Coralee and the Townies
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Coralee and the Townies

Lexington, Kentucky, United States | SELF

Lexington, Kentucky, United States | SELF
Band Americana Country


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"Coralee couldn't turn down a tribute to Loretta Lynn"

Over the past few months, Lexington Americana singer Coralee has stepped slightly outside the vintage country and soul orbits of her own music.

Last month alone, she joined a coalition of fellow Lexington artists in the annual tribute to The Band's The Last Waltz, participated in a smaller club salute to Bob Dylan's album Blonde on Blonde, and wound up in an all-star quintet on New Year's Eve that ushered in 2012 by playing the songs of Led Zeppelin.

Don't get the idea, however, that Coralee has forsaken her country-roots band, Coralee and the Townies, or the robust original music that fuels its repertoire. There is, in fact, a new Townies tune (Always, Darlin') available for download online.

But as the singer shifts artistic priorities back to her own songs — and the recording of a new album — the idea for one more musical tribute came along.

For her performance Friday at Cosmic Charlie's, which is being viewed essentially as a fund-raiser to help cover upcoming studio costs, she is splitting the evening in two parts. Her second set will focus exclusively on original songs. But the first half of the evening will be devoted to the music of another grand Kentucky country spirit: Loretta Lynn.

"People ask us to play Loretta songs all the time," Coralee said. "We've always done (the 1966 classic) You Ain't Woman Enough (To Take My Man). And it's always been a big hit. So I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to make the show into a special event and hopefully draw out some people who haven't seen us before."

Coralee said the thrust of her newer music isn't shifting dramatically from the soul-blasted traditional country that has been the Townies' specialty in recent years. But as the singer dipped deeper into Lynn's immense catalog, she came to admire the emotive and musical efficiency of the songs it contained. It is an attribute she hopes to convey in her own writing.

"It's been a pretty good lesson in — and I almost hate to say this — commercial songwriting. Loretta's songs are so quick. The solos are kept so short. But the songs accomplish so much in such a brief period of time. That's been a really interesting and kind of humorous thing for us to figure out as we're going through all of this material.

"One of the things about playing the Loretta stuff is that the songs she picked and the songs that she wrote herself are the kinds of songs that I like to write. Those kinds of things are fundamentally country. They are told with simple, common language but are still very clever.

"I'm not a very abstract songwriter. In my experience with the Zeppelin covers and the Bob shows, my reaches are expanding. But the Americana/country/soul stuff is what I love. That's going to come through no matter what."

So what specific Loretta Lynn tunes egg on a versed disciple like Coralee when assembling a tribute set?

"I love singing Blue Kentucky Girl. She didn't actually write that song, but she had a big hit with it," Coralee said of the song that became a Top 10 country single for Lynn in 1966 and again for Emmylou Harris in 1979. "That's one of my favorites to sing, perhaps for obvious reasons.

"But I also love Fist City and Don't Come Home a'Drinkin' (With Lovin' on Your Mind) — her songs with attitude. That's the stuff I like to kind of project in my own songwriting. Those are really fun for me. But we've also worked up two songs for the show from the (Grammy-winning 2004) Van Lear Rose album. That is one of my favorites."

But in immersing herself so deeply in the music of Lynn, Zeppelin and Dylan of late, how is there even time for Coralee to write the new songs she hopes to record?

"Honestly, at this point, I've been so busy memorizing lyrics and cover songs," she said. "We had the first Bob show last month but have had the Loretta tribute planned for a couple of months. And then we threw the Led Zeppelin thing in the middle. Now we've got another Bob show coming up. I've yet to sit down for an extended period of time and do some songwriting.

"But I've got a huge back catalog that I'm desperate to get in and record, so I'm really excited. I can feel all this music welling up inside of me."

Read more here: - Lexington Herald Leader

"Coralee and the Townies have ambitions beyond the city limits"

Coralee and the Townies is a sextet of Lexington musicians whose lineup and sound encompass various genders, genres, influences and experience levels. But if you ask any of the band members, there are several points — one in particular — on which they all see eye to eye.

"We're just trying to go for an honest" sound, drummer David White said. "That's what she goes for."

The "she" in that statement refers to the band's vocalist, frontwoman and songwriter, the single-named Coralee.

Having spent most of her life in Lexington or Versailles, Coralee, 27, was raised by church-going parents with musical talent. (Dad was in a gospel band. Mom was in a vocal trio.)

Coralee remembers singing harmony parts to songs on the radio when she was 5 or 6 years old. She later went on to sing in her high school choir before attending the University of Kentucky to earn a degree in landscape architecture.

While at UK, she timidly performed at local coffee shops. Eventually, she decided that being a singer simply wasn't enough.

"I wanted to be a songwriter and a singer. That was important to me," Coralee said. "Pretty much as soon as I graduated college and the world opened up to me, I knew this was what I wanted to do."

She also knew she didn't want to take the journey alone. Performing her original songs by herself made her feel exposed and slightly terrified, she said. But Coralee had been around the Lexington music scene long enough to know the type of dream team of musicians from various local bands she wanted for her own project.

