Ina May Wool
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Ina May Wool


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"Sharp hooks and arrangements and a good feel for C&W roots - and, hey, even downtown NYC jazz hipster Marc Ribot (not one known to suffer fools - or folkies - gladly) appears on her Crack It Open (BangZoom)" - The Boston Phoenix

Folk & World Music
#82 -June/July ‘99

Moon Over 97th Street
Bang Zoom 101 (1999)

From the romantic accordion swirling around a caressed acoustic guitar on the opening “Elephant Learning to Dance,” clear through to the faux scratchy surface noise that continues after the closing instrumental, “Tenth Street Farewell,” lending it the feel of a vintage vinyl LP, Moon Over 97th Street plays like a scrupulously conceived fin de siecle classic. Wool and her production partner, Daniel Weiss, have cabled together urban strands of anxiety, torpor, ambition, exhilaration, rapture slaking into rutted despair, and malaise. What emerges is a song cycle seen through eyes viewing the post-modern world, and struggling to see it through the eyes of her significant other. “Devil You Don’t” carries the refrain “I can’t compete/with your idea of me” and that theme artfully recurs throughout this exploration of how couples can be “Playing both ends/Against the middle/But there is no middle/When the center won’t hold.”

Wool sings so close to the emotional waterfall that she compels undivided attention. Whether her nervy alto will go over the edge becomes the stuff of high drama. Wool’s dedication to the song, as manifest in her years working on her craft at Jack Hardy’s weekly songwriting circles in Greenwich Village, coupled with Weiss’ studio expertise and musical skills, has resulted in a debut of such focused intimacy that it will stun listeners well into the coming millennium.
--Mitch Ritter (Concord, CA)
- Dirty Linen

The Boston Globe
March 30, 2000


Dave Carter with
Tracy Grammer

Today, low-cost digital technology makes it possible for individual artists to become their own labels. These two recordings
are outstanding examples of what is right with the digital revolution.
Dave Carter of Portland, Ore., and Ina May Wool of New York City are unconventional enough that neither might have landed a major label deal.... Former Marblehead resident Ina May Wool’s “Moon Over 97th Street” is a fully produced, pop-sounding CD showcasing Wool’s breathy vocals and edgy, urban lyrics. The wistful title song pleads for true love in a modern way: “I need a guy with an attitude.” Wool sounds a bit like Shawn Colvin, writes excellent songs, and sings with passion. These artists may sign label deals...but that won’t diminish the energy and charm of the independent efforts that got them there.
- Boston Globe

"If her next CD is called 'Songs About Sitting in the Waiting Area at H&R Bloc,' I'll buy it. She discovers the mystery and meaning ina loaf of bread and a jug of wine, small gestures, a layer of ice, and lying awake at night." -

"Wool's writing and delivery immediately stand out for their combination of finely honed quality and assured stylistic range, encompassing elements of folk, rock, blues, country, jazz and soul." Sue Wilson, The Scotsman - The Scotsman

"Ina May Wool is a wonderful writer and performer... Taxi" tells the story of so many of the taxi drivers in New York with sympathy and a good ear for words. The title track, "Crack It Open," is beautifully performed and would deserve a good deal of airplay on stations that play good meaningful music. "Big Black Bear" is a fascinating lyric married to a nice tune. It draws your attention and holds it to the final word. What more should a song do?

The life of a touring singer-songwriter is condensed into just under four minutes on "Here We Go." "Opening shows for the once nearly famous, concerts and TV and agents galore" -- let's hope that one or more of the latter spy this great talent and make her much more than "nearly famous." "Lucky" is a very slow track but it is my favourite on this album of good tracks.

The first of the bonus tracks is the beautiful "Dinosaurs" that recalls childhood in some heartfelt lyrics. "Serial Lover" is another mini epic story set to music that bears careful listening as Ina May draws us through a series of love affairs. -- Nicky Rossiter
- Rambles

Tribes Hill CD Review

Ina May Wool
Crack it Open

Reviewed by Mary Beth Kean

Ina May Wool's new CD "Crack It Open" offers a rich variety of insight, humor, and wisdom both lyrically and musically. It is sure to pique your curiosity and excite your imagination. In her liner notes, Ina may expresses amazement that, when selected, these songs actually had a theme running throughout. She says "All the songs are about rebirth and about surviving with joy intact." This message is clear, witty, inspiring, and emphasized by a wide variety of musical punctuations.

Big Black Bear first got my attention. The string arrangement weaving in and out of Ina May's soft whispery voice added a sense of intrigue. I felt like I was listening to a campfire song or a bedtime story. Ina May describes a big black bear messin' up her cabin and pawing her garbage. Is she talking about giving power to things we have no control over? She goes on humorously suggesting if she gives the bear chocolate candy it seems to calm him down.

