Frankenpine CD Release
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Like the cellular tower protruding through the woods making folks driving through take a second glan...Like the cellular tower protruding through the woods making folks driving through take a second glance, the band Frankenpine is bound to turn some heads. I met these wonderful folks (back then a trio) when I was behind the bar at Hank’s Saloon. Their stage presence left an impression, even so early in their career. As musicians, they had a connection that made Frankenpine a concept bigger than any one member. They bonded with their audience in a fashion that made each show more than just a gig. The band introduced new instrumentation to their already established style and just three short years later, the same formula consisting of ideals and professionalism dominate the design of their craft. Frankenpine is six amazing musicians -Kim Chase, Matthew Chase, Liz Bisbee, Ned P. Rauch, Colin DeHond, and Andy Mullen- playing wonderful tunes. More a family than a band, their all-for-one attitude shows in the sharing of songwriting, the support of multiple vocalists, and the trading of solos. The result is this months full CD release The Crooked Mountain, a celebration of “the song” -that eternal process of putting words and music together through the careful phrasing and placing of notes to support and expand poetry shared through our most essential form of communication.
The songs found on The Crooked Mountain vary both in style and delivery. An uncanny ability to offer familiar feeling music with new flair and presentation fills each track. The style best described by Lucid Culture as “the future of bluegrass”. This artistic collection covers a variety of periods of the human condition and finds a unique vessel for each tale. From the amazing harmonies of “Texas Outlaw,” “Faceless Weaver,” “Baltimore,” and their take on “John the Revelator” to the chilling lone voice carrying us through “Cold Water;” Frankenpine have relentlessly sought the perfect mix of space and sound for each hand-crafted tune.
“La Fee Verte,” sure to end up on this summer’s “This Is Brooklyn Country, Vol. 1? is about an offbeat Williamsburg eatery Moto, known as well for it’s fare as for its nightly entertainment. The style of the song reflects well the demeanor of the staff and clientele as well as the decorum of the location itself.
The only song carried over from a previously released EP, “Faceless Weaver” exemplifies the spirit of Frankenpine’s live show, building a song (and with it the audience’s anticipation) only to strip it all away leaving a driving banjo that has been there all along. The song fills in instrument by instrument until each carefully placed element has gone a full 360 degrees back to Kim’s pleading cry before again crashing to a halt.
Ned P. Rauch, who plays a multitude of instruments (and is adept at all of them), takes lead vocals on “Never Lie,” an outlaw song of the truest form. The medicine show solo-trading showcases that band interaction that developed from the commitment to their live performances.
With a voice as pure and clear as a mountain top morning, Kim Chase could silence a room with a whisper, and “Over Your Bones” allows her to pierce deeper than most might feel comfortable. Chase’s resolve comes from a place such that you’ll find yourself venturing willingly with no hesitation.
The Crooked Mountain closes with “Into My Own,” a sparse arpeggiated song featuring both female vocalists, once again underlying Frankenpine’s interest in the most inspired presentation and best use of the enormous pool of talent with no preoccupation to ego.
I hope you’ll take a moment to listen to Frankenpine’s The Crooked Mountain. I guarantee there is something in there for everyone. And once you have, stop by and say hello at their release. They’ll make you feel like you are in the right place. Because you are.