Carolyn Striho
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Carolyn Striho

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Music

The best kept secret in music

Press



"IT’S ALL IN WHO YOU KNOW: In local rocker Carolyn Striho’s case, it was her husband, Freddie Brooks. He’d worked with MC5’s late great Fred "Sonic" Smith a long time ago, as well as Fred’s wife, legendary poet/songwriter Patti Smith. Patti had seen Carolyn and her band perform with another MC5 alumnus awhile back and they’d bump into each other every now and then. So it was apparently just a matter of time before the two woman began to work together.

Thus, Detroit has recently been blessed with a sort of second coming of Patti Smith Live, her vehicle being a half dozen gigs billed as Carolyn Striho and Detroit Energy Asylum with very special guest. Let the rest of the world be jealous! Even R.E.M. caught their gig at Industry earlier this month, where Patti performed "Ghost Dancing" and "People Have the Power," and jokingly inserted an Everly Brothers duet, "Devoted to You," with longtime guitarist Lenny Kaye.

She accompanied Carolyn on "Island In Your Arms" from DEA’s latest release, "Dreams Can Be Friend." It was widely rumored Michael Stipe might join his female idol onstage for a song, but unfortunately he decided against it at the last minute.

It’s been a long time since Carolyn’s musical debut in Detroit’s punk heyday in art band The Cubes. She reminded me then, as she does now, as a sort of female Iggy Pop (in his blond hair days). Maybe it’s in the way she teases the young men down in front, or her penchant for pulling her hair out in handfuls during particularly intense performances. But in the last decade, she has honed that intensity to work for her, and perhaps these collaborations with Ms. Smith will give her the spotlight she’s been striving for all these years." - Anita Mann:



"Patti Smith, the confrontationally spirited punk poet whose "three chords merged with the power of the word" ignited a cultural revolution, has re-emerged to claim her rightful place on the rock and roll stage.

Significantly, Smith will be arriving in Toronto on U.S. Independence Day for her Wednesday (July 5) appearance at the Phoenix – her first full musical performance since the Patti Smith Group’s final gig in Florence, Italy, in 1979.

For Smith, the free-form celebration, highlighted by the world premiere of her newest songs accompanied by her longtime guitar foil Lenny Kaye and members of Detroit Energy Asylum, represents the culmination of a painful transitional phase and the beginning of a new, soul-charging recording phase.

"Some days I’m happy to talk about Fred and I can do it without any problem at all," Smith wonders aloud while floating through the Toronto Hilton. "But there are other days when just the mention of his name is almost too much to handle. Without getting too deeply into it, when Fred died, I went through a really rough time. I had no idea how I was going to apply myself musically anymore.

"But the warmth and camaraderie of Carolyn Striho and her band, Detroit Energy Asylum, have helped get me back on my feet again. They’re not my band. They’ve got a whole thing of their own, but they’ve just put it on hold temporarily. They’ve learned some of my songs and have invited me to do a couple of low-key shows with them around Detroit to reacquaint myself with the physical aspect of music."

After spending 16 years out of the performing groove, Smith naturally needed to refamiliarize herself with her own repertoire. The surprising thing was, as much as her attitudes have changed over the years, singing her old songs didn’t turn out to be such a harrowing ordeal after all." - Tim Perlich:


"There is a moment in "She’s Living Yesterday", one of the eight remarkably melodic and hook-filled songs on Carolyn Striho’s excellent new CD Reminiscing About The Future, that sings volumes about the veteran Detroit rocker’s transformation from past to present.

"I am running from your eyes", she sings. "Words smoking memories of me/Only living in the past/Former endings that are on my mind/In the morning’s dusty night/Ooh, yeah, I live today."

The funny thing is, she thinks she’s writing about someone else, some anonymous Everyperson. But backed by her ever-changing musical montage, the Detroit Energy Asylum, Striho is surrendering secrets here, on her first recording in nearly two years, that even she may not fully appreciate.

The titles of her songs reveal the budding awareness of personal evolution: "Changing," "Deja Vu Me," "A Certain Something." Even the name of the CD suggests the calm acknowledgment of an emotional crossroads, as if she is returning to a glorious creative place that she has yet to visit.

"I think the focus is more on the songwriting. Not that it wasn’t before, but now it’s formulating the simplicity of the song and people are identifying with them quicker than they did before. And my songs – this may sound psycho or something – but I treat my songs now like they’re my little treasures. I have to take care of them, and if I don’t, they won’t take care of me. For years I didn’t do that. I just went out there and brutalized my songs. I did whatever I wanted to do up on stage and nobody could tell me anything."

