Elsa Cross
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Elsa Cross

Austin, Texas, United States | SELF

Austin, Texas, United States | SELF
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"Elsa at The Press Room"

Elsa Cross sipped from a shot glass before stepping onto the stage on the second floor of The Press Room in Portsmouth. Wearing a red dress that contrasted vividly with the all-black outfits of her band mates, her blond hair pulled back into a long ponytail, Cross picked up her guitar and played her first song of the evening alone. The rest of the band joined her on the second song, “Because of You,” and Cross’ elegant but authoritative voice quickly drowned out the noisy chatter in the packed bar. Within moments, everyone was paying attention.

Having released her debut album, “Unavailable,” in October, Cross came equipped with an arsenal of original rockabilly folk songs and country-western covers. A few songs deep into her set, she played “The Burden,” which she introduced as one of the first songs she ever wrote. Cross began playing guitar when she was 16 years old, she said, but she did not establish her preferred style until she was 19, when she discovered rockabilly music. Attracted to the outlaw style, the greasy hairdos and the 1950s fashions, she soon began writing her own rockabilly tunes.

Many of those tunes made it onto “Unavailable” and were performed live at The Press Room on Friday, Dec. 28, including “The Burden,” “Because of You,” “Before I Find a Man,” “One More Time,” the title track and “Zombie for His Love,” which she referred to as “my one song that has a curse in it.”

Cross was accompanied by drummer PJ Donahue, who tended to his snare with rapid folkabilly beats, bassist Steve Roy, who plucked and thumped the strings of an upright bass, and Jim Farquar, who added depth and volume on electric guitar. The instrumentalists complimented Cross’ style perfectly, with Donahue switching to brushes for softer numbers and Roy utilizing a bow for one tune. Farquar sat out certain songs, but made his presence known when onstage, amending a country-western twang with a jagged, psychobilly edge.

With her singing and strumming, Cross revives true 1950s attitude with greater authenticity than many modern rockabilly acts. Most of her songs are not as hyped up and punked out as her contemporaries in the genre, instead leaning toward the rangy folk and western styles of the music’s forefathers. During her two sets at The Press Room, she worked in covers of Wayne Hancock, Patsy Cline and Merle Haggard. The Haggard song was a lesser known number called “Drink Up and Be Somebody,” which was lots of fun for the pub crowd.

Following a short break, Cross kicked off the second set with another solo performance and then brought back the rest of the band. Despite a lengthy set list, she ran out of songs well before last call, largely because most of her songs are short and concise. To close the night, the band played “Because of You” a second time, featuring a newly improvised guitar solo that lent the song a little more vinegar.

-Matt Kanner - The Wire Magazine


"Elsa Cross Opens for Merle Haggard"

N.H. native, and former Seacoast rockabilly queen, Elsa Cross will be back in town for the Portsmouth Singer Songwriter Festival opening for Merle Haggard on Friday, April 20, as well as co-headlining with Lucy Wainwright Roche on Saturday, April 21. She brings with her a new bandmate from her current place of residence, Austin, Texas, but she'll never be able to hide from her ravenous fan-base here in New Hampshire, who are itching for the opportunity to yell, "ELLLLLTTTTSSSSAAAAHHHH!!!" long and loud when she takes the Music Hall stage. Five Spot caught up with her in anticipation of her visit:

1.SPOTLIGHT: When was the last time you were home and what excites you about the opportunity to participate in the Portsmouth Singer Songwriter Fest?

Elsa Cross: I came home this past October. I had been gone for just about a year and needed to get my lifelong belongings out of Mary's (Dellea, who happens to be participating in the Round Robin portion of the Festival on Sunday, April 22) barn. It was so great to see all my friends and be in New England again!

What excites me about participating in the fest? Well, first of all, I get to come home to Portsmouth, and open for Merle Haggard. That's pretty darn rad. Then there's the fact that my dearest friends and family will be attending, that's awesome too. I love the idea of coming home and singing in The Music Hall. It's such a beautiful space, and I've been attending shows there since I was a wee gal.

Second of all, I think having a singer songwriter festival in Portsmouth is an excellent idea. There is so much amazing music to be showcased in the Seacoast area, I am lucky to be a part of it.

2.SPOTLIGHT: What excites you about opening up for The Hag?

Cross: He is an outlaw country legend. You can't get much cooler than that in my book. It's an opportunity of a lifetime as a young musician — to share the stage with a legend.

3.SPOTLIGHT: I asked Merle if he knew you. I figured he hadn't, but asked anyway. He said, "no." I told him, "Well you'd better pay attention," and he let out a chuckle. That said, has Merle been an influence on your songwriting in any way? And stories y

Cross: When I first started listening to classic country in my late teens, I picked up one of Merle's albums, learned the chords to "Drink Up and Be Somebody," and began singing it at shows. It's still one of my favorites to sing at dive bars. Everyone loves a good Merle song!

4.SPOTLIGHT: How is Austin' treatin' ya? Has it done anything for you musically or otherwise. Do you miss New Hampshire. Why (or why not!?)

