The Great Unknowns
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The Great Unknowns

Washington, D.C., Washington, D.C., United States | INDIE

Washington, D.C., Washington, D.C., United States | INDIE
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"The Great Unknowns, "Presenting The Great Unknowns""

We read about this disc in MilesofMusic and then chanced upon it in the used bins of our favorite local CD shop, Albums On The Hill in Boulder, Colorado (we're not all from Texas here). Released in 2004 by Daemon Records, "Presenting The Great Unknowns" is the first release by this band as an entity.

Man, it's good. Especially if you like the kind of music you hear from Lucinda Williams or Mary Gauthier. Or Lone Justice. Which I do. I can't figure out why someone would sell this one back.

Lead singer and songwriter, Becky Warren, knows what she's doing. Her voice has that edge which forces the comparisons with Williams and Gauthier. It's rock-and-roll strong where it needs to be and sweetly mellow on the quieter songs.

Michael Palmer shares songwriting duties with Warren and plays guitar as well. Other bandmembers are Andy Eggers (drums, mandolin, backing vocals) and Altay Guvench (bass). The band gets some help from Scott Roy (banjo, accordion, backing vocals; Tyler Wood (organ); Pierce Woodward (banjo); Gian Pangaro (dobro); and Whitney Retallic, Noam Weinstein, Tim Blane, Judy Scott-Clayton, Rose Polenzani on backing vocals.

On some tracks, the guitar has a twangy 70's Southern rock kind of feel - the bass line on "When I Was Your Girl" is reminiscent of "Sweet Home Alabama" but the overall effect is more Lucinda Williams than Lynyrd Skynyrd. The tone, the instrumentation, the voice, the attitude reek of bitter nostalgia and sarcasm.

The music got my attention first but then I started listening to the lyrics. And these guys can do that too.

The break up songs are the best. And they're mostly break up songs on this disc. That makes for better music - don't ask me why.

"Something To Do" tells that oh-so-familiar heartbreaking story of a girl who recognizes that she's "just something to pass the time when you feel blue/Just something to do." In a very catchy way.

"1000 Miles From Tennessee" is a fast-paced declaration of emotional independence. "But I won't dial your line again cuz it's always you on the other end / And I've heard everything you have to say before." Ha. Take that.

The last song, "We'll Be Okay," is a wistful attempt at starting over with a broken relationship. The tone is hopeful yet defeated. A break up song in disguise.

According to bass player Guvench, the Great Unknowns currently are spread out along the Eastern Coast but a new disc is in the works. Just don't know when.

-naomi - Slacker Country


"CD Review: The Great Unknowns"

Joining an increasingly extensive and rich body of new roots music is this first release by The Great Unknowns, a quartet of seasoned musicians fronted by singer Becky Warren.

Warren, who co-writes the songs with guitarist Michael Palmer, has a voice reminiscent of Lucinda Williams's, but her tones are easier on the ears, and though the Unknowns' songwriting isn't as sharp as Lucinda's (but whose is?), it's good enough to earn this CD a place on my Americana shelf. With layered, guitar-heavy but understated arrangements and clean production, it's a sweet listen nearly all the way through.

Warren sings these original but quintessentially American tales of lost love and wandering souls in a drily expressive drawl, like an alto Patty Griffin, or a less affected Adam Duritz. You can hear both a pervading sadness and a persevering spirit in her unhurried delivery. The band has a knack for concise, penetrating lyrics: "Since you've been gone/My heart is a fist." "Don't try to blame it on no one else/You broke my heart all by yourself." And, from "Something To Do," a Patty Griffin-like plaint which ought to turn up on the Americana charts: "I'm just something to pass the time when you feel blue/Just something to do." "Round Hill," another highlight, has a chorus that climbs into your ear and settles in for the long haul. Of the slower songs, I liked "Don't Come Home," sweetly sad with its 6-8 sway, and "Deliver Me Home," whose angular melody and unexpected minor chords give a nod to The Band...Overall, the sharp wisdom of the lyrics, the grown-up, straight-ahead power of the music and Warren's sweet-and-sour vocals make this debut a keeper. - BlogCritics.org


"The Great Unknowns, "Presenting the Great Unknowns""

The first thing to do about a minute into "Presenting The Great
Unknowns" is to pick oneself off the floor; having been knocked there
by the splendor of Becky Warren's singing voice. This young woman
knows how to sing with feeling, power, subtlety, dynamic range, and
sweetness. Nothing against the talented musicians in the band who do a
great job on the recording, but face it guys, singers always get the
glory and when she is this pretty and this talented, the attention
will be on her.