That’s a leading candidate for the understatement of the year. Striho has been a manic, erotic, irrepressible attraction on Detroit’s musical landscape, noted for her impassioned, assaultive live sets that might find her battering her keyboards like a distaff Jerry Lee Lewis, stripping her lanky blond body down to a black push-up bra, writhing on the floor like a gunshot victim. If there was a chandelier in sight, Striho would swing from it...

Striho is exhibiting an accessibility, maturity and controlled confidence lacking in most of her previous work... she is refusing to live in the past, in our memories of her. She’s living for today, which makes her future looks extraordinarily bright. After years of experimenting, Carolyn Striho has finally got it right.

Striho gained a measure of national attention in the summer of 1995 when she and the DEA formed Smith’s backup band for her first live concerts in 16 years.

"I think the benefits went both ways," Striho says of those dates. "Patti hadn’t played in so many years, to come back out and have us as her band was really cool. Plus, I learned a lot just being like a backup musician. Instead of being the leader and being out front, I got to move things along in a different way. It was really fun; I really liked playing with her." - Jim McFarlin:



"Like the classic Motor City rock to which she aspires, Carolyn Striho isn't so much recorded as captured. Energy is the name of the game..." - Ben Edmonds:



"The music that she's been doing throughout the years has always had a great Detroit feel to it. Now something more is happening, there's more hooks and it's becoming this blend of hard Detroit sounds with more pop elements..." - Ralph Valdez:



"Church on New Year’s Day, recording a cover version of Nina Simone’s "Don’t Smoke In Bed," for the benefit album Ain’t Nothing but a She Thing, and sitting in with Carolyn Striho and the Detroit Energy Asylum at several gigs in Michigan. She performed again with that band in Toronto.

"All of them are very heartful," Smith says. "To give somebody access to your people is really generous. That group of people really cared about Fred, and they really wanted to help me get back to work. It’s been good for getting me focused for this record." - Evelyn McDonnell:



"Soul and spirit have been our city's strengths," say the liner notes to this collaboration by three of Detroit's most creative modern musicians, and the same could be said of the music on what is accurately billed as an "original soundtrack of transition."

Conceived as an early 300th birthday present to the city where their tastes and talents were formed, "Secrets and Space" has vocalist-songwriter Carolyn Striho, once of art rockers the Cubes, saxophonist David McMurray and his former partner in Was (Not Was), keyboardist Luis Resto, on a 12-track, thematic tour of the spot where R&B, art rock, free jazz and funk intersect. If there were a guided tour of a city rising from the ashes, this is what they'd play on the bus.

The original songs by all involved are atmospheric and impressionistic. Resto's mysterious, masculine "Bravo" is followed by Striho's insinuating and evocative "Necklace." Both are beautifully complemented by McMurray's fire-and-ice instrumental "vision/vision." Producer Freddie Brooks deserves copilot credit for merging this all into a seamless soundscape of city traffic." - Terry Lawson:



"Kudos to everyone involved in staging the Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith memorial show at the Magic Stick which celebrated Smith’s life and music via the recent 10 year anniversary of his passing.  Musical nods to Smith’s music with the MC5 were peppered throughout the evening...

All in all, though, it seemed that the biggest crowd-pleasing performance of the evening was Carolyn Striho’s acoustic take on Fred and Patti Smith’s “People Have the Power,” performed with Jackson Smith on rhythm guitar." - Gary Blackwell:



"Secrets & Space brings to mind so many wonderful things about the history of Detroit, as well as pointing to the possibilities of the future...

It has this very mysterious quality to it, and at the same time, a very futuristic feel; almost in a gritty sort of way, the way I like the city to be and the way I feel about the city. The production is outstanding and the coming together of these three talents is not to be missed." - Ralph Valdez:



"The word "transition" in the title refers very specifically to the city this music comes from: Detroit. Forever Detroit has been known as a home to brash, trashy, drunker than loud garage rock music, the birthplace of techno, and the original home of Motown. What is seldom referred to is the relentless restlessness of the city's musical present.