Cross: I love Austin! It's a melting pot of creative people from around the world. Once you've been here for a while it begins to have this small town vibe to it, and people want to help you along. We're all here for a reason. Mine happens to be music, and I've met some amazing musicians since I've been down here. I found a great group of guys to back me up, and I'm feeling really lucky overall. When I first met my guitar player Matt Ford last year, we just clicked. It is so fun to play with him. He has been the biggest musical influence on me since I've been down here. My songs have developed into a sound that comes from both of us. It is so rewarding to have a person to collaborate with. He hears things in my songs that I could have never dreamt up.

I miss my friends in New Hampshire! I miss hanging out and playing tunes with them. But I get to see them all at the end of the month, I'm so excited :)

I also miss New Hampshire when it's 110 degrees in Austin. My Yankee blood gets confused.

5.SPOTLIGHT: How do you envision the night going down? What can fans expect?

Cross: It's going to be a wonderful night! My guitar player is coming up from Austin with me. We're going to play a 30 minute set on our acoustic guitars opening for the Hag. I love singing with a full band, but something about just me and Matt is, well... you'll see!


- Portsmouth Herald


"Elsa Cross Opens for Merle Haggard"

N.H. native, and former Seacoast rockabilly queen, Elsa Cross will be back in town for the Portsmouth Singer Songwriter Festival opening for Merle Haggard on Friday, April 20, as well as co-headlining with Lucy Wainwright Roche on Saturday, April 21. She brings with her a new bandmate from her current place of residence, Austin, Texas, but she'll never be able to hide from her ravenous fan-base here in New Hampshire, who are itching for the opportunity to yell, "ELLLLLTTTTSSSSAAAAHHHH!!!" long and loud when she takes the Music Hall stage. Five Spot caught up with her in anticipation of her visit:

1.SPOTLIGHT: When was the last time you were home and what excites you about the opportunity to participate in the Portsmouth Singer Songwriter Fest?

Elsa Cross: I came home this past October. I had been gone for just about a year and needed to get my lifelong belongings out of Mary's (Dellea, who happens to be participating in the Round Robin portion of the Festival on Sunday, April 22) barn. It was so great to see all my friends and be in New England again!

What excites me about participating in the fest? Well, first of all, I get to come home to Portsmouth, and open for Merle Haggard. That's pretty darn rad. Then there's the fact that my dearest friends and family will be attending, that's awesome too. I love the idea of coming home and singing in The Music Hall. It's such a beautiful space, and I've been attending shows there since I was a wee gal.

Second of all, I think having a singer songwriter festival in Portsmouth is an excellent idea. There is so much amazing music to be showcased in the Seacoast area, I am lucky to be a part of it.

2.SPOTLIGHT: What excites you about opening up for The Hag?

Cross: He is an outlaw country legend. You can't get much cooler than that in my book. It's an opportunity of a lifetime as a young musician — to share the stage with a legend.

3.SPOTLIGHT: I asked Merle if he knew you. I figured he hadn't, but asked anyway. He said, "no." I told him, "Well you'd better pay attention," and he let out a chuckle. That said, has Merle been an influence on your songwriting in any way? And stories y

Cross: When I first started listening to classic country in my late teens, I picked up one of Merle's albums, learned the chords to "Drink Up and Be Somebody," and began singing it at shows. It's still one of my favorites to sing at dive bars. Everyone loves a good Merle song!

4.SPOTLIGHT: How is Austin' treatin' ya? Has it done anything for you musically or otherwise. Do you miss New Hampshire. Why (or why not!?)

Cross: I love Austin! It's a melting pot of creative people from around the world. Once you've been here for a while it begins to have this small town vibe to it, and people want to help you along. We're all here for a reason. Mine happens to be music, and I've met some amazing musicians since I've been down here. I found a great group of guys to back me up, and I'm feeling really lucky overall. When I first met my guitar player Matt Ford last year, we just clicked. It is so fun to play with him. He has been the biggest musical influence on me since I've been down here. My songs have developed into a sound that comes from both of us. It is so rewarding to have a person to collaborate with. He hears things in my songs that I could have never dreamt up.

I miss my friends in New Hampshire! I miss hanging out and playing tunes with them. But I get to see them all at the end of the month, I'm so excited :)

I also miss New Hampshire when it's 110 degrees in Austin. My Yankee blood gets confused.

5.SPOTLIGHT: How do you envision the night going down? What can fans expect?

Cross: It's going to be a wonderful night! My guitar player is coming up from Austin with me. We're going to play a 30 minute set on our acoustic guitars opening for the Hag. I love singing with a full band, but something about just me and Matt is, well... you'll see!


- Portsmouth Herald


"Elsa Cross: Live Review"

"Elsa Cross should have been touring with Johnny Cash during his American Recordings days. Unfortunately, he's long gone and folks prefer to hang onto the past sometimes rather than dare take a step into the future. So, instead of touring with Cash, Elsa is playing a tiny stage with no soundman in Dover, NH - for now.

