Grey DeLisle

Grey DeLisle

BandAmericanaAcoustic

A mountain Flannery O'Connor writing for a young Dolly Parton in a string band for the Louvins fronted by a woman with visions of romantic loss. longing, sin and redemption.

Biography

The term “old soul” is bandied about so casually these days that it has almost lost it’s meaning, but how else to describe Grey DeLisle? Her dynamic brand of Americana displays a preternatural connection to past eras as far flung as the Civil War, most recently on her critically hailed 2004 release The Graceful Ghost. Listeners and journalists alike marvel at her astute grasp of the essence of old-time country music that, at the same time never threatens to brand her an anachronism. Embracing different eras and different styles as readily and impeccably as she has, the only thing that fans have come to expect from a new Grey DeLisle album is the unexpected.
“I never want to make the same record twice,” DeLisle says. “I’m not interested in treading the same ground over and over again, even if it means people might get thrown for a loop on first listen.” Beginning with what she calls her “coffeehouse girl phase,” her self-released debut, The Small Time, was a far cry from her sophomore effort, Homewrecker. The latter was an irresistible mash note to the dramatic country chanteuses of the ’60s and early ’70s, and suited DeLisle’s strong, smoky alto perfectly. Fans were treated to another shock with her Sugar Hill Records debut The Graceful Ghost, replete with a turn-of-the-century vibe and dark themes of death, betrayal and redemption. DeLisle’s version of “Willie We Have Missed You” was also featured on the Grammy winner for “Best Traditional Folk Recording”—Beautiful Dreamer: The Songs of Stephen Foster.
With Iron Flowers, Grey DeLisle once again fulfills her promise of dynamism. Just because her signature instrument is the Autoharp, don’t expect the second coming of Mother Maybelle Carter this time around. One look at the interior album booklet art—by iconic photographer Mick Rock (David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Blondie)—reminds us that the young DeLisle is an artist of her generation. And just to make the Appalachian-Glam fusion complete, her new release boasts a cover of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” employing that trademark Autoharp in ways that nature never intended. Queen fans may make the connection that Mick Rock shot the infamous cover photo for the album Queen II.
From the revelatory “Bohemian Rhapsody” cover, to the dirty rockabilly of “Who Made You King” and the garage-Americana sound of “Blue Heart,” Iron Flowers turns out to be the most sonically and lyrically varied group of songs that DeLisle has ever put forth. And in fact, the eclecticism itself may be what proves to capture her essence as an artist. “It’s strange, but I think the chaos is what makes the most sense to me and says the most about me musically.”
One thing that DeLisle does not deviate from is her winning formula of producer and guest musicians. Marvin Etzioni is at the helm once again, proving that no matter what musical direction DeLisle decides to take, he always shares her vision. “He just gets me,” says DeLisle. Also on board is husband and collaborator, Murry Hammond of the Old 97’s. Rounding out the band is Dave Mattacks (Fairport Convention, Nick Drake, Paul McCartney), Don Heffington (Bob Dylan, Lone Justice, Victoria Williams), Sheldon Gomberg (Rickie Lee Jones, Five for Fighting) and Greg Leisz (Joni Mitchell, K.D. Lang). DeLisle says she simply made a “dream list” of people she would love to work with, and then went about the task of asking them to participate. For a relatively young upstart to take this approach with musicians of such stellar curriculum vitae speaks volumes about DeLisle’s guileless attitude toward the music business and toward life. “I just thought, What’s the worst that could happen, they say no? OK. But what if they say yes?”
Recording in a friend’s garage-cum-studio in the Silverlake district of Los Angeles, DeLisle remains true to her dedication to vintage analog equipment. Eschewing such modernities as ProTools and endless overdubs, the band recorded all performances live, often using the first take. DeLisle is no snob about her preference for an old-fashioned approach: “It just sounds better that way!” When she says “better,” what she means is more organic, more honest, not necessarily prettier or more perfect. Technical perfection seems a paltry goal compared to a raw emotional connection to the music, and Grey DeLisle is an artist who vies for the latter.
For those keeping score at home, DeLisle’s band does indeed feature two bass players (Hammond and Gomberg) and two drummers (Mattacks and Heffington). She says she wanted a big, full rhythm section sound for Iron Flowers and decided to go with double percussion and double bass on every track except “Sweet Little Bluebird” and “Blue Heart.” This is a distinct departure for the artist whose previous release had virtually no percussion at all! It’s just one more example of DeLisle’s constant desire to move forward and her disdain for musical stagnation. She says that when new fans ask after her live show, “Which CD should I get?” to b