So she got to work.

In 2009, she approached her friend Scott Wilmoth, bassist for the popular Lexington groups The Swells and Big Maracas. Wilmoth came on board, bringing along White, his bandmate in both groups, and he got her in touch with other musicians she had in mind.

"I knew some of them and was like, 'Here's their numbers. Call 'em,'" Wilmoth said.

Coralee said, "I just called them up and said, 'You don't know who I am, but my name is Coralee and I'm a big fan of yours.'"

She recruited rhythm guitarist Smith Donaldson from The Tall Boys, lead guitarist Fred Saxton from Crown Electric and The Yonders, and keyboardist Jon Grossman, who would later be replaced by Ray Smith.

She even made them a mix CD of possible covers of songs by artists as varied as Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and The Flying Burrito Brothers, giving them a sense of the vibe she was looking for before Coralee and the Townies' first gig at The Green Lantern in March 2009.

Of course, those band members said being in a group with Coralee wasn't a hard sell. The fact that she had the gold locks, pretty face and big smile of Kate Hudson's iconic "band aide" Penny Lane from the flick Almost Famous certainly helped, but it was her voice that they thought was unique.

"Just hearing her sing, man. Hearing her sing, it's like she's in your living room right in front of you," Wilmoth said. "It's easy to want to be a part of it."

With tunes that mixed elements of psychedelia, country and rock embroidered with Coralee's visceral vulnerability and confessional lyrics, the band's sound, which it dubbed "honky-tonk soul," started to catch on. Coralee's strong presence first drew female fans, and the musicianship and well- constructed tunes drew just about everyone else.

The "honky-tonk soul" is finely captured on the band's self-titled EP. Recorded by Duane Lundy at Lexington's Shangri-la Productions in March 2010, the five tracks showcase elements of well-worn roadhouse country on Don't Touch Me, adulterous, dusty soul on Funny That Way and a dark, lusty come-on in the closing track, Rough and Tumble.

No matter what song the band attempts, Coralee's forceful vocals have lyrics with an equally powerful and personal emotional core. She said most of her words capture the euphoria, tension and turmoil that love (or a lack of it) can bring. And even if it reveals her own flaws, mistakes and insecurities, no punch is pulled.

Coralee said, "I am probably the most honest with myself when I'm writing, and that's good for me. I force myself to be as brutally so as possible because I think that's good for the people who are listening."

And if Coralee and the Townies have any say in it, even more people will get a chance to listen for themselves. The group has broadened its territory beyond Lexington, performing in Louisville, Cincinnati, Columbus and Knoxville. The band is making a trip to Nashville to play its first Music City gig at 12th and Porter on Friday night before headlining a hometown show Saturday at Cosmic Charlie's.

The band has the ambition and sees the potential for Coralee and the Townies to be more than just a local sensation. But the approach in the studio and on the stage will remain in intact for Coralee and her bandmates, keeping the playing tight, the performances fun and the feelings sincere.

"I only ever want to offer something that's real. And I always do," Coralee said. "I think an audience can always tell the difference."

Read more here: - Lexington Herald Leader

"Coralee and the Townies: Record Release at Cosmic Charlies"

Coralee and the Townies

Record release at Cosmic Charlie’s

By Sunny Montgomery

The air was thick with expectancy as my classmates and I lined up at the front of the classroom, dressed in our freshly starched choral costumes and fidgeting anxiously with our cummerbunds. It was the annual sixth-grade Southside Select Choir tryouts and one by one, Mrs. McVey was going to call out our names and when she did, we would step up onto the small platform and sing the first few lines of our chosen song.

The teacher called another name and I eyed the small blonde girl who’d just taken stage. Her name was Corey Wilson, though we didn’t know that then—she was a new student. But by the end of her audition, it was apparent that the Southside Choir had found its superstar.

Now, a decade later, Corey has taken the stage again as Lexington’s latest musical darling and front-woman to Coralee and the Townies. She’s traded in her grade school choir garb for a pair of cowboy boots and acoustic guitar, united with five of the most respected musicians in town—Johnny Grossman (Get Down Watson), Smith Donaldson (Tall Boys), Scott Wilmoth (Swells), David White (Big Maracas), and Fred Sexton (the Yonders)—and quickly amassed quite a following with her sultry originals and honky-tonk interpretations of tunes by Tom Waits, Kinks, Chuck Berry and various other danceable musicians.

“It had always been my dream to be a backup singer,” says Corey. “I love to sing harmony and it’s very much against my nature to want to be in the spotlight.” After college, she did a bit of backing vocals for some local groups but decided, in time, that if she wanted to keep singing, she’d have to organize a group. “It was just a matter of finding myself a band that was good enough to cover up the fact that I had no idea what I was doing,” she says.

But Corey’s being modest. Between her big voice—a smoky reminiscence of Loretta Lynn—and her charismatic stage presence, which Smith describes as “both friendly and ferocious,” it seems the spotlight is just where Corey belongs.