The set began with some technical difficulties that were no big deal thanks to her attitude about it. It's hard to be upset about waiting for something when the person you are waiting for is so thoughtful about it. She then dove right into "The Burden" off of her first album, Unavailable, and barely slowed down from there - except for a mid-set break about 45 minutes in. Her choice of covers was impeccable: Ernest Tubb, obscure Johnny Cash and vintage Dwight Yoakam, with her sound walking the line between old-time country (thanks to her voice) and rockabilly. Eddie Spaghetti and the Reverend Horton Heat would both fall in love with this woman.

Even with a talented band backing her, the two main instruments were her voice and her guitar. Her voice - which was all over the place, hitting highs and lows, even daring to yodel - is what made her show special. It wasn't that her more American and occasionally Dolores O'Riordan-sounding voice was flawless, it was that it flawlessly went with her music. One without the other might be average; the two together was terrific.

Elsa went through 20 songs, playing almost her entire first album and playing a couple as of yet unnamed ones from her forthcoming release, which she recorded at opener Jon Nolan's Milltown Recording Company in Newmarket, NH. The closest you are going to get to Nashville in New Hampshire is wherever Elsa Cross is playing.

-Andrew Fersch, Performer Magazine - Performer Magazine


""Elsa Cross heads South""


Come November, Elsa Cross is packing her bags and moving to Austin, Texas, the new music capital of all things twangy and cool. But before she hits the road Cross is leaving her fans here with a tasty new CD and one last party to celebrate its release Friday, Aug. 27, at The Press Room.

"I'm a 'roots/country/whatever you want to call it' musician living in New Hampshire," she explained by e-mail. "There's only so far I can take my career here. I could sit and play the same local haunts waiting for something to happen, or I can get off my (butt) and go find it. Austin is full of all kinds of cutting edge music, plus the ole' country music I love so much. I'm ready to get scared a little, you know, see how I fare with the big boys."
Judging by the new CD, titled simply "Elsa Cross," she's got the goods to take that faithful leap and see what happens. The 10-track album features a new direction and some simply stunning songwriting. In particular, "Learning the Ropes" and "Make Use of Your Time" sound like they came right out of the Great American Songbook. Dusty Springfield or Dinah Shore could have taken them to the Top 10. These days, someone like K.D. Lang could turn both into hits.

These two songs have a lighter; jazzier, more sophisticated feel than the rockabilly that ruled her 2008 debut, "Unavailable." Still, this new album features the requisite number of Cross-style torch songs about good love gone bad ("If I Wait Too Long," "Sleeping With Your Ghost," "Thorn in My Side"), as well as the oddly optimistic time-to-move-on "Who Can I Trust".

In addition to Cross on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, the new album features Mary Dellea (upright bass and backing vocals); PJ Donahue (drums); Jon Nolan (electric guitar); Steve Roy (upright bass); Old Time Dave Talmage (fiddle); Chris Klaxton (trumpet); Zack Uncles (pedal steel); Juliet Nelson (cello); and Andrew Blowen (keyboards).

Jim Rudolf (drums) and Nick Phaneuf (bass) provide a strong rhythm foundation to "My Vision," kind of a quiet, quirky, grungy rocker. It's a song that lets Nolan (who produced the album) flex his guitar muscle while Blowen's haunting Hammond organ provides the perfect cushion to catch Cross' crescendo when she howls, "I can still feel your heart beating through the wall between us."

Talmage and his fiddle shine like a pretty diamond in the rough blue grass on Dwight Yoakam's "Miner's Prayer," which finds Cross sharing some beautiful, hillbilly hip-slapping harmonies with Dellea, who will join Cross, Nolan, Donohue and "special guests" Friday night at The Press Room.

"The hardest part about leaving is the thought of being without my friends and my band," she wrote. "I'm very close with my band and have a very tight knit group of friends here, it's going to be difficult to venture on without them. But they love me and are very supportive; they understand this is what I need to do. I guess when I get to Austin I'm just going to settle in, and hit the streets... I'll start singing where I can and see if I can round up a band of cowboys or something." "

No doubt Cross will prove the old adage that, "Everything's Bigger in Texas."

Michael Keating is a freelance writer who once delivered kegs of beer for Shiner of Austin by day and danced under the stars at Liberty Lunch by night. He can be reached by e-mail at batopilas@gmail.com.

- The Portsmouth Herald- 8/26/10


""Young and Able""