All the songs on the CD were written by Becky Warren or co-written by
Becky and guitarist, Michael Palmer. The lyrics are undoubtedly her
own personal stories of a sensitive girl who has had more than her
share of hope and disappointment. The melodies are enchanting and
stylistically diverse. There is more rock here, than country, but it
goes beyond that. There is an honesty and originality in the sound
that is irresistible.

With some songwriters it is so damn obvious they set out to write a
song of a specific genre, such as "I'm going to write me a country
song." Ms. Warren, however, sounds like she sat down to express her
innermost feelings in song and instinctively used the tools in her
kit. With a base of Boston rock, she unselfconsciously adds a pinch of
Appalachian acoustic here, a dollop of porch-pickin' over there, throw
in a southern accordion, a dash of the blues, mix well with the broken
heart of a tender woman (a little bitterness to balance the sweetness
of youth,) and you have something very special, indeed. - CountryRootsMusic.com


"The Great Unknowns, "Presenting" Daemon /Koch"

On the edge of country and steeped in the Americana tradition, The Great Unknowns jokingly made Presenting for their grandmothers. The album has the ability to appeal to grandmothers and just about everyone else. The songwriting of Becky Warren fits with her southern tinged voice perfectly, and conjures characters in short stories of the American experience.

The music transcends genre categorization, as it melds country, rock'n'roll and an accordian. The Great Unknowns describe their sound as "rock music for the open road." The motif of the open road appears throughout the album. Warren often places the characters in her songs near or on the road. "Forever" has a recollection of better times: "riding in your car, singing all of the words/ radio just reminds me I'm always your girl." The road becomes a figure that Warren utilizes as a memory trigger, in "Forever," and then, she uses the road as a the wilderness of the interior on "Round Hill."

"Something To Do," will strike awe into any listener. Warren's soft voice becomes fervent, fueled by anguish. The song moves through "just something to do," until the singer realizes that he won't "call" and "act like" he "gives a fuck?" The songs melancholy realization is butressed with a longing solo from Scott Roy's accordion. The situation of unrequited love is painful, and consequentially it produces the best song on the album. The way in which Warren bends tones, in songs she penned, is artful and thrilling. Their music incorporates the best of country and rock, not to mention, the great accordion inclusions. The Great Unknowns have produced a rollicking series of pain, train and American stories.

***Best Album Of the Week***

The John Shelton Ivany Top Twenty-One is published in 200 national
newspapers (copyright 2005 John Shelton Ivany).

John Shelton Ivany is currently Internet provider for Hardrock.com. Mr.
Ivany is the former editor of Revolution, Country Song Roundup, Hit Parader and
Rock & Soul (all national magazines). Formerly editor of On Radio, Electric
Village and Riffage.com websites. Mr. Ivany was the President of Titanium Records, a subsidiary of Atlantic Record Company. - The John Shelton Ivany Top Twenty-One


"The Great Unknowns, "Presenting The Great Unknowns" (Daemon Records)"

After a few listens, you'll be asking yourself where these musical messiahs were hiding. With lush harmonies and accomplished instrumentation, the Great Unknowns romp and roll through 10 tracks that titillate your inner being; these raw Americana compositions make the perfect traveling companion for a long car trip.

Becky Warren fronts this alt.-country band of merry music troubadours. With a voice that echoes Lucinda Williams with its gritty, passionate, well-deep delivery, the talented songsmith wrote or co-wrote all the songs on this debut. The storied songs evoke a sense of time and place - conjuring up images of a life spent chasing the white line down the highway through titles such as "Las Vegas," "Round Hill," "Abilene" and "1000 Miles of Tennessee."

The opener "Las Vegas" captures the essence of this larger than life city of pomp, glitz and shattered dreams with these poetic lines: "We come to Las Vegas/with our dreams 10 feet tall/We leave here as shadows if we get out at all." Warren's lyrics showcase a natural born storyteller, and you'll find yourself returning again and again to these tales. If this dazzling debut is any indication, the Great Unknowns won't be much longer. - Country Standard Time


"The Great Unknowns, "Presenting The Great Unknowns" (Daemon Records)"

Time to reorganize the CD library to make room for this alt/country debut release from the Northeast's Great Unknowns, and I'm not sure how long that name will fit, if this release is any indication of things to come. Move your Mary Gauthier and Kathleen Edwards over a notch, because this one will fit right in alongside of them. Written entirely by Becky Warren and guitarist Michael Palmer, it's a seamless ten song collection showcasing Warren's beautiful voice and lyrics. It's hard to pick out the best, but “Abilene”, about a love lost to a town, and “Round Hill”, a love lost to a war, are prime candidates, but the ballads are only part of the story. There's some nice edgy stuff as well, like “When I Was Your Girl”, and “Something To Do”, and, “1000 Miles From Tennessee” is a road song that chugs right along with the best of them, like Jackson Browne's “Take It Easy”. With Andy Eggers on drums, and Altay Guvench on bass rounding out the main cast, The Great Unknowns have a good, tight, sound, that shouldn't leave them anonymous much longer. A pleasure to listen to, this one. - Freight Train Boogie


"Presenting the Great Unknowns"

“The Great Unknowns are going to have to change their name. Because I personally am going to recommend their new CD, Presenting the Great Unknowns, to everyone I know. It’s simply great rock, with gritty lyrics sung by Becky Warren. That’s right, it’s fronted by an excellent female voice that is unabashedly Southern and quite surprising. Warren’s voice is totally incongruous with the way she looks. You’d expect some cute little voice made for pop charts. Not in the slightest; this is the kind of voice I personally wish all women had:powerful, masterful, and gorgeous, Warren is accompanied by a great band, too. With guitarist Mike Palmer, Altay Guvench on bass, and Andy Eggers playing drums, the Great Unknowns are a group of competent, experienced musicians. But they aren’t all about publicity like so many bands today. They care about music, not mailing lists and a public following. And really, that’s what’s most important. They’ve provided good music and that following is sure to come because of it. I personally enjoyed the entire CD, especially “Round Hill,” being a Virginia girl myself. “Something to Do” and “Don’t Come Home” are also great tracks that make you sing along. Do yourself a favor: pick up this CD, and get all your friends a copy, too!” –AH - Singer Magazine


"The Great Unknowns, "Presenting The Great Unknowns" (Daemon Records)"

"Unknowns"? Pretty much, although these children of the swampy side of the American South did a lot to change that when they toured with labelmates Indigo Girls in 2005. But it’s "Great" that’s the operative word here. Becky Warren has one of those born-for-alt-country voices: big and meaty, with a vulnerable little vibrato here and there. She also pens evocative songs that keep to the "universal" side of the usual roots tropes. Take "Round Hill," which combines three standard themes -- the love-hate relationship with small towns, the lure of the road, and the soldier’s story -- without allowing any of them to become clichés. Even Pierce Woodward’s banjo sounds fresh. "Something to Do" is the sort of lonely-woman-scorned lament, set to a rock beat, that some folks think Lucinda Williams invented. "Forever" combines a resolute rhythm with an accordion that snakes in and out like a wayward emotion. And I love the interplay of 50s-sounding electric guitar and 60s-sounding organ on the torchy "Don’t Come Home." It took the intervention of established musicians like Rose Polenzani (who sings harmony on "Presenting") and the Indigos to give this group of refugees from defunct bands -- besides Warren, the Unknowns are drummer Andy Eggers, bassist Altay Guvench, and guitarist Michael Palmer -- a hand up to the footlights, a move that makes the buddy system seem like one of the best things the music biz has going for it these days. - Dirty Linen


"About The Great Unknowns"

“Excellent songwriting in the Americana tradition. Really one of the best things I have heard this year. The band jokingly says they made the record for their grandmothers, but it should be heard by everyone. Fronted by a women with a salty southern voice, the production is pure and simple without any missteps.”
- Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls


"The Great Unknowns, "Presenting The Great Unknowns" (Daemon Records)"

There are thousands of bands pounding out perfectly decent rock'n'roll in dank bars across this fine land -- so why stop to listen to The Great Unknowns? Well, they play unpretentious heartland rock reminiscent of the better efforts of the Crows -- both Sheryl and Counting. Becky Warren writes about guys who've treated her like shit with a dignity they don't deserve and sings with a soulful, rebellious swagger, giving an otherwise meat-and-potatoes sound a little extra spice. - Maxim


"The Great Unknowns, "Presenting" Daemon /Koch"

There's nothing fancy about the Great Unknowns brand of Americana; rather, the emphasis is on solid songs presented in a straightforward, unpretentious fashion.

Unfurling themes that run toward the open road and relationships gone awry, Presenting the Great Unknowns exudes a spirit rooted in heartland traditions. Vocalist and songwriter Becky Warren infuses the proceedings with a survivor's confidence, often calling to mind former Lone Justice singer Maria McKee.

High points include the brawny country-rocker "When I Was Your Girl," the accordion-laced "Forever," and a ballad titled "Deliver Me Home" that allows a glimpse at Warren's vulnerable side. Band members Michael Palmer, Altay Guvench and Andy Eggers emphasize restraint over flash, and perfectly illustrate the Lou Reed adage that, when offering up a good song, few things beat the simplicity of a guitar, bass and drums. - Performing Songwriter


"CD Review: Presenting The Great Unknowns"

There's nothing fancy about the Great Unknowns brand of Americana; rather, the emphasis is on solid songs presented in a straightforward, unpretentious fashion.

Unfurling themes that run toward the open road and relationships gone awry, Presenting the Great Unknowns exudes a spirit rooted in heartland traditions. Vocalist and songwriter Becky Warren infuses the proceedings with a survivor's confidence, often calling to mind former Lone Justice singer Maria McKee.

High points include the brawny country-rocker "When I Was Your Girl," the accordion-laced "Forever," and a ballad titled "Deliver Me Home" that allows a glimpse at Warren's vulnerable side. Band members Michael Palmer, Altay Guvench and Andy Eggers emphasize restraint over flash, and perfectly illustrate the Lou Reed adage that, when offering up a good song, few things beat the simplicity of a guitar, bass and drums. - No Depression


"Reviews of Presenting the Great Unknowns"

No Depression
"I can't stop playing this disc. Warren's songwriting is evocative and richly detailed throughout and guitarist Michael Palmer. . .seems to have brought on an exceptional crispness and hookiness to the Great Unknown's rootsy rock."
Also picked as a top 10 record of 2004
- Rick Cornell

Maxim
"Why stop to listen to The Great Unknowns? Well, they play unpretentious heartland rock reminiscent of the better efforts of the Crows -- both Sheryl and Counting. Becky Warren writes about guys who've treated her like shit with a dignity they don't deserve and sings with a soulful, rebellious swagger..."
- David Peisner

Performing Songwriter
"The emphasis is on solid songs presented in a
straightforward, unpretentious fashion."
- Jan/Feb 2005

Amy Ray (The Indigo Girls)
“Excellent songwriting in the Americana tradition. . . one
of the best things I have heard this year.”

Dirty Linen
"It’s 'Great' that’s the operative word here.
Becky Warren has one of those born-for-alt-country voices: big and meaty, with a vulnerable little vibrato here and there."
- Pamela Murray Winters

Singer Magazine
“Do yourself a favor: pick up this CD, and get all your friends a copy, too!"
- April 2005

Freight Train Boogie
"Move your Mary Gauthier and Kathleen Edwards over a notch,
because this one will fit right in alongside of them."
- Don Grant

Country Standard Time
"After a few listens, you'll be asking yourself where
these musical messiahs were hiding."
- David McPherson

Ivany's Top Twenty-One
"Their music incorporates the best of country and rock, not to mention,
the great accordion inclusions. The Great Unknowns have produced
a rollicking series of pain, train and American stories."
- John Shelton Ivany

Country Roots Music
"The first thing to do about a minute into 'Presenting The Great
Unknowns' is to pick oneself off the floor; having been knocked
there by the splendor of Becky Warren's singing voice....
There is an honesty and originality in the sound that is irresistible"
- Bill Grohl

Metro Pulse (Knoxville, TN)
"Warren’s songs are honest and simple, with a thrilling soulful
rawness reminiscent of Lucinda Williams."
- Paige M. Travis

City Beat (Cincinnati, OH)
"A nice collection of songs for a laidback weekend morning."
- P.F. Wilson

BlogCritics.org
"With layered, guitar-heavy but understated arrangements and
clean production, it's a sweet listen nearly all the way through."
- Jon Sobel

HighBias.com
"Becky Warren's vocals are soft and delicate,
creating a tremendous sense of longing."
- Lance Loope

MusicEmissions.com
"It is the small picture that makes The Great Unknowns promising:
great vocals, solid rhythm section, and writing
that will only get stronger with more experiences ."
- Mike Wood

SlackerCountry.com
"Man, it's good. Especially if you like the kind of music
you hear from Lucinda Williams or Mary Gauthier.
Or Lone Justice. Which I do."
- Naomi

The Boston Globe
"The Great Unknowns may not be unknown for much longer."
- Steve Morse, Dec. 3, 2004

Flagpole Magazine (Athens, GA)
"Presenting… the Great Unknowns is a terrific slice of country
and Americana out on Daemon. The band’s fronted by Becky Warren,
whose voice is a tool of incision into your inner hope, passion and sorrow." - Maxim, No Depression, and others


Discography

December 2004: Presenting the Great Unknowns
All songs received some radio play, but "Round Hill" was played on Steve Earle's radio program and several other stations. "Abilene" and "When I Was Your Girl" were also radio favorites.

Photos

Bio

Describing themselves as "rock music for the open road", The Great Unknowns are a female-fronted alt-country band whose first record, released on Indigo Girl Amy Ray's Daemon Records label, was a critical success and sold beyond the label's expectations. The album received positive reviews in No Depression ("I can't stop playing this disc"; staff writer Rick Cornell also picked it as one of the year's ten best records), Maxim ("unpretentious heartland rock reminiscent of the better efforts of the Crows -- both Sheryl and Counting"), Performing Songwriter ("the emphasis is on solid songs presented in a straightforward, unpretentious fashion") and other publications.

Ray received a copy of the record from Daemon artist Rose Polenzani and offered the group a distribution deal, calling the album "excellent songwriting in the Americana tradition. Really one of the best things I have heard this year." The band picked up fans across the east coast as opening support first for Mason Jennings and later for the Indigo Girls, and with radio play on WNCW, WFUV, Boot Liquor Radio, Pandora, and other traditional and online stations.

The Great Unknowns are singer/songwriter Becky Warren, guitarist Avril Smith, bass player Altay Guvench, and drummer Andy Eggers.
With a focus again on songwriting, straightforward production, and a rock n roll heart, the band is now gearing up to record its second album.

+++++

Some reviews of the GUs first record:

NO DEPRESSION
"I can't stop playing this disc...Thus, I walk around singing the 'When I Was Your Girl' chorus from the fine song of the same name, earning strange looks from my wife and proving that the album has made a home in my head, and quite possibly in my heart."
- Rick Cornell (Also picked as a top 10 record of the year)

MAXIM
"Why stop to listen to The Great Unknowns? Well, they play unpretentious heartland rock reminiscent of the better efforts of the Crows -- both Sheryl and Counting. Becky Warren writes about guys who've treated her like shit with a dignity they don't deserve and sings with a soulful, rebellious swagger..."
- David Peisner

DIRTY LINEN
"It’s 'Great' that’s the operative word here. Becky Warren has one of those born-for-alt-country voices: big and meaty, with a vulnerable little vibrato here and there."
- Pamela Murray Winters

PERFORMING SONGWRITER
"There's nothing fancy about the Great Unknowns brand of Americana; rather, the emphasis is on solid songs presented in a straightforward, unpretentious fashion...Vocalist and songwriter Becky Warren infuses the proceedings with a survivor's confidence, often calling to mind former Lone Justice singer Maria McKee."