Delicate Cutters
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Delicate Cutters

Birmingham, Alabama, United States | INDIE

Birmingham, Alabama, United States | INDIE
Band Rock Folk

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This Birmingham, Ala., band takes its name from a Throwing Muses song, which took its title from the term used to describe mentally ill young people who gave themselves shallow cuts. Delicate Cutters frontwoman Janet Simpson shares with Kristin Hersh a penchant for detailed, lived-in lyrics and a steely charisma. More crucially, the group unsurprisingly fills its songs with references to deep emotional scars, often alluding to harrowing events just off camera—as if they can’t bear to confront them too directly.

Following their self-released 2006 debut, We Are Not Lovers, Delicate Cutters return with Some Creatures, which reveals an increased confidence due perhaps to several years spent touring the southeast. They sound sharper and more nuanced, drawing from disparate folk and rock influences to craft inventive arrangements that hew closely to Simpson’s incisive songs. She can make a dark phrase like “I always thought that I might die” sound like a rousing chorus on opener “Picture of Health,” and turns “He’s in Los Angeles now” into a barely composed eulogy, making the title city sound like limbo. Avoiding flagrant confessionalism for narrative detail, Simpson can project anger or irony or uncomfortable intimacy with equal ease, but more than that, she simply projects a personality on Some Creatures, reminding you that every song derives from a single, unique perspective.

The band backs her subtly, with Kevin Nicholson’s fiddle adding flourishes to most of these songs. Like The Head and the Heart and The Civil Wars, Delicate Cutters draw inspiration from American folk forms, yet they show a wider musical and emotional palette than many of their contemporaries. “Me and the Birds” begins as a ragtime jaunt, but grows increasingly tense as the song builds to a calamitous finale. “Lovers Don’t Leap” crafts a complex chorale from a simple turn of phrase, but sounds as direct as a Fairport Convention tune. Occasionally, the production robs these songs of their impact: Instead of an authoritative stomp, “Let’s Be Free” moves with a hesitant lurch, which stumbles when they move into that sweeping chorus. But despite such technical flaws aside, these Cutters come across as anything but delicate.
- Paste Magazine


Some Creatures is Birmingham, Alabama's Delicate Cutters sophomore record of folk driven music that is lead by the gorgeously haunting vocals of frontwoman Janet Simpson. Regardless of tempo, Simpson's vocals soar, as in the chorus on "Los Angeles" that sticks in your head or on the more upbeat tracks like "Me And The Birds" and "Warm Beer And Sympathy" their sound reminded me of the classy indie pop found on early 10,000 Maniac records. Delicate Cutters separate themselves out from that scene a bit, as their tracks employ the superb and intense fiddle playing of Kevin Nicholson. It is this blend of voice, complex song structures and beautiful accompaniment that makes Some Creatures shine and Delicate Cutters a band that could easily emerge and rise quickly on the NPR scene, which after just one listen through you will know it would be much deserved.

Key Tracks: "Picture Of Health", "Los Angeles", "Warm Beer And Sympathy"

Bands With Similar Fire:
The Civil Wars
10,000 Maniacs
The Head And The Heart
- The Fire Note


I confess to being a bar rock junkie. Maybe I can blame my agrarian, eleven-acres-on -dusty-roads upbringing. The romance of a an autumn cornfield or a sticky Summer breeze was only enhanced by the sounds of bands like Uncle Tupelo, The Jayhawks, Run Westy Run, et. al. The country-laced, honky-tonk traditionalism was never far from my tape deck (or radio dial), and the simple chord progressions of white Americana still hold an air of bittersweet nostalgia.

Then, almost fifteen years removed from the stench of corn silage and cow dung, I come upon the sophomore effort from Delicate Cutters. Some Creatures often sounds like it’s recorded backstage at the high school auditorium or in a phone booth at the four corners of nowhere. The Alabama based troupe has a penchant for bearing their souls, ala the fiddlers stroke; their honesty becomes further apparent through rough-shod production, and ad-hoc imperfections. Striking a folk-rock/indie chord as loud as a hammer to a sheet of corrugated aluminum, Delicate Cutters wind through the realm of discomforting human emotion. Vocal harmonies between female leads are as striking as the subtle lyrical macabre entwined within. Songs like “Los Angeles,” “Me and the Birds” and “Dirt” are as delicious and caliginous as they come, while in juxtaposition, the title track is breathtaking, even dumbfounding, in its beauty. “Many As Well” is doused in honky-tonk, like a grimy, sweat-stained collar, while the remainder of the album, including the lead-off tracks “Picture of Health” and “Be Sweet” could be characterized as good old fashioned, wind-eroded heartache, with a few choice surprises along the way.

So,welcome to the Delicate Cutters Saloon. If you’re lucky, maybe they’ll just leave you the bottle.

-Miles Christopher

Grade: B+/A-
- 40 oz Robot


When Delicate Cutters front woman Janet Simpson sings, her warm, inviting tone pulls you into her troubled and emotional world. The music may be mellow, marked by lilting melodies with pop, folk and Celtic influences, but lyrically, Simpson investigates the darker regions of the human heart. She visits the disturbing places we keep hidden from ourselves
because they’re too painful or embarrassing to bring to
light; yet she explores this terrain with keen insight and a bit of ironic humor.
“When we started the band, my lyrics were all pretty self-abusive, depressing and masochistic,” she says. “If you take yourself too seriously, you’ve lost the battle. You have to be a bit tongue-in-cheek when you’re being so melodramatic. I write a lot about people who throw themselves into love without thinking and people who turn away from love and go into themselves. There’s inherent danger in both approaches.”