Singer-songwriter Elsa Cross announces her new CD and her pending relocation to Austin
Elsa Cross clearly remembers the first time she played a gig in front of a large crowd on the Seacoast. She had already mustered the courage to play at some open mics in the area, including a couple at The Press Room in Portsmouth. Following one performance, guitarist Al Mead asked Cross to open for his band Stagecoach Dick (a side project to the more active group Shuttlecock). She initially refused the offer, petrified at the thought of playing for a full room, but she was eventually talked into it.
Captivated by her commanding vocals and rockabilly guitar chops, the audience at The Press Room instantly fell under Cross’s spell. After that brief opening set, she was hooked on live performance.
“People’s response was just mind-blowing to me,” Cross said. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, they like it!’”
Shortly thereafter, Cross recorded a 10-song album for The Wire’s inaugural RPM Challenge in February 2006. In May of that year, guitarist Chris O’Niell booked her to play a show at The Barley Pub in Dover. It was her first solo gig.
A little over four years later, Cross is one of the Seacoast’s favorite active musicians. Although she still gets a few butterflies when playing solo (including a July gig opening for Steve Earle at the Prescott Park Folk Festival), Cross has come a long way since that nervous moment she first took the stage at The Press Room.
“I feel very comfortable onstage. It’s where I sometimes feel the most comfortable. It’s what I love to do. I love to perform,” she said.
Cross will unveil her second full-length CD with a release show at The Press Room on Friday, Aug. 27. Fans ought to catch her while they still can, because in a few months, she’ll be gone. Come November, Cross plans to pack up her guitar and move to Austin, Texas, where she hopes to support herself playing music.
“I just feel like I need to go out and be around some other musicians and other people and go to a music mecca,” she said. “Austin’s like the live music capital right now.”
Cross’s planned move comes on the heels of trumpet player Chris Klaxton’s recent departure for the University of Miami in Florida. Klaxton often performed with Cross and appears on several tracks on her new self-titled album. The migration of both young musicians is a blow to the local music scene, but also a bold and important step in their respective careers.
Like Klaxton, Cross said she’ll miss the Seacoast’s diverse but tight musical community, where artists of all genres regularly share the stage.
“It’s very tight-knit. I feel really lucky around here to have met and played with the people that I have,” she said.
Many of those friends contributed to Cross’s new CD, recorded at Jon Nolan’s Mill Town Recording Company in Rollinsford. The core trio consists of Cross on lead vocals and guitar, PJ Donahue on drums and Mary Dellea on upright bass and backup vocals. Nolan, who also produced Cross’s 2007 debut “Unavailable,” plays electric guitar on a couple of tracks. Bassist Steve Roy pitches in, as does Klaxton on trumpet, Dave Talmage on fiddle, Juliet Nelson on cello, Zack Uncles on pedal steel and Andrew Blowen on keys. Guitarist Nick Phaneuf and drummer Jim Rudolf, both of Tan Vampires, join Cross on one song.
“I wanted to involve as many of my friends as I could. That makes it fun for me, to see what they add to it and allow them to have some creativity with my songs,” Cross said.
The result is a sound that might surprise fans of “Unavailable,” which showcased Cross’s rockabilly grit. While still offering strains of country, the new CD dulls the punk edge, instead adopting jazzier elements and swing tunes.
“I get pigeonholed into being rockabilly a lot because of the way I dress and the sound, and obviously it’s a big influence of mine, but this album is so not rockabilly,” she said.
The shift toward jazz and swing was largely provoked by Cross’s exposure to local musicians who were trained in the genre. Folks like Klaxton, Roy, Rudolf and keyboardist Mike Effenberger helped open her eyes to new types of music.
“I didn’t really care for jazz. I wasn’t really a jazz listener, per se, but now I totally am,” she said. “Being around that has kind of changed my songwriting.”
But rockabilly will always have a fond place in Cross’s heart. An Exeter native, she played clarinet in her school band and picked up guitar at age 18, inspired by the ’50s rock of Elvis Presley and the country roots of Hank Williams. She eventually started hanging out with slightly older Exeter alums like Trafton Waldrop and Andy Ulery, who together formed the snarling rockabilly band Satan’s Teardrops. Cross would tag along with the Teardrops to shows in Boston and elsewhere.
“Following those guys around was big for me,” she said. “I remember going to rockabilly festivals and shows with them and just being like, ‘I wanna do this.’ So I secretly started to plot.”
Her plott - The Wire Magazine- 8/25/10


""Young and Able""