Presently, the Townies are finishing up a five song EP comprised of Corey’s originals. Despite an obvious aptitude for performing, Corey says she lives for songwriting. “The common theme is undoubtedly love,” she says of her songs. “I have loved, unloved, reloved and made love,” and it is these truths she has versified into a kind of western swing collection due to drop mid March. “These songs are not just stories—they’re my stories and I just like to figure out ways to tell them that will make people want to listen.” And based upon the packed dance floor at any particular Townie show, indeed, we are listening.

“She’s ambitious in what she wants to do and she puts a lot of thought into her music,” says drummer David White. “Playing with Coralee makes me feel young. Younger,” he quickly adds. But it seems it is this precise sentiment that has contributed to her popularity. Her spirit is contagious, and pretty girls with her kind of raw talent cannot help but dazzle. After all, even in the sixth grade she was a rockstar and I haven’t any doubt that rockstardom will always follow Corey.

Coralee and theTownies will be performing Friday, March 19 at Cosmic Charlie’s where they will also be releasing their self-titled five song EP. Show starts at 10 P.M. So dust off your dancing boots. - North of Center

"Coralee and the Townies EP Review"

Coralee & The Townies EP Review

By Nick Kidd

At the Coralee & The Townies album release party at Cosmic Charlies on March 19th, my buddy Jeff leaned over to me and asked, “Do you realize there’s about 80 years worth of playing experience onstage right now?” I thought he was being hyperbolic, so I did a little math: lead singer Corey Wilson’s only been performing 2 years…keyboardist Jon Grossman’s only 25 years old…so that means almost all of that experience lies in the band’s other 4 members?

If that quartet was anyone other than Smith Donaldson, Fred Sexton, David White, and Scott Wilmoth—guys who have played in more bands than I can afford to list here (including The Swells, Tallboys, Big Maracas, and Yonders)—I might have responded, “Bullshit.” But Jeff’s assessment wasn’t mere hyperbole: Coralee & The Townies have experience out the wazoo. Hearing them live, however, transcends linear calculations of time. One can hardly tell the difference between originals and cover songs; they all sound like classics.

That’s what makes their debut EP so timely. The self-titled EP, a five-song collection of original material, gives the band’s creative disposition a more discrete environment. Here, Wilson’s undeniable vocal talents make quick work of stealing the show (11 seconds, to be exact) on album opener “Wings on the Borrow.” It’s a song of courage and compromise, of fearing love but discarding inhibitions. The remainder of the album runs through a variety of traditional roots-rock/country modes to reveal Wilson as an excellent songwriter and a woman with little use for pining or regret. Her narratives are proud visions of femininity and uncompromising tales of love. She’s assertive, confident, aware, and liberated, lending the band a distinctive guiding voice.

I sensed that Wilson’s aware she’s got a good thing going when she, unprompted, expressed frustration of all the NPR coverage emanating from Austin’s annual South By Southwest (SXSW) festival the other day. It wasn’t just that she felt bombarded by the bevy of artists featured on All Songs Considered. Rather, I think she felt left out, that her band belonged at SXSW too. And I happen to think she’s right. Take from that what you will, but Wilson’s drive is hard to question after you’ve looked inside her lyrics. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if she’d already picked up a 2011 calendar just to highlight the dates of March 11-15, next year’s SXSW.

With so much talent in their stable, the future looks bright for Coralee & The Townies. But with the chops and the right frontwoman to take them far, it’s hard to put things in perspective. They are, after all, still a new band and this is their first recorded material (seriously: there weren’t even songs on their Myspace until now). So, there’s still room to grow. And Wilson, who’s already stealing the show, has barely scratched the surface according to keyboardist Grossman. “If she were a basketball player, you’d say she has tremendous upside.” With all the brilliance on display with this debut EP, in keeping with the basketball vernacular, that’s a downright scary thought.

Coralee & The Townies will be performing at Lynagh’s on Saturday April 3rd. - North of Center


Self-titled EP, March 2010
Professionaloner, October 2011
Always Darlin, December December 2011



Coralee and the Townies are a Lexington, Kentucky based band of a genre they’ve self-defined as HONKY TONK SOUL. And it’s a fitting description, as the sextet whoops and weeps with traditional authenticity and contemporary energy, with Coralee’s husky vocals front and center and the Townies providing a righteous, raucous rootenanny soundtrack around her.

Having pushed out a killer EP produced by Duane Lundy (Ben Sollee, Vandaveer, These United States) only a year ago, Coralee and the Townies have established themselves locally as tip-top contenders guaranteed to draw a diverse crowd known to include multiple generations of devoted fans. This is most certainly attributable to combined on-stage experience of more than 150 years as the "Townies" are exactly as their name would suggest- players as experienced and on the scene as any band comes- each hand picked for just that reason by Coralee, herself.

Since the release of their debut, self-titled EP (available for listen and download at Coralee and the Townies have been building a regional following in Kentucky, Ohio, North Carolina, and Tennessee and are back in the studio with Duane Lundy, working toward their first full length release. Look forward to singles, music videos, and documentaries (oh my!) to be released in the very near future!