In Whatever I Had to Do the electric guitar juxtaposed against Ina May's words is as edgy as her message about walls. She sings, "I didn't build it all at once... started when I was small... I did it to survive... I can't take as long tearing it down".

In Crack It Open the acoustic guitar and the vocal back up are more soothing as the lyrics explore what may happen as we go through the process of cracking open a bitter reality. "It's a nut, it's a seed with the milk that you need at the core".

The mandolin and slide guitar drive the beat of the strong earthy rhythm of the song When Tears Come Down. In this song Ina May asks us what we gain from love. She suggests "You see the sky, you feel the ground... you have your story, you have your path... .

Drums again, like a heartbeat, are prominent on Frida, a song about how the artist Frida Kahlo coped with tragedy in her own life. She turns to the power and gift of the loving embrace of the universe.

Here We Go reminded me that any creative process requires a plan "First get a car....", and the process can be wrought with obstacles. Ina May reminds us of state troopers and bass players. But she goes on to sing "Then have the time of your life... laughing so hard that you fall on the floor". In the background the Wurlitzer organ accompaniment sent me back to that first car and "the break up of the band". The Wurlitzer also lightens up the song and you can imagine laughing so hard you'll fall down.

My favorite song Lucky is a tender and insightful love song. Guitar and piano carry the melody along as Ina May sweetly compares the joy of finding someone very special to the luck of finding magic beans that grow into a beanstalk, or finding a "twenty dollar bill on the road lucky". Lucky, like completely unexpected and without strings. "I got lucky when I found you."


I got very lucky
When I found you
It was drab here in me-ville
I was playing around
On all the wrong teams
In every farm town
I was farmed out
Look at me now I got lucky

Yes, I got very lucky
When I found you
I had beans in my pocket
You came around
Beans jumped to the ground
Roots go down
Shoots go up
I climbed the bean stalk I got lucky

I got very lucky when I found you
I was yelling into the wind
With stones in my mouth
Here I am at last
Whispering into your ear

I got very lucky when I found you
Twenty dollar bill on the road lucky
Hog lucky, hawk lucky
Wheeling around in the sky lucky
Buck lucky
Yes I got very lucky when I found you

© 2004 Ina May Wool / Daniel A. Weiss


- Tribes Hill Newsletter

Collected Sounds

I was expecting Country. Perhaps it was the fringed leather coat on the cover. But I’m pleasantly surprised. “Taxi” has sort of a down home country feel to it. But the other songs are different. Especially “Frida”.

Wool’s voice is clear and strong but sweet too. The songs are well written and clever.

“Dinosaurs” might be my favorite here.

As a whole it’s very homey and comfortable reminiscent of Lucinda Williams.

March 30, 2004

“Wool’s latest album, Crack It Open, is filled with gentle songs of cockeyed optimism, quiet sophistication, and a comfortable, lived-in sort of vocal twang.” Time Out NY, February 8-14, 2007, Issue 593 - Time Out New York

This is my month. So many of my favorite indies are coming out with new projects. For some of them, it's been way too long between albums. Ina May Wool is one of those indies. The title track from her 1999 release Moon Over 97th Street still makes its way onto my mix tapes. Now, I have Crack it Open, a CD that kicks open the door the first CD cracked open and pours light and color everywhere. Moon was quietly reflective. Crack it Open is joyous, spirited, occasionally playful, and absolutely perfect from first note to last. In case I'm not being clear, I love this CD.

Wool's voice has always had a Rickie Lee Jones feel. Here, she sounds like Jones playing a festival on a playground, pausing every now and then for a spin on the carousel or a trip head-first down the slide. There are sad songs here, but Wool's never been one to wallow in the blues. Instead, "When Tears Come Down" takes lyrics about getting burned and sets them to twangy, gutsy, soulful music. I found myself singing along with her, reading along with the lyrics in the liner notes, matching her note for note with no problem (other than the fact that my voice is, in terms of quality, the polar opposite of hers).

She maintains a lyrical style that I loved so much on her first album -- her ability to write a song about anything and make it interesting. When she finds herself trying to keep worry and anxiety out of her head, without much success, she writes a deliciously playful song called "Big Black Bear."

There is a black bear in my brain
I thought that he was through with me
But he comes crashing in and smashing everything
I carefully placed all around my cabin ...

I tried to teach him how to dance
I put a little skirt on him
A yellow rope around his big bear waist
But all he wants to do is paw my garbage ...