Singer-songwriter Elsa Cross announces her new CD and her pending relocation to Austin
Elsa Cross clearly remembers the first time she played a gig in front of a large crowd on the Seacoast. She had already mustered the courage to play at some open mics in the area, including a couple at The Press Room in Portsmouth. Following one performance, guitarist Al Mead asked Cross to open for his band Stagecoach Dick (a side project to the more active group Shuttlecock). She initially refused the offer, petrified at the thought of playing for a full room, but she was eventually talked into it.
Captivated by her commanding vocals and rockabilly guitar chops, the audience at The Press Room instantly fell under Cross’s spell. After that brief opening set, she was hooked on live performance.
“People’s response was just mind-blowing to me,” Cross said. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, they like it!’”
Shortly thereafter, Cross recorded a 10-song album for The Wire’s inaugural RPM Challenge in February 2006. In May of that year, guitarist Chris O’Niell booked her to play a show at The Barley Pub in Dover. It was her first solo gig.
A little over four years later, Cross is one of the Seacoast’s favorite active musicians. Although she still gets a few butterflies when playing solo (including a July gig opening for Steve Earle at the Prescott Park Folk Festival), Cross has come a long way since that nervous moment she first took the stage at The Press Room.
“I feel very comfortable onstage. It’s where I sometimes feel the most comfortable. It’s what I love to do. I love to perform,” she said.
Cross will unveil her second full-length CD with a release show at The Press Room on Friday, Aug. 27. Fans ought to catch her while they still can, because in a few months, she’ll be gone. Come November, Cross plans to pack up her guitar and move to Austin, Texas, where she hopes to support herself playing music.
“I just feel like I need to go out and be around some other musicians and other people and go to a music mecca,” she said. “Austin’s like the live music capital right now.”
Cross’s planned move comes on the heels of trumpet player Chris Klaxton’s recent departure for the University of Miami in Florida. Klaxton often performed with Cross and appears on several tracks on her new self-titled album. The migration of both young musicians is a blow to the local music scene, but also a bold and important step in their respective careers.
Like Klaxton, Cross said she’ll miss the Seacoast’s diverse but tight musical community, where artists of all genres regularly share the stage.
“It’s very tight-knit. I feel really lucky around here to have met and played with the people that I have,” she said.
Many of those friends contributed to Cross’s new CD, recorded at Jon Nolan’s Mill Town Recording Company in Rollinsford. The core trio consists of Cross on lead vocals and guitar, PJ Donahue on drums and Mary Dellea on upright bass and backup vocals. Nolan, who also produced Cross’s 2007 debut “Unavailable,” plays electric guitar on a couple of tracks. Bassist Steve Roy pitches in, as does Klaxton on trumpet, Dave Talmage on fiddle, Juliet Nelson on cello, Zack Uncles on pedal steel and Andrew Blowen on keys. Guitarist Nick Phaneuf and drummer Jim Rudolf, both of Tan Vampires, join Cross on one song.
“I wanted to involve as many of my friends as I could. That makes it fun for me, to see what they add to it and allow them to have some creativity with my songs,” Cross said.
The result is a sound that might surprise fans of “Unavailable,” which showcased Cross’s rockabilly grit. While still offering strains of country, the new CD dulls the punk edge, instead adopting jazzier elements and swing tunes.
“I get pigeonholed into being rockabilly a lot because of the way I dress and the sound, and obviously it’s a big influence of mine, but this album is so not rockabilly,” she said.
The shift toward jazz and swing was largely provoked by Cross’s exposure to local musicians who were trained in the genre. Folks like Klaxton, Roy, Rudolf and keyboardist Mike Effenberger helped open her eyes to new types of music.
“I didn’t really care for jazz. I wasn’t really a jazz listener, per se, but now I totally am,” she said. “Being around that has kind of changed my songwriting.”
But rockabilly will always have a fond place in Cross’s heart. An Exeter native, she played clarinet in her school band and picked up guitar at age 18, inspired by the ’50s rock of Elvis Presley and the country roots of Hank Williams. She eventually started hanging out with slightly older Exeter alums like Trafton Waldrop and Andy Ulery, who together formed the snarling rockabilly band Satan’s Teardrops. Cross would tag along with the Teardrops to shows in Boston and elsewhere.
“Following those guys around was big for me,” she said. “I remember going to rockabilly festivals and shows with them and just being like, ‘I wanna do this.’ So I secretly started to plot.”
Her plott - The Wire Magazine- 8/25/10


"LIVE REVIEW: Elsa Cross"


Elsa Cross should have been touring with Johnny Cash during his American Recordings days. Unfortunately, he's long gone and folks prefer to hang onto the past sometimes rather than dare take a step into the future. So, instead of touring with Cash, Elsa is playing a tiny stage with no soundman in Dover, NH - for now.

The set began with some technical difficulties that were no big deal thanks to her attitude about it. It's hard to be upset about waiting for something when the person you are waiting for is so thoughtful about it. She then dove right into "The Burden" off of her first album, Unavailable, and barely slowed down from there - except for a mid-set break about 45 minutes in. Her choice of covers was impeccable: Ernest Tubb, obscure Johnny Cash and vintage Dwight Yoakam, with her sound walking the line between old-time country (thanks to her voice) and rockabilly. Eddie Spaghetti and the Reverend Horton Heat would both fall in love with this woman.

Even with a talented band backing her, the two main instruments were her voice and her guitar. Her voice - which was all over the place, hitting highs and lows, even daring to yodel - is what made her show special. It wasn't that her more American and occasionally Dolores O'Riordan-sounding voice was flawless, it was that it flawlessly went with her music. One without the other might be average; the two together was terrific.

Elsa went through 20 songs, playing almost her entire first album and playing a couple as of yet unnamed ones from her forthcoming release, which she recorded at opener Jon Nolan's Milltown Recording Company in Newmarket, NH. The closest you are going to get to Nashville in New Hampshire is wherever Elsa Cross is playing.

-Andrew Fersch - Performer Magazine- 2/7/10


"LIVE REVIEW: Elsa Cross"


Elsa Cross should have been touring with Johnny Cash during his American Recordings days. Unfortunately, he's long gone and folks prefer to hang onto the past sometimes rather than dare take a step into the future. So, instead of touring with Cash, Elsa is playing a tiny stage with no soundman in Dover, NH - for now.

