Deena Rae Turner
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Deena Rae Turner

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Band Folk Singer/Songwriter

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Jun
19
Deena Rae Turner @ teneleven tavern

New York, New York, USA

New York, New York, USA

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A playful collection of irresistibly hooked roots, hilarious country, rocking ditties, and elegant ballads, Wonder Wheel, like its namesake in Coney Island, inspires hoots, hollers, tears, and bliss, and always stays on track.

At the center is Turner’s voice, which swings from a country twang to an evocative gut-warped croon. But her deft picking and soulful strumming provide the vital underpinning. Sometimes loose, sometimes spiny, her playing is always spirited, and never the same. At times you’ll hear the complex shades of J. J. Cale, at others the spare beauty of The Be Good Tanyas.

A fiery cover of Michael Hurley’s “The Revenant” sets it right down in the mire of New Orleans in 2005, and an energetic rendition of The Carter Family's “Single Girl, Married Girl,” gives a modern twist to a staple from the deep past.

Deena Rae's own songwriting sheds rare light on the area between ecstasy and disillusion, animating the little details that make or break a day or a lifetime. As she sings: “A happy song, if you whistle it wrong, can put a body in the ground.”

Even the haunted and softly indicting fifth track, “Scarecrow,” a lament for Matthew Shepard—sung in no uncertain terms—rends relief and communal grief from the horror and sorrow, a feeling that trembles beyond the CD’s end.

One of Wonder Wheel’s greatest rewards though, is the singer’s sly humor, which often sneaks from behind you. On the opening track, the lilting “Geezer on a Porch,” a layered love song not aimed at an old man on a porch at all, she sings: “Dog on a chain, wagging his tail. What makes him happy is a really good smell, like I have…when I’m going to see you.”

Or just when you think you’re hearing a contented country girl singing her heart out—in the joyfully demented, trombone-touched Dixieland ninth track, “Ha Ha, Ho Ho, Hee Hee”—you realize it’s a song that unabashedly celebrates sending husband and child on a permanent vacation.

At once wry and sincere, her songs tell stories that involve seemingly simple subjects—animals, cars, and boyfriends—but soon reveal soul-dwelling beasts, tender wisdom, and killer humor. And they show the singer herself as a wary, smart, and curious creature who sees the world somewhere between the Brothers Grimm and Dr. Seuss, from a southern porch plopped in the middle of New York City.

Which makes sense. Deena Rae grew up in the South but cut her musical teeth in New York’s East Village in the 1990s. She played with flinty bands Staplegun and Defrokt, eventually loosing her spirit on the world as a solo artist, releasing the electric Gone, with Phil Puleo (of Cop Shoot Cop) on drums and David Pilgrim on bass, and Blame, a lo-fi, two guitar, acoustic CD with Puleo producing and playing extra guitar.

Recorded in both the city and the Catskill mountains, Wonder Wheel reflects its two birthplaces. A talented roster of guest musicians and wild array of instruments—guitar, tuba, tambourine, triangle, zither, melodica, lap steel guitar, viola, cello, bongos, timbales, guiro, harmonica, and goat hooves—texture the recording in rich, subtle, mischievous, and sensual hues.

Guest players include cellist Jane Scarpantoni (Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith, R.E.M., Lou Reed), Peter Head (Pitchfork Militia), nu-jazz bassist David Pilgrim, Rick Gerard (the West Point Band), along with a colorful cast of friends.

It’s an unforgettable ride that will have you hooked on first listen, yet bears endless spins.

- Seven Days


Discography

New CD, FOLKLORE, in progress
CD, Wonder Wheel
EP Gone
radio airplay in Ithaca, Catskill, and Hudson New York, as well as various college independent and internet radio stations nationally.
Streaming 16 tracks on Last.fm and myspace

Photos

Bio

Some call her music throaty monster folk, others call
it dark and funny alt-country, but I guarantee,
singer-guitarist Deena Rae Turner does not play your
older sister’s weepy folk.
Deena Rae grew up in the South but cut her musical
teeth in New York’s East Village in the 1990s.
At once wry and sincere, her songs tell stories that
involve seemingly simple subjects—animals, cars, and
boyfriends—but soon reveal soul-dwelling beasts,
tender wisdom, and killer humor.
At the center is Turner’s voice, from a
country twang to an evocative croon. But
her guitar playing, sometimes loose, sometimes spiny is
always spirited, and never the same.
Deena Rae is known for her full-throttle, engagingly intimate
live shows. Expect the down-home and the
other-worldly. Expect Johnny Cash channeled through
New York City’s streets. Expect a stirring good time.