Claire Small
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Claire Small

Austin, Texas, United States | INDIE

Austin, Texas, United States | INDIE
Band Pop Acoustic

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"Austin Chronicle"

Claire Small answers the question of her title with breezy pop lilts on her sophomore release that lifts her indie folk high on the bar. Small crossbreeds her Nashville experience with newfound Texas strength, and her appealing vocals carry the country flavors well. Among the quiet pleasures of How Do You Like Love? is Small's duet with What Made Milwaukee Famous' Michael Kingcaid on "When You Wore a Tulip." - Margaret Moser


"Austin City Limits Festival"

Claire Small was born and raised in Nashville (and still lives there, too), but don't make the mistake of judging her or her music by any prejudices you might have against that town's rep for churning out mainstream country radio fodder. The looser "Americana" tag doesn't really do her justice either, even though Small was running with a hip crowd of anti-country-music-establishment mavericks like Greg Garing and BR549 when she was still in her teens. While there's certainly a rootsy, acoustic singer-songwriter layer to her impressive full-length debut, Ledger, the album also finds her exploring elements of bossa nova, klezmer and gypsy melodies. What it all adds up to is a promising new artist unafraid to color outside genre lines - and talented enough to pull it off. --Austin City Limits Festival - Austin City Limits Festival Program


"Soul Music: Local singer-songwriter's new album plumbs expansive spiritual depths"

Claire Small is a soul singer. Not in the traditional black gospel-influenced sense (though that's certainly one of her touchstones), but in a way that draws on sources just as old. On the surface, Small's latest album, Ledger, is confessional singer-songwriter fare. But the record's range of influences hints at the depth of her imagery, which calls on Hebrew Scripture as much as it does P.J. Harvey and Mindy Smith

"Numbers" is one such song. Over a groove anchored by upright bass and Middle Eastern percussion, Small chants, "Three shovels of dirt on my back / I cry out / The sun is so hot and the earth is so black / I cry out." She then repeats the lines "Watch your step" and "This little Lamb of God has lost her way." The reference evokes the man in the 15th chapter of Numbers who is stoned for gathering sticks on the Sabbath, the implication being that Small, too, fears that she may be punished for deviating from a life of routine faith.

Elsewhere, scriptural imagery abounds. In "Citronella," ostensibly a love song, she sings, "The world is so different now the prisoners are free / I let them go into the mighty sea." In "My Way On," she is "walking without shoes," a reference that, in Hebrew and Muslim literature, is a symbol of servitude and, alternately, shame.

Legder was recorded by the eclectic producer and guitarist Joe McMahan. Its sparse, linear arrangements recall his previous work with singer-songwriters Kevin Gordon and Jennifer Niceley, but if anything, Small's musical influences are more diverse than those two. Tactfully avoiding shuffles and hard backbeats, she and her backing band, which includes bassist Kyle Kegerreis and drummer Sam Baker, opt for exotic half-time grooves and gentle sambas that complement Small's wavering, searching alto.

Throughout Ledger, Small seems concerned about the state of her soul. Like the work of Mindy Smith, a songwriter also known for scriptural, albeit Christian, symbolism, Small's issues of the heart are bound to issues of faith. As such, Ledger is no mere relationship record. For Small, the physical embrace equates with the seeker's hunger for understanding. Like the search for Woman Wisdom in the Proverbs, Small, too, longs to hold something "more precious than jewels." - Nashville Scene


"R-Rated Reviews: Claire Small"

Though you might not recognize her now, many Music city diehards once saw Small at the tender age of 15, singing along with her then mentor Greg Garing during the mid-90's Lower Broad honky-tonk revival days. Small has since spent time away in Colorado and New Mexico but returned to her roots literally and figuratively in 2004 with her EP, Cantilever, produced by her old Lower Broad buddy Paul Burch. But whether or not you know her previous work is of little consequence, as her new album, Ledger, is obviously the pinnacle of her artistic efforts thus far.

On Ledger, Small masterfully combines strummy late-60's / early-70's femme folk, the new-century neo-jazz pop of Norah Jones, Swan Dive, Koop, and most acurately Madeleine Peyroux, and the adult-alternative radio singer-songwriter sound of peers like Sarah Harmer.

The album is full of surprising and pleasant melodic twists that turn formulaic song structures into something more than their shells would suggest. Small's remarkable voice is surrounded by simple, subtle playing, primarily featuring stand-up bass, acoustic guitar and drums, with additional instrumentation--strings, horns, percussion, steel guitar--thrown in to perfectly augment the mood from guests such as Lambchop / Calexico member Paul Niehaus.

Throughout Ledger, Small addresses the falling in love/losing love cycle you would expect from a singer-songwriter working in this idiom, but she also takes on other topics. On the first and maybe best song on the album, Rewind, Small sings about being inherently and irreversibly a good person, but wishing so much that she could be bad.

Unlike many Nashville-based pop, rock and folk artists who try to tread the fine line between officially being "Christian" artists and making so-called secular music for the masses, the Jewish-reared Small isn't afraid to address spiritual issues in a way sure to make more conservative crusties cringe. They are sure to shudder at such lines as, "This little lamb of God has lost her way," from the spooky, Mediterranean-influenced "Numbers."

In our opinion, the only time Small actually loses her way is when she commits the cardinal songwriting sin of using the words "coffee cup" in the acoustic folk/country tune "Cryin' Before Ten." Outside of that unfortunate lyrical spill, Ledger is sweet, sensitive, sincere and sorry, Claire, really good. - Nashville's All The Rage


"Claire Small in "Sound Off""

After spending years getting wise on the teachings of Simon & Garfunkel, Tito Puente and Muddy Waters, Nashville-bred Claire Small's hard work paid off when she released her debut album, Ledger in 2006. Small's shimmering vocals immediately bring to mind such talent as Natalie Merchant, and her acoustic guitar-let songwriting jumps from genres as varied as bossa nova to dreamy americana. Performing with upstart alt/country artist Steve Wedemeyer, Small and company will seduce your ears and keep you craving more. - Richmond.com


"Metro Pulse Calendar: Claire Small"

It can be hard for a young musician to find her identity in the biz. With pipes that evoke a feel similar to that of fellow Nashvillian Mindy Smith--at once timid, precocious, and tough as nails--Claire Small might be destined for the country charts, if it weren't for her carefree unwillingness to stick to any genre. On the song "Numbers," the dark-eyed beauty reveals her Jewish heritage to the tune of a hunted musing, airy with Middle Eastern winds and yet heavy with spectral, ancestral rhythms. Others songs, like the folksy, sweet "Suit Me," delve into viscerally familiar relationship issues. The common thread that ties together her debut full-length album, Ledger, is a lyrical nuance that conveys wisdom beyond her years. Whether she's singing of her roots or of heartbreak or finding her way in the world, Small's voice carries a tangible emotion throughout, alternately breathy and brazen in all the right places. For this show, she'll be joined by violin whiz Billy Contreras and electric guitarist Hans Holzen, who both play with Robinella as well. Whichever direction she decides to go musically, it's clear that Small's mark will be anything but. - Knoxville Metro Pulse


"DISClaimer by Robert K. Oermann"

Claire’s CD is titled Ledger. It begins with this breezy, gentle, beautifully atmospheric track. This Nashville native is a groove-queen charmer who variously draws on bossa nova, jazz and latin rhythms. There’s a sweet, Norah Jones-ish innocence in her folk-pop sound that is wafting and winning. Heartily recommended. - Music Row Magazine


Discography

Album "How Do You Like Love?" released 5.18.10
Debut album "LEDGER" release Feb. 2006.
Song "Rewind" on 2 Disc Compilation, "The Other Side: Music From East Nashville" released Oct. 2006.

Photos

Bio


Claire was born and raised in Nashville, TN and it was there that she developed her singing and songwriting skills. Some of her biggest influences are the Beatles, Hank Williams, PJ Harvey, and 60's pop music. She writes her own music and sings with the voice of an angel. In mid-2007 Claire left Nashville and followed her heart to Houston, TX. She couldn’t resist the lure of nearby Austin though, and after a few months hit the road again, trading one music capital for another. The new experiences and heightened emotions from the two moves proved to be ample songwriting fodder. Jumping in feet first, Claire quickly made friends in the local music community, forming a band with bass player Matt Eskey and producer/drummer Stephen Belans. Since the summer of 2008 the trio has been playing shows around Austin, eventually taking time to record Claire's second album, "How Do You Like Love?" This new collection of songs tells a passionate tale of loving, leaving, and living in Texas set to a breezy pop soundtrack, and was released in 2010 by Austin indie Freedom Records.

Timeline

-Released “Ledger” - recorded in her hometown of Nashville, TN :: Feb. 2006
-Performed at Austin City Limits Music Festival :: Sept. 2006
-Moved from Nashville to Houston, then Austin 6 months later :: July 2007
-Performed on CMT's "Concrete Country” :: Jan. 2008
-Toured with Peter Bradley Adams of EastMountainSouth :: April - Nov. 2008
(shows incl. the Americana Music Conference, NPR's Mountain Stage, and XM's “Live At The Loft”)
-Regional TX tour opening for Mindy Smith :: Nov. 2009
-National tours opening for Asleep At The Wheel :: Sept. 2009 - Summer 2010
-Selected as a Kerrville Folk Festival New Folk Finalist :: April 2010
-Released sophomore album "How Do You Like Love? :: May 2010