The set began with some technical difficulties that were no big deal thanks to her attitude about it. It's hard to be upset about waiting for something when the person you are waiting for is so thoughtful about it. She then dove right into "The Burden" off of her first album, Unavailable, and barely slowed down from there - except for a mid-set break about 45 minutes in. Her choice of covers was impeccable: Ernest Tubb, obscure Johnny Cash and vintage Dwight Yoakam, with her sound walking the line between old-time country (thanks to her voice) and rockabilly. Eddie Spaghetti and the Reverend Horton Heat would both fall in love with this woman.

Even with a talented band backing her, the two main instruments were her voice and her guitar. Her voice - which was all over the place, hitting highs and lows, even daring to yodel - is what made her show special. It wasn't that her more American and occasionally Dolores O'Riordan-sounding voice was flawless, it was that it flawlessly went with her music. One without the other might be average; the two together was terrific.

Elsa went through 20 songs, playing almost her entire first album and playing a couple as of yet unnamed ones from her forthcoming release, which she recorded at opener Jon Nolan's Milltown Recording Company in Newmarket, NH. The closest you are going to get to Nashville in New Hampshire is wherever Elsa Cross is playing.

-Andrew Fersch - Performer Magazine- 2/7/10


""Elsa Cross marks national tour""

Rockabilly mistress Elsa Cross has quickly amassed a devoted following on the Seacoast. The release of her debut album last year sealed her reputation as a local force in the arenas of modern folk and old-style country-rock. Now it’s time for Cross to take her act on the road and test her raw guitar skills and crooning vocals on national audiences.

Cross leaves this weekend for a two-week tour through five states, beginning with a Sept. 7 show in Brooklyn, N.Y. She then stops in Baltimore and Pittsburg before swinging through Tennessee for shows in Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville. The tour ends in North Carolina, where she has booked gigs in Chapel Hill, Charlotte, Sylvia and Asheville.

Joined by bassists Steve Roy and drummer PJ Donahue, Cross is enthusiastic about hitting the road. She organized the tour herself and has been saving up to fund her travels. “Last summer I waited tables at two jobs to make my CD (and) this summer I’ve been working my butt off to fund my tour,� Cross said in an email.

Before she departs, Cross will play a local show at The Blue Mermaid in Portsmouth at 8 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 5. She hopes some familiar faces will show up to offer last-minute support before she embarks on her first serious tour.

- The Wire


""Good Luck Guys!""

Rockabilly wonder woman Elsa Cross has built a sturdy fan base in the Seacoast and now she's off on tour — but not before the locals get to wish her well. She's "been working my butt off to fund my tour." So here's what she's up to: "We have 10 dates booked from Sept. 7 through the 19. It's going to be myself, Steve Roy and PJ Donahue (Andy May won't be able to make it after all)." They'll hit Brooklyn, NY, Baltimore, MD; Pittsburgh, PA; Memphis, TN; Nashville, TN; Knoxville, TN; Chapel Hill, NC; Charlotte, NC; Asheville, NC; and Sylva, NC.

And here's where we come in: Friday, Sept. 5, Elsa Cross and co. play The Blue Mermaid. "This may sound really cheesy but... The thought of having my friends and fans from home backing me up as I tour, gives me strength," says Elsa.

- Portsmouth Herald


""Honky Tonk Breakout""

Elsa Cross, 25, is a relatively new face on the music scene. A lot of people haven't heard the Exeter native's name as yet. But one of her biggest fans is known and respected, and says this is one to watch.

Gary Sredzienski, an internationally renowned accordionist and roots/rock/traditional ethnic musician, doesn't say much one way or the other about other artists. He just tends to play it close to the vest; quietly going about his business. So when he does pipe up about a newcomer it's certainly worth listening.

To his mind Cross is the real thing. It's more than the music — which he says is stellar; it's the fire, and the drive that make her a standout.

"I meet and talk with so many, many different people. As you know so many people are just not passionate about anything. It is so sad for me to see (them) working jobs just for the sake of getting health insurance or just a paycheck. ...; But with Elsa, what moves me is that she works so hard at jobs doing slave labor for very little money. All for the advancement of her music," he says.

He relates to that one. He's worked jobs where biting the tongue is all in a day's survival. But you do it for the music. "I see so much of myself in her. It means everything to her," he says. What's interesting is Sredzienski, who says he likes all forms of music — in some form — isn't usually a huge fan of honky tonk country, which is exactly what Cross plays. But between her talent and the determination and desire, she gets to him. You can just hear her passion come through. And that deeper sound is the one that ignites others.

Cross, now of Durham, only went public about a year and a half ago.

"I had to get over being petrified about playing before people. It was hard to get out of my bedroom," she says. "Since then though, everything has happened so quickly."

A roommate, listening to her through the walls, started to encourage her. About the same time she began dating a man who would drag her to open mic events in the area. She started getting on stage, and slowly getting over her stage fright.

"The feedback blew me away. They were excited about what they were hearing, I think it may be because it was it was different," says Cross.

That "difference" is twofold. For starters, country music isn't heard a lot at local open mics, she says. And there are only a handful of females in her genre, fewer still working her chosen material.

