Hope Nunnery
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Hope Nunnery

New York City, New York, United States

New York City, New York, United States
Band Folk Americana


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"Hope Nunnery’s “Wilderness Lounge” CD"

Music fans enjoy seemingly infinite variety and choice these days; the connectivity of the Web enables those who wish to dig the ability to find rare jewels. Well, here is a diamond for you: Hope Nunnery. Ms. Nunnery is an awesome performer who, amazingly, seems to have delivered her debut well into her middle-age years. Her record, Wilderness Lounge, is a precious one, and deserving of a place of prominence.

Nunnery must have taken more than her share of licks growing up, for her lyrics reveal a hell of a lot of pain. The damaged child inside her emerges again and again, her longing for comfort from the holy Father irrevocably sewn to the anger and hurt dispensed by her earthly father. Now grown, Nunnery is a changeling, alternately playing the role of a soother and a bringer of wrath to those who have come to hear her play. These songs, taken together, become a vivid gallery of fractured memories and unvarnished self-portraiture, and their power to take the listener through the emotional spectrum is truly remarkable.

The sound of Wilderness Lounge is further distinguished thanks to the presence of her rock-solid sideman Steve Tarshis, who, citing Son House as an major influence, has wed Nunnery’s Appalachian voice to a Delta-blues foundation. The result is a recording that has appeal to disparate audiences, and bridges one type of rural music to another in a manner that is truly one-of-a-kind.

Every genre has its champions: Lead Belly, Roscoe Holcomb, and Hazel Dickens, for example, are held up as artists who best embody the sound of their respective places and times. Perhaps Hope Nunnery, as the years roll, will be similarly embraced, for she clearly has the talent and the presence of these artists who have come before her. Wilderness Lounge is a place where all roots-music fans should want to go.

-Rawson Gordon - Real Country Music (May 6, 2008)

http://realcountryradio.net/2008/05/06/hope-nunnerys-wilderness-lounge/ - Real Country Music - Rawson Gordon

"A top-shelf discovery: Hope Nunnery"

The top shelf of the cabinet in which I house all the music I don't know anything at all about, but which has arrived here regardless, can be a sad place. So many foolish dreams. So much stultifying mediocrity. It makes one deaf, drowns hope and joy.

And then, blinding, a glimpse at what is possible. What is hoped for. The reason I do try to listen to pieces of almost everything which comes my way.

So let me, somewhat belatedly (the album arrived in early September), introduce you to the magnificent Hope Nunnery. Though a Google search suggests she's had a bit part in a King Kong movie and now lives somewhere in New York, a clipping reproduced within her album Wilderness Lounge argues Hope Nunnery is not a stage name and that she comes from South Carolina. She is partnered with dobro player Steve Tarshis, who produced this...debut? Is it possible that this is a debut?

Judging from the photo inside, Nunnery and Tarshis are of middle age. It seems improbable that anyone this accomplished, this assured both as a writer and a singer should only now be recording her first album. But life takes strange turns, and it is not for me to say.

Her voice has a wild, keening quality. It is astringent (an over-used, but apt word), and reminds on occasion of a somewhat mellower -- and substantially more powerful -- Catherine Irwin, from Freakwater. Her songs are bone-shaking. From the opening lamentation "All My People" through the brilliant story (something I imagine from one of Silas House's novels) within "Little Pink Radio" and "Wilderness Lounge" she offers a loose and powerful voice. More than that, the woman can flat write. And swing (see the gospel "Spare Me A Set Of Wings"). These are ancient, timeless tones. Desperate and free. Not blues, not country, not folk: All of those. Something primal and hand-shaped, and thoroughly sophisticated.

Deadline pressure make this brief, so I will finish here. I have not been so struck by a singular and original talent since the Diana Jones debut ended up on that same top shelf. And Nunnery is better.

Posted by Grant Alden on January 31, 2008 11:46 AM

http://www.nodepression.net/blogs/grant/2008/01/a_topshelf_discovery_hope_nunn.html - No Depression - Grant Alden

"Hope Nunnery, Wilderness Lounge"

From the very first cut, there can be no mistake: Hope Nunnery is not just another sweet-voiced singer-songwriter. "All My People" launches Wilderness Lounge with a fierce, androgynous wail, calling up "A sign, a sign, souls beware / Cries from the black swampy darkness... / Flesh is dropping from the bone... / Flesh and bone will be as one." This is the dank, haunted world of "Oh Death," expressed in the doom-laden tones of Dock Boggs and Ralph Stanley, only with the promise of heavenly respite after the suffering of the soul and the rotting of the body.

Southern Gothic is almost a genre in itself. Hope Nunnery's music falls roughly within the same noirish rural landscape as the Earl Brothers, a San Francisco-based oldtime/bluegrass band that also operates on the sunless side of the mountain -- except that if the Earls are about sin, Nunnery adds "and salvation" to the equation. Her music, I need to stress, is not bluegrass even by the ignorant definition often applied to white Southern roots sounds, nor is this a gospel record in any ordinary understanding of the phrase. It's more in the vein of Hazel Dickens and Olabelle Reed, like them coating no sugar over emotional truth, speaking in a language that permits no lies.