In person, Simpson is light and upbeat, not at all like the often-damaged characters that populate her songs. That’s not to say she hasn’t known her share of hard times: “When I was 14, I was in an accident and broke my back. It shook me up, but didn’t paralyze me. I was fairly religious at the time. I felt I’d been spared so I could do what I’d always wanted to do, which was sing and write songs.”

“I’d been making up songs ever since I could remember. MTV came on when I was a kid. I immediately knew that I wanted to make music and music videos. I asked my parents for guitar and piano lessons and they borrowed money on their car to buy me a piano. As soon as I could walk again, I started looking for a band to play in. I remember going to auditions with bandages wrapped around my legs.”

Simpson played in high school cover bands and later as a solo artist, but had no particular desire to be pigeonholed as a folk musician. “When you’re a girl with a guitar, you get lumped in with the folkies no matter what you’re doing. I’d been in bands for 20 years and written a thousand songs. I may have been playing solo, but I wanted to add some dynamic range to the songs. I couldn’t do that alone. One night, I got drunk with Chance [Shirley, the band’s drummer] and Brian [Moon, the band’s bass player] and started arguing about The Replacements. Chance said we should start a band and we did.”

With the addition of fiddler Kevin Nicholson, the band was complete. Their debut album, We Are Not Lovers, drew raves for its hard-to-pin-down aesthetic and Simpson’s compelling vocals. It set the stage for the most recent album Some Creatures, an emotional and musical tour de force. “We recorded the album live at Brian’s house, keeping everything pared down. Since we couldn’t do any instrumental overdubs, we had to stay true to what we play on stage.”

Some Creatures brings to mind Gillian Welch fronting the Velvet Underground in a deserted coffee house at 4:00 am. “Breathe” is a tragic tango with an ‘80s flavor. “Dirt” could be dubbed heavy metal folk. “Lovers, Don’t Leap” is an anxious romantic ballad and the breezy country blues of “May As Well” sound like a ragged, cheerful jug band tune. “I don’t know where the songs come from,” Simpson says in conclusion. “They just flood out, like one complete thought.”

- J. Poet
- Soma Magazine


"Simpson's voice is the most powerful I have heard in Birmingham rock music. Her conviction, and mix of abandon and discipline, easily place her in the league of more well-known vocalists... her voice seems to come from a rarer, stranger place. It is not sweet, or trilly, or cavernous, but seems t o draw from a limitless well of strength, pain, anger and wisdom."

- Stanley Holdich's Fleabomb


“The newest addition to the Skybucket roster, Delicate Cutters, made their debut performance as Skybucket artists. Janet Simpson, a captivating singer and songwriter, switched between guitar and piano. Their violinist, Kevin Nicholson, offered a refined touch to simple arrangements. Their sound can reach out to a more mature audience, and they are a nice addition to Skybucket Records already stellar cast.”
- Birmingham Weekly


Discography

Cactus - 5 Song EP - 2002
We Are Not Lovers - 2006
"Los Angeles" - single track from upcoming Some Creatures will be used in feature film, "L.A. I Hate You" 2011
Some Creatures - 2011

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Bio

It opens with a plea. While everything around us, world events, work, technology, all seem to push and shout at us to “Go! Go! Go!” Some Creatures, Delicate Cutters’ first recording for Skybucket Records, emerges as a sobering voice, calling on us to slow down, savor these moments, this music, each other… Over the course of the thirteen tracks comprising Some Creatures, Delicate Cutters examine themes of transition, family, impermanence and loss, delivering a message rich with hope, compassion and a powerful understanding of how these shared experiences connect us with one another.
Following extensive performances across the southeast in support of 2006’s We Are Not Lovers, Delicate Cutters reconvened in 2009, pared down from a quintet to a quartet, to begin working on the songs that would become Some Creatures. This paring down offered new opportunities for Janet Simpson to explore more space in her songwriting. This space provides an opportunity for each player’s own voice and expression to be explored in the ensemble. The result is a set songs that are trim without being spare, a focused album of unified vision.
Kevin Nicholson, a well-known fiddle player in the southeastern U.S.’s Irish music scene, helps propel the emotional intensity of the album. Ferocious at times, at others subdued and textural, his play sets a deft balance with Janet’s vocal and instrumental work. Chance Shirley, in addition to leading the rhythm section, brings his experience as a film director to the band, enhancing the cinematic scope of the album, a fact evidenced by the licensing of one of the album’s tracks in the upcoming film L.A. I Hate You starring Malcolm McDowell. Bass player Brian Moon also produced the album, his intimacy with songs apparent in the rewards found in repeated intentional listens.
Having completed Some Creatures, Delicate Cutters have resumed writing and performing across the Southeast as they gear up for the album’s early 2011 release. With more extensive touring planned for Spring and early Summer, the band plans to build upon the reputation their live shows have garnered, playing numerous festivals in Summer 2010. Whether performing in large or more intimate venues, Delicate Cutters look forward to sharing their harrowing intimacy with new audiences in 2011.