"My guitar style is Johnny Cash-ish," she explains. "My vocals are very loud and Patsy Cline-ish. It's not the typical female voice at an open mic."

Cross is a singer-songwriter, but hesitates to use the label. It tends to muster thoughts of folk music, she says. "I always think of them as really storytellers and mellow and soft singing and I kind of — well I'm different. I like a lot of rock, '50s old time rock."

Describing her style is difficult. Rockabilly for sure, she says. "I'm a huge fan." Then there's classic country. "I like to croon them; love to sing them. I don't know what to say about it, I'm just drawn to honky tonk," she says. But it's country touched by rock, she adds. "When I was young I listened to rock and punk. So it's a mixture."

When she covers tunes it tends to be old country, "Ernest Tubbs stuff and Roy Orbison. But even if they're slow I'm giving them a driving beat. It's fun for the band and I to play these song. And Loretta Lynn! I play a lot of her. Wayne Hancock's a big influence of mine."

The band doesn't really have an official name, but it sure has an official line up. Just called Elsa Cross, the band consists of Cross on guitar and vocals, Steve Roy on bass and PJ Donahue on drums. That's some heady back up in these parts.

Donahue has performed with a long list of bands, including Brickhouse and the Amorphous Band. He quit the latter to work with Cross.

"I'm really impressed. He says this is something you can't let go of," she says.

Roy's past bands include High Range, Mill City Ramblers and Hit and Run Bluegrass. He was the one who first spotted Cross at a bluegrass open mic at the Stone Church, back in July.

"Steve showed interest in playing with me and mentioned PJ might be interested," says Cross. "What really brought us together, undeniably, was the studio. They recorded my new CD with me. ...; "We really clicked. It was actually awesome, magical for me. ...; They're so solid, such a good team."

"Unavailable" was released Oct. 27, and paid for with two full-time waitressing jobs. It's available at Bull Moose Music in Portsmouth and at Crackskulls Coffee & Books in Newmarket.

Cross writes the band's music.

"It's really personal to me. Sometimes the way I sing them, people enjoy the music and the beat. But the lyrics — those are really honest. It's like my diary; things I feel strongly about that have affected me in my past."

There are songs about unavailable men. It's about more than her selection of partner. It's about her dad as well.

" - Portsmouth Herald


""Haunted By Love""


In "The Mourning Bride," 17th-century English playwright William Congreve wrote, "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." It's a line Seacoast chanteuse Elsa Cross proves still holds true on her 10-song debut CD "Unavailable." Cross and company kick things off with a Halloween season song, smashing through the riotous, foot-stomping "Zombie for His Love" — a tell-tale hearted romp of unrequited love full of piss, vinegar and one of the funniest, feistiest, refrains you'll ever hear.

There's no pity for the fool who done this gal so wrong.

Revenge is a dish best served cold-hearted. No country comfort here for the object of her derision — a man for whom many will likely have their own stand-in (male or female) to conjure up from memory.

These songs of loss and redemption are chock full of devils, ghosts, nightmares, monsters, and death. Running through nearly all is the constant sorrow caused by one dirty old bastard. A man who is best left nameless.

Eight tunes are Cross originals, providing the portrait of an artist as a young woman on the rise. Lyrically, she presents the subjective heart-pangs of a jilted lover's diary as universal bestseller.

Musically, she keeps things clean and simple, reminiscent of the great Hank Williams but with the gusto of a tattooed rockabilly beat. Toss in a little bluegrass and you've got pure gold.

Cross picks and strums well her weathered acoustic guitar and has assembled a bang-up band, including bassist Steve Roy (High Range, Mill City Ramblers) and drummer PJ Donahue (Brick House, Amorphous Band). She recruited a who's-who of the Seacoast's best to round out the disc, including Joyce Andersen (fiddle), Bruce Derr (pedal steel), electric guitarists Jimmy Farquhar (Hotrod Fury) and Matt Robbins (King Memphis).

Charlie Rose (cello) and Gary Sredzienski (accordion) shovel the graveyard-at-midnight atmosphere into "Stolen," the album closer about a shattered heart second only to the title track as standouts. On "Unavailable," she channels the spirit of Patsy Cline while crooning that, "the only man for me ...; does me wrong ...; never calls me on the phone ...; leaves me all alone ...; stands me up ...; always lets me down ...; and ...; cannot be found."

Somebody buy the poor girl a drink.

Join Cross, Roy, Donohue and guests when they celebrate the CD release Saturday, Oct. 27, at The Stone Church. Look for impresario Jon Nolan, who produced, recorded and mixed the disc, somewhere nearby with a big ol' Jack-o-lantern-eating grin on his face.

-Michael Keating, a freelance writer/zombie now haunting Boston, has had his fair share of unrequited love. He can be reached by e-mail at batopilas@gmail.com. - Spotlight Magazine


""Unavailable""


Only a handful of rockabilly acts have reared their pomade-smothered heads on the Seacoast in recent years. Satan’s Teardrops quickly pops to mind, as well as surf-oriented thrashers Hotrod Fury. One-man rockabilly band Bloodshot Bill played a memorable show at the Loaf and Ladle in Exeter a few years back, but Southern New Hampshire has failed to maintain a strong rockabilly presence.