Not all of the material is self-composed, but the atmospheric distance between her astounding "Watch Man" and the venerable 19th-century hymn "Sweet Bye and Bye" (with our mutual friend Jim Watson singing harmony) is slight. Some of Nunnery's songs could have been written decades ago, some a century or more ago. Some have the resonance of 1930s country music, and other songs feel like mountain ballads or downhome blues. Nearly all are imbued with all-consuming guilt and prayed-for redemption. And yet they feel timeless, not like period pieces at all. The emotion they deliver -- in composition, voice, arrangement -- will knock you off your feet as surely as a bolt from the blue aimed straight to the heart.

Perhaps this is the sort of art no younger woman could create and carry. In one of her songs, Nunnery, who lives in Manhattan but grew up in rural South Carolina, refers to herself good-humoredly as an "old gal singer" -- she was 52 when Lounge was recorded -- and she draws from a deeper well of experience than most other, less-seasoned writers and performers do. This, rather incredibly, is her first album. It's as good as (and, perhaps because of her greater years, more consistently realized than) John Prine's legendary first album from nearly four decades ago.

A good part of the album's success owes to Steve Tarshis's production. Though a photograph shows the two of them posed in front of upright flattops, Nunnery provides only vocals, with Tarshis playing acoustic and resonator guitars, with some tasteful percussion and background singing here and there. Tarshis, whose deep schooling in traditional American music is manifest, assembles like-minded players to handle fiddle, banjo, accordion, mandolin and bass duties. The production could not be improved upon; Tarshis is almost psychically attuned to Nunnery's vision. He steps forward once to handle lead singing on his own splendid "Trouble is My Rider," inspired in more ways than one -- as anyone who has heard it will instantly recognize -- by Harry and Jeanie West's long-ago version of the traditional "Rake & Rambling Boy."

Wilderness Lounge is an exceptional, even extraordinary, recording, more than just another successful effort by a talented artist. It's no impressively accomplished approximation of the real thing, either. It is the real thing, and you should not miss it.
Jerome Clark - Rambles.Net (Jul 5, 2008) - Rambles - Jerome Clark


Steve has just produced our first album "Wilderness Lounge" and it's available on iTunes and CD Baby. We had been writing pretty steady and just felt like it was time to put some seed in the ground and see what wanted to take root.



Born in the woods of South Carolina, Hope Nunnery experienced gospel music from an early age. As a little girl, she listened in awe to the Southern Baptist Church music, and was fascinated by the genre’s melodic, melancholy undertones. She has kept this influence tight and close to her heart, adding blues, country, old time and bluegrass to create a cornucopia of pure American roots music.

Hope’s poignant lyrics evoke a determined passion for the expression of what has been lived and felt, leaving little room for double entendres or half words. The result is a constant tapping into far corners of childhood memory to paint haunting images of life, religion, family, and love, like these verses in “Little Pink Radio:”

“Mama got a black eye, she staring out the window
Puffin on a Pell Mell, coffee getting colder, she
Big and fat and pretty, better than a movie star
Mama sweet foot tapping to the sound of the soft guitars.”

Hope’s evocative vocals add credence and seriousness to her lyrics. She sings with an authority that is at times motherly, at times sisterly, infusing the accompanying chords with a sense of urgency that is primal, not hasty.

Steve Tarshis—an accomplished musician who has been involved with American roots music as a player, composer and educator for his entire adult life—has been Hope’s “partner in crime” for many years now. Inspired by the Delta musicians, particularly Son House, Steve complements Hope’s vocals by adding his own voice to the mix, together with an extra dose of melodic, tasty guitar playing.

Steve—a talented player with a penchant for endearing sweet slides on the resonator—has worked with artists ranging from Bo Diddley to the Joffery Ballet, as composer, guitarist and arranger.

The Hope-Steve duo packs a punch together, creating music that, it feels, is relentlessly looking for a passage to freedom, a feeling perhaps better explained by Hope’s own words in “Spare Me a Set of Wings:”

“Just say a little something, just send a little sign,
I’m all racked up with worry, till you ease my mind.
Can you spare me a set of wings when I die?”

This is not your run-of-the-mill, dentist-lounge music, this is, as the title of Hope and Steve’s album says, “Wilderness Lounge” music.

News and Awards:

Number 24 on the WUSB top 30 playlist - July 8 - 15, 2007

2007 Winner Independent Music Awards Vox Populi Americana category "Sweep My Yard Clean"

2007 Honorable mention Independent Music Awards Vox Populi Americana category "Spare Me A Set of Wings"

2007 Finalist Independent Music Awards Americana category "Sweep My Yard Clean"

2007 Finalist Independent Music Awards Gospel category "Spare Me A Set of Wings"

2006 Finalist NewSong Mountain Stage New York Regional River to River Festival "Watch Man"

2006 Honorable mention NewSong Mountain Stage Rock and Blues category "Judgment Day"