'Secrets & Spaces' is about revealing and reveling in that restlessness. This is a music created by three of the city's finest musicians and composers, who have long been active not only on the fringes, but in the bloodstream of its musical architecture for years: Carolyn Striho, Luis Resto and David McMurray. This "soundtrack" highlights the movement of a creative spirit in the dark, shape-shifting its way to new forms of expressions while remaining firmly in touch with the notion that Detroit is a working-class city, one of tremendous spirit amid ruinous architectures; it is a place where the diverse terrains of collaboration and individuality are nurtured with ferocity and vision.

Striho writes gorgeous psychedelic pop songs that come from the silver edge of midnight. Check her poetic "Necklace" where keyboards and guitars twine the lyric and its impressionist portrait that is as drenched in musical metaphor as it is lyrical. Her track "Breathing Space" is an aching anthem of poetry and longing...

Writing fine songs that accent each member's strengths is only one part of what this trio and their sidemen pull off. They also take songs from the city's heritage and from its heritage of feeling and work them into the mix. There is Striho's slow, purposeful reading of Holland-Dozier-Holland's "Reach Out I'll Be There" with a supporting vocal from Patti Smith, as well as her vocal performance of Smith's sister Kimberly's "Destiny Plans." And finally there is Thom Bell's "I'll Be Around"; it speaks with the finality of spiritual and aesthetic authority that there is life in Detroit after Detroit.

Legends are only stories of the past, but art breathes and talks its trash every day, rising up into the streetlights to reveal itself as a healthy angel adorned in grease and sweat and is all the more elegant for it. This is truly a recording of secrets and strengths; a record that looks firmly ahead and disdains nostalgia." - Thom Jurek:


Discography

Secrets & Space 'Original Soundtrack Of Transition'
featuring Carolyn Striho, Luis Resto, David McMurray
(Mack Aborn Rhythmic Arts, 2000)

Reminiscing About The Future (Mysteriho Music, 1997)

Dreams Can Be Your Friend (Mysteriho Music, 1995)

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

From the dawn of her first band, songwriter Carolyn Striho proved a wondrous creature who placed herself at the service of the music. From shouting out angrily and rolling and tumbling all over the stage in anarchic splendor as a way of making something actually happen inside herself and audience, to collapsing in a heap at the end of the rock and roll set that used chaos and melody as an unholy union, Striho was absolutely possessed by the music. Carolyn weaves high energy, top-notch playing that doesn’t get in the way of a song, commitment to getting something across by whatever means necessary - together with her own passionate voice, lyrically expansive and hook-laden songwriting style, energy-first guitar playing -spitting out an unfettered monster all her own... bad-ass, sidewinding, erotic music that isn’t afraid to use a soft hand before it cracks the whip and demands attention.
Carolyn has been nominated for 3 Detroit Music Awards in 2006, as Best Acoustic Songwriter, Rock/Pop Act and Best Miscellaneous Instrumentalist (guitar). And Carolyn was invited to London, England in June, 2005, where she performed on Patti Smith's London Meltdown Festival, doing an opening set for Steve Earle's performance, and then joined the Patti Smith Group on guitar and vocals, returning to the stage that evening with Steve Earle on guitar and vocals and with the Patti Smith Group.
Carolyn also sang in London on the previous evening on Meltdown with Patti Smith and Yoko Ono, Marianne Faithfull, Beth Orton, Sinead O'Connor, Tori Amos and Kristen Hersh.
Carolyn is highly-regarded in Detroit's creative music community, a musician and songwriter with a reputation for wildly energetic, yet dreamy, experimental music; best-known for fronting the trail-blazing Detroit Energy Asylum and work with Patti Smith. An engaging and dynamic live performer, she has amassed an expansive collection of original recordings. She operates quite independent of any one scene; preferring to "let a hundred flowers bloom, a hundred schools of thought contend" as she works with a cross-section of original musicians. Her studio recordings feature Detroit's keyboard savant Luis Resto, who's been a key songwriter on Eminem's last albums, guitarists Jackson Smith, bassist Darrell Smith and drummers Ken Scott and Vinnie Dombrowski of Sponge and Orbitsuns.
Carolyn is not inclined to present a scripted and mechanical 'show'. She traverses a musical tightrope without a net, in active pursuit of sonic adventures, explosive, spirited and spontaneous. Orbit magazine once noted "Carolyn has been a Motor City fixture since she was a Bookie's baby", some months later they expanded, "This is what rock & roll would sound like if it didn't sound like something much lamer." Her live show is at once riveting and confrontational, strong, soulful, poetic punk. Carolyn's new album will be released in 2006 - watch for it!