So much the better for Elsa Cross, whose debut album, “Unavailable,” digs deep into the rockabilly core to invoke the music’s pioneering ancestors. Having played numerous live performances in the Portsmouth area, Cross is set to unveil her first studio effort with a CD release show at The Stone Church on Saturday, Oct. 27.

Cross’s influences include many obvious names—Elvis Presley, Hank Williams Sr., Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Wayne Hancock. Indeed, she has not roamed too far from the rootsy stylings of her country/rockabilly forefathers. Her twangy guitar style and edgy lyrics invoke all the gritty emotion of a true rockabilly soul, complete with robust vocals and a western guitar twist that together amount to a doggedly lonesome but resolutely independent style.

On “Unavailable,” Cross takes advantage of a motley ensemble of skilled musicians to build a strong foundation around her singing and songwriting. Fiddle, cello, pedal steel guitar and accordion add pizzazz to certain tunes, while the spotlight remains fixed on Cross’s fertile voice. There is a controlled ferocity to her tone and lyrics, even in the album’s softest moments, and the songs would seem equally appropriate if performed on a horse ranch or in a Hell’s Kitchen lounge.
Cross wrote eight of the album’s 10 tracks, mixing in covers of Carol Tevis and Wayne Hancock. The lyrics often deal with surrendering to temptation and coping with the consequences. Especially on the disc’s first two tracks, “Zombie for his Love” and “Because of You,” Cross sings about the odious symptoms of falling for the wrong man.

“I know I’m demented and I’ve dug myself a hole. But I’m fucked, and I’m stuck, and I’m a zombie for his love,” she sings brashly in the chorus of the first song.

Both of the first two tracks feature rapid guitar riffs that bring punk undertones to essentially folk-country songs. The next song, “Dead of Night,” changes gears, slowing down the melody and adding deep percussion with leering and ominous effect. The vocals have a forsaken feel and end on an oddly surreal note, which is quickly erased by the pepped up sound of the following song, “Before I Find a Man.”

The fourth track finds the singer in search of herself in what seems like a lonely and deserted landscape. “I’ve got to find myself before I find a man, because if I’m no good on my own, what good am I?” she sings.

The straight meter of the drumming and the resonant Johnny Cash-type guitar work featured on many of the songs gives the music a fresh edge, much as Cash did with his adaptations to country, folk and gospel in the 1960s. (Cross’s voice sometimes sounds like a deeper version of Cash’s longtime wife, June Carter.)

According to her MySpace account, Cross’ early musical influences go back to the gospel choir at the Methodist Church in her hometown. She was already tampering with instruments by the time she was eight years old and eventually fixed on guitar, playing 1950s rock ’n’ roll. (The album art on “Unavailable” shows Cross sitting on a bed with a pillow bearing Elvis’s young face.) Listening to Presley and his peers led Cross to explore the music’s old country roots, resulting in a distinctly Hank Williams flavor. It is fitting that Cross should pay homage to a couple of early legends, and it is a sign of her authenticity that her Hancock cover, “Thunderstorms and Neon Signs,” sounds as legitimately rugged and rangy as ever when she sings it.
Cross sings and plays acoustic guitar on all 10 tracks, with a supporting cast that includes varying combinations of Steve Roy on bass, PJ Donahue on drums, Jimmy Farquar and Matt Robbins on electric guitars, Bruce Derr on pedal steel guitar, Jim Gambino on piano and organ, Joyce Andersen on fiddle, Gary Sredzienski on accordion, Charlie Rose on cello and Melvern Taylor on backup vocals. The album was recorded, mixed and produced by Jon Nolan at Milltown Recording Company in Newmarket.

-Matt Kanner

- The Wire Magazine


Discography

Unavailable- debut album 2008
Elsa Cross- 2011

Photos

Bio

As one critic wrote, Elsa Cross’ “twangy guitar style and edgy lyrics invoke all the gritty emotion of a true rockabilly soul, complete with robust vocals and a western guitar twist that together amount to a doggedly lonesome but resolutely independent style.”

Born in the hills of Strong, Maine, Elsa’s deep relationship with music has been a lifelong obsession. From as early as the age of five, she remembers being enraptured by the voices of the gospel choir in her hometown’s Methodist church. Later, the gusto of tattooed rockabilly beats and sweet, honest simplicity of country & western captured her heart, laying the foundation for her dark and stirring music.

Drawing on these influences and her personal experiences with heartache, Elsa began writing and performing her own songs, releasing her debut “Unavailable” in 2008 and the self-titled “Elsa Cross” in 2011. These albums received critical acclaim not only for the beauty and authenticity of Elsa’s voice, but also her ability to unveil, through word and sound, the luridness of the human psyche—the demons, ghosts, and zombies that haunt us all. “Eddie Spaghetti and The Reverend Horton Heat would both fall in love with this woman.”

Now living in Austin, Texas, Elsa continues to captivate audiences with her clear, distinct voice and original songs rooted in the traditions of country, Americana, and rock & roll music.