Inspired by a Frida Kahlo painting, she tells the artist's life in a haunting melody set to simple percussion and gently chiming music. (I love how one line in the chorus ties back to the title of the album: "La vida abierta -- life opened," she sings. Cracked wide open.) Inspired by a cab ride, she writes the driver's story in "Taxi," singing about a Pakistani immigrant "rovin' round in a concrete sea." And the woman who inspired "Rosa" should be flattered by the shuffling beat, beautiful spirit, and total abandon in the rock song with her name on it. The song even has a string section. It feels like the ocean.

I have to mention one more favorite: "Serial Lover," a bluesy story told by the definition of an eternal optimist:

This is a story of serial love
It ain't no romance novel
There was Johnny and Tommy and Sean and Tim
There was Jake and Norbert and Slim
It could be for a week, a year or one night
It's always the same
But it's totally opposite
Don't laugh - I still might get it right
I'll be in practice for sure ...

I think Jim Croce loves this song as much as I do.

Crack it Open is one of those rare albums in which all the songs tie together in a common theme, even though their tempos and moods and lyrics change from one track to another. I can feel Wool's creative spirit floating out of the speakers and soaring around the room. If I opened the front door right now, the rain would probably stop. This whole album feels like an embrace.

by Jennifer Layton -


Moon Over 97th Street, BangZoom Records, 1999
When Tears Come Down, BangZoom Records, 2002
Crack It Open, BangZoom Records, 2004

The Best of Unsigned Acoustic Music, A2Z, 1998
Vigil, Conscious Records, 2002
It's About Eve, Fore Reel Records, 2002



“One of my favorite New York singer/songwriters,” John Platt, WFUV

“Wool’s latest album, Crack It Open, is filled with gentle songs of cockeyed optimism, quiet sophistication, and a comfortable, lived-in sort of vocal twang.” Time Out NY, February 8-14, 2007, Issue 593

With a voice that moves effortlessly from gentle and fragile to sweet and sultry and all the way to strong and bluesy, Ina May Wool sings with confidence and ease born of an apprenticeship in blues, country, jazz, and soul in clubs, concerts, and recording studios. Her songs can be deliciously playful, tightly written and poetic, but still like a conversation with a friend – storytelling at its best. She came up through the ranks in the Greenwich Village Songwriters Exchange, a group that’s nurtured songwriters from Shawn Colvin to Christine Lavin to Suzanne Vega. “She has a good thing going on with her audience,” says the Village Voice.

Ina May’s co-writer, producer, and husband, Daniel A. Weiss, backs her up on guitar, accordion, and vocals. As associate conductor, Dan helped shape the music of the original production of Rent, and he’s played guitar, organ, and piano in numerous Broadway shows and in appearances throughout the world from Scotland to Japan.

Together Ina May and Dan play songs from their 1999 debut CD, Moon Over 97th Street, music “so close to the emotional waterfall that it compels undivided attention,” according to the international music magazine Dirty Linen, and from last year’s, Crack It Open, which calls “joyous, spirited, occasionally playful, and absolutely perfect from first note to last.” New songs from their soon to be recorded CD#3 make their way into the set as well.

Suzanne Vega included one of Ina May’s songs in her Vigil Project CD, a collection of post 9/11 songs by New York writers. Other recent awards for her songs and recordings have come from the Mountain Stage NewSong Festival, Independent Music Awards, the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival, and IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards). Ina May has toured in Europe and widely in the U.S. She’s shared stages with Richard Thompson, John Gorka, and Leo Kottke, among many others.

For more info on workshops or shows write to:

Hear music, see pictures, and read more at Ina May's Myspace page:


In the last few years Ina May Wool has led Ina May's Creative Writing Salon workshop at schools and camps including Wintersongs, Summersongs, theBaltimore Songwriters' Association, the Hoff Barthelson School of Music in Scarsdale, NY, and the Martinsburg Book Faire in West Virginia. She loves teaching!

Here's what some presenters and participants have had to say:

“Ina May Wool’s workshop is NOT TO BE MISSED. She’s one of the most exciting writers on the scene today and as a teacher, she’s intuitive and generous.”
--Sloan Wainwright

"Ina May's workshop is one of the most rewarding I've ever attended."
-Todd Burge, Workshop Coordinator, Mountain Stage New Song Festival (2002-2004)

I've hosted workshops by many great musicians, including Steve Gillette, Don Henry, Bob Franke, Michael Smith, and Buddy Mondlock. Now I can add Ina May Wool' to that short list of superior workshop facilitators. I highly recommend Ina May Wool as a workshop leader.
--Dave Kleiner, Educator

"Haven't had any other workshop that generated that number of ideas in such a short time." Bruce Jennings

"Smart, spirited leader. The permission to play. An infusion of energy." Tom Boyd