Lyrics

Joanna

Written By: Grey DeLisle

She was a raven-haired, restless drunkard’s daughter
With skinny legs so long and dark and brown
And she believed all the things the bible taught her
‘Til she changed her mind and busted outta town

Sailed down the black mountain trail to meet her lover
A no good gambler the law called “one-eyed Jack”
From that cruel summer he never will recover
‘Cause he don’t reckon she’s ever coming back

She hitched her life to a rusty El Dorado
And let the warm wind blow across her bones
And in the night you can hear somebody cryin’
Joanna won’t you please come home

She was a raven-haired, restless drunkard’s daughter
The kind of hero you need at seventeen
A wild rose that went searching for some water
And the kind of light the shadows never see

Sharecroppin' Man

Written By: Grey DeLisle

On the day you rattled up the line to work my family's land
Mama caught us smilin' and she took me by the hand
She said "what yer young heart sees in him I'll never understand
'Cause it's a sorry life to live, lovin' a sharecroppin' man

His back is nearly broken by the time his day is through
His dirty hands are empty when he brings them home to you
So don't come runnin' back here when his soil turns to sand
It's a sorry life to live, lovin' a sharecroppin' man"

On a cold November evening 'cross the bitter plains we ran
Far from that ol' shotgun in our copper weddin' bands
You whispered "life without you girl is more than I can stand
But it's a sorry life to live, lovin' a sharecroppin' man

My back is nearly broken by the time my day is through
My dirty hands are empty when I bring them home to you
So remember that I warned you when our soil turns to sand
It's a sorry life to live, lovin' a sharecroppin' man"

On our youngest daughter's finger sets a simple copper band
The boy we worked last summer's gone and asked her for her hand
She said "watchin' you and daddy through the years I understand
That I want to live my life lovin' a sharecroppin' man

He'd sooner break his back than break a promise made to you
His empty hands are dirty but his heart is pure and true
And the good Lord guides his steady plow through soil or through sand
The sweetest life to live's lovin' a sharecroppin' man

The Bloody Bucket

Written By: Grey DeLisle

The bloody bucket’s empty
Just a barmaid, me and you
And I know I don’t belong here but there’s nothing left to do
On a lonesome Lubbock evening, so I conjured up a plan
To break my heart just one more time with one more lowdown, dirty man

If your watered down tequila’s fueled a thirst for stronger stuff
Then this dark and hungry look here in my eyes might be enough
To complete the final chapter in a damned dog-eared plan
To break your heart just one more time with one more scarlet woman

Break my heart
The sweetest, ripest part
Break my heart
Fever stops where trouble starts
If you’re looking for a fire darlin’ let me be the spark
You look like a good way to break my heart

I’m the girl with eyes the color of your bruised and broken soul
You can hide your drunken breath behind my tresses black as coal
I can dream about tomorrow waking up with you at dawn
Even though we both know that by tomorrow you’ll be gone

As the two-step spins us faster my mind’s spinning even more
Past a hundred phantom faces of the ones who came before
On the jukebox Sleepwalk’s cryin’ ‘til you whisper, “I need you”
And I feel my poor heart dyin’, breakin’ like it needed to

Discography

Iron Flowers - 2005 Sugar Hill Records
The Graceful Ghost - 2004 Sugar Hill Records
Home Wrecker - 2002 Hummin'bird Records
The Small Time - Hummin'bird Records

Set List

a typical set covers mostly original material form all 4 albums to date and usually ranges anywhere from 30-60 minutes!

a typical set list:

sawyer (an appalaichan acapella stomper)

bohemian rhapsody (country version of Queen classic)

usted (sung in spanish)

'twas her hunger

joanna

the jewel of abilene

showgirl (a duet with husband murry hammond of the old 97's)

borrowed and blue (1960's torch and twang)

sharecroppin' man (our personal tribute to johnny cash)

Iron FLowers

the bloody bucket

encore:

homewrecker (barn burning title track